What does the DGD2 survey data tell us about female players?
Well, first and foremost it tells us that female players consistently rate themselves lower than male players in terms of their gaming skills. This doesn’t mean that aren’t as skilled as their male counterparts – we have no way of assessing this from survey data – but it means that (depending upon your perspective) either female player underrate themselves or male players overrate themselves, when compared to the other gender. (A t-test showed that this finding was significant at the 0.01 alpha level, which means this finding is extremely significant in statistical terms).
We also found some interesting patterns in the self-assessment of emotions of play. Once again, the trend was for men to enter higher numbers into the survey, but there was a statistically significant pattern to the deviations. (The significance of the t-statistic is given in brackets in the rest of this piece).
In the case of emotions such as excitement and surprise, which we relate to the neurotransmitter epinephrine, men self-assessed higher than women (0.10), and in the case of the emotions such as anger and schadenfreude, which we relate to the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, men also self-assessed higher than women (0.16). Similarly, men self-assessed higher the importance of fiero (triumph over adversity) in their play (0.13). All of this collectively can be interpreted as meaning that female players are slightly less interested in gameplay resulting from the fight-or-flight response than male players, and that this distinction is statistically significant at the 0.05 alpha level.
One more finding in connection with emotions: female players rate lower the importance of curiosity to their play (0.0). This one is especially mysterious as it is the opposite of what might have been predicted. However, this may be a consequence of the wording of the curiosity question, which may have narrowed the meaning of the term artificially. Further investigation is recommended.
On the subjects of negative emotions (such as sadness, disgust, contempt, guilt, embarrassment), social emotions (gratitude, naches, envy, belonging) and amusement there was no discernible difference between genders, nor on the issue of obsessive play (which was the only emotions measure in on which women scored more highly than men, but the difference was extremely small and not statistically significant).
When examining the patterns of play respondents enjoyed, a similar trend was revealed: women, for the most part, gave lower numbers than men. This was true for games of fiero i.e. certain forms of agon (competition) and alea (chance) (0.13) and games of excitement i.e. ilinx (vertigo) (0.09), as well as games of escapism i.e. certain forms of mimicry (simulation), paidia (unstructured play) and social ilinx (e.g. “sandcastle stomping”) (0.00). Furthermore, male players rated ludus (structured play) higher than female players (0.02).
So what patterns of play did female players rate higher than male players? Well although they scored more highly on what we term role-play (various forms of mimicry) this finding was not statistically significant in this sample. However, women did rate higher than men the importance of sandbox-type play to their enjoyment (0.10), which was an expected result.
Overall, the main finding of this part of the statistical analysis is that which was introduced at the start of this piece: women consistently provide lower numbers to describe their game playing competences, the importance of emotions to their play, and their enjoyment of various patterns of play. However, it is also telling in which specific areas this finding proved statistically significant.
It is probably premature to make a statement of the kind that women are less interested in fiero or excitement than men, but the findings in respect of gender do suggest that men are more interested in gameplay generated by the fight-or-flight response than women, and that women would in general prefer to play in an apparently unstructured way, or in a form with few penalties for experimentation (e.g. sandbox games).
Remember, however, that these are trends that have been detected at a statistical level: you can’t reason from the general to the specific in this case, so what seems to be shown by a sample of 141 women tells you nothing about an individual you meet who also happens to be female e.g. the fact that statistically most women likes flowers doesn’t allow you to assume that every women you meet likes flowers – they might have a pollen allergy, or an anti-barbie complex, or they might simply not like flowers. You just can’t know anything about individuals without talking to them as individuals.
Also, it is worth nothing that there were more than 6 times as many male players in the DGD2 sample (891 vs 141) which in itself shows up a problem in gathering data about female players in an industry which has geared itself quite heavily towards making games for teenage boys.
More DGD2 number crunching soon.