Wednesday, April 21, 2010

EVE and the X by X Genetic Succession Unit

Controversy is CrazyKinux’s bread and butter.

Eve Blog Banter, a blogging challenge run once a month by CK, invites EVE bloggers to hold forth for a week on a common topic. Obviously, a topic that roils the waters of EVE blogdom will generate more blogs, more buzz, and more hits on CK’s site.

And nothing roils the waters like sex; this month’s topic:

"What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game. Will Incarna do the trick? Can anything else be done in the mean time? Can we the players do our part to share the game we love with our counterparts, with our sisters or daughters, with the Ladies in our lives? What could be added to the game to make it more attractive to them? Should anything be changed? Is the game at fault, or its player base to blame?"

The central question here is an eternal one: What do women want?

Like Shae Tiann, my insight into the female psyche is limited. Hey, I can’t even figure out why it’s so important to my spousal unit that I not clip my toenails in bed.

I suspect my fellow EVE capsuleers are no better equipped.

I mean, they play with cartoon spaceships for heaven’s sake. Their best friends are often other men who play with cartoon space ships. Many are socially challenged, and most would cheerfully give away critical portions of their anatomy in order to get their wife or girlfriend to share their passion for playing with cartoon spaceships.

Not fertile ground for deep insight where women are concerned.

Mynxee and a few of EVE’s female capsuleers have weighed in as well. But I take their input with a grain of salt. After all, they’ve self-selected into EVE. In the parlance of social scientists, they are statistical outliers. Sorry ladies, having drunk the EVE Kool-aid, by definition you can’t speak for women who won’t touch the stuff.

So, I decided to consult with a subject matter expert.

Happily I have direct access to a woman with a profound knowledge of the of the Science Fiction/Fantasy oeuvre. She plays computer games on multiple platforms, knows her way around MMORPGs and, at the same time, has never, ever logged onto EVE. She is an intelligent, thoughtful writer, which is to be expected. After all, she is my x by x genetic succession unit (aka, my daughter).

CCP, behold your target market:
We don't like shooters. We hate shooters that also involve a craft of some kind, be it of the air or space or land variety.

While we can get into tactics, we don't like ship or contingent tactics. We prefer individuals.

We must have a customizable avatar. MUST.

We like to see a story unfold, or to create a story. Not a docket of actions, an actual story.

Wordplay! Banter!

Overall, it's a matter of types of escapism. Ladies generally don't fantasize about being successful business leaders or war heroes. And when they do, it's often wrapped up in stuff other than the actual business deals or raids or whatever.

Stuff like relationships, attractiveness, popularity, are often big drivers for lady gamers. That's why a simple game like Harvest Moon works so well for both genders - you get the business tactics of harvesting and mining and stuff, wrapped up in the gradual (if extremely simplistic) relationship game, culminating in having lots of stuff, a spouse, some kids, and high status.

Alternatively, you have Katamari, which takes an absurdist approach to video gaming, where everything is interesting to look at but the goals and the game itself are so silly that they circumvent gender roles.

Or very alternatively, you can look at something like Portal, where the brilliant game concept is topped only by the psychological/atmospheric masterstroke of listening to an insane computer the entire time, while being otherwise entirely isolated and threatened and first-personed so hard as to practically give the player PTSD. :)

All of which is great, but I don't know how it would apply to EVE. I mean from what I understand, it's limited by the very scope that makes it so interesting to people.
So it seems EVE does have what women want. EVE is, in many senses, a relationship game. Success or failure is often dictated by how well you play with others, who you can count on, and who can count on you. An enemy who respects you is often more valuable than a friend who doesn’t. Corporations and alliances rise and fall as much on the strength of personalities as they do on the outcome of fleet battles.

However, if you look at the way EVE is marketed, the qualities of the game many women would enjoy (social interaction, group dynamics, open storylines and asset building) are underplayed in favor of flashy videos that emphasize play factors primarily of interest to men (fleets of spaceships blowing each other to flinders).

More women in EVE? Easy.

Advertise. Go to where women who play games are and tell them what EVE has that they might like. Build some tutorials that focus on those aspects of the game.

And for god’s sake, give the Avatars a decent wardrobe function!

The blog banter rages on at:


  1. You do realise that Shae is a girl?

  2. Of course she is. And a lovely young lady at that, the whole goth thing notwithstanding.

    However, as she herself says in the post I've linked above:

    "In truth: I don't understand women. In general. I just do not get them...."