Sunday, February 10, 2008

"But my zombie lady made pretty dresses!": Why My Girlfriend Does Not Play EVE

Women in EVE, and MMOs in general, has been a topic of discussion for a very long time. We young to middle aged men sit around and wonder (well, some of us do) why more of our girlfriends and spouses are not banging down the server door to come sit in asteroid fields and mine with us all day, or to camp a stargate for 4 hours with no kills, or wade through 5 hours of lag to conduct a POS siege, or deal with can flippers when running missions in empire. All that said, I’m not sure I’ll be logging into EVE today. All the same, there are nearly a quarter of a million of us who play EVE like it is a religion, but a very small number of those players are female. When I asked my girlfriend why, in my view, games like WoW have a higher proportion of female players, her honest response was, “Well, I don’t play EVE because I liked making dresses with my zombie priest lady in Warcraft.”

This got me to thinking. My girlfriend played WoW with me for a few months until I got sick of it and went to EVE, and before that we played Ragnarok Online together for a couple of months before I got tired of grinding for cute bunny ears and went to WoW. In both cases, it was not the hardcore gameplay that attracted her. She liked running the quests and killing the monsters, but enjoyed playing dress-up more than smash-up, and she also got more into the social and role play aspect of the guild we were part of than the raiding and grinding. This is not to say that she was playing virtual Barbies. There was a great deal of focus for her on character-driven story and a personal experience driven by tangible character development, something that EVE often lacks. This is obviously not true of all, or perhaps even most, female gamers. I know a few women in EVE’s Mercenary Coalition who are as rough and tumble as they come. It can’t be ignored, however, that this desire for a more social and character (and pretty dress) oriented style of gameplay is an attraction to at least some female gamers.

Also, for her at least, the aesthetic model of the game just isn’t appealing. While talking to her for the material of this entry, I asked whether Ambulation, the ability for EVE players to exit their stuffy (and probably smelly, after 4 years) capsules and walk around in space stations, scheduled for release some time around the Second Coming. She said that it would only be interesting if it was the norm for gameplay, but that she suspects (rightly so, I think) that the main thrust will still be watching “your gray blob float in the big black blob.” In WoW and RO, she enjoyed watching her character change as it progressed, and the ability to customize equipment. For me, this concept is rather alien, as it has always been the game impact of the customization that I am concerned with rather than if these blasters go with that microwarp drive, or if my armor plating is so last season.

So, why don’t more women play EVE? I honestly have no idea. All I know is why my girlfriend doesn’t play. If you have a girlfriend or spouse who is a gamer (all five of us), but does not care for EVE, please ask her why. I would be very interested in building a stronger discussion on this. Also, if you are a woman who plays EVE, or if you know one, please ask her what keeps her logging in. My theory is that there are a significant number of female gamers out there who feel that playing a character that is essentially yourself in a big phallic spaceship is not as interesting as playing a character of a fantasy race with its own story, appearance, etc. Obviously CCP shares some of these beliefs, as I have heard it mentioned that Ambulation is partially going to target the elusive female gamer. If these presumptions are wrong, they need to be corrected. Speak up, ladies! Show us dense males what it is you want in the game. It’s not like we men have the best track record knowing what women want in any situation, so it’s hardly surprising that game development is any different. The ways of females are mysterious, and trying to explain why they make certain decisions often leaves me feeling like the chimps in 2001, just banging away at the obelisk with no real results until I eventually forget why I tried in the first place.


  1. Unfortunately I can't help you with a direct input since my wife uses a computer for email, web and word, and a TV to watch Grey's anatomy - too each his or her own leisure time I say.

    Still, I'm very curious to know why there aren't more women playing EVE. Might we try to educate ourselves on the subject by asking the opposite question? Why ARE there women playing EVE?

    What makes EVE appealing to them? Could these aspect of the game be better marketed and showcased to other women gamers, which would result in more of them playing.

    If at first we can't explain why they're not playing, maybe we should first answer the question as to why those who are, play in the first place?

    I know, I haven't answered one bit of the questions you've posed. But I'm simply trying to get a hold of the problem from a different perspective.

    Hopefully that will help!

  2. I think that when ambulation is brought in that more women will find this game to their tastes.

  3. Banging their head at the obelisk actually helped out those chimps a lot.

  4. Men like nerdy and manly stuff. Like comic books and videogames. Or music made by people who burn down 1000 year old churches.

    Ask someone who has studied gender issues at a university about it why they think that so few women play videogames. You know, except for the blatant degradation that the sex is put through on a regular basis in this entertainment genre.

    Or maybe Will Wright, as he might have some idea about why everybody who plays the sims is a woman.

    Also, I read this a while ago. But its relevant to this topic:

  5. I'm a dedicated Eve player and female (and OLD, but we won't go there). I was in a regular role-playing group throughout my 20s. When RL jobs and such dissolved my gaming group, I didn't game for many years (not a fan of video games). But I missed it. Eve is the perfect replacement.

    I LOVE the game, bordering dangerously close to addiction (my husband has mentioned the need for a 12 Step Program, Eve Anonymous). I log my two accounts every day for at least an hour...often MANY hours. In fact, because I work at home, I am often logged in and sat in the station, keeping an eye on chat and listening in on Vent while I work.

    The primary appeals of the game for me are its amazing complexity and depth, the social interaction via chat and Vent, and the visually stunning look of Eve that seems to invite such easy immersion into another reality.

    One of the turnoffs for many women could be the foul language and randy (sometimes outright vulgar) talk on Vent and in chat. That doesn't bother me (I am often amused by it, and in fact can compete with the best of them, LOL) But could be offensive enough on some level to many women who try Eve that they are off-put by it. Regardless, I've been made to feel nothing but welcome by the guys...once they get over the shock of hearing a female voice on Vent. Reactions to that can be pretty amusing. I've noticed some teasing among them that they clean up their act when I'm present. That's not my intent nor do I necessarily advocate it, but it is an interesting social side-effect.

    We might be a minority, but I have met quite a few women gamers in Eve; we keep in touch via a private chat. So we ARE out there. And we're coming to take your stuff. LMFAO!!!

  6. My girlfriend and I played a lot of WoW together, leveling multiple 70s and even becoming officers in a raiding guild. She got to know the theorycraft behind her hunter incredibly well - using spreadsheets, programs, and reading the forums - so she's no stranger to geeking it up over a game.

    With that said, she just cannot stand EVE. The clunkiness of the UI, the incredibly steep learning curve, the lack of a real avatar, and the general coldness and inhumanity of the visuals just immediately turned her off from the game. I haven't even been able to get her to try the game again to get interested in the depth of the gameplay - she's interested in hearing about what I'm doing on a high level but just has no desire to actually participate (let's be honest - the ends in the game are exciting, the means generally are not). There's no Orgrimmar in EVE, there's very little sense of place in a visual way - sure, you get to know your corp's HQ or Jita, but these are conceptual "places" - the stations all look the freaking same.

    EVE as it exists right now is also very much a "boy" game. Spaceships, sci-fi, fleet battles, territory war, and stark highly-detailed graphics are generally very male topics. WoW's more stylistic, cartoon-y graphics can actually be pretty cute which vastly lowers the barriers to entry for a traditionally non-gaming woman - it just doesn't look quite so much like a "boy" game.

    Anyway, ambulation might make some headway in this regard, but I have a feeling it'll end up being more in the camp of the Final Fantasy movie instead of WoW. The stations will be stark, modern, and cold and the avatars will probably be the same. Given the nature of EVE, there will probably only a dozen or so interior floor plans used, providing the same database-generated feel to the world. EVE never has and probably never will be an "accessible" game for folks who are not into sci-fi unless CCP figures out how to get people hooked into the deeper systems in the game and look past the graphics.

  7. I'm an older female gamer and the factors that kept me from playing beyond a brief visit was lack of avatar, I don't enjoy flying ships, and I don't pvp.

    I need to connect with my character and having a reasonable looking avatar is just as important to me as the game mechanics.

    But even with added avatars, the pvp would still keep me away. I want to play with other gamers, not against them.

  8. Most interesting how different people react to different games. The look of WoW completely turns me off. I have zero interest in playing it, ever.

    My first Eve character was developed to be a trade/industry specialist and that's what she's good at. She has horribly deficient combat skills, so guess what? She doesn't PvP and barely bothers to PvE running missions...just enough to get her tax down to 0 with her home station's corp (she's high sec) so she can refine for free. Yeah, she mines a bit, and does exploration too.

    But...I got the itch to have a shooty character and so I made one that started off totally focused on combat. She is really fun to play, esp. as a pirate. I've been playing a year, but am a total noob at PvP. I'm finding the pirate way of life really fun...especially given the vast array of choices for ship fit. That's a madness in its own right.

  9. Well, it's a good question. I would have to say one of the biggest factors has GOT to be the reaction from many of the players at the sight of a female.
    My main is a female, I originally made it showing my wife how the models looked. She played with it a bit, then I took over.
    I seriously got very different reactions than when I was on my male toons. I got a lot more help, and plenty of perverted suggestions.
    This is not just in Eve, that happens everywhere. Just ask my wife, she plays as much if not more than I do, and just as many titles.
    It's the smelly nerdy boys club of Eve, along with the lack of avatars that keep the girls away. Bringing avatars will not help at all.
    A great game, of course! But I can't stand to play it sometimes, and don't expect my wife to ever want to play it.

  10. I am a female nerd, and so i like this game for the usual reasons: exploding spaceships, endless technicalities on fitting selection, goal-driven interaction with others (and some social to taste). I would not play WoW for the life of it; the cartoonish graphics and the perceived meaninglessness of the grind on a global scale just are repulsing (and all the kiddies too...)
    So i can't help with the question what non-nerdy females (or people in general?) don't like about Eve. And on the "guys realizing that there is a female voice on ts" issue: it is very very fun to comment on the porn discussions, especially when they had forgotten that i'm there. On the downside, it is annoying having to speak so that people will believe that i'm female.

  11. Hey don't we all play virtual Ken when we equip our characters?! whatever.

    There is an interesting interview to Hellchick about video games and female players (about FPS) but can apply to MMO as well explaining why she thinks gmaes are not attracting girls the right way.

  12. Eve attracts a certain type of gamer and that type of mindset is more common than males than females.

    My problem with this blog is that you shy away from saying most female gamers are attracted to social and character driven games. Stereotypes suck if you try to apply it to everyone but you shouldn't be afraid of assuming most female gamers think different from male gamers.
    Guys like using action figures to blow stuff up while girls like using dolls to make their surreal version of real life. If you gave girls an action figure the majority would use them in the same way they use dolls and vice versa.

    So will ambulation resolve the character driven issues? Unknown but based on CCPs prior thought patterns, doubtful. CCP is focused mostly on promoting pvp and their form of pvp caters to masculine tastes than feminine.

    Will Eve ever be a social place? I would argue it already is as long as you stay in high sec. But even in high sec you can't ignore how impersonal it feels to use a chatbox talking to colored blips on your view screen if you are facing the right direct. Why pay $15 a month for that when IRC works just fine.

  13. I am really glad to see a lot of discussion on this point. There are too many good comments for me to touch back on them all, but let me say that I am really happy to have a good discussion going here, and am especially keen on the input from female gamers. The input that Mynxee, AspenDawn, and stroke have given is helping me realize that maybe there are simply similar breakdowns of percentages that play EVE and WoW that may not have much to do with gender at all. EVE has a tiny fraction of WoW's total subscribers, so it follows that most male MMO players don't much care for EVE either. I would really like to see some official numbers from CCP to compare with other games.

  14. In response to mutantmagnet's comment "Why pay..?"....I daresay any MMO is a bit more fun that just talking on IRC...because there is the added bonus of being able to DO STUFF in the game with the folks you are talking to. The ability to engage in real time collaboration is a strong pull for me, whether it's pirating, missioning, looking for hidden sites, or playing the market. It's REAL PEOPLE on the other side of that screen! How cool is it that you can talk with and do fun stuff with people from all over the world through the medium of a visually compelling interface and (despite the constant bitching) a very well thought out and implemented 'verse?

    Obviously, I perceive Eve as a highly social game. I suspect that individual impressions of Eve as a social environment will vary based on how comfortable individuals are interacting with strangers via chat and vent. I'm perfectly comfortable with it and in fact, friendships in the game have led to friendships in real life after meeting some of my ingame pals in person.

    To me, the internet is just another medium for connecting with people, and coincidentally (because I live in a sparsely populated rural area and work at home), the main way that *I* connect with people. I met my husband (of 10 years) via Yahoo personals, do 75% of my shopping online, and conduct the vast majority of my personal communications with others via email. So Eve as a social environment seems totally natural.

    I'm old enough (50 is the new 30, dammit!) that the evolution of computer and connectivity technology which allows Eve to exist still seems a wonder, even though I've been involved with the industry all along. I think that feeds my fascination with it, as well.

    This topic seems to have struck a chord with me, seeing how I'm blabbing on here. :)

  15. Exactly. There's more to MMOs than just chatting for that social experience. But the tools CCP provides to get that social experience happen to not be that appealing for the majority of women.

  16. I don't play EvE for the same reasons the majority of male gamers don't. The overall game mechanics don't appeal to me. EvE's audience is very niche, it's very PvP-oriented, deals a lot with inter-Corp backstabbing and intrigues, and has a harsh death penalty and learning curve. Pretty much every gamer that lists the reasons why they don't play EvE, regardless of their gender, say the same things. It's not that mysterious.

    Adding rainbows and dress-up would not make me (or other women gamers) play the game. Because everything else about the gameplay doesn't appeal to me. And most girl gamers actually care about MORE than just pretty colors and dress-up in the games we play. =P

  17. Just found this bit of nostalgia over at; even the celebrities have trouble getting the girlfriend to play:

    It's worth noting that Affleck was one of the first celebrities to post online in a bloggish manner...he'd answer people's questions on his site's message board. (His site is now dead, but a couple of instances of the board were collected by

    I remember one post of his in particular (which I can't find on Ben was up late, at like 3am, playing Everquest (or maybe Ultima Online?) because he was addicted and couldn't stop. He also mentioned that he was essentially playing the game instead of being in bed with his girlfriend at the time, Gwyneth Paltrow.

    There you go. No need to ever feel guilty again ;)

  18. Very well-written blog post about female gamers in Eve.

    I am a 20-some female gamer who plays Eve on a regular basis. (I'm a geek yep, and being an engineer doesn't help.) I lead pvp ops regularly and I make a decent amount of isk from trading and other activities. What attracted me to Eve was the harsh reality of being pvp'd, of making large sums of isk, of infiltration and wars - such mirrors of real life. I also love the corp I am in even though I'm the only female there. The shock on TS is amusing when I first joined! The boys do attempt to clean up their act when I am around, which is very nice.

    That said, I hate how we cannot alter the look of ships (especially ugly-ass Caldari ships - I want my Hello Kitty kestrel, or a pink Raven!), and the look of the avatars is just appalling imho. More customizability, better tastes in graphics (yeah they are nice but in a very male-ish manner), and a less steep learning curve would probably draw more women into the game. I am different in the way that I like challenges. However, most women I know would be more interested in customizing the look of their characters, being able to "nurture" something (building custom painted spaceships, anyone? If that were possible I'd be very excited), and generally avoid the harshness of pvp.

    I'm thinking about having my own little chic blog about Eve from a female perspective. Thank you for the inspiration!

  19. I think the whole PvP thing is off track. Have you checked out the numbers coming out of the quarterly economy reports.
    The PvP'ers are out numbered by the Care Bears. And being honest even in WoW you have PvP... just as blunt, if not more so as when your camped in WoW you are screwed no waking up in station you have to ghost walk back to get killed again.
    EvE has better community then something like WoW (my god those children get you down) and in EvE no one forces you to read/hear the background chat.
    What EvE does have is big lonely spaces and people you can't see. Join that with no dress ups just car customisation and I think you have the point.
    How many men have very close groups of friends that they have long and pointless talks to compared to men who do pass times that might seem on the surface to be social but its just like children doing parallel play (watching sport is not a group social activity and neither is gang PvP its parallel play).
    How many men spend as much time picking the right outfit to go out in as they do picking the new decal for their car or heat sink light for there computer.
    Picking the right outfit in WoW was fun but it got you nowhere in a Raid and in EvE who cares what your ship looks like its a tiny speck on a screen most the time.
    Now what I'd like to know is how many men compared to women play second life and that type of game that I as a male see as pointless as picking the right jeans to go out in.. if they don't look dirty and don't smell dirty then hey they aren't dirty.

  20. I've got to disagree. I will guarantee the numbers are telling at least a little bit of a lie. For example, I currently have one character in 0.0. I have 12 characters in high sec empire on various accounts, but still consider myself a pvper, as most of the others are pvp characters in training or else trade alts and the like.

    Also, I think any attempt to firmly define any profession within EVE as separate from PvP is fallacious. Everyone PvPs, even the miners and industrialists. They just don't necessarily do it with guns. Market PvP, competition for resources, and ship to ship combat all comprise the PvP makeup of EVE. A well executed market strategy can cost someone a lot more than blowing up their ship.

    However, even if we reject the above as facets of PvP, the impact that PvP has on everyone is undeniable. Everything in the game centers around prices that are controlled by the demand created by PvP. This is especially true since inventioned removed the relative scarcity of T2 ships and gear and the artificial price floor that existed in the past.

    In WoW, if I don't want to have anything to do with PvP, and don't want to have any impact on my game from it, I don't have to. In EVE, you do not have that option, so everyone, even if not an overt PvPer, is consenting to live in a world governed by PvP every time they log their client in.

  21. If we discount from PvP anything but two plus ships engaging in combat I disagree.
    If you stick to high sec and you mainly trade and or build or you just want to potter then no you do not.. If we count all other aspects then there is no difference to many other games with higher female counts. PvP is two women bitching about each other behind their backs.. PvP is this here disagreement.. if you want to call it that. I don't think its the PvP that turns women off I think its the disconnected nature of the game. Monopoly is PvP. Trying to dress your toon better then anyone else in WoW is PvP. Counting everything else in the game doesn't hold it for me. Oh and in WoW (I played for way too long, almost 2 years, and won't be going back) you could always find kill griefers and grind campers even if you never flagged once. In any multi player game there are dicks who will find a way to Gank you when you least expect it but in EvE its all out in the open (Goon Hulk killing in High Sec ... how cool is that :D ) but EvE is one of the only games I've ever played that has nothing "real" to hold onto. Dock in station and join in the chat and its like talking to a cloud. Stand in Iron Forge and chat and you see everyone with their chat bubbles coming up, you can dance and prat about and its got a connection. Thats what I think is the missing link.

  22. Oh I guess I should add I've played EvE since June last year when I lost interest in WoW (was a level 70 warrior who didn't like Raiding so was left with very little else to do) I have PvP'd (I've done the Agony course twice) and run 2 characters. I mainly mission run but have mined and done a little trading. I go into Low Sec when I must and can hold my own but in no way call myself a PvP'r.. I am run-awayer.. warp stabs ftw.. oh and I'm male but did like playing WoW dolly dress ups and I always play females in all MMO's (the toons look better but in WoW like MMO's you do get hit on a lot.. never in EvE tho)


  23. Being a woman who plays eve, I often find myself asking the same question... where are all you ladies?! Why is it, that when I ask my fellow corp mates if they think their wife/girlfriend wanted to play eve, they always say they lack the patience. Apparently you need patience to play eve... and does this mean that the majority of women lack patience? lol

    Plus, for the most part, it was very hard for me to reveal that I was a woman, was almost forced out of me through teamspeak. Depending on the company, it can just be a sausage fest hassle that I would just rather avoid... I have been with the same group of guys since 2005 in eve, which makes it easy to be myself and not entirely guarded. You know women, we want security, and we wont reveal that we are women unless we are sure one of those 15 year old boys doesn't go nutz on the subject.

    I stumbled upon this subject accidentally, so if you wish to learn more of the female perspective, convo me ingame