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Do Women Game Differently Than Men? [Apr. 23rd, 2004|09:45 pm]
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No Exposition Needed

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posted 6-24-01

.....I'm doing a Masters degree in Social Research at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK. I'm just mailing you as I am currently doing a piece of course work (practicing interview techniques, and how to transpose interview data from tape to report) about women in roleplaying; both women players, and how women are portrayed within RPGs. Although my work is really just a cursory look at the area, and based only on anecdotal tales from fellow gamers, I thought I'd just share with you some of the ideas and thoughts that have cropped up in my interviews, and see if you had any pertinent comments to mail me.
(The deadline for his work was 11th Feb 2000, but I thought the set up was relevant -Haze.)

Most of my male roleplaying friends seem to think that roleplaying style and goals are affected more by how well other players are known, regardless of sex. That is, they are more inhibited by new players of either sex, than particularly by women players. Most of my roleplaying occurred over a three year period about five years ago. Our group was mixed sex, and we met at least once a week, often for at least twelve hours. I agree with my interviewees that new players DID inhibit our characters' activities, in much the same way that idle small talk in any social setting will be moderated by who is present, i.e. you can be abusive towards good friends, but you don't lay into someone you've just met (usually). My interviewees also seemed to think that the preference for combat or character development was more a personality and/or age thing, rather than a gender thing. That is, once players get beyond adolescent 'he-man' roleplaying, character types in our group varied greatly, with only one of the male gamers consistently playing combat monsters (though he does it now in a kind of self-mockery way). All my interviewees expressed an interest in character development, particularly as the players themselves aged. It is now common for players to write extensive backgrounds for their characters, and we often go for several weeks without any combat. Indeed, the acting side of roleplaying (esp. conversations with NPCs) has become most of my interviewees' favorite aspect of gaming. My interviewees also expressed a modicum of consensus over the sexism innate in the genre. Simply comparing (say) AD&D to Earthdawn, it appears that more recent rules systems are at least attempting to appeal to women gamers. Both my male and female interviewees consider that books, films and computer games in the fantasy genre have a lot to answer for in portraying women in a less than favourable way.



As far as the topic of whether women play differently than men:
I think they do, on some primal level. Most of my experience is with MU*es, or is on that dynamic environment. I've done extensive tabletopping with varied systems, but never a long enough-running game that I could get a handle on the players and the play styles, so I'll admit that my version of this might be a little skewed. Women that I've known online have been much less competitive. It's not about beating up someone else, it's about the story. The process by which a goal is reached, not the goal itself. I think we have more fun with the telling than with beating an enemy's head in. (There -are- exceptions, of course, but I won't go there.)

I think that we also tend to concentrate a little more on character development. I could go off on a tangent here about pop psychology and the whole 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' thing, but it's overrated and largely untrue. BUT...most women gamers I know, when they sit around and talk about gaming, will talk about their characters, whereas most men I know will sit around and talk about their conquests. About the things they DID. The whole active/passive principle. Women are more likely to say "My character grew because of ..." and men are more likely to say, "WE KICKED THEIR ASSES!!!!!" *ahem*

-Elizabeth B.
Goddess, Philadelphia: For Whom The Bell Tolls, an online WOD MU*
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9572 -- Life of a Modern Gypsy, the Homepage


Do women play differently than men? Well, I'd say that *most* women play differently from *most* men. The women I've gamed with were usually more concerned with interpersonal relationships (not necessarily romance, though that's included, but also friends, family, and well-known enemies) than with combat, and more concerned with character development than most male gamers I've known. But, and this is important, there have been several exceptions in both directions--males heavily into RP (roleplay), and females who just wanted to blow things up.
Do we prefer different games? Here I'll give a less-qualified "yes", based on my experiences at cons. I've been to a couple of science fiction cons and a couple of general game cons, and at those I saw a heavily male population. But I've also been to a few Ambercons, and the women there number nearly half the total. Conclusion: women prefer games that emphasize roleplay over rules, to the extent of not bothering to play rule-heavy games as much, whereas men are more likely to play in any system, just chuck out the rules they don't feel like enforcing. I think the White Wolf explosion is largely female-driven, because while the rules are no simpler than most, the emphasis is still on the story rather than the numbers.

It'd be interesting to find someone who's actually gathered numbers on this. Unfortunately I don't know any ... if anyone has seen a study, with statistics and stuff, I'd love to see it!



And as for me? Well, I'm the host here I have to stay impartial. Well....ok, here's a thought for you, I have run two games that lasted for awhile. Both were effectively combat free. Men who had never really thought about roleplaying the ups and downs of a relationship, became intrigued by my NPC's. Not only did they actively pursue female non-player characters, but for 3 out of four of them, it became a driving force behind their character (partially by my doing, but only because they were having so much fun). One player left the game and effectively disappeared with his loved one. Another's character just proposed to an NPC...and well, the other one has had a pretty rough time, is dying to play more, and might be reading this, so I should shut up before I mention anything interesting....
The point? It might not be the players, it might be the games they play in. If games are run to allow more diverse topics for roleplaying, maybe the gender gap might close.


I think I just agree with your previous respondents but I want to comment on the stuff you wrote...
Yes, a lot of the general situation that male players statistically prefer combat to relationship roleplay more often than female players. But yes also you're right that male gamers enjoy relationship roleplaying and female gamers enjoy combat too. And that its a lot of it related to what you're doing in your particular game, and who your gm is.

That said, one additional reason why this might occur is due to the way males respond to females vs. to each other.

Males mainly interact with each other on a competiticve basis... when they interact with females then they are more doing social interation. So since many male gamers play with mostly male gaming groups, its no surprise that most of their games are combat oriented.

Females mainly interact with each other in a more social-competitive way. So a mostly female game would be more oriented to that stuff... and it does seem to be... and a mixed game with such as your example a female GM and male players might of course revolve around romantic relationships between PCs and NPCs...

I play in an online game and my experience from that is - and take with a grain of salt please because of course, online, you can never really be sure whether a perosn IS male or female - but my perception is that the players who are bored whenever there is no combat are all male; the players who are completely uninterested in combat are all female; good players seem to be able to stay interested no matter what is happening; and both male and female players like to play sex scenes :) which are a much larger thing in online gamng than any other type of game I've ever played in.

Now I've played sex scenes with every combination : male char female player, female char female player, male char male player, and female char male player. And the main differnce there is that female players are likelier to tell you how their char is FEELING during sex. Male players generally only tell you what their character is doing and/or wearing... :) Also, the more male attributes a char has (whether player or char is male) the more "active" they tend to be sexually vs. "passive"...

However skill level varies tremendously and some people are just much better at it than others. at all aspects of roleplaying.

Dana Anthony


There is a website with statistics.

Admin of "Da Valkyries - Women Gamers Online"

From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-17 06:55 am (UTC)

Comments from Ric - Male GM

Hmm... Good question. I do believe that many women play different from men. I have had three women gamers in my group before. I enjoyed them being there. Here is why. Women I believe:
1. Play with more thought and think things through
before jumping into a trap
2. The like the action of the game and often aren't into lulls
of side banter that some men are. They do socialize, but
more so at breaks.
3. They tend to have a hard time in the beginning getting into
their character roleplaying. As time goes on, this changes.
4. They are more guarded around male players until they get to
know them.

Just my two cents. Keep on gaming ladies!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: morgansong
2004-11-17 08:10 am (UTC)

Re: Comments from Ric - Male GM

OK, in order:

1) In college my group was like that. There were 4 or five guys, and two women in the group. We couldn't leave them alone for a minute... but now, in our "old age" I think we ALL over analyze everything.

2) Inspires me to start a topic on Tangents... give me a day or two.

3) We they new to gaming? I find that all fresh gamers do this no matter what gender.

4) There are studies about the way people interact in mixed gender classrooms versus single gender classrooms. Specifically discussion groups. The dynamics can be signifigantly different. Based on those findings, I've always wanted to perform the same study using gaming groups.
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From: petalline
2007-03-14 01:57 am (UTC)

Hey Kerry

Hiya and apologies to those who don't care. I don't know how to reply to just one person.

I am very interested in your research. I am a PhD student with an expertise in drama. I am particularly interested therefore in the subject of live role playing. Wanted to correspond with you regarding this subject.

-Frances Bitney
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: morgansong
2007-03-14 03:41 am (UTC)

Hi there!

Unfortunately, this post is originally from 2001. I can try to track down the original e-mail address if you want to get in touch with them.
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