Gender differences in gaming

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One of the things we try to do is carry out research from the perspective of the player. In one of our more recent studies we did a very in-depth survey of about 400 gamers and examined the structural characteristics of gaming.

The main variables we examined were sound, graphics, background and setting, duration of game, rate of play, advancement rate, use of humour, control options, game dynamics, winning and losing features, character development, brand assurance and multi-player features. Although there were many major gender differences, one of the main overall findings was the importance of a high degree of realism (i.e., realistic sound, graphics and setting).

Other important characteristics included a rapid absorption rate, character development, the ability to customise the game, and multiplayer features. High quality realistic graphics were rated as important by four-fifths of the respondents we asked.

There were major gender differences in relation to the style of graphics and this may relate to the type of games that males and females seem to prefer.

It was evident that although most respondents like realism, overall males preferred the explicit realism of games that involved skill development, violent actions, survival and controlling vehicles. Similarly, males preferred games that were based on factual events. Such games are usually based upon battles or sports events for which males have traditionally had a preference in ‘real life.'

Our study also found that females were more likely to prefer the non-violent, less competitive, gentler paced, cartoon-style games, and the types of games that involved a higher degree of fantasy and make-believe.

This is further demonstrated by the type of game dynamics that females preferred. These tend to involve solving puzzles, avoiding dangerous places, characters etc., and finding and collecting things.

The competitiveness of males could also explain why more of them rated the multi-player options as important than did females, as multi-player characteristics offer greater opportunities for beating other players.

However, more males than females also reported that they thought building alliances and multi-player communication were important game characteristics. One reason for this may be that males feel more at ease with online communication.

Females' relative alienation to online communication technologies may be something that is redressed over time as such technologies become more commonplace.

The rate of play of video games was also deemed an important feature by the majority of the respondents. In particular, a rapid absorption rate was rated as important by over three-quarters of the sample with no gender differences evident.

Similarly, rapid advancement through the game was also considered to be important by most respondents, with slightly more females preferring rapid advancement to males. Although there will always be individual differences in gaming, this study does at least show that many players like the same kinds of features.