Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sociability V

CrazyKinux has issued a challenge to EVE’s bloggers with the following question this month:
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?

About 10 years ago, I was playing Diablo II and I invited my girlfriend back then to the game. She loved it. We made it to hell difficulty together in the end. Not only in real life but in Diablo too. Along the way, she made some questionable decisions.
I had given her Tal Rashas Mask completing her set a while ago. Suddenly I noticed that her sorceress was wearing a crown now.
"What hat are you wearing?"
She showed me her golden crown in town with crappier stats than the mask.
"Why are you using this? Where is the mask!?"
"I sold it. It looked so ugly. This is a lot better."

A few years later, I started playing a strategical sf browsergame. We recruited my new girlfriend into the team. I did most of the planning for the team and managed her account with her. During war, she helped getting the people online, did her own attacks and she turned out to be a really good recruiter. The other team members respected her and thought of her as a good player.
The round ended. Our team won the server and most of us moved on.
A while later, we broke up.
Months later, one of my former team members started complaining to me on msn. I had no idea what he was talking about. Apparently, he was playing on another server now. He had also drafted my ex into his team again, without my knowledge. He was not at all pleased with her performance. I talked to her about it. She knew the game quite well by now but she was not enjoying it anymore. Soon after she quit. My friend was even more disgruntled.

I didnt play any (video)games with my last long term girlfriend. She did watch some Eve sessions in the back though. Her reaction the first time - I was grinding a level 4 - was something like "Oh my god, its Star Trek Online! You nerd! How can you spend time on something like that?"
But the second time she witnessed a fleet op. We were looking for targets and started comparing what we were doing with chasing girls. Everyone on voice com was sociable that day. She was impressed with the humor and enjoyed it a lot. She learned a lot about Eve too. From then on, she understood what primaries and secondaries were, the importance of a good fitting, what gatecamps were, she learned the basics of jamming and last but not least the usefulness of warp core stabs of which a girl should always fit plenty. That I was flying a Phobos with the designated role of making sure none of them could escape the battlefield made it even more hilarious.

All these girls are intelligent. The first one is a high school teacher now, the second a master in psychology working for a big human resources company carving quite the career for herself and the third one is still a jurist as far as I know.

All of these girls are "girly girls". One of my best friends is quite the opposite. She is a Java software engineer. She used to like Starcraft a lot, loves to play risk and catan and has quite the abstract thinking and strategical mind. She might like Eve when she would get to know it. I asked her once to try it, but she said she didnt have the time. Anyway, she would probably fit into the female 5% of the current Eve population. This type of girl plays Eve for the exact same reasons us guys do, and differentiating between them based on gender is pointless.
To alter the girl to boy ratio, I think Eve needs to attract more of the girly kind.
In itself, this is inherently impossible. Girly girls do not care about internet spaceships by definition.

Sure, some confused ones might register when you aim your marketing at media that reach more women.
And some additional modules might make them stick to the game a bit longer. The Diablo Mask debacle suggests that a visual appearance customization module of your ships, avatar and everything else might be a good idea and the human resources girl would definitely like a recruitment module(maybe not anymore now it is her job..). This module could be built into the new Evegate and enable recruiters to check things like reaction time or sociability or consult more detailed character history, might make intelligent use of certificates or the Eve Api, and even provide functionality to screen the applicants on killboards.
However, from a business point of view, these investments in marketing/new modules for the sake of getting more girls would be ridiculous. The basic principle of marketing and product design is to aim your product at your public. And CCP would be doing quite the opposite with this.

The only real reason I can think of why these girls would stick to Eve is because of us anyway. I started this article with 3 examples. All of them described situations of a girl playing, and enjoying, a game because she was playing/being with her boyfriend.If it was up to me, I wouldnt try to attract girls to Eve, but it really is highly unpleasant to lose Eve friends to them. When I was in Buenos Aires, I was couchsurfing with a couple. They were both gamers. The guy had played Eve for more than a year, but they had both switched to WoW. As a loyal Eve player I gave him the "Man, you're too smart for that game."-rant, but he preferred playing a game with his girlfriend 10 times over playing a game about which she would complain/be annoyed about him playing it all the time.

Whether you want your girly girlfriend at your side in battle is another matter entirely. I for one would have enjoyed it in the end with my last girlfriend, but I am also sure that it might have been mining instead of combat ops, or that she would have failed to align in the first fleet ops, making her die a tragic death alone or a romantic death together, depending on the commanding FC. But she would have learned. And she had character enough too. She would never have been a pink spaceship princess.

I sincerely think the responsibility for attracting more girls to Eve lies with the players and not with CCP. If the only thing that is done on voice com is calling primaries and secondaries, except for a russian dude calling "structura" as insane and loud as he can, and people getting all cocky once they hear the voice of a girl, she is not going to give it a second try. But if all are sociable, she might as well like it as much or more as going for a drink. She probably wont become the zealous player you are, and only play with you from time to time. But you will be able to play the game AND have a girlfriend. And at least she will understand when you really need to join a pos defense op or something on a friday night. She will think of it as helping out a friend instead of thinking "Oh my god, it is the nerds again."

Some other blogs in the banter:
Life In Low Sec
I am Keith Neilson
Alva Dyson
La vie d'une capsuliere
Where the Frack is my Ship