What women who play Everquest II really want

A new study unveils surprising details about the health, age, sexuality, honesty, and commitment level of the 20 percent of Everquest II players who are female.

They may not realize it or admit to it, but women who play Everquest II log in more hours than men or teenagers, are less likely to quit, and report being not only healthier but happier than their male counterparts, according to new research out of the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.

A new study unveils surprising details about the health, age, sexuality, honesty, and commitment level of the 20 percent of Everquest II players who are female. Sony Online Entertainment

The data reveals that while 80 percent of players in the study of 7,000 are male, and averaged 25 hours of play a week, the 20 percent who are female averaged 29 hours a week. And that's not all. Women underestimated their playing time more than men did.

"The women play more intensely than the guys do," says Dmitri Williams, assistant professor at the school for communications who led the study, "Looking for Gender" (PDF here). "They're less likely to quit, and they're happier playing...They [also] play more than they admit."

All you guys out there getting excited about these results need know that five times as many women who play Everquest II report being bisexual (15 percent) than women in the general population (3 percent). They also weigh less and exercise more than males and females in the general population. I know, I know, they're starting to sound perfect in that glistening, avatar kind of way.

But anyone up for some matchmaking should note that more than 60 percent of women who play do so with a "romantic partner," compared to only 25 percent of men. (The average age of all players in the study, by the way, was 31.)

I asked Williams, who reports that men are happier playing without their partners than women, whether it's possible that men simply have a harder time finding someone to play with than women. (Sounds rather like Life Beyond EQ2, too.) He replied by e-mail:

The happiness measures were questions about life in general, rather than happiness with game play or something more specific. They asked things such as, "How many days in the past week would you say that you were happy?" The men who answered that question reported more happy days when they were not playing with a partner, and fewer if they were. The women answered more happy days if they were playing with a partner, and fewer if they were not.

With a correlation, you can't make a strong causal claim, but you can speculate with logic. I think this is a case where some speculation (and it's clearly labeled as speculation) is warranted since the opposite explanation isn't likely. Women do get into the game through a partner far more than men do. Men are often introducers/gatekeepers. In that sense, it may be that males end up regretting sharing this activity while females enjoy the togetherness.

Ouch. Conclusion: Be careful with whom you share EQ2.

In what is being hailed as a first for online game research, Sony Online Entertainment agreed to let Williams' team, including Nick Yee of the Palo Alto Research Center and Scott Caplan of the University of Delaware, access anonymous game data. This means they were able to compare a player's reported activity with actual activity; the resulting discrepancies call into question 30 years of game research that have been based on self-reported data.

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About the author

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.

 

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