Saturday, April 02, 2011

"Straight male gamer" - a gamer minority

By way of an insomniac friend, this post and its subsequent response from Bioware has come to my attention. The response from David Gaider, lead writer of Dragon Age II was claimed to be perfect by several blogs, such as No more lost, a blog discussing gay rights and bemoaning the loss of lives to homophobic hatred. David Gaider stated eloquently and clearly that no, straight male gamers have no particular "rights" in computer games.

This has started a rush across the internet, blogposts and discussions, including petitions to get rid of David Gaider, and to support him. And while the infamous straight male gamer did throw women a bone (straight female gamers should be allowed some romance, too) the response to the post and Gaider's come-back has resonated even with the marginally acceptable potential partners of the straight male gamers. Actually, parts of his post was almost enough to make me wish I was more queer than I am.

I don't think many would argue with the fact that the overwhelming majority of RPG gamers are indeed straight and male. Sure, there are a substantial amount of women who play video games, but they're usually gamers who play games like The Sims, rather than games like Dragon Age. That's not to say there isn't a significant number of women who play Dragon Age and that BioWare should forego the option of playing as a women altogether, but there should have been much more focus in on making sure us male gamers were happy.

The original post was followed by Gaider's celebrated response. Now, in his response to Gaider, the straight male gamer claims:
The whole point of the argument relies on the central point that straight male gamers make up a overwhelming majority of players. As I said before, I estimate that the number is around 80% (this includes straight males gamers who plays a females). Now if my numbers are at all wrong (that in reality the split is 60-40-10 (male, female, gay), then consider this post to be null and void, I've wasted your time (No doubt some of you already feel that way).

Apart from the fact that our dear straight gamer adds percentages up to 110%, he's pretty much at the point where yes, he has wasted our time even by his own standards. The Entertainment Software Association's numbers for 2010 show that the gender distribution is 60-40 male/female. Now, since the gay male contingency has to be taken out of the male part, let's say 10% of the men are gay, this means something like 6% of the entire gaming population. This brings the straight male gamers down to 54%. Now, imagine that out of the 54%, perhaps 20% (which other research indicates is a very conservative number) are open to people having different options and choices for their sexuality, or enjoy playing with the "what if" of different sexualities. We know many male players enjoy playing with female avatars, having both straight and gay cyber relationships to male avatars. The straight, male, homophobic, "my-avatar-should-be-like-me" group is, in fact, a minority.

And in the words of the straight male gamer, designers shouldn't cater to minorities. Luckily for him, they mostly do.

The Penny Arcade says what needs to be said, really, about this.


Anthony HJ said...

To be fair, I think most of the female gamers I know are RPG or FPS players rather than 'Sims' gamers.

It may be my particular circle of friends (as an ex-player of tabletop D&D and a current games developer), but I think the idea of the 14-30 single male is more of a vocal minority than a valid 'core market' these days...

Also, despite being married with kids, I still go with male-male relationships from time to time. I also play female characters, even in MMORPGs. It's roleplay, so why not try being someone else?

Klepsacovic said...

The straight male gamer would still be a majority. The minority you're finding is the frightened man who may or may not be straight but is most definitely certain that he is not gay and is offended that you'd even suggest it or have such an idea anywhere near him.

What's at play here is generalization of desires from demographics. Straight male gamers are a majority, but they are not a homogeneous majority, so to try to group them all together when designing a game is as useless as trying to group all gay males, or any other group.

The useful classification is by desired content: gamers who want X relationships, Y relationships, Z relationships, don't want any of those, want all of those, and so on. This is not directly related to any real life physical demographic.

thene said...

So many unstated premises here!

-Women are never gay.
-Gay men aren't men.
-The Sims isn't a game. (If a game is played by lots of women, it ceases to be a game. Women erode gameness.)
-Women are only allowed to play one game each.

Kinda an aside, but while I don't play horror games myself I know a lot of women who count it as their preferred genre. Oh, and I guess if women don't play RPGs, J-RPGs can't be RPGs!

Torill said...

Anthony, my experience too. And I am married with kids, but play diverse genders and preferences because it's fun. One of my most fun characters ever was a very wicked gay elf, who was the real power behind the throne and screwed his opponents in every way possible.

Klepsacovic, we agree, here's my punchline: "The straight, male, homophobic, "my-avatar-should-be-like-me" group is, in fact, a minority. "

thene, I know what you mean, and I think we have established that the original poster didn't know what he was talking about. Hopefully he may get it at some point, preferably before he moves out from his parents and starts looking for a partner.

Savage.1 said...

Well I am 19 at the moment and have never really considered pretty much any of what you are going on about within the above passage of text.
but I’m guessing (just a bit of conjecture) that you were called Homo-sexual while you were at school/you are still at school,
But I am unsure about you, so I am only typing from personal experience.
But I would say that your claim is grossly disproportionate as I go to college and I do an ICT course, but of all the students in my year doing the course there is about 4 females on the course. the rest of us are male and that should be out of about 57 people in my year, and there is one boy that is definably homo-sexual as he just came out and said it in front of our class so that means 52 of us in our ICT class is "straight" and of them I know that at least 46 of them, me included are gamers and I'm unsure about the 1 homo-sexual whether he is a gamer or not.
So I know that from my results it makes 91.22807% male heterosexual 7.017544% female and 1.754386 homosexual male
But these results could be anomalous, and incorrect.

Torill said...

Hello Savage, let's have a look at those numbers.

First, the 10% claim. That is somewhat controversial, but there is a large discussion about it. It comes from 1948, Kinsey's sex study. A fairly unproblematic and conservative number is 4%. More about homosexuality in the population and different numbers in this article. All of them agree at numbers much higher than what you perceive in your class. But remember the stigma of being gay, particularly at your age: how many of your classmates would let you know if they were trying to hide that they were gay? Not to mention that quite a few young people hide such things even from themselves. Most likely there are several homosexuals in your class that would rather NOT let you know about them.

Next: the number of female gamers. You take your example from your class on ICT. First, girls who don't study ICT can still play games. Next, there are classes with a lot more girls than boys, even in IT universities. I know, I teach one, it has more girls than there are students in your entire class.

Also, I have cited the source for the 60% male 40% female gamer population. Look it up. We can discuss ESA's methods, but either way it is way higher than the "straight male gamer" thought.

Finally: but I’m guessing (just a bit of conjecture) that you were called Homo-sexual while you were at school/you are still at school,
Oh boy, you REALLY need to read my "about" section. I am a fifty year old woman with two children. While I by principle would be open to loving somebody of the same sex or perhaps several of different and fluid genders, my love-life is so straigth I have to work hard for credibility when discussing queer issues.

Savage.1 said...

Ok Troill, I wasn't saying that no other females except ICT students are gamers but the same goes for males so that should theoretically cancel it out,
I am sorry for assuming that you were the opposite gender to the gender that you actually are.
The University of Copenhagen, Denmark, sounds interesting over there, different countries as I think I said within my original post “But these results could be anomalous, and incorrect” especially as I was only using my personal experience.
So thank you, for correcting me.
But I would like to state that the results that you’re calling on to prove your hypothesis, are really old 1948, relatively, it they should have done some updates on it.
that way you can be sure that it still gives you an accurate representation.

Torill said...

Oh Savage, is that you, Bastal?

Yes, the Kinsey piece of research is from 1948, but if you had clicked on the other links, you'd have seen that the one piece of research which claims 4% is from 2011, and those 4% are people who identify as homosexual, which means are open about it (stands before class and talks about it). The research shows that as many as 11% admit to same-sex relations. This is a higher number than the Kinsey research from 1948. And all of those are poeple who have admitted to being gay, lesbian, bisexual or bicurious which means they are queer or not straight. If we assume that there are still people who do not want to admit to their attraction to the same sex, we are safely above 11% - and that's in 2011.

This means that we have good reason to expect that at least 5 or 6 of your classmates have had or will have sex with somebody of the same gender (you are really young, so quite a few will not have acted on it yet), while an unknown number will want to do so, but doesn't dare to admit it. Of course, statistics being made from huge samples, there may be only one gay guy in your class, but 14 queer people in the one of the same size at some other school. That's why the report from the Williams institute not only reference large surveys, but also uses surveys from different countries.

When it comes to gender, you really can't use a 53:4 sample to draw conclusions about the society, and the rest of the men in the world doesn't cancel that error out. After all there are roughly 50:50 men and women in the western world, and if 60% of the men and 40% of the women are gamers, there being an overwhelming amount of boys in your class doesn't change that number.

Either way, the "straight male gamer" in the original post is wrong, and arguing from your personal experience doesn't make it right. It only demonstrates that your personal experience is still limited.

Now, I have enjoyed this little discussion, but I am going to end it here, because you are either a troll who shows it by misspelling my name, or you should have a chat with your maths teacher about statistics before you argue about it again.