New study debunks myth that men are better gamers than women

11 Jul 2016

The idea that men gamers are naturally superior to women gamers is as old as the hills, but the latest research into it shows the reality we all expected: there’s no difference between genders when it comes to gaming.

We’ve come some way from the view of gamers being typically a spotty teenager living in their parents’ basement, but, unfortunately, many stereotypes remain steadfast in the face of obvious change within an industry that is increasingly influenced by women.

Speaking at Inspirefest 2016, co-founder of Romero Games, Brenda Romero, spoke of how much has changed within the gaming industry, from her being one just five women working in the gaming industry in 1981, to hundreds today.

Future Human

Women make up nearly half of total players

However, hundreds is still a small minority in the industry, and the consumer side of gaming also remains a divided marketplace.

One issue that remains obvious is the belief that men are simply better suited to or more interested in video games, which is why many games do not represent women in any real capacity.

This is despite the fact that relatively-recent reports have shown that women make up nearly half of game players across all platforms.

And now, a new study looking directly at whether men are better than women at video games has shown that they are not.

Published in the journal Computer-Mediated Communication, the study looked specifically at how men and women levelled up their character in two games called EverQuest II and Chevaliers’ Romance III, popular massive multiplayer online (MMO) games.

Different ways of playing, but same end goal

The idea was that by charting anonymous server data from 10,000 players of the game, the researchers could determine if there was any difference between the rate at which men and women advanced.

Speaking with The Conversation, the researchers said that, in order to make it as scientifically accurate as possible, they took into account that the rate of progress slows down as the player advances in levels, which meant comparing similarly-advanced players.

By sifting through the data, they were able to determine that there is no discernible difference between the rate of progress, but the way in which women and men progress with their character shows differing play-styles.

Typically, it was found that women chose assistive characters with a focus on enjoying the social aspects of the game, whereas men are typically focused on achievements within the game, yet both progress at the same speed.

Discussing the wider implications of negative stereotyping, it said that previous evidence that points towards gaming as a gateway to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers means young girls are missing out on such an opportunity.

“While programs like Tribunal are a starting point in the larger battle to end gender stereotypes,” the researchers said, “our findings will hopefully allow female gamers to realise that, when it comes to inherent skill, they’re on a level playing field.”

Gamers image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic