EVE Playerbase Is 96% Male; Is That a Problem?
In the current gaming climate, sexism in video games is a fairly big deal. Back when The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog found out its focus group pointedly included only men, they not only fixed it, they told everyone about it to point out they fixed it. Being seen as a male-centric company in the modern age is a good way to come under fairly constant criticism and, even more unpleasant, a great way to start some very nasty arguments on your company forums.
CCP, the company behind EVE Online, has come out and confirmed that 96% of the sci-fi sandbox game's players are male. The statistic is a bit surprising, not because of the male-leaning nature of it but because of just how high the male percentage actually is. CCP does not consider this a problem, stating, "Part of it is due to the theme of the game. Science fiction is an extremely male-dominated domain."
Regardless of any agreement with the quote from CCP's senior producer Andie Nordgren, who is a woman, I can agree that I do not think the almost strictly male EVE playerbase is actually a problem for a very simple reason.
EVE Online is a fair game.
I do not mean fair in the sense of decently enjoyable, I mean it is egalitarian. The players who have the advantages have them due to literally years of effort and diligence, while new players starting out have the exact same chance to carve out their own empire in space.
There is no favoritism in the game whatsoever. EVE is notoriously unforgiving and harsh, with a hugely steep learning curve to boot. A player can lose literally years of work and effort due to a single mistake. Any player can get podded (slang for their ship and personal capsule both destroyed) if they stop paying attention for even seconds at the wrong moment.
This egalitarian, dangerous space feeling is portrayed in EVE's advertising as well, example given to the right. The ads for each new expansion showcase majestic vistas of space and the ships capsuleers (players) use to explore and conquer them. There are not scantily-clad women or even sensual female voices featured in the vast majority of the game's advertising. The examples of such are few and far between, definitely the exception rather than the rule.
I was surprised by the size of the gender disparity precisely because EVE Online is not marketed specifically to men the way most games nowadays are. It is marketed to those who want to explore space in all its beauty and danger, and has been for ten years.
Why might this be considered a problem?
The entire idea of the gender of EVE's players being a problem stems from the current gender culture. We are trained to see such a huge disparity between men and women as a problem, when in this case it honestly seems to be more a case of preference. The game is about space, and about lethal opportunity. You will never see more than a mugshot of other players, you will see their vessel, their preparedness, and their skill.
It is entirely possible that genuine sexism exists within many of the players of the game. Such is inevitable with anything involving so many people. I, personally, have not encountered it in-game, but I am also male and therefor unlikely to unless I pose as a female to test it. This would be an interesting topic to research, but also a very time-consuming one given the time requirements of the game and the skill required to reach a level where one is coordinating and cooperating with the mass body of players.
In either case, CCP does not show any signs of sexism in its game design.
Would it be nice to have more female players? Undoubtedly, but the gender of the playerbase should never be the focus of the game itself. Should CCP try to market more specifically to women? Maybe. Should they try to make the game itself appeal more directly to women? Not as a primary goal. Should they continue to make and improve one of the longest-running massively multiplayer games in the world?
Undeniably yes, and I hope CCP never loses sight of that.