EVE Playerbase Is 96% Male; Is That a Problem?

EVE Online's active players are 96% male, but is that a problem or just a curious statistic?

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.

Published Jun. 4th 2013
  • Kazz in space
    Featured Contributor
    This was debated in an eve community blog banter a couple of years ago - posts are old now but I think a lot of the content is still relevant so sharing the link: http://www.crazykinux.com/2010/06/winners-of-women-of-eve-contest-are.html
  • Apocaclypse
    I do not think it matters that it is Science Fiction - I know many women who appreciate sci-fi, have you ever been to a Star Trek convention? There are many great women sci-fi authors as well, Ursula LeGuinne, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, etc. A lot of good sci-fi has feminist ideas like Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War."

    Eve is very sterile, it's on the pretty hard core end of sci-fi. For instance, I wonder about my character's"parents." Was I born in a test tube? What do my people care about? I'm not a RP'er, I know that sounds cheesy to wonder about. I know this kind of thing is on the web, but it is not in the game itself. CCP could do better to incorporate this kind of thing into the game. Family is important to women, even if they are young and single, there is a primal thing about it. In other games you see children of whatever race, running around, or cute babies of creatures sometimes. There's just that thread of a clue that there is a "life cycle." Can clones procreate? Why is it important in this game but not other's I've played? No one probably thinks about this stuff consciously.

    I dislike that the invention career is so hard to figure out, and the gamyness of players blocking the stations to agents needed to do things. So I like to "craft" and it's a real pain in the rear in EVE. I get it that it is part of the game to block and prevent others from succeeding, but it really stifles me.

    So... What is worth fighting for? This would be the question CCP should ask female players. I think they are getting a clue a bit by their exploration improvements. Enabling players to experience the aesthetic beauty of space is a big plus for all regardless of gender, and this is also improved.

    I just gotta say, in closing this article I suppose looks like a lot of fun for a guy. http://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/eve-vegas-2013/
    Not so much for a woman.
  • Mat Westhorpe
    Featured Columnist
    Your timing is impeccable. The EVE community just erupted in controversy and misogyny over the hiring of a divisive former EVE player and Youtube e-celebrity who was entirely comfortable with leveraging her gender to her advantage.

    Further to my earlier comment, I'm not saying it wouldn't happen in other communities, but its happening in EVE right now. It's a load of nonsense, but I think it is an example of the immaturity, over-investment and baseless opinion that the internet is awash with. I'm still not convinced it's because of the 96%:4% gender ratio.
  • Mat Westhorpe
    Featured Columnist
    In general, I've always found the behaviour of EVE players to be no worse than anywhere else on the internet. That said, EVE Online does seem to attract its fair share of obnoxious people and of those I've encountered, they've been represented by both genders.

    My sister played EVE for a while and encountered both positive and negative sexist behaviour from the male player population - some of the fawning she experienced was hilarious and cringeworthy. In some respects, the treatment is magnified because of the rarity of women in game, but as true gender only becomes apparent on voice-comms, it is not an issue very often.
  • Ashley Gill
    Associate Editor
    "It is entirely possible that genuine sexism exists within many of the players of the game."

    That exists in any game. Rather, EVE's lack of females could be more attributed to the game's heavy nature and the fact that it's a space sim/MMO. EVE is extremely niche. Not everything needs to cater to everyone, and really, this is a non-issue in this case due to the subject matter.

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