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«Al Marshall and Jason Foran, Australian Catholic Univeristy Abstract In this research, the research problem addressed was “What video games appeal ...»

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Australian Female Gamers Video Game Preferences

Al Marshall and Jason Foran, Australian Catholic Univeristy

Abstract

In this research, the research problem addressed was “What video games appeal the most to

women?” which aimed at providing an insight into what types and aspects of video games are

most salient to women. The findings are expected to benefit both new and existing video game

companies by allowing them to reach an otherwise untapped yet eager market. A total of 250

female gamers were interviewed for the research. On analysis of the data collected through the questionnaire it was found that the formulated hypotheses, based on the literature reviewed, were essentially accurate. Female gamers were clearly averse to games involving violence while preferring games that involved creativity and mental stimulation.

Introduction The leisure and entertainment industry is a significant contributor to the economy in Australia in terms of employment, wealth creation and taxation. In global terms, research conducted by ABI Research shows that “the video game market will expand from US$32.6 billion in 2005 to US$65.9 billion in 2011” (ABI Research, 2006) which represents tremendous wealth generation prospects. In a survey conducted by Dr. Jeff Brand of Bond University for the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia, of 1601 Australian households surveyed at random in 2005, 76% have a device for playing computer or video games (IEAA, 2006) indicating that, video games are an integral part of consumer leisure and entertainment in Australia. Women represent half of the population, and according to an Entertainment Software Association study, 43% of game players are women (Oser, 2004) so knowing what they prefer in their video games is of academic interests, as well as being of practical interests to video game marketers.

Especially as in the US, females are also spending more in hours gaming than the male players (Cloutier, 2004).

This research investigates female video gamer’s preferences in terms of the type of video games they prefer and the various aspects of the game that appeal to them. Statements made by significant industry representatives like Dough Lowenstein (president of the Electronics Software Association which is the premier video gaming association in the US), members of prominent female gamer’s websites like www.womengamers.com and www.pmsclan.com, and academic contributions show that not only is the female video gamer’s market an active market but also an underserved market. The research problem that was addressed in this study is “What video games appeal the most to women?” As the research question was rather broad in nature, a series of more specific questions was utilized in the questionnaire to collect objective data. Some of these more specific questions were:-What specific games appeal to women? What are some of the most popular video game types for female gamers, and what attributes are looked for the most in video games?

Literature Review The drive to obtain a good ‘fit’ between products and self concept (from an emotional and social value standpoint) is generally much more intense among women than among men (Widing et al 2003). Gender is a pervasive filter through which individuals experience their social world, hence making consumption activities fundamentally gendered (Bristor & Fischer, 1993) which indicates the need to understand the differences in gender and consumption. There are difference in men and women’s attitudes towards and usage of different forms of interactive media like computers, Internet and video games (Mitina & Voiskounsky, 2005). In the past, women’s work (i.e. housework, household management, etc) was never aided by the use of computers (Grundy,

1996) which would explain why women felt distanced from the use of computers. Looking at gender differences in the use of the Internet, research indicates that women use the Internet (aside from work) for purposes such as to make friends, fight for causes, nurture children and role playing, among other things (Schiffman et al, 2005). This indicates that it is the Internet’s elements of social interaction, cooperation and control that appeal to women users.

Men on the other hand, use the Internet for situations that involves their hobbies, personal productivity, competing and winning, connecting with the world, etc. From their interactions with these different forms of media it can be assumed that women prefer control, creativity, social interaction and cooperation in using different forms of media for their entertainment.

Women are more interested in communication, interaction and constructively putting things together when they play. Men however are interested in fighting, competing and violent games that pursue goals. (Goodale, 2004) Video games moved into homes from video arcades (which men dominated) with the advent of the PC and gaming consoles, but yet again women’s participation was limited due to the fact that computers and television were again seen as traditionally male controlled products. These are two major reasons why video games were created and marketed to males, and possibly why women were not attracted to the video games scene until much later (Bryce & Rutter, 2003).

With video games like The Sims, which is designed to simulate everyday life, (and which is one of most successful PC game franchises of all time selling more than 60 million copies since its introduction in 2000), more than half of the players are women (Chmielewski, 2006) which shows that women do play video games if the content is right. The making of the hit TV series “Desperate Housewives” into a video game clearly shows that there is some recognition of content directed at women. Another example is “Nintendogs” which was originally developed to sell to girls in Japan, and sold some 700,000 copies across the world in its first two months of release of which 42% of purchasers were women (not children) (Oser, 2005). This further emphasises the fact that women do have a genuine interest in video games if various aspects of the games suit their interests. It can, therefore, be hypothesised that the kind of content that female gamers might possibly want are elements of cuteness and originality (from Nintendogs) together with elements of control, manipulation and creativity (The Sims). This idea is also based on the conclusion drawn earlier about gender differences and women’s rationale for the consumption of interactive media in terms of entertainment - that women seek control, creativity, social interaction and cooperation as key to their experience with this sort of entertainment.





Based on the research problem i.e. “What video games appeal the most to women?” and the literature review the two hypotheses developed were as follows: H1: Female gamer’s preferences are most likely to center on games which feature creativity, cuteness and mental stimulation, and H2: Female gamer’s preferences are least likely to center on games which feature conflict, violence and destruction, and excessive competition.

–  –  –

Quantitative data collection and analysis was better suited for this research than qualitative data collection and analysis for two key reasons. Firstly, the research sought to describe the characteristics of a particular phenomenon and hence used quantitative research to collect data.

As the research philosophy indicated a lean towards positivism the selection of quantitative research was further reinforced (Cavana, Delahaye & Sekaran, 2001). Secondly, within quantitative research the project used the survey research strategy which according to Saunders et. al., “is easy to understand and is useful in business and management research” (2003, p.92).

The research used an “interviewer administered street intercept” questionnaire to collect the data.

The sample was 250 Australian women between the ages of 18 years to 35 years, who had played a video game at least once in the last six (6) months. Those in this age group are the primary target market for purchasing and consumption of video games (Goodale, 2004, p.14).

Non-probability based convenient sampling was used, with the potential respondents being screened for their potential suitability. The pilot testing phase of the research also used nonprobability based convenient sampling. The field work took place in Sydney in four site locations. The data collected was analyzed to determine the type of video games that were most appealing to women and to determine the aspects of video games that women found most appealing. The data was also sub-analysed by age group, and by frequency of playing video games. Univariate and bivariate analysis was utilised, and significance testing was undertaken.

Findings and Discussion Types of Video Games Looking first at types of video games, respondents were asked to rate the various types of video games on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the most appealing and 10 the least appealing) according to their personal appeal to the respondent. The two types that were rated as the overall most preferred type of video game were ‘Maze Games’ and next most preferred type of video game were ‘Racing Simulators’.

–  –  –

Looked at by age and frequency of playing, there are some differences in preferences. These differences were, however, very minor. These findings suggested that women prefer games that stimulate the mind and offer mental challenges like those present in ‘Maze Games’. Furthermore, ‘Maze Games’ require players to be creative in the way that they tackle the game so the appeal here is also linked to creativity. The fact that ‘Racing Simulators’ were rated so highly suggests that the traditional outlook of women has changed with more and more women entering and enjoying competitive activities that were previously dominated by men. ‘Military Simulators’ were the lesser preferred type of video games overall, ‘Action Shooters’ were the least preferred type of video games for female gamers. When looked at by age and frequency of playing both types of games were fairly uniformly not preferred by respondents. Therefore, the above analysis lead to the conclusion that female video gamers do not prefer video games that have killing or the use of weapons to win or hit other characters as a key part of the game. Hence, the underlying indication was that respondents did not like violence in their video games. This finding was further reinforced in the second part where aspects analysis was undertaken.

Aspects of Video Games Looking at aspects of video games, respondents were asked to rate various aspects of video games based on their appeal to the respondents. A similar rating scale of 1 to 10 was used with 1 being the aspect that was considered very important and 10 indicating that the aspect that was the least important. Analysis of the data above revealed that ‘Graphics’ was the most important aspect of video games for female gamers while ‘Creativity’ was a close second.

IMPORTANCE Most Graphics Next Most Creativity Lesser Cuteness Least Violence ASPECTS Important (2.59) Important (2.77) Important (5.06) Important (7. 04) The importance given to ‘Graphics’ indicated that female gamers do have a well defined taste in video games and clearly understand the importance of a superior images and colors in game play.

The importance of ‘Creativity’ further reinforced the earlier findings where ‘Maze Games’ came through as the most preferred type of video game because ‘Maze Games’ normally have various methods of reaching an end and hence offers the opportunity to be creative about how the goal is reached.. ‘Cuteness’ was the aspect that was considered to be of lesser importance to their video gaming experience overall (across all age groups as well as various frequencies of game playing). The least important aspect of video games was, as predicted from the data in the first section, found to be ‘Violence’. Therefore, it was tentatively concluded that female gamers were moving away from what was traditional thought to appeal to them i.e. cute games, and have well defined dislikes such as any form of violence in their video games. The findings in the first section that female gamers were averse to all game types that had some elements of violence (like ‘Military Simulators’ and ‘Action Shooters’) was reinforced by the data from the second section where ‘Violence’ was of least importance to female video gamers.

Conclusions

In terms of Hypothesis 1, it was concluded from the literature review that women preferred games that involved creativity, cuteness and mental stimulation. While certain aspects of this hypothesis were affirmed, there were other aspects that remained unconfirmed. The data collected relating to various video game types found that ‘Maze Games’ were the most preferred type of game among respondents. ‘Maze Games’ require players to use their creativity and force themselves to think fast in order to win the game or level. Since, “Maze Games’ were rated so highly by the respondents, this suggests that women rate creativity and mental stimulation as being of very high importance in their video gaming experience. The data collected relating to various aspects of video games found that ‘Creativity’ was a next most important aspect. The finding that ‘Creativity’ was of vital importance, further reflected and hence reconfirmed the findings that ‘Maze Games’ were rated as the most appealing game type. This accordingly, confirmed the hypothesis that women do prefer games that involved creativity and mental stimulation. There was, however, no real evidence that women wanted ‘Cuteness’ in their video games. In fact the data presented quite an opposing picture to this aspect of the hypothesis.

Therefore, H1 was in part found to be supported (Creativity and Mental Stimulation were proven to be of vital importance) while it was also found that one part (i.e. cuteness) was unsupported.



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