I would like to apologise in advance if I mis quote or make suggestions that are already in place or about to be put in place within Eve Online.
My experience and knowledge lies not with Eve as much as with 3D social network type games that by default appeal to more female players than male.
Eve Online is a long standing MMORPG game which was first developed in 2003 by CCP Games.
Its core users are primarily male, with ages ranging between the mid twenties and forty somethings.
This is probably due to the game play format that being one of spaceships, stargates, space stations, planets and worm holes etc.
The object of the game (from what little I know as a trial member) seems to be very much RP based fighting the good (or bad) fight both alone and in fractions.
Podding, (blowing a fellow players ship to bits) looting said ship and mining with of course the ability to skill up in order to advance reputation and personal inventory such as the type of ship you own and ISK (Eves currency) accumulated.
Now forgive me, the above is probably over simplified and I have no doubt I will of failed to grasp the important fundamentals of game play within Eve Online, but having only played it for a few hours and as such not even left the tutorial area I know very little really about Eve. But what I lack in Eve experience I most certainly make up for in playing online games and 3D social networks as a woman.
I was first introduced to Eve several years ago when my then partner was a hard core player.
I would bear witness to intergalactic wars between factions (is that even the right word?) and it all looked very exciting from an armchair point of view.
He would spend 6 hour shifts in "teamspeak" with a bottle of beer chatting about tactics and laughing with his fellow players.
I could see Eve online extended much further than that of typical PC/Online game. There was an obvious social element to it also.
Many game developers have began to realise they have been overlooking 50% of their potential market, women.
CCP Games are now looking into ways to make Eve more appealing to female game players according to this Eve Blog post.
No easy task if you look to the two images below.
(Depending on what browser your using) )The first is a screenshot from Eve Online (space image) which has a majority of male members with only 5% of members being female. The second screenshot is from Secondlife.com (Virtual girlies on a shopping spree) which has a majority of female members of around 2/3s.
However, having played Eve for only a few hours this week-end, I can see the appeal, even from a womans stand point.
But I can also see why women would shy away from Eve too. Even from a glance it's clearly a "boys toy"
Since the release and subsequent success of games such as Wii Fit and The Sims, developers have come to realise there is a gap in the market for female based games which by and large have been overlooked by most game companies until recently. (By the way, The Sims is "the" best selling PC game of all time and has the highest female to male ratio of players)
Now, as I have already explained, what I lack in experience and knowledge with Eve Online, I certainly make up for with 3D social networks and virtual world use with over a decade of game play with titles such as The Sims Online, (TSO - no longer available) There.com (Which closed in March 2010 due to the recession) and more recently Secondlife.com which I have been a member since 2004.
I have also played WOW, (World of Warcraft) and Entropia, (which by the way, I did not enjoy for reasons that would require a complete new post of its own)
The success of WOW is no secret, and whilst I don't know the statistics of the male to female ratio, I do personally know of lot of female friends who play and enjoy WOW.
I do not know of any women who play Eve however.
What all the above "games" have and Eve Online doesn't is an avatar.
You have a ship, a bio, an information page showing your skills and achievements and a static image of your character (or avatar) - (See main image above)
Now call me shallow, but I think I speak for most female game players when I say our virtual physical appearance is just as important (if not more so in some cases) than our real appearance.
After all, the attraction of any game for either sex is the ability to live out a fantasy and thus create escapism from the daily grind and stresses of your "real life"
I may be accused of being sexist or even pretentious here, but here's how I see it.
In this technological age, our primal instincts are denied or deemed as inappropriate but we are still animals which ever way you look at it and gaming allows us to act out and release pent up primal instincts without the risk of humiliation (or being arrested!)
I think it's important to clarify there is a huge difference between human instincts and animal instincts so lets not get our knickers in a twist about the two descriptions below!
A mans animal instinct is to hunt, kill and provide, challenge other men to gain the "alpha male" recognition within a group and of course to pro create.
A womans animal instinct is to feather her nest, prune herself and "shake her tail feathers" to attract the attention of the alpha male and again, pro create.
Both genders have a need for social interaction, whether that be romantic or platonic.
Video games provide us with the ability to at least role play some of these most basic of instincts.
Games aimed at men are often based on winning or achievement in genres such as sport, fighting and war which all enable a man to feed those subconscious primal instincts.
For the female gamer however, game play is more about creation whether that be home, clothes or avatar design, keeping house (The Sims) or keeping fit (Wii Fit) for cosmetic reasons, either way women tend to be less competitive and more creative.
With that in mind, here's where I see Eve fails to appeal to the female audience.
Avatar Creation and Identity.
From a womans POV I enjoyed the character creation process in Eve it was intuitive but short lived.
Your character is your virtual representative. It's the one thing that visibly separates you from thousands of other players and the software used by Eve for this process is both advanced and limited at the same time.
I felt there were very few options available such as shape and size of your nose, eyes, chin, forehead, hair styles and colour and make up.
There is no body at all, just head and shoulders so the outfit choices although attractive, were seen only from the upper chest to the neck.
If Eve had a full avatar with a lot more options to customise, this alone would appeal to more women.
Maybe the ability to "upgrade" your avatar when certain skills, tasks, and achievements are met which unlock more detailed and "rare" clothing, cosmetics and hair styles, showing other players at a glance where you stood in the rankings of the game.
I have seen this game play method used in other games with success.
It's human nature to want to compete, even for women. We just compete in different ways to men.
Online games promote snobbery and cliques. You only have to hang out in one of WOWs many watering holes to see all the level 80s showing off their gear and epic mounts.
(it's with some sadness and realisation that I even know what "epic mount" means)
Currently Eves signs of success and achievements are the ship and the associated equipment a player owns which clearly works for current male players, but as a woman I would be also be driven by more avatar/identity related rewards.
Now, I am not suggesting CCP Games should release pink ships with "Play Boy" bunny decals for female players, but maybe the introduction of a female only race/breed with a good RP story line as to why only females exist in a particular race.
This would instantly appeal to women from a competitive edge. Women don't like being told they can't do a mans work or play a mans game, so create a platform to allow women to prove their skill and worth. It's obvious really, the age old "man verses woman" thing.
Both of the above changes would not be costly in either man hours or cold hard cash and neither really mess with the existing game play or the RP story line.
Of course, I don't know the budget or the lengths CCP Games want to go to.
Would it take too much away from the current game theme if there was a place players could undock, jump out of their ships and meet each other in a true 3D environment with an animated avatar, even long term?
Would the ability to allow players to also become independent developers, creating and selling avatar peripherals be going too far?
What about a home from home, "space place" of their own were players could invite other players over? Is that too much like Secondlife.com?
Hell, even the ability to stream and share players music play lists with other players/groups would appeal to both men and women alike whilst also allowing a player to develop his or her sense of identity.
It's that fundamental key thats missing for me as a woman, the ability to create and display my sense of identity and any move in that direction, big or small is a move in the right direction.
I'll resist the urge to end with a cheesy line about a small step for woman kind....
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