ByMarcus O'Shea, writer at Creators.co
Resident RPG nerd and SoulsBorne fanatic. Can be spotted by their floofy hair.
Marcus O'Shea

Quantic Foundry, a data analysis company specializing in video games, released the latest in their series of fascinating blog posts exploring trends in games by gender. Previously, we've reported on their work analyzing which game genres women, men and non-binary people play and why, but their latest survey digs a bit deeper.

Quantic Foundry's latest blog post of their ongoing gamer motivation survey broke down specific setting and theme preferences in by gender. The results are fascinating, but not entirely unexpected in light of the results of previous surveys by the same company.

Women Love Fantasy More Than Men

[Credit: Quantic Foundry]
[Credit: Quantic Foundry]

Sci-Fi and High led the pack in terms of overall genre choice. But while men preferred Sci-Fi, women tended to enjoy more fantasy. The divide makes a certain kind of sense, especially when you consider the way that fantasy games in general feature more robust character creation and customization tools than the average Sci-Fi game.

Most of the top selling Sci-Fi games, barring outliers like Star Wars: The Old Republic (which also, possibly not coincidentally, had an unusually high percentage of female players for the genre) feature set characters, usually male. In a previous survey, Quantic Foundry listed the most common motivations for gamers by gender, and found that women heavily favor games with strong elements of customizability and fantasy.

The largest divide in setting preference came at the bottom of the list, with WW1 and WW2 based games. Not only do these settings skew heavily towards one of the least popular genres for female gamers (tactical shooters), but they seldom feature any creative elements or female representation.

Let's Talk About How Women Want To Kill You

[Credit: Quantic Foundry]
[Credit: Quantic Foundry]

In a further breakdown of setting preference, Quantic Foundry charted gamers' weapon preferences by gender. Men's preferences were more widely spread along the spectrum of weapon choices, while, when it came to weaponry, women knew what they wanted. Female gamers heavily preferred weapons associated with fantasy and medieval settings. Magic led the list, with swords, hammers and bows not far behind.

The biggest disparity came again with weapons primarily associated with contemporary settings and tactical shooters. Conventional guns and rifles had the biggest gap between men and women, followed by laser weapons and rocket launchers.

The Important Questions

Evie Frye was probably a big reason why Assassin's Creed Syndicate fared so much better with female gamers than previous entries [Credit: Ubisoft]
Evie Frye was probably a big reason why Assassin's Creed Syndicate fared so much better with female gamers than previous entries [Credit: Ubisoft]

The results of Quantic Foundry's survey supports previous findings from their posts about gaming genres and motivations along gender lines. While women make up a large percentage of gamers, they prefer games that are often classed as 'casual': puzzle games, atmospheric exploration and family/farming sims.

The question then is whether women 'naturally' prefer these genres or whether these genres are the most open and welcoming to female players. It'd be easy to say that because female gamers are primarily motivated by achievement, creativity and fantasy, that they simply prefer these genres as a matter of course, but the answer may not be so simple.

Also, what makes putting 500 hours into Candy Crush Saga more 'casual' than 500 hours in Call Of Duty? [Credit: King]
Also, what makes putting 500 hours into Candy Crush Saga more 'casual' than 500 hours in Call Of Duty? [Credit: King]

We've talked before about the alienating nature of hardcore gamer culture and the somewhat poor representation of female characters in games. However, when games go out of their way to include female representation or features that women generally tend to prefer in games, they become outlier hits.

The open world genre, which is generally a sausage fest of sociopathic white male protagonists, is one of the lowest ranking genres for women. But when Ubisoft finally stopped making ridiculous exclusives and wrote in an interesting, developed female protagonist, became a hit among women gamers.

Making Games That Women Want To Play

More customization, less exclusion and more badasses like Ellie from The Last Of Us [Credit: Sony]
More customization, less exclusion and more badasses like Ellie from The Last Of Us [Credit: Sony]

The act of making a game that women want to play is often treated as a form of eldritch sorcery, but if you look at the stats, things aren't all that mysterious. Games which include even the barest effort at inclusion see immediate returns— female characters with decent stories, real motivation and outfits that aren't embarrassing are a great start.

Including social mechanics and deep interactions with other characters, as well as strong customization could also do wonders for increasing the amount of women playing genres they'd otherwise avoid. Also, maybe not threatening and harassing women when they play online or stream, that'd be super awesome. Otherwise Ellie's gonna come for you.

What do you think of Quantic Foundry's latest report? Disagree or agree with our conclusions? Got something of your own to add? Let us know in the comments!

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