The following writing is going to include a lot of generalizations, primarily about gender.
Sorry if that bothers you, but considering the overall point of the post is about demographic trends and audiences there really isn’t a way to avoid it. As well, considering that companies are notoriously grinchy about giving up demographic breakdowns of their player base, some of my statements will be based on anecdotes, or just broad trends and as such may be inaccurate.
Something that inevitably comes up when you discuss demographics in video games is how games can broaden their appeal to other groups outside their core demographic (ideally, without alienating said core demographic, because then you usually lose money.) Inevitably, discussions will occur about whether certain groups like certain gameplay mechanics; ie. do women really like shooters, do men like puzzle games, is there differences down racial lines, etc.
I think this is largely a folly of a discussion. Video games are, at their core, digital toys we interact with. And as a general rule, most people find the same sort of interactions with a device satisfying (nobody can resist clicking a pen, give someone an empty soda can and they’ll probably fidget with it, people bounce balls, etc etc). Yes, games have music and visuals and narratives and some don’t even have gameplay anymore, but as a GENERAL RULE, they are devices, and as a general rule the majority of people find the same interactions with a toy or device satisfying.
My argument is that the contextualization of a genre matters far more.
Let’s take a closer look at the ‘girl’s don’t like shooters’ chestnut, shall we.
On the surface, it seems true; Call of Duty and Battlefield have heavily, heavily dude skewed audiences (only 20% female, in fact.) And while a lot of people (mainly game journalists who like whining at people) try to blame the community of these games, that doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny for a lot of reasons, most prominently the fact that single player shooters don’t fare better, either.
You read that right. Grand Theft Auto 5, the game that if we were to believe journalists was the most hostile to women, dudebro-iest dudebro game on the market.
Had more female players.
THAN MASS EFFECT 3.
Mass Effect 3, the game that took extensive means to attract and cater to female players. That made it a point to include FemShep in box art and promotional materials. That was lauded as doing everything right to appeal to people other than 'dudebros’.
Total, complete failure with female audiences. (And yes, that’s lower than things like Assassin’s Creed, Batman, Skyrim, as well.)
Maybe girls just don’t like shooters, single player shooters especially? (Since Battlefield and CoD did better with women.)
Well, maybe, but I have another idea; that women don’t respond well to contextualization these games have. What does that mean? In all of these games, you’re an army man (or woman) shooting people. Even in Mass Effect, Shepard is an Army Man. They’re 'Commander’ Shepard. They have their own ship. They’re part of the military and everything is framed in a very militaristic way; with you giving reports to admirals and such, organizing troops in some segments, wearing branded armor and carrying military hardware, resource management, the whole nine.
Consider the following;
Dragon Age, most likely, has a significantly higher female playerbase than Mass Effect does. I say 'most likely’ because there aren’t hard numbers. But what we do know is that 18% of Shepards were female, and 32% of Inquisitors were. Considering that the number of Femsheps is MORE OR LESS in the same ballpark as female players (14% and 18%) I feel relatively confident in assuming that it’s a similar ballpark here. Meaning Dragon Age Inquisition MOST LIKELY had a female player base of 25-30%. Significantly higher than Mass Effect’s.
Also, it’s fucking obvious women don’t inherently dislike shooters, considering Overwatch’s success. And not just Overwatch, but Splatoon as well. And don’t give me any shit about Splatoon being 'different’, it’s still a shooter, even if it’s a very unique one. You point the crosshairs and shoot. And while hard numbers for these playerbases don’t exist, considering how many women I know who play both (while not playing ME or CoD or anything) and the presence of women in the fandoms of both (which doesn’t guarantee they play the game, but c'mon now) makes it fairly obvious they are more popular with women than Mass Effect is, at the very least.
So stop with this 'Group X doesn’t like Gameplay X!’ shit, the stuff surrounding the gameplay likely matters a lot more. Try evaluating if the tone, setting, narrative, aesthetic, characters, and concept might be the key to your demographic woes.
We’re giving away a free set of the 2016 Christmas Card Collection created by PJ McQuade! The full set of the collection includes the variety pack of 12 cards shown above and envelopes, including Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and more.
Contest Rules: The rules are very simple. Enter by reblogging or liking this post. Each like and reblog counts as one entry. You have to be following PJ McQuade and Pixalry on Tumblr. Contest ends on December 15th. That’s it, good luck!
Tomorrow on Dec 3rd, 2016, Dave Strider is going to be turning 21 and if not fictional, would finally be able to go out and legally drink in the US. On the other hand, Dirk Strider is going to be turning negative 393 and therefore cannot drink. Poor Dirk isn’t technically born until the year 2409. Imagine trying to explain that to a bartender.
((As a bit of a thank you, I wanted to give all you awesome awesome folks a bit of a teaser for my future plans in Memory, where things get a bit crazy! It’s been almost a year for the blog in total, and I never would have gotten this far without the support of friends, askers, and followers like you! THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH!! All of you are so amazing, and I hope you continue to enjoy this blog as much as I have!
Where have all the good men gone And where are all the gods? Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds? Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed? Late at night I toss and I turn And I dream of what I need (x)