Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve

Breaking character, Shava steps from behind the terminal.  She’s a short, thickset, matronly woman of 50 with intense honey-brown eyes and a sly grin.  She is NOTHING like la capsuliere (intelligence training aside).

Shava has left Eve Online and come back.  Three different times.  So is it a coincidence that this post took 3rd place in the blog banter? *heh*

CK kind of inadvertently hit part of his own nail on the head, when he asked his Blog Banter question:

What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game. Will Incarna do the trick? Can anything else be done in the mean time? Can we the players do our part to share the game we love with our counterparts, with our sisters or daughters, with the Ladies in our lives? What could be added to the game to make it more attractive to them? Should anything be changed? Is the game at fault, or its player base to blame?

My emphasis added.  CK, you are not speaking to me when you say we.  You are speaking to me when you say them.  You are speaking to me when you call me a Lady with a capital L.  It’s hard to pilot a ship from outside the porthole, stuck on this pedestal.  And you are just a sweet guy.  And you want to fix the problem.  But it’s got you in its jaws.

I don’t claim to speak for all the female pilots in Eve, but I can speak from my own experience.  Eve Online is a military/economic simulation.  It started almost entirely male.

There are a couple of comparisons that spring immediately to mind — both from my own experience in real life.

When I was a teenager, I had the pleasure of knowing Senator George Aiken, then recently retired senior senator and ex-governor from my home state of Vermont.  Aiken was an amazing man, a statesman, and he met me because someone forwarded my ASVAB (Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery) test scores to him.  I had come out at 99%+ in every category but one (don’t remember which, sorry).  Aiken told me he had heard good things about me and was ready to write me a recommendation if I wanted to go to any of the military academies.  He mentioned Annapolis.

The year before, in 1985, Congress first authorized the military academies to take women candidates.  The first women attended the year he asked me this question — the year I turned seventeen.

My father believed in strict nonviolence in his social organizing (he was a Unitarian Universalist minister, and before that a high school science/math teacher, and before that a union organizer during WWII).  But one thing he’d emphasized to me was that to foster peace you needed to understand the causes, needs, and means of war.  Because of this, as a little hippie teenager in 70’s Vermont, I had read Clauswitz, Suntzu, and a great deal of history including military history.  I was encouraged to reflect how the Gita integrated the hard decisions of war (“how to kill your relatives without accruing terribly bad karma”) with spirituality.

But I was not prepared to enter the lion’s den.  Lion’s den?  The military?  Well, yes, I did have a lack of the suffering fools gladly gene and a healthy mistrust of authority that would have made military life difficult.  But I wasn’t actually primarily worried about that.

I was already a girl-geek, in a small town.  I had a bare clue what would happen to the first girls at Annapolis.  My prediction was, they would be eaten alive.  At the very least, their lives would be made enough hell that they would be nearly set up to fail.

So I passed on the officer’s life.

Instead, I became a software engineer, back when that was quite the boy’s club.  And I spent nearly every weekend of the late 70’s and early 80’s at the MIT Strategic Games Society, where Betsy H. and I were the only two women.  It made us very popular in that circle.  Outside of MITSGS, we were observed with curiosity and sometimes a little horror.

Women aren’t supposed to be interested in killing things, or war, or — yes — blowing sh*t up.

Now, Betsy and I were gamers.  We were gamer grrls before D&D took over MITSGS, and brought in a few more persons of the female persuasion.  I got commissioned to paint whole armies of lead miniatures, laboriously ordered by air mail on paper forms from Europe.  We did scale naval miniatures on a huge hex-paved courtyard at MIT, one nautical mile per hex, from dusk to dawn once a year.  We went en masse — the two of us and a hoard of young and not-so-young men — to movies like Alien and Das Boot, and really just about any war or science fiction or fantasy or special effects movie that came out.  We were geeks before being geeks was cool, and girl geeks before such a thing was anything but an anamoly.

At work, I affected a sort of baby dyke look.  Being a young looking early-20-something and pretty, the men I worked with (and I worked with almost all men) would either dismiss me as brainless, want to bed me, or get so flummoxed just having to interact, period.

By 1982, I was chief software engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation, working on the first commercial multimedia system in the world, matrix managing forty people to create prototype applications (and break the authoring system — or at least strain it to its limits).  That was also the year I got on the Internet, and discovered the USENET group net.women — about 50 women all over the US working for government contractors, the military, or engineering schools — most of us engineers and scientists.  We all had the same issues with the guys around us.  Being dismissed, having to work twice as hard to get an even break regarding respect or recognition, glass ceilings, what would now be called harassment (but then we just took for granted, mostly).

Men around us would test us with coarse language and coarser stories to see if we were ok with being “one of the guys.”  They would treat us differently in a thousand different ways, some meant as gentlemanly, but most meant to push our boundaries (sometimes in the name of bonding, often not).

Now, you can see from these issues (passing on military academy, dealing with being “the woman engineer”), that in the greater world, mostly things have changed.  Young women today in at least the coastal parts of the US generally are raised to think they can do whatever they want with their careers.  Annapolis is over 20% female (in comparison, 30 years ago, MIT was hitting about that same milestone).

Heck, the president of MIT is a woman now.  Geeks are cool.  More and more women are playing online games that involve strategy, tactics, military/economic simulations, and blowing sh*t up.  More and more women are playing really much more bloody and violent console games that really are far more squicky than Eve.

But, Eve is 5% female.  It’s not because the girl gamers are saying “Math is hard!  Let’s go shopping!” It’s not because Eve isn’t elegant and beautiful, because it is.  It isn’t because Eve is one of those limited games that can’t employ women’s oft-vaunted talents in diplomacy and politics, but only involve finite strategy/tactics.  Eve already has a distinct human dimension, as anyone would know who’d gotten to corporate leadership and/or null-space.

My thought is that there are two really major problems.

The first problem is CCP’s.  CCP markets Eve as a PVP space game.  Famously, mining in Eve is boring.  Famously, Eve is a spreadsheet game.  Famously, for the first while in PVP in Eve, the sh*t being blown up is probably you.  Repeatedly.

CCP does a lousy job of marketing Eve’s deep lore, rich player-driven story and politics.  They never really mention Eve’s complex cooperative play, involving holding together alliances of sometimes thousands of individuals to realize amazingly intricate military and political goals that must be shored up by a strong and willing industrial foundation, and executed with truly epic military engagements.  These are aspects of Eve that should attract women, who look for the social aspects of a game — that doesn’t necessarily involve feeding chickens on a Facebook page.

The bigger problem is that Eve’s internal culture, for the most part, is somewhere between 1976’s military academies and 1982’s software engineering.  At 5%, Eve is a boy’s club, de facto.  Women are, at best, encouraged to swear and spit with the best of them.  At worst, they are treated…differently.  They are treated with a sort of gentlemanly courtesy that cuts off comradery.  They are meant to grin and bear the incessant peurile humor at women’s expense.  If I never saw another ASCII space boobie again, I could just about stand it.  When someone calls you a dick, it can have some begrudging respect or affection in it.  But trust me, when someone calls you a pussy in Eve, they are not being polite.   I went through this in the early 80’s, and I am willing to deal with it.

Most women under 45 aren’t.

And to you, my brothers and friends in Eve, I speculate that you are just not going to change your behavior overnight.

So, what do we need to do to attract more women to play with us, in this amazing world we and CCP have built?

First, CCP needs to market to women.  They don’t.  I’m not sure they know how.  (Hej, CCP, I’m a marketing consultant in part of my real life, and I’m available for some hours on the side!)

Second, corporations need to decide if they want to be female-friendly, or not.  And it’s FINE if you decide you want to be hairy beer-swilling rude trogs in your own corp — but if you want to be friendly and really welcoming to women in Eve, look at how engineering schools and the military have progressively created guidelines to help their own hairy beer-swilling rude trogs to create an environment where women (and men) can thrive.  Hell, look at how *real* corporations do it (or fail to). And then sincerely ask the women in.

And remember most of us gamer grrls can still swear and spit with the best of them.

===

More blog banters on attracting the fairer sex to play Eve Online:

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36 Responses to “Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve”

  1. Oneiromancer Says:

    Excellent blog, thank you!

  2. As a graduate of one of the Academies, I agree with your take on how women were treated (and often still are). However, seeing the admission of women as a ‘step forward’ is a matter of perspective. Whether the steady decline of the US military is due to giving (yes, intentional use of the word “giving” as opposed to “allowing to earn”) women commissions or coincidental with other aspects of society is indeterminate.

    It is also notable that in a post describing the generalizations of women that you’ve experienced and laud overcoming, you make a similar generalization of Midwestern/flyover residents.

    I’m sure you’ll write this off as a “see, I told ya’ so” response to your posting, but I hope you see the irony.

    I agree with you that changing the game is not the answer. And I agree with you 100% in the first paragraphs in your post…the question itself is asking respondents to be sexually discriminatory.

    And marketing? Well, I’ve said on numerous other responses that CCPs marketing, while ineffective and non-varietal, is not out of line with it’s peer companies. It would be nice if they were first (oh, wait…WoW and the Sims already did that….hmmm.)

    KB

  3. @KaarBaak:

    Well, my brother in the Air Force has had more bad reports on the guys he’s worked with than the women, but there are more guys, aren’t there? I don’t remember him ever mentioning that a woman he served/worked with was an idiot, but I couldn’t say the same for the men — but he works with intel/logistics/simulations, so maybe it’s different in the combat sections.

    Don’t know if you noticed, but the head of Darpa is a completely kick-ass woman these days. Some roles require a sharp brain, and a strong will, and those come packaged in whatever gender.

    It’s a little hard to say how women effect the services as long as they are set up to fail by the boys, though, isn’t it? That’s the impression I still get, first women in the academies, Tailhook and more recent travesties aside.

    When they start culling short male recruits for not being able to deadlift 1.5 times their body weight, or have a surplus of male enlistments that fills our entire hunger for a standing volunteer military, and you can make an equitable comparison between today’s women in the forces and then, you’ll have more of a point.

    Frankly, I don’t see the “self-esteem” training and less onerous requirements being a product of women in the military, but generational change and the exigencies of attracting and keeping a volunteer force. Modern business has many of the same problems, but I see it in the young men too — a sense of entitlement, easily bruised egos, lack of self-actuated direction, aversion to risk-taking (accompanied with a really poor sense of evaluating risk),…

    I blame Dr. Spock. 😉

    As for the bi-coastal thing — honestly, since I was 9 years old, I’ve only lived on the east and west coasts, and before that (when I was born in Ohio and spent a few years in Wisconsin) — but I’m not going to judge how girls were raised pre-1968 with how they are raised today.

    When I was a little girl there it was assumed that I’d be a nursie, a teacher, or a mommy. Maybe a librarian or a secretary. There wasn’t much else presented to me as opportunities, except by my mom who studied botany in the 30’s at UCLA, but settled for motherhood and an education degree, and ran an alterations shop in our house, and picked up days substitute teaching as a minister’s wife (in itself practically a full time job sometimes).

    The only guidelines I got from my parents (which ran distinctly against my impulses) was: “Don’t go into the arts, you’ll starve.”

    I know when I lived in the upper south, outside of the Triangle, unless you were lucky by birth to be in a good family for it, women were not prepared for much beyond a white collar low level career, if that. Charlotte and Ashville and a few places also broke the mold.

    But even in progressive Vermont, when I was struggling in elementary school with pre-algebra skills, my teacher (a woman) told me, “Don’t worry about it, dear — you don’t really need to know more than you need to balance a checkbook, and if you get stuck, your husband will help you out.” (1969)

    It wasn’t until I got to high school and geometry that I found out that I could understand almost any math through spatial relationships, but was lousy at rote memorization of formulae.

    No slight intended, although from what I have heard from midwestern professional women, it may not be far off. I just don’t have the recent direct experience, and I didn’t feel like searching for studies on that, it seemed peripheral at best.

    Anyway, I wasn’t meaning to slam the midwest. But since the 60’s, I’ve not done much more than literally fly over the region, and most of this essay is from my experience.

    • Being from “progressive Vermont” I understand your predilection to generalize about Midwesterners. It’s not your fault…as you point out, it’s just how you were raised.

      And, as I said since the children of the 60’s are mixed-in with the first large wave of strong females it is difficult to tell which is eroding the military. But, as a combat arms officer who has worked for incompetent men and with incompetent men and women I can definitely say that the quality of soldier in general is lower today than it’s ever been. I’m not sure I understand your reference to lifting 1.5x body weight, as the female standards for physical training are significantly lower than males.

      As you say though, I managed to side-track from the real message of your post (I think) and which, as stated, I agree with a great deal.

      Plus, it’s well-written, formatted and intelligently presented. Consider me subscribed.

      KB

  4. Brilliant post, great read, well written, right on target. I suspect we are in the exact same age demographic and can relate to everything you’ve said here. Do you know that when I was in 9th grade along about 1972, my counselor suggested that I simply take the General Curriculum rather than College Prep coursework in high school because “you’re a girl and will probably just get married and have kids anyway.” In 1973!!!! The sad part was, I took his advice choosing to believe it out of laziness. It was only in my early 20s that I discovered I was actually very analytical and took to programming like a fish to water.

    Your post deserves first place as far as I’m concerned.

    • Mynxee, that means a lot to me, thanks! I’ve been reading the blog pack for a while, but as you can see, this is just my second entry on my own blog (which I thought originally was just going to be Ginette’s story). I checked out your entry, and I agree. At some point I’ll have to check out the Eon story!

  5. LOLs…just read your bio…we’re neighbors. Get to Redbones much?

    KB

    • Often as I can. lol! We should get up and talk about games maybe…:)

      Oh, and I didn’t mention this: I have my fiance playing Eve now too! So in our household it went the other way around from CK’s plan!

  6. paritybit Says:

    Please keep writing.

    Also, keep playing EVE.

    In EVE, intelligence prevails (at least until the hordes of barbarians gather and wipe out the civilized), and that is an attribute that I do not exclusively ascribe to either male or female.

    I don’t think the important matter is marketing “for women”; the important matter is better marketing in general. Accurately describing what is in the game and how it plays is, in my opinion, much more important than targeting a demographic. But then I’m naive that way.

    • Oh yes, CCP, please don’t make anything pink! We don’t need to be marketed too as girly — just for the things that are a little more complicated to explain in a banner ad, perhaps!

      Marketing to women in games doesn’t mean changing the game, it just means making the three seconds of attention you get from an ad count for something more than pew-pew. So yes, the problem isn’t marketing *to* women, but that the parts of Eve most likely to attract women (as I listed above) are hard to get into a tiny ad. Men are easier, because they like the game pretty much from day 1, most women need to find the lore, a good corporation, and even then it may be months before they begin to grok the potentials of the game.

      One of the things I loved about Eve when I first got into it years ago was that the further I got into it, the more I realized how it was an infinite game, because the dependencies on all the other players (corporations, pirates, merchants, buyers,…) were almost as volatile as our real lives. And many of us game to escape all that I suppose.

      I already spend some amount of time writing professionally for various outlets, and have had a half dozen pieces featured from my Gamasutra blog in the last month-ish. Work has to come first, but I’m hoping to be in New Eden for a while this time, and keeping up this blog.

      All work and no play — and my play, in a lot of ways, stretches my mental muscles for my work!

  7. Grok…. OMG! (laughs) Haven’t heard that in years! And I was already thinking this blog was full of win before I got to that.

    Awesome stuff. Keep it coming 🙂

  8. I’m ten years younger than you, and grew up a sci-fi nerd, computer nerd, and gamer. It’s incredible how much has changed in ten years, and how little too. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. It’s brilliantly done.

  9. Adrakyara Says:

    Maybe they should market EVE to military women! 😀
    I love your article, I am a Combat Eng in the Canadian Forces and a long time gamer. I’m one of those rare women who loves the spreadsheet aspect of EVE. Marketing Eve’s story and atmosphere is an excellent idea. From my experience when I play RPGs with other women the game revolves around the characters, their relationships and interactions and not so much as getting gear and combat. EVE has a very rich environment where a storyline is happening everyday and a couple books outside the game but now many people outside the game know that.
    Excellent article, I would have said prettier ships… I would have liked prettier ships…
    CHIMO

  10. […] Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve […]

  11. […] Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve […]

  12. Great post, and I definitely agree with the marketing point of view — I said the same thing in my entry and expanded the scope to mention the fiction and background too. Eve has plenty of potential for attracting women gamers already, but it hasn’t really lived up to it yet.

    Svetlana Scarlet

  13. Fabulous post. Interesting thoughts about age and willingness to put up with cro-magnon culture. The Eve women demographic does seem to be a bit older than the male one, but I’ve found that to be generally the case with online gaming. I wonder if one of the ways that third wave feminism has played out is in a disinterest in smashing into the very few remaining male dominated bastions in favor of getting ahead in the majority of society that is relatively open?

    Then, it’s honestly hard to make comparisons because it’s difficult to think of any part of mainstream society that is quite this unbalanced in gender.

  14. When I got online in 1982 (yes, there was an Internet back then. It even was running on tcp/ip and everything!) the net was well over 95% male. I think it might be hard for young women to conceive of this today (young men, too! ;). And you know, maybe that’s a good thing?

  15. Ciarente Says:

    Excellent post, as someone of your generation who has come through similar organisational cultures, I agree with every one of your points.

  16. […] generate more interest for female gamers within E-UNI and the game as a whole. She cited her own blog post for CrazyKinux’s blog banter to guide our […]

  17. […] generate more interest for female gamers within E-UNI and the game as a whole. She cited her own blog post for CrazyKinux’s blog banter to guide our […]

  18. […] Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve […]

  19. Congratulations! Well done!

  20. Thanks! My fiance was teasing me that I was just staying up late last night to see if/what CK would post (and he was right!). I feel almost silly to be so happy about winning this, above and beyond the prize — I love the game and it’s just validating to have people even *asking* (if sort of indirectly) what we 5% think.

    I’m looking forward to being >5% in the near future!

  21. […] Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve […]

  22. […] Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve […]

  23. […] Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve […]

  24. […] The Ghost Report: Eve Blog Banter: The Girls Who Fly Spaceships 2. “Prove It”: Women In EvE 3. Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve 4. The Ladies of New Eden (An Analysis on How Men are not from Mars, & Women are not from […]

  25. […] Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve […]

  26. […] Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve […]

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