Female Gamers Want To Kill You, Just Not With Guns

By |2017-02-09T17:50:59+00:00February 9th, 2017|Analytics, Video Games|46 Comments

In many of our blog posts, we explore our data through the lens of gaming motivations. This time around, we’re going to focus on another kind of preference—thematic appeal. Or put another way, if the game mechanics are the same, how much does it matter that you’re killing orcs vs. space aliens?

See how you compare with other gamers. Take a 5-minute survey and get your Gamer Motivation Profile.

Data From the Gamer Motivation Profile

Here at Quantic Foundry, in addition to the Gamer Motivation Profile, we also have additional research surveys that gamers can participate in. These surveys tackle a variety of game preference questions, and allow us to link gamers’ responses back to things like their motivation scores, gender, and age. 1,266 gamers participated in this research survey.

In the survey, we asked gamers to rate the appeal of different thematic settings and weapon choices. The order of the themes was randomized for each respondent. For the analysis and the charts below, we coded these appeal ratings from 1 (Not At All) to 5 (A Great Deal).

The Most Appealing Settings Are High Fantasy and Sci-Fi

The most appealing settings are High Fantasy and Sci-Fi, but in a different order for men and women. Male gamers prefer Sci-Fi over High Fantasy, while female gamers prefer High-Fantasy over Sci-Fi.

The third-most appealing setting also varies between men and women. Male gamers have Post-Apocalyptic Earth in third place, while female gamers have Medieval Europe.

Male gamers prefer Sci-Fi over High Fantasy, while female gamers prefer High-Fantasy over Sci-Fi.

The least appealing settings are Contemporary Superheroes, Zombie Apocalypse, and WWI/WWII, with a particularly large gender difference in the appeal of WWI/WWII.

Male Gamers Are Favorable Towards A Broader Range of Weapons

Overall, men rate weapon options more favorably across the board. With the exception of Magical Spells, men rate weapon options just the same or significantly higher than women.

The largest difference between gender preferences was for Conventional Guns / Rifles (followed by futuristic Laser/Plasma Weapons). Male gamers rated these weapons as having substantially more appeal. This aligns with the results we saw from the thematic setting graph where women rated WWI/WWII (and Sci-Fi) as having less appeal than for men.

Female Gamers Are More Selective About How They Kill Things

One stereotype is that female gamers simply shy away from violent games in general. However, the results show how the reality may be far more complicated and interesting. For example, it’s clear that women don’t mind killing things with Magical Spells and Swords. In fact, women rated weapons that would lead to up-close-and-personal violence (Swords/Hammers) just as favorably as men.

Women rated weapons that would lead to up-close-and-personal violence just as favorably as men.

The gender differences appear to have more to do with the High Fantasy vs. Sci-Fi/War split that we saw in the thematic setting chart. Women rate Magical Spells, Swords, and Bows favorably, while they showed less enthusiasm than men for Conventional Guns, Laser Weapons, Rocket Launchers, and Explosives.

In this light, it is clear that women don’t mind killing things, but they dislike using weapons that are connected to realistic, conventional warfare. Even with Futuristic/Sci-Fi weapons like Laser/Plasma Weapons, these can be considered “realistic” in the sense that they are simply more advanced guns.

These Findings Reflect The Gendered Appeal of Technology in Gaming

Both the High Fantasy vs. Sci-Fi split and the Spells/Swords vs. Guns split seem to reflect an underlying difference in attitude towards technological elements in gaming. This reminded us of a question we had in an earlier research survey of 1,082 gamers that asked about this more directly. In the survey question, we asked gamers to pick one of 3 factions in a hypothetical strategy game.

Consistent with our findings on thematic setting and weapon choice, women were more likely to seek out Nature and Magic-Based Factions while men showed a significant preference for Tech-Based Factions (by a factor of 2.4).

We again see that elements related to High Fantasy are more appealing to women, while men are more drawn toward themes involving technology.

Consistent with High Fantasy vs. Sci-Fi Findings in Genre Preference

These findings dovetail with some of our other recent findings, such as the 36% of women playing High Fantasy MMOs compared to 16% for Sci-Fi MMOs, hinting at some underlying driver that appears to push women toward High Fantasy elements. One hypothesis is that these elements (as opposed to conventional warfare) have historically been marketed toward women in other media such as books, TV, or movies. Alternatively, this may be an artifact of how game genres bundle themes/mechanics/presentation together. For example, High Fantasy games tend have more character customization options or stronger story-driven gameplay, while WWI/WWII games tend to not have playable female characters.

Rethinking What an FPS Could Be

Lastly, it is prudent to dismiss the notion that women simply aren’t interested in violent games. This would be an erroneous conclusion when you see stats like only 4% of female gamers play tactical shooters. In reality, this may have much more to do with the conventional war settings that these games typically take place in rather than the violence itself.

This may have much more to do with the conventional war settings that these games typically take place in rather than the violence itself.

In turn, these findings point at market opportunities. When you take a step back, an FPS is simply about aiming/clicking on other people to kill them at a distance before they kill you. Guns are just one of many ways to implement this. Women may be much more likely to play fighting games or shooters, for example, if they were to take place in a High Fantasy environment. For example, imagine an FPS with fireballs/ice shards/invisibility spells with classes representing more offensive/defensive elemental spheres of magic.

What Do You Think?

Are there other game preferences you’d like to see us explore in future surveys and blog posts? And if you’re a female gamer, do these findings resonate with your own personal preferences? What unconventional combination of genre and thematic setting would you like to see in video games? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author:

Kaleb Embaugh is an analytics intern at Quantic Foundry. As a lifelong gamer with a background in industrial/organizational psychology, he writes about how the two intersect.


  1. Dave February 9, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

    You’re playing a bit fast and loose with the visuals there. Your chart suggests visually that men are 5 times as likely to prefer a WWI/WWII setting, but the numbers put that figure at only 27% more likely. You could say this cutoff is so the chart is easier to read, but it obscures the important point that, when expanded to show their full values, these charts would provide more evidence for the similarity of interests between male and female players than for the difference.

    • Nick Yee February 9, 2017 at 1:01 pm - Reply

      That’s a fair point. In the charts, we were focused more on the relative differences between the options. Note though that the error bars provide a better sense of the magnitude of the difference than the raw values themselves (because it depends on the underlying variances).

      In our other blog posts, we often raise the point about men and women being more similar than not (e.g., http://quanticfoundry.com/2015/08/28/gender-differences-in-gaming/ and http://quanticfoundry.com/2016/08/11/appeal-of-competition/). In the case of the current data, the gender differences were much larger than the age or motivation differences.

    • Nick Yee February 9, 2017 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      We’ve updated the charts so the y-axis isn’t truncated. Note that the lowest possible value on the y-axis is 1 because the Appeal scale goes from 1 to 5. We’ve also added a note on this right before the chart.

  2. Alex February 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    As a female, these are interesting findings. I actually prefer sci-fi and enjoy techy games such as Mass effect and Deus ex, but I would also prefer bows and a nature-based faction in games like Skyrim. I tend to lean towards stealth and after bows/silenced sniper rifles would opt for melee, hand to hand, or defensive spells(invisibility, shields). And I am not surprised by the WWI/II results. Those genres seem so dull and overplayed in my eyes, but I know many young men with military aspirations who enjoy those themes. Another reason I don’t like those is because I game primarily to disengage from reality and I can’t help making the connection between the game and current events, especially those with middle-eastern or otherwise historical settings. War among mankind, even fictionally, is not entertaining to me.

    • Harmony February 9, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      As another female gamer, I second all of this. ^^^

      • firmi June 26, 2017 at 2:48 am

        seconding it as afab NB-person :3

    • somnomania February 13, 2017 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Seconding all of this as well.

    • Patrik March 2, 2017 at 1:44 am - Reply

      Well, I am a male gamer, and I agree with all of what you said. I have no way of knowing how representative of the “normal player base” I am, of course.

  3. Luke February 9, 2017 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    That’s an interesting set of stats, but it just raises another interesting question: why do Modern Military settings and weapons have such a low appeal to females in general? Is there something inherent to these genres\weapons that turns most women off? The stats on the differing motivations aren’t quite as pronounced, so that explanation doesn’t stack up, leaving behind the question of what’s the real story here.

    I can understand over-saturation of WW2 and Modern Military settings bringing interest down across the board, but why are they so much more unappealing to women when the fundamentals of play in other genres and settings, don’t have such a wide disparity?

    • Nick Yee February 9, 2017 at 2:34 pm - Reply

      We also wondered about this in the recent post on gender distribution within game genres (http://quanticfoundry.com/2017/01/19/female-gamers-by-genre/). One thing we noticed is that the FPS genre bundles together a lot of norms: they tend to not have female protagonists, tend to involve playing with strangers online, and tend to have a lot of rapid 3D movement which can lead to motion sickness (which women are more susceptible to). And because FPS games tend to use conventional warfare as the theme, we’re seeing this constellation of variables all being consistently bundled together. Of course, the gaming motivations likely play some part in this as well.

      This makes it hard to tease apart the causality and understand which variables are collateral damage.

      • Alma February 23, 2017 at 5:16 pm

        Well for me there are a few reasons why I have few fps in my collection. Lack of a strong story or atleast one I could find elements to be interested in, no fem characters to play as, lack of cooperation with players or co-op, lack of customization is a low point but is one if I’m being honest.

        I’d rather work with someone if its a multiplayer or co-op game then vs and just me vs others to shoot each other in the face if I’m playing with you I want to play with you not against you. I did like the Division’s drop into another’s world and play I enjoy this more then Battlefield’s shoot em up chaos. Though I will play COD zombie mode because we’re a team surviving the odds.

        A lack of a female character can make me not want to play if the story is lame or subpar if the story is strong however I can over look it and play as the male (like Witcher but I liked being Ciri in 3 more then Geralt and I actually hate her inbook persona her game persona was ok but she was more relatable, I wish they would’ve let me pick whom to continue as after beating the game I would’ve chosen to continue as her under witcheress completing the contracts and such ).

        As for hero choice the way I feel about it is I do want the option. I don’t want her auto excluded to me in 98% of games there are very few game plots, reasons, or settings that can’t also have a fem hero even if that makes the players have to be more creative and their choice makes the game harder to play if the developers are just excluding her for no good reason its like an f u to me as a player they say I can be a girl and buy your game I just can’t control one and feel more connected with her unfolding narrative instead I’ve got to get my man hat on and role play in a way I’m frankly tired of doing I have to pretend to be and think like a man while suspending my disbelief for the world I’m in while buying into the story having a fem character means I get to experience 2 layers instead of 3 making it faster to get into every thing for immersion and world/story enjoyment. I really like that more games are giving me the ability for choice and I know there are men who equally appreciate the same choice being given.

        Customization is good its fine to have generic body and face but I do still prefer the rpg of full tweaking like I said this is low for me. I’ll take generic but if I did get to have a say I’d say more detail on my character and less on my guns please.

        A story that is weak can turn me off if it has nothing else like cool lore to keep me invested, but if you let me do more tactics then just shoot from a far or upclose that can get me to atleast keep tabs rather then loose me completely for instance Wildlands caught my interest with the varied tactics, fem hero option, open world, and the story sounds decent enough so I’ll be seeing if the game is one I’ll be getting after I tryout the beta. .

      • firmi June 26, 2017 at 3:02 am

        I think one may be upbringing- my parents were in general very against “violent games” which means i was only able to play shooters at a friends house (who had a lot of pcs and we had a local lan) So I played the first half life, the first crysis and far cry and before that some faster games like UT03, quake arena and serious sam games-
        I preferred those because they were fast paced and had a wide assortment of characters to choose, they were visually very interesting- more interesting and colorful than the often drab and boring looking shooters..
        and UT03 had around 50%50 split for male and female characters, some sexualized but others not, they had even the options for one to choose pretty gruesome creepy monsterish characters.. I played that game a lot because of it.

        I think this may be a reason why Overwatch is so popular- its colorful, it has a lot of different characters, those have character specific weapons who play and feel different and also have different difficulty. One can play a character in overwatch without needing to have a good FPS-aim, so its open for people who haven’t played a lot of FPS and may feel insecure or not able enough- by giving multiple mechanics it offers variety for diverse abilities.
        The characters offer ways to identify with them, to immerse oneself deeper into the game, the colors make it easy to discern the different charas too.

    • Harmony February 9, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      Read what Alex said, above.

    • Gerry Quinn February 10, 2017 at 5:22 am - Reply

      It’s also possible that males are more likely to see a modern military setting as something that might possibly be their job in real life.

    • Jen February 10, 2017 at 8:04 am - Reply

      In addition to Alex’s comments above, I think it’s also a cultural difference, although I imagine this is also drastically different between military and non-military families. Women have been pretty limited for military experience until relatively recent history, and more importantly we’re not brought up with as much idolization of WWI/II concepts. Lots of our grandfathers didn’t talk about their war experience with us (if they talked to anyone about it). So a lot of the stories we’re raised with are much more about “waiting for him to come home” and rolling up their sleeves to do the work that needed to be done back home …and since the latter tends to be a lot of our day to day that’s kinda meh on a game design front, although I’m sure it could be done.

      But yeah, growing up all the WWI/II stuff just seemed really dull and boring to me. I didn’t start taking an interest in history until I had a teacher and friends that found it interesting and shared it with me.

  4. Elena February 9, 2017 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Interesting findings. They do largely match up with my personal experience, except that I find most ranged attacks overly finicky/cautious and prefer slamming my opponent up close and personal with a broadsword or baseball bat, at least for the first playthrough. (Realistic) guns are just the most boring version of the ranged attack, imo (although bows aren’t much better). Why rifle (ha) through a dozen nearly-identical weapons when you can layer a diversity of colorful spells to create even more interesting (and deadly) effects? If I have to carry a gun, I’d rather play Hitman so I can drown my target in the toilet, or GTA so I can run my enemies over with a bus lol
    As far as genres go, they’re usually tertiary in my decision-making-process, but I do associate both post-apocalyptic and real-war genres with catering to a sort of male fantasy where the world returns to the Glory Days where (supposedly) it’s all about the Survival of the Fittest (usually the white/male with the biggest gun, most tragically-dead wives, and blandest personality)

  5. Ophabia February 9, 2017 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    I’m a female gamer that tends to like Fantasy games more than other types but for me it really comes down to how the game makers implement combat. I prefer to select a target and then do abilities, not have to aim every ability at a target. A Secret World was an exception to that genre targeting rule and I did enjoy the game. Where I’m forced to aim with every attack I tend to play heavily armored melee characters, things like Skyrim, Fallout, Dishonored are all games I really liked and played a lot. So there are really two major elements for me: the targeting mechanic and if it’s an MMO. Having to aim each attack at a target in an MMO is my least favorite combo mostly because there are other things that require attention when you’re gaming with other people. My preference is definitely not about how realistic the gun types/weapons are.

  6. Tia February 9, 2017 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    You guys make me feel less and less weird all the time. =^^=

  7. Amanda Dallin February 9, 2017 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Dave is right. Both the Theme/Setting chart and the Weapons chart by starting at 2.0 give a false picture of how much difference there is between the genders. I’m sure it’s not a problem for a statistician or others who deal with statistics and charts on a regular basis but for a general audience it give the impression that it’s a difference of 5 times instead of the actual 21% difference. Otherwise, it’s a very interesting analysis and fits well with my personal preferences.

  8. Harai February 9, 2017 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Really interesting findings indeed. I feel mostly represented in those charts, in Warcraft 3 I used to play with the Night Elf faction, on WoW I main a feral druid and sometimes a Hunter, I’m all about pets, shapeshifting and ranger/berserk with fur armor playstyle. I’ve played Call of Duty before, I got it as a gift, it was fun and all but really didnt appeal to me, and then a friend of mine got The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, a simple game with 4 classes and some heroes, but that was fun and appealing, we were playing that all day, when you think about it it was just one FPS with medieval/fantasy theme really, we need more like that, gladly we can see some already with For Honor and Chivalry (give us a bow option already!)

  9. Halley February 9, 2017 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    This gels with my own interests (except that I don’t really like high fantasy as a theme; I just prefer it to most of the other themes on the list). I, in particular, find WWI and WWII games very boring—even though I’m actually very interested in those eras in other media (movies, novels, etc.).

    For me, personally, conventional weapons in games are just so *boring*. Actual gun technology is pretty interesting, but what makes them interesting in real life is rarely depicted in games. In a game, a gun is usually just a thing you shoot, and it has slightly different effects depending on which gun you use (e.g., shotgun requires less aim, but has a short range). I’ve rarely seen games dig much further than that.

    With melee weapons and magic spells, however, game developers really go all out to make them interesting systems. Normally, you’ve got a lot of different attack types you can use, which often synergize in interesting ways, and the weapons themselves are often extremely diverse and can sometimes be augmented or customized in various ways. The fighting tactics you use with melee weapons (depending on genre) or spells frequently impart a sense of strategy and creativity. Whereas, in shooting games, it often feels like there’s little more to your fighting tactics than picking one out of a very small pool of weapons, and then pointing and shooting, with maybe a little ammo management on the side (about the only aspect of shooting games that I really enjoy, and a lot of them have even streamlined THAT out of the game).

    I would love to play a game where you fight with guns, but guns have a lot more depth to them, akin to what we see with more fantasy-oriented weapons. It would be fun to craft your own gunpowder recipes and put them into a variety of shells. It would be cool to have a bunch of different gunslinging moves that you can specialize in. It would be fascinating to be able to build or augment your gun as you play.

    The only games I’ve seen make guns really interesting have been fantasy games that have added lot of variety to gunplay to bring it in line with other weapon systems (swords, magic, etc.). I would just love to see non-fantasy genres explore firearms to a similar depth. I realize that the desire for realism curbs developers’ artistic license here, but I feel like real-life guns (especially historically—DIY gunpowder and shot, varying reload times, etc.) still have a LOT of really interesting elements that haven’t been properly explored yet.

  10. Alec February 10, 2017 at 4:27 am - Reply

    I dislike “realistic” setting and “conventional” weapon, because it isn’t realistic enough (e.g. health regeneration in CoD, pistols being more accurate than rifles) and cringe every time, when game balance defies physics and logic. Fantasy settings, such as Dark Souls, have their own, occasionally consistent, world-building. Sci-Fi settings are usually in the middle, as long as they don’t contradict themselves (e.g. Mass Effect and the Krogan history).

  11. Zanreo February 10, 2017 at 6:26 am - Reply

    Interesting… In my case as a female gamer, I’m generally not too big on high fantasy, and especially the typical “european medieval” aesthetic, at all (the high fantasy-ish series I do like are the rare exception and often stuff I like DESPITE that rather than BECAUSE of it) and prefer sci-fi to that (at least aesthetically), but I’m even less of a fan of war-type games – that would be my least favorite from the list. Along with not being a fan of “real war” themes in general, I’m not a fan of games that are too dark and gritty most of the time – I prefer either more stylized, cartoony settings, OR games that allow themselves to have silly moments and be wacky, not always taking itself too seriously (Yakuza is a great example of a series that mixes a serious story with over-the-top ridiculous fighting and funny sidequests)

    And when it comes to FPS, the typical war settings certainly don’t help but I just don’t like FPS gameplay much in the first place, no matter what setting/aesthetic it is. Third-person shooters can be fun, but first-person… not for me.

    Also laser weapons/attacks are great, I like lasers :3

  12. Tiffany February 10, 2017 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Interesting! I’ve always found myself feeling like an outcast as a female gamer in war based shooters, so I’m glad to have Overwatch now. I run into other female gamers all the time on OW and love the diverse cast and maps. I can’t see myself ever wanting to go back to CS:GO now.

  13. Dr Mike Reddy February 11, 2017 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Correlation is not causation, and you will have to combat self-selection bias. For example, how many respondents were women?

    • Nick Yee February 12, 2017 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      Note that we’re not claiming that being female causes female gamers to not like guns. As we describe in the “Consistent with High Fantasy vs. Sci-Fi Findings in Genre Preference” section, there are a variety of plausible historical/marketing confounds that could have led to this effect that have nothing to do with biology.

      The sample sizes listed in the text include a link to a description of the sample demographics. For the two main charts, 34% of the sample was female. But given that we’re comparing the men against the women, the underlying ratio of men and women won’t change the findings (assuming each has sufficient sample size and additional respondents–either male or female–would simply come from the same pool).

  14. somnomania February 13, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I’m agreed with most of this. I’m not huge on sci-fi games; Mass Effect failed to capture my attention, but it’s still in my backlog since a couple of my (also female) friends love the series. Skyrim is one of my most-played games, the Borderlands series is a close second, with the Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed (the first four, anyway) in third place. I’ve played a lot of Fallout 3 but it doesn’t keep my interest like Skyrim does. I recently got totally sucked into Dishonored, and am now eagerly awaiting the day DH2 isn’t $60. So overall I do enjoy high fantasy, but I also love semi-realistic period-looking settings with some supernatural elements, and then however you’d classify Assassin’s Creed. I will say that in Skyrim, I mod the hell out of it and most of the mods have something to do with either immersion or balancing of game mechanics. But AC is the closest I come to anything historical or real-world settings; I play games to escape, and to do thing I can’t do in real life (like sleep only 8 hours at a time, or finish a task [laughtrack]). I really don’t see the appeal of historical combat games, especially things set during actual wars that happened on this planet. Why would anyone want to celebrate that in that way, or worse, trivialize it by sticking some rando in the middle of the action with overpowered guns? (Disclaimer: This may not be how WW1/2 games go, I’ve never played one, I don’t want to play one because I find the setting boring, and I may be totally off track.)

    For combat, I definitely prefer a stealth/accurate ranged approach. In Skyrim, if I’m indoors in a hostile setting, I’m in stealth and I have my bow out (although I learned recently Skyrim is fairly broken and has a tendency to lead people into that build because it’s very easy to get super overpowered with only a handful of the vanilla stealth perks). In Borderlands, I favor good sniper rifles, with a good pistol for when I’m forced into close range or surprised. This is one of the primary games where I sit in one place and clear an entire area ahead of me before I move in. But on the other hand, my first run through Dishonored was very much high chaos, because I was fully dedicated to the revenge angle. My second, low chaos run was both faster and more challenging, but also more interesting to see the paths and hiding spots that I hadn’t noticed the first time around.

    And then, on the other end of the scale, I also love the Saints Row series, 3 in particular, and I love making things blow up, and hitting people with fists or giant sex toys, and making cars blow up by kicking them. In zombie games, too, there’s a certain satisfaction in smashing heads with a baseball bat. I suppose it depends on the combat situation; in something that’s fundamentally silly (Saints Row) or almost entirely fighting with minimal story (Left 4 Dead), it’s easier for me to throw myself utterly into physical combat, causing as much damage and getting as many blood splatters as possible. In something more story-driven and/or exploration-based, combat isn’t always something I’m expecting, and it’s usually a block between me and more story or some treasure, so I deal with it as stealthily and calmly as possible, clearing the area of enemies from afar before going in to get the loot. I abhor followers in Skyrim for this reason; they get in my way, they distract me, and I don’t need the additional damage because I’m a powerhouse on my own.

    The outlier in this, I guess, is World of Warcraft, where my main is a hunter but I also love druids, and very much want to be a good, confident bear tank, but am afraid of strangers and get totally overwhelmed by the apparent need to know every dungeon inside and out before attempting to tank. But WoW fits the high fantasy appeal. There’s not any true difference in ranged versus melee damage in terms of what it does to enemies and how they react to it (and stealth as it exists in games like Dishonored or Assassin’s Creed isn’t even a factor), and neither takes the kind of skill with aiming and position like they do in an FPS, skill instead translating to having good key mapping and knowing which skills/abilities to use when. I’d say overall, MMOs probably don’t fit into this particular survey, because all the ones I’ve ever played are pretty much the same way.

  15. Erik February 17, 2017 at 3:33 am - Reply

    I find the whole thing a bit misleading. You forgot to actually ask if they don’t mind killing things at all, you only give them alternatives that are already assuming that the player wants to kill. So we don’t actually know if women and men are equal in the “want to kill you” department.

    • Nick Yee February 17, 2017 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      In the post, we don’t make any claims as to whether women and men are equal in the “want to kill you” department. You are correct that this is something we did not ask directly. What we do claim in the post is that men and women have different preferences in weapon choices, and this seems to be related to perceptions of conventional warfare and technology.

      • Erik February 18, 2017 at 4:05 am

        “For example, it’s clear that women don’t mind killing things with Magical Spells and Swords”
        “In this light, it is clear that women don’t mind killing things, but they dislike using weapons that are connected to realistic, conventional warfare”

        And the title: “Female Gamers Want To Kill You, Just Not With Guns”

        You never asked if they actually want to kill anything. Of course the answers will have them viable to killing things, when the only answers they can give is based on the notion that they have to kill something.

  16. Martin February 17, 2017 at 4:15 am - Reply

    Can you look into the detail of what kind of motivation/emotion/thinknig process goes into enjoying a kill in a game between men and women? I love this article, but I honestly believe that if something, then videogames can really show some important points of male and female psychology noone else dares to talk about these days.

  17. BunteSocke February 19, 2017 at 8:17 am - Reply

    As a female gamer I have to agree with almost all of the study. I’m not a big fan of SciFi (although I do have 1 or 2 games) but rather enjoy Fantasy settings. I think my most favorite themes are fantasy, medieval Europe and then SciFi.

    My absolute favorite -The Witcher- is a very good example of that (it’s fantasy and also medieval in a sense). Other games I love are the Assassin’s Creed series which also involve sword fighting. In Guild Wars 2 I prefer playing with a bow or axes. But I also very much enjoy Borderlands 2 where I mostly use shotguns or pistols.

    Personally I think a lot of fantasy games have a better/more prominant story which is a key componant for me. I also prefer green, foresty environments which fantasy games often involve.
    Bows and swords are simply more intriguing compared to guns for me. One reason why The Witcher or e.g. For Honor are very appealing right now.

    As to war games: I’m not really interested in the army or WWI/WWII in general. I also don’t like a lot of games which don’t have a good storyline and most of the war games simply don’t tell a story at all. I have played and mostly enjoyed Spec Ops The Line & the existing story was definitely a big plus.
    But in general war themed games are really not something I’m interested in at all.

    Thanks for the great article.

  18. Jessica February 19, 2017 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    This was an interesting article, but I feel like a bit of an outlier as a female gamer compared to the findings. I prefer Sci Fi settings to medieval fantasy settings, Sci Fi fantasy like SWTOR is my favorite. I prefer ranged weapons regardless of type to close range, and I prefer tech based weapons to magic ones. However, two things may color my perspective. One, I first assess elements from the story/lore perspective of the game then decide if I want to engage in any given feature, often using a role play perspective. Second, I actually hate combat in games and will go out of my way to put distance between me and it.

    However, something that did not seem to be addressed in the post is the effect aesthetics may be playing in the differences between male and female gamers in this area. Spell based attacks tend to focus on impressive shiny lights, fancy designs and other aesthetically “pretty” visual effects. Tech based attacks are often more visceral and may or may not involve blood and bits of formerly living things. It may not be the attacking method but rather the visual effects that accounts for differences.

    For instance, given a choice between copious amounts of blood sprayed across walls and a temporary animation showing oversized rose thorns encircling an opponent I’m going with the rose attack. It’s not that I prefer nature to tech rather that I prefer almost anything to blood everywhere. The end result will have much more of an impact on my initial choice than whether I’m using a gun or a wand.

    I can’t personally think of any titles that may serve as an example, but I suspect that applying more stylized visuals to attack methods could attract more women to games that normally attract men. For example, replace real fire explosions with stylized fire explosions. Replace plain gunfire with colorful visual affects around the gun when it fires, better for sci fi settings. Eliminate blood splatters and replace with stylized red patterns on the body to indicate a hit. Maybe Overwatch does this? I have not played it so I am not sure, but maybe it has already proven this point about aesthetics.

    Another factor to consider is environment aesthetics. The look of an environment will attract players of compatible mindsets. For example, fantasy games focus more on beautiful visuals. They often use vibrant, diverse color palettes; interesting and creative looking architecture, clothes, weapons, etc.; and more salvageable looking landscapes. By salvageable I mean it looks like a place where there’s actually something to restore rather than looks like it passed the point of no return 20 years before the player got there. A fantasy environment might visually present as a more enjoyable place to interact with for some–even in the middle of a crisis—than a survival game. This can affect how a player views and engages with a game genre.

    To illustrate, a survival game will often be visually gritty and use a gun. It’s usually understood that there will be no fixing the world and all the player can do is maybe keep themselves and a few others alive. Every visual element around the player will likely reinforce that psychologically, probably with constant signs of decay and despair. I know this is speculation, but I suspect that worlds that look like they can be built up or saved will attract more female gamers than worlds that give off an unchangeable Wild West feeling. As much as I love sci fi, I avoid games that give off an unchangeable dystopia vibe. I prefer to build up than merely survive. The art associated with a game is usually where I make my first snap judgement about a game.

    Further, the visuals affect a player’s willingness to play a given kind of game and thus must affect how likely the player is to come in contact with the typical weapons of that kind of game. For instance, a fantasy game could “appear” to be the exact opposite of a survival game though functionally using the same mechanics. Even though it plays the same, it would still likely attract more female gamers than its survival game counterpart and thus expose more female gamers to bows and wands than guns and lasers.

    Visuals can have a dramatic impact on players. Depending on their mindset, it can encourage or discourage play totally aside from mechanics. However, I acknowledge that I might be completely biased in feeling this way. I know that my strong aversion to combat means that being reminded of combat–be it visuals, audio, or the mission description–is enough to make me change how I play. Others may not care so much.

    Wow, this response grew larger than I expected.

    • Zanreo February 19, 2017 at 11:59 pm - Reply

      Yeah, for me the visuals/aesthetics (NOT to be confused with graphics) are often important to me. Overall I prefer games that are more “stylized”, often with a cartoon/anime look and/or using an unique/stylized artstyle rather than aiming for hyperrealism, and using some color rather than just going for “gray and brown”. And most games with a lot of “dark and gritty” visuals doesn’t do it for me – it’s just not a look that appeals to me.
      In general I want more lighthearted gaming experiences and don’t care for games that are too “serious” – the few more “realistic-looking” (or rather “less stylized” games) I’ve played and enjoyed are the type of games that are kinda over-the-top and ridiculous at times, so yeah x3

      • Jessica February 20, 2017 at 5:05 pm

        Yeah, much the same for me. I don’t want to play in depressing looking worlds. A sort of fantasy based hyper-realism would be fine, say alien color palettes on real looking plants, but a gritty hyperrealism is a quick signal that I won’t like a game.

  19. Victoria March 20, 2017 at 4:08 am - Reply

    See, I find that pretty interesting as a female gamer. I do enjoy Skyrim, RuneScape (people still play right? Haha), and things of that nature. But when I thought of a violent game with guns that I know a large number of female gamers like?


    I think looking into that might be interesting. Borderlands was part story driven (like high fantasy usually is), part shoot em up, looting fps game (like some scifi games). What is it about Borderlands that appeals highly to both men and women in that context?

  20. GeneVostok March 21, 2017 at 10:22 am - Reply

    I wonder if the underlying trend is that women dislike “simulationism” since in almost every instance the games women do not like to play (as a group overall) all tend to be realist/simulationist or abstract/simulationist – sports, racing, strategy gaming, etc. OTOH you might argue that women dislike “male dominated” activities by default and things like pro sports, pro racing, or generalsmanship are all male dominated activities. Fantasy otoh has no “definite” gender in the same way and there are already lots of stereotypes of powerful or effective women in fantasy in a way that doesn’t exist in say military simulations.

  21. Suvi June 9, 2017 at 4:08 am - Reply

    I agree. I’m a female and would much rather play, say, a game where you have to shoot with a bow & arrow rather than a gun.

  22. Emily July 13, 2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

    I have loved Borderlands since I started it 5+ years ago (w/>600 hrs). I don’t generally use sniper rifles, but headshot with pistols. I love all the ridiculous guns, along with the ‘meaty’ basic ones. I love the crazy setting and ‘off color’ jokes – because its not aiming to hate people.

    I love RTSs, and play Warhammer 40k. Mechwarrior 2 is one of my alltime favorites, and Mechwarrior Online is awesome. I love scifi over fantasy, but when I fantasy MMO, I tend towards nature-based. I also pretty much always “tank”, and dislike pure dps class/specs, otherwise I heal – because making a group function > doing the most numbers for me.

    I have negative interest in all the “real” warfare gun-combat games. Hugely negative. I used to think I didn’t like ‘real’ FPSs, because of how averse I am to the WW1/2/similar genre. I have just never wanted to play it.

  23. Chris October 23, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    I have to wonder if the ‘contemporary superhero’ category is a bit misleading. Games set in contemporary times that aren’t about superheroes (ex. Earthbound, Persona, GTA, The World Ends With You, Heavy Rain, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare) seem to garner greater critical reception and/or have more commercial success than other games in their genres and those made by the same teams (ex. Shin Megami Tensei, Red Dead Redemption, Final Fantasy XIII, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare).

    My question then, is this: Do preferences in setting change when separating out ‘contemporary’ and ‘superheroes’?

  24. Passerby November 8, 2017 at 3:07 am - Reply

    As a girl who’s only recently (as in, these past 4-5 or so years) started enjoying sci-fi, I really wonder how much of this disparity is due to the way the genre’s been perceived by the mainstream in the past decades and its narrow scope in video games. I’ve always been a hardcore fantasy fan, but used to mostly think of sci-fi as shooty action movies with a futuristic painting (as do a lot of people, sadly), while in truth it’s such a rich genre. I think the whole debacle about choosing to air the train robbery episode of Firefly despite it being out of order (and one if not the most generic episodes of the whole series) is a great example of the way sci-fi used to be marketed to the general public. In the past few years though we’ve started seeing more diverse, extremely successful, quality offerings on TV and the big screen (ex: Black Mirror, Westworld,The Martian) – so I think the world’s starting to catch up.

    Ever since I’ve gotten into sci-fi, I could easily point out works a lot of women would probably enjoy, despite (very possible) initial misgivings. I’m of course basing myself on my own anecdotal experience (yes, I’m the sort of friend who dumps a bunch of suggestions on you and have used the people I know as test subjects. No regrets, they mostly enjoyed it!). All of the titles I usually pick have some defining characteristics in common:

    – Strong focus on at least a couple of these (characterization/story/setting)
    —- In particular, deep exploration of topics such as politics, philosophy and human drama
    – Lack of overt sexism (as long as it’s not in your face, really)
    – Action and violence are fine, but strategy makes them better. Strategy has, in my experience, a higher appeal. Violence is less pervasive and more of a means to an end. The focus is on complex issues and creative problem-solving.
    – A little humour also doesn’t hurt.

    Which lines up pretty well with the results you’ve been getting in these surveys.

    As such, I’ll give some examples of sci-fi titles I chose to recommend to friends and were well-received. Notice how a lot of these are all extremely well-known in the sci-fi fandom, yet never quite reached blockbuster status:

    – Crest & Banner of the Stars series / Level E / Planetes (Anime/Manga)
    – The Culture series / The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy / They’re Made Out of Meat / The Last Question (Books/Short Stories)
    – Xenogears / Technobabylon (Games)

    Which in turns leads me to the question: is there a video game genre that meets most of those ‘requirements’? There are certainly the rare franchises such as Star Wars and the occasional indies, but if I had to hazard a guess I would probably say that the most consistent genre’s going to be – JRPGs. I would be very curious to see how the percentages of female players in games such as the Star Ocean series, Xeno series and Phantasy Star Online measure up, compared to western ones.

  25. Joan Hestenes May 26, 2018 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    I am fine with any RPG range of weapons but agree on further interest in non-kill which is not considered in that particular analysis. I agree with the commenter saying the guns generally are boring compared to richer featured or creative Fantasy and fantastic sci-fi weapons. I hate having to target every shot in a FPS. I find war game environments aesthetically dull and depressing, weapons aside. Loved ATV Off-Road Fury, puzzles, farming Animal Crossing types are obvious alternatives but not really addressing antagonist enjoyment. What Remains of Edith Finch part where you can be an animal going after other animals is violence done differently.

    But still to enjoy challenging variety of antagonists and yet no-kill really interests me as a greatly underutilized area. Dark Cloud where you have tool instead of weapon, old timey Scarab of Ra where dangerous animals are subdued with net or whip but not killed, photo capture or pokemon-style (collection) instead of kill maybe although not sure if that has quite the antagonist challenge. Using charisma or a skill vs violence to subdue. I love thievery.

  26. AC August 6, 2018 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Your survey includes options to identify as a non-binary gender, but I have yet to see you publish any data on non-binary gamers. What gives? I want to know this information!

    • Enfys August 6, 2018 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      I would imagine that the relatively small sample size of nonbinary gamers makes it difficult to make any meaningful analysis. However, their article about the motivations of board gamers (The Primary Motivations of Board Gamers: 7 Takeaways) has one section about nonbinary board gamers.

    • Nick Yee September 11, 2018 at 11:05 am - Reply

      And we also have a section on non-binary gamers in another article on motivations among video gamers as well: https://quanticfoundry.com/2016/12/15/primary-motivations/

  27. Wombo Combo October 18, 2018 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    I’m sort of an aspiring game dev, i would love to know what it is in particular that makes guns boring for those who feel this way, and i would like to know how would you make them feel fun. Also, how do you feel about guns in a high fantasy setting, such as muskets and flintlock pistols?

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