MMOs are from Mars, Social Games are from Venus

March 7, 2011

I don’t use Facebook much. I don’t deny it has it’s uses, but logging on today I realized something odd.

The majority of my friends list are the women in the family. There are men, but they post relatively infrequently and were brought into it by a woman. In all three cases in my immediate family, it was my sister. In my extended one, it was their spouses. There were little to no single men, and that held true in social game play.

The irony was that for all the gamer stereotypes, the ones littering my friend feed with social game notifications were all married, and introduced to the game by their spouse. It’s a reversal of the WoW girlfriend concept, where the WoW gamer, usually male, brings his girlfriend or spouse along.

I thought deeper. On my twitter feed, the proponents of social games tend to be either women (Cuppytalk, Brenda Braithwaite) or focused on the needs of women. Of course, anecdoatal data, and this is not to be taken as definitive. But it did spark something I am thinking on: that the social game divide may ultimately be a gender divide, and not reparable.

MMO Games:

-focused on achievement and competition

-connection does not exist, or is limited to the guild level.

Social Games:

-focused on relationship and trading

-many connections, often weak, but defining aspect is tying players together through gameplay.

It’s a basic male/female divide.

Yes, there is overlap, but it tends to be from people who switch yin/yang models. In short, men who like social games are more connected to the feminine view, most notably by contact with a woman via dating and marriage. The women who like MMOs tend to buy more into the masculine ideas they have: meritocracy, achievement, competition over the feminine: social ties, co-operation, and expression. Some MMOs can attract both equally, but it’s rare. EVE is the tail end of the masculine MMO, and Farmville is the other.

You could also argue even the focuses reflect this. EVE at heart is all about killing or be killed in a lawless world. Farmville is all about creation and organization, and connecting people to work on communal tasks.

My point I guess is that for all the talk of bringing women to gaming, we have already achieved it. The problem is the types of gaming simply aren’t compatible over the long term, and we may see more and more sorting by gender. Like Facebook, some aspects of it appeal more towards a particular gender or those tied to it, while not attracting to others. Women dislike Xbox live, Men can’t stand Zynga games.

Here’s the killer though: as the population ages, women will be the dominant sex. The information age benefits them disproportionately, and while male outliers still hold control, women graduate from college more often, have higher job prospects due to manufacturing and construction being hit hard, and are poised to define trends and ideas in this century. My misanthropic take is that we will see social games increase and influence even more. My past hope was that it was a fad, but now I see its simply too rooted in the gender divide and who we are to easily fade.