But that’s the stereotype, that men are more competitive and better at playing games, so of course women are just naturally squeezed out of the gaming environment. The thing about computer games, though, is that performance is stored in digital data, so researchers can take it apart case by case and assess performance objectively. In a study of 11,000 players, researchers found no gender gap in performance.
Do men advance faster than women in MMOs? Prior research found a perceived gender gap in participation and performance, suggesting men as playing more and better than women. This article challenges this gender gap through a longitudinal performance analysis of men and women in two MMOs in the United States and China, EverQuest II and Chevaliers’ Romance III, respectively. Controlling for extraneous factors such as play time and guild membership, our results showed that women perform at least as well as men do. Perceived gender-based performance disparities seem to result from factors that are confounded with gender (i.e., amount of play), not player gender itself. The stereotype of female players as inferior is not only false, but it is also a potential cause for unequal participation in digital gaming.
However, while men and women are just as good at playing the games, there’s a huge difference in participation: the sample for this study was 18% women, 82% men. That’s something that has to be explained, but at least now we can throw out the old ‘girls suck at games’ excuse. As the authors suggest, it may be that the stereotype itself is self-reinforcing.