Playon is starting to post results on their longitudinal study of WoW players. This is utterly awesome for the very simple fact that I love Nick Yee on principle. He's been a huge hero of mine since I found his Daedalus project while I was in college. I would definitely fangirl if I ever met him, if I could manage to say anything at all.
Anyhow, he and Nic Ducheneaut (who datamines and thus is cool in my book) have been posting very interesting things on their blog for the enjoyment of the internet.
One of the things I noticed they mentioned was that they have a higher reporting of women players in the US than average estimations. I'm thinking that's probably because someone (might have been me >_>, but I don't remember) posted the study announcement on WoW_Ladies. As far as I know, the WoW_Ladies livejournal community is the largest collection of wow-community-active women on the internet. The fact that many of the Ladies love this kind of thing probably has skewed the results a teeny bit.
So far, the most interesting post - for me - has been their Gender-Bending prelim results.
The graph above shows how often (in a ratio of days played) a male or female player chooses to play a character of the opposite gender. This isn't self-reported data, this is them combing through reported characters and registering their up-time. The very interesting thing is that women play male characters about 10% of the time and men about a third of the time.
I could posit why more males gender bend than women and it has to do with the concentrated gamer culture. Women get way more shit than men for being women (men get shit, but it's for other reasons) and compounding that with 'but y u play a boy?' it gets really uncomfortable really fast. My first 'main' charrie was a boy and it was frustrating for a long list of reasons. Now, I know that my experiences don't map 100% to other women gamer experiences, but I've been in enough discussions to know that the uncomfortable-factor plays a part in more than just mine. Not all, but a significant amount.
To change gears, however, on the longer-term that has nothing to do with male vs. female, one of my pet theories of why women don't reflect men in some activities is that there are a lot of women who are brand new to gaming within the last two or three years. It takes a while for the gamer mentality to percolate (for good or ill).
The activities that are ostensibly androgynous at a certain level of detachment/involvement take a while to get to. The only other example I have is that online long-format roleplayers (who essentially write collaborative stories online) often play only their gender when they first start out before creating characters of the opposite. Or authors only writing convincing opposite sex characters after they have matured as writers. It's a comfort thing, and a stereotype thing.
So when I say that women are new, I mean that for the women who didn't get their start in MUDs and wander into graphical MMOs, WoW was the beginning and it has only been out about 5 years and change. If women who game do not have the incentive of roleplay to explore opposite-gender characters, 5 years makes no impact.
I hypothesize that the ratio for women gender-bending will look the same as men in ten years - with the caveat that some gamer culture change would have to take place. Additionally, since the Playon survey does not include minors, I hypothesize that the picture of male minors looks an awful lot like the picture of female minors. I honestly think that gender-bending - all other things being equal (which they're not, but if they were!) - would boil down to simple experience.
The radical difference in the gender-bending ratios by gender ask 'Why?', which I think is an interesting discussion no matter where you're coming from.