Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
And my gut is telling me that a recent study dealing with gender in online games is seriously flawed. A BBC report describes the work of University of Delaware Prof. Scott Caplan, who surveyed Everquest II players with assistance from publisher Sony Online Entertainment. The University of Southern California and Pal Alto Research Center also participated in the project.
Caplan claims that about 40% of EQII players are female, but that the women are more dedicated, spending more time per day with the game that male players. Based on my MMO experience, I have a difficult time with that conclusion. But what really blew me away was this:
The survey revealed an unusually high level of bisexuality among the women who took part in the study - over five times higher than the general population.
"These are not people who are following strict gender stereotypes," said Prof Caplan.
"I think that the game itself is right now a very non-traditional activity for women, and so I think what you would find in this population are going to be people who are in other ways less traditional than the majority population."
From here, the bisexuality figure alone renders Caplan's study questionable. EQ II women are five times as likely to be bisexual? What is the statistical likelihood of that occurring? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the survey relied on self-reporting data from EQII players. Could some respondents have been pulling Caplan's chain?
Really, it's unfortunate that this statistical anomaly mars Caplan's work. His other conclusions are generally positive, indicating that EQII players are healthier and more social than the common MMO player stereotype.
Oddly enough, the bisexuality angle did not come up in earlier coverage of Caplan's work, including ours (See: Survey Says: MMO Players Not Fat, But Have Other Issues). We also note that University of Delaware school newspaper UDaily does not mention the bisexuality angle in its coverage of Caplan's reserach.
UPDATE: Sister-site GameCulture takes me to task for my comments regarding Caplan's study. However, I'll stand by my remarks. There was a fair amount of uncorrelated self-reporting data in the study, including the respondents' own claims about their level of fitness. Beyond that, the idea of the bisexual woman is such a stereotypically male fantasy that any study which finds a five-fold increase in that population, absent any compelling explanation, is, de facto, suspect.