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Guy gamers keen to play female lead: USC research

8 Jun 2022

University of the Sunshine Coast research is debunking the ‘boys will be boys’ myth in video games – showing most men are keen to play as a female lead character.

With two-thirds of Australians playing video games and 46 percent of them women, USC experts in marketing and digital media surveyed players’ experiences of the game Horizon Zero Dawn – one of few blockbusters (known in the industry as AAA) that only has a main female character.

The results intrigued USC International Business academic Dr Jacqueline Burgess, an enthusiastic video game player whose PhD examined marketing video games.

“Central player-characters in games, especially the popular, big budget games, are mostly male due to industry fears that men don’t want to play as women,” said Dr Burgess.

“But this survey of almost 200 people showed the 75 percent of respondents who were male found it refreshing to play as a strong female character, and the 25 percent of respondents who were female felt empowered by the inclusive character.

“There were no significant differences between flow, transportation, and gameplay, although female respondents reported significantly higher identification with the character.”

Flow and transportation refer to people’s focus on, and absorption in, the world of a game.

Dr Burgess, who is finalising the results with USC Professor of Interactive Digital Media Christian Jones, hopes the research influences inclusivity and design choices in the global $159billion games industry.

She is excited by this year’s release of the Playstation game’s sequel, Horizon Forbidden West.

“It’s won critical and popular praise for continuing the engrossing story and thrilling combat – again demonstrating that female player-characters can be central to successful blockbusters,” she said.

“As we’ve found, players just want games with great stories, interesting characters and fun gameplay. It doesn’t matter what gender the player-characters are.”

Researcher Jacqueline Burgess

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