Games for girls? Piece of cake!

Back in 2005 when we released the first phase of The Endless Forest, the idea of the fair sex playing videogames was strange and fascinating. So much so, that we made it a high priority at Tale of Tales to make games that would attract males and females in equal amounts. After running our little mmo for almost 3 years, we have done a survey that perhaps demonstrates that we may have exaggerated a little bit.

We have organized this survey together with PhD student Eva Kekou and we’re only expecting official results in the Fall. But we’d like to share some things that are abundantly clear without scientific investigation.

Of the over 30 thousand registered members, almost 250 have taken the survey. That’s less than 1 percent. So a grain of salt is in order. Also because some of the participants have expressed enjoying taking the survey. So perhaps the results only represent Endless Forest players who like filling in surveys.

We knew that a lot of women and girls are playing The Endless Forest but the bare figures did come as a bit of a shock to us: only 41 of the 247 participants who answered the gender question in the survey are male. That’s less than 1 in 5. I’m not sure if we should feel proud or embarrassed.

The following graph shows how the participants are divided per age group.

So the majority of players are teenagers. At least those who filled in the survey. Something interesting happens with the gender balance as players get older, though.

As players get older, the gender becomes more balanced. In the age group of over 25, there’s almost an equal amount of men and women.

We always thought that The Endless Forest was a casual experience, in the strict sense of the word. Something you do leisurely, just once in a while. But that was probably because we were only thinking of adult players. As the next graphs show, teenagers spend a lot more time in the Forest.

The one child of under 10 who particpated in the survey, apparently plays the game every day. The older the players get, the less frequently they play.

Something similar shows up in the data concerning the time of an average play session. Some teenagers play The Endless Forest for several hours on end. I find that quite astonishing, and slightly worrying. Most play around an hour. As players get older, the sessions get shorter.

We also asked whether participants played other games than The Endless Forest. Most of them do (almost 90%). The games that were mentioned most were games in which your avatar is also an animal: Okami and Wolf Quest. The Sims and Zelda games scored pretty well as well, followed by World of Warcraft, Zoo Tycoon, Pokemon, Final Fantasy and, believe or not, Halo (almost 5%).

Another thing that caught our eye was how many of the participants had first learned about The Endless Forest through fan art on Deviant Art: 1 in 5 players! Followed closely by word of mouth (friends and family: 16%). Google searches came up third (almost 10%), followed by the community around the Wolf Quest game.

With the relentless creativity displayed by the players on The Endless Forest community site, it should come as as no surprise that over 90% of the players considers themselves to be creative, an artist or designer (either professional or hobbyist). And many of them participate in other forms of culture (mostly music and books, but also comics and cinema, and fewer visit concerts or theater).

Overall, we’re very suspicious of surveys and statistics. So we’re not taking this too seriously. But it’s an interesting indicator. I wish we could interest more boys and men in our games. But I don’t think we’ll add any guns and sports for that purpose. Maybe we should just admit that we make games for girls. I don’t see other developers being embarassed about making games for boys. 😉

32 thoughts on “Games for girls? Piece of cake!”

  1. Hey! It’s more interesting than other games that are marketed for girls. Thanks for posting the results!

  2. Well, yeah, weird adults like Auriea and I. 😉

    It wasn’t designed specifically for adults. We always thought of it as open to any age. But it was originally commissioned by a -very adult- museum of modern art, that is still hosting the server. And it has been developed with arts funding, also very serious and grown-up. But we don’t mind the kids playing at all. I’m a parent myself. I want there to be games like this for them. And I like the idea of children and adults playing together on equal footing (since this kind of thing cannot be expressed in the game).

  3. With TEF being dominated by so many young females, being 39, and male, does make me feel a bit awkward in the forest, but I’m so addicted to the game! >_<

    I really need to leave the forest and get back to making my game levels and 3D models!

  4. heh, very strange indeed. i didnt expect so many girls! O_o oh well, pretty much all my friends on the community site are girls *giggle* i dont mind one bit.

    it does kind of explain why my brother doesnt get the point of the game (if there is one). well, either way, interesting. i wanted to see what the results would bring out XD

  5. Many boys in my area don’t see how fun the game is and everything around it. But having so much girls around isn’t a problem at all ^^ I had to many male friends already XD

    Interesting results so far! Does this mean you are going to add changes to the game, making it more attractive for guys?

    this is just stats of those who filled out the survey.
    Maybe we should ask some of these questions when people register too?

  7. i do think the game has gotten “girlier” as time went on. ha!
    i think we could make it more appealing to boys without adding guns and such. there are so many great ideas in our original design document and floating around in the forums for things to add. I think it’s sparse right now and maybe next big expansion we have will be more ‘sexless’ …um, maybe.

  8. Yes, interesting results. :) Especially the role of deviantART fanart for attracting players and the high proportion of artist-ish people among them.

    Anyway, you’re right, it is a piece of cake! People who are puzzled by how to make games for girls just aren’t looking in the right places for inspiration. There’s quite a lot of places with a lot more female players than male players (Gaia Online, TEF, etc.). If you can get why those are fun, it shouldn’t be so hard to come up with something of your own that girls will like. :)

  9. Is it perhaps the propensity towards asthetic beauty?

    Maybe if there was some more “spectacular” things, like volcanoes, cliffs, ice, dead trees. Or is there and i’ve missed them? Guys might also be turned off by the body language system.

    I’m honestly not surprised by these numbers (if they are accurate). Of course, now i feel uncomfortable in game, lol.

  10. it makes since artsy people like the game ^_^ after all they spend half there time making up stories for there pictures, or just stories in general anyway, and Endless is quite inspirational, so what makes it so fun is making your scenarios ^_^

  11. There is no shock to me about deviantART’s involvement, especially when quite a few ‘popular’ players have mentioned playing The Endless Forest. There is tons of The Endless Forest related art, the TEF club I run ( has 145 art related submissions (Screenshots, drawings, stories, etc) and just over 150 members! When you think about it, that is over half of the people that took the survey (not to say the entire club took the survey, but you catch my drift).

    In any case, I myself would enjoy a more balanced male to female ratio, I guess it goes back to the whole ‘guys don’t find it interesting because it has no violence or sex in it’ debate. If the number of females and males was equal, it would make sense that more male ‘teenagers’ would be playing the game. And when you think about that, most male teenagers are off playing Halo and Grand Theft Auto.

    I have also found it curious that there is such a large amount of female teenager players. I think in the last year the numbers of female teens has greatly increased (what with the whole ‘oh we’re does now’ and ‘we have mates’ evolving over the past year). Maybe these factors have scared away potential male players? I would definitely enjoy seeing the game become more ’sexless’, as Auriea said.

  12. Haha, I have a lot to say apparently.

    I’ve also noticed that the community site is filled mostly with young teenage girls. It’s possible that the survey did not reach the players who aren’t apart of the community but play the game. Maybe a mass email would help to reach everyone?

  13. We’re very skeptical about whether or not the participants in the survey represent the actual players. But we did send an email to every person who was registered as a player.
    If the survey results do not represent the entire Endless Forest population then I am inclined to accept that they do represent the most active group of players. And that’s interesting in and of itself.

    You are correct, Jen, I think, that the audience has become younger, and perhaps also more female, over time. But I’m not sure if this is related to The Endless Forest itself or simply to the increased use that young females have been making of the internet and computer games in general (and I guess the failure of our “competitors” to cater to their wishes and desires). One thing that we haven’t mentioned yet, e.g., is that almost half of the people who took the survey are located in North America. That’s probably not insignificant.

  14. Isn’t that just because America is a huge country?

    And I believe that there’s a majority on dA that’s American too, so that might be connected to each other.

  15. There’s more people in Europe than there are in North America (700 million vs 500 million, according to Wikipedia). But of course Europe is divided in many different cultures, most of which don’t speak English (which is the main language of our public communication at Tale of Tales).

  16. Interesting to read the results of the survey…
    I realised I am one of the few ´older` female players (joined the forest at the very beginning) .. ;), but that doesn´t bother me at all. I visit the forest whenever I need a break during working time, and I am still enjoying it. Keep up the nice and good work!

  17. A bit of a late comment, but then I fall in all of your outlier categories including the ‘irregular TEFer’ one :)

    I think Ben got it right suggesting that “more ‘spectacular’ things” could attract more male players, without making the game violent, competitive or what have you. More generally speaking, I think possibilities for exploration would attract a subset of male gamers. This could include a larger topology of the forest, or a more dynamic one, or one where you can manipulate objects more. A while ago I made a ‘forest archaeology’ post and that would be an example.

    This comes from the stereotype that women like interaction with people more, and men interaction with things. Oversimplified yes, but perhaps somewhat true? I for one would probably stay longer in the forest if there were more things to explore with (or without) folks rather than mainly folks to ‘hang out’ with. Particularly since the no-chat feature (which is cool by itself) limits the depth of hanging out.

  18. I think the very idea that girls need SEPERATE games is sexist and I also find it offensive to relate guns + sports to men. I myself hate sports and anything to do with sports and am much more interested in swords rather than guns.

    GAMES FOR GIRLS usually involve magic, animals and RPG PC type games which I think is so sterotypical of people to think. I know for a fact girls love to be scared by horror games + have fun with action beat em’ ups. *shudders* Just a lil annoyed I guess… I hate when peolpe think you can create a game for GIRLS as if every girl will like it. It’s certainly not the case with guys and guys!

  19. Hm. I agree with the assessment that it is sexist. But being the father of a boy and a girl of approximately the same age, I must admit that some of the clichés hold water. My son does like playing with robots in action games. And my daughter does prefer games with pets or doll-like characters. Not exclusively. But there is a pattern.

    I understand what you mean, though. I am male myself and none of these games that are supposedly designed for males appeal to me. I don’t like action, I don’t like combat, I don’t like sports or competition. The problem is that games, for the most part, are just business. And as such, the companies that make games, don’t care about what any individual likes, they just care about what products they can shift in large amounts. So only things that appeal to a) large groups of people and b) very low common denominators get made. This is another reason why it would be nice if games would be treated more as an artistic medium than consumer products.

    Anyway, as for The Endless Forest, like I said, we didn’t intend to make a game for girls. It just turns out that the majority of players is female. So while these large corporations apparently seem to have trouble accessing theis “demographic”, we did it by accident. Proving that it isn’t hard at all. Perhaps they shouldn’t be trying so hard.

  20. made me think of this:

    Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. -C.S. Lewis

  21. haha! i’ve never heard that and i love it!

    Breaks down our idea of symbols which get in the way of drawing! I know in drawing on the right side of the brain they suggest drawing the negative space around the eye instead of the eye itself.

    I always enjoy the comments on this blog :-)

  22. it would be cool to have an olympics or something for the guys (and girls) just like in mating season when the male faces off with another male to prove its dominace to the female that might attracted more guys to the site (just a thought) and when is the next event for the twin gods i missed it because i joined too late and missed all of the action.
    KraZi gloo

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