Focus Friday, Part 2 | Gender Wars and Love Interests
It’s the weekend before Christmas, and today we have the second portion of yesterday’s post exploring some of the not-so-obvious results of the survey. Having wrapped up the additional analysis of question 18 on it’s own, we are now going to jump right into some of the correlations we found when examining the responses to questions 18 and 1.
What kinds of results were we interested in exploring?
- What proportion of male players play FemShep?
- What proportion of female players play BroShep?
- What proportion of each gender engage their Shepards in same-sex romances?
- What proportion only engage their Shepards in straight romances?
- What proportion of each gender engage in a specific romance?
- What is the gender composition of the players romancing each LI?
Some interesting stuff, right? Well, go grab that cup of coffee, while the grabbing is good. This post is epic, so maybe break it up into a couple of sittings, lol.
General Information & Results
As with the analysis we posted yesterday, we had to first modify the dataset in order to run this analysis. More specifically, since we were looking at the correlations between 2 questions, we needed to first determine which respondents answered both questions. Next, since we were looking at gender differences, we also needed to restrict the results to players who identified themselves as male or female — in other words, we removed the folks who responded with “other” (not male or female) from this analysis. Lastly, we needed folks who romanced at least 1 of the 11 standard LIs, so this dataset is without the few players who only responded to romancing one of the “other” LIs (Kelly, Samara, etc).
Doing this left us with a subsample of 5644 surveys, comprised of 3043 males and 2601 females (see the table below — remember to click for a larger image). This amounts to approximately the same gender percentage of the overall breakdown of the survey seen in question #1 (54% male, 45% female), which is good. A drastically different change in gender proportions would have made it more difficult to interpret the data, and more likely to draw erroneous conclusions.
FemShep versus BroShep
One of the main questions we really wanted to answer was: how do the genders play their Shepards differently? Do both male and female players play Fem and BroShep in the same proportions? The expected answer is that they don’t — males play BroShep more, and females play FemShep more. Well, how much more? How much less?
These answers proved difficult to find, since we did not have players define the sex of their Shepard for each LI romanced (Liara romanced with MaleShep, Kaidan romanced with FemShep, etc). To do so, we could have made question 18 appear twice — the first time to be filled out for FemShep and the second time for BroShep (or vice versa). Unfortunately, we did not.
Therefore, in order to try to dig this data out of the existing results, we had to correlate the player’s gender from question 1, with the LIs they romanced in question 18. If a male player romanced Garrus, then we know he played FemShep, since only FemSheps can romance Garrus. Similarly, if a female player romanced Miranda, we know she played a BroShep, as only he may romance the former Cerberus officer.
By know, I’m guessing that many of you are going to be anticipating the “wrench” in this method of analysis: Liara and Kaidan. Yep, they are a wrench. A big one. They are both romanced by a huge amount of players, and they are both bisexual options, available to FemShep and BroShep alike (remember, Samara and Kelly, who are also bisexual are off the table due to not being one of the “standard” 11 LIs in this question). It’s safe to say that Kaidan is romanced by more female players (we’ll see this in a bit), in part due to not being included as an LI for male Shepard until the final installment of the game, however, including him would have led to inaccuracies in the analysis. So, both Kaidan and Liara were excluded from this analysis. This was the only way to get at the answer to this question in any remotely meaningful way. However, this also means that the figures we present should be taken with a grain of salt — they are “preliminary”. They are useful nonetheless, but not even close to being 100% accurate. They are a starting point.
So, what did we find? Approximately 41% of female players in the survey play BroShep, and 36% of male players play FemShep (see the table above). These results were quite suprising — to me, at least. I interpret them in a few ways, and I’m interested to hear from our readers, their insights:
- For the players who took our survey, the romances are a very important part of the game for them. They make a point to play Shepards of both genders so that they may experience the romance content for certain Love Interests. Though, they certainly might favor one Shepard over the other.
- My expectation is that most female players experience Kaidan’s romance with a FemShep, and Liara’s romance with a male Shepard (support for this in the results coming up below). Therefore, the 41% would likely not go up much upon inclusion of this data.
- My expectation is that male players romance Liara with a mixture of BroShep and FemShep, and Kaidan’s romance with mostly male Shepard (some support for this below). Therefore, the 36% would likely increase a decent amount.
- Taking the next step, here’s my 100% unscientific prediction: about 43% of female players on the survey have played BroShep, and about 52% of male players have played FemShep.
I actually thought the difference would be much greater. I really expected to see more females who had not played BroShep. Growing up in the early 80s playing video games, when the title characters were dominated by males (I’m looking at you Link and Mario), I know that when I have the chance to play any female character in a video game — I do. I think that part of what we see here is the strong group of RP fans who took this survey, and possibly the affect of their younger ages. These players have no qualms about needing to play a character of the opposite sex to experience the romantic content. Female players are open to playing males and male players are open to playing females (though I’m not 100% sure that last portion was ever really in doubt — no offense to the guys out there intended).
Straight versus Same-Sex
For this question, what we wanted to investigate was: do the genders differ in their “willingness” to engage their corresponding Shepards in same-sex romances?
To answer this question we again examined the correlation between a player’s given gender and LIs, but in this case, we looked at players who only romanced a Shepard of their own gender, and only romanced straight options for that Shepard. In other words: male players who only romanced BroShep-exclusive, straight LIs (Miranda, Tali, Jack, and Ashley — Steve excluded). Then the reverse: female players who only romanced FemShep-exclusive, straight LIs (Garrus, Thane, and Jacob — Sam excluded). Again, Liara and Kaidan were too much of a gray-area and had to be excluded. Therefore, akin to the above, these results are preliminary — a valuable starting point.
In this case, we found a larger disparity between the genders (see table above). A bit more than 1/5 of males surveyed have only played BroShep and have only engaged in straight romances with the LIs (Miranda, Tali, Ashley, and Jack). In contrast, fewer than 13% of females have restricted themselves to the FemShep-exclusive, straight LIs of Garrus, Jacob, and Thane.
From these results and the above, we could be tempted to draw the conclusion that female players seem more “open” than male players to both playing an opposite gender Shepard, and engaging in same-sex romances. This might even make sense, considering many of these females grew up playing video games that provided them with no choice BUT to play a character of the opposite gender. It also makes sense when viewed with the results in the next section.
However, we still have the issue of Liara and Kaidan. If we included Kaidan in the analysis, the numbers for female players would undoubtedly go up. If we included Liara, the numbers for male players would go up, as well. I don’t really have a prediction on this one, so I’d love to see some additional data on this somewhere.
It should be noted that this data for this question and the one above, in no way indicates how frequently male and female players play Shepards of the opposite sex, or engage in same-sex vs straight romances with those characters. Only that they have or haven’t based upon their answers.
Gender Demographic for ME3 Love Interests
Next, we took a look at the actual breakdown in gender for each Love Interest. In other words, for the folks who romanced a given LI, Liara for example, how many were male and how many were females? Note, this is different than asking: “what proportion of the male and female playerbases actually romanced a certain LI” (this is the final question that we address in the last section of this post, below). This time, Liara and Kaidan are included back in the analysis, as there is no reason to exclude them.
Here’s how the results broke down, first in table and then in graph form:
We see some pretty neat stuff, here. First, something that I think most people would expect: male players generally form a larger demographic for the female LIs, and female players predominate for the male LIs. There are some deviations from this pattern, though.
Here’s several other things we can see:
1. Despite both being bisexual LIs, Liara and Kaidan have very different results. Liara’s gender demographic is 65% male and 35% female, a difference of only 35%. Kaidan on the other hand is split 75-25, female-male. Some of this will be due to him not being available for BroShep until the ME3, but most of this is due to Kaidan very much being “geared” toward female players.
2. Sam and Steve are split the most evenly among the playerbases. This is also pretty interesting. It goes to show you that both male and female players are playing Shepards of the opposite gender in order to experience these romances. Both received very positive input in the comments section of the survey. There is only a 4% difference between males and females when it comes to the folks who romance Sam.
3. Sam was romanced by more male players, and Steve romanced by more female players. Interestingly, Sam was actually romanced by more male players in this survey, and Steve romanced by more female players. Which…I’m not sure this was BioWare’s desired outcome, lol. My guess is that Sam’s lower percentage of females has to do mainly with one thing: the shower scene. Females, both lesbian and straight, found the shower scene especially ridiculous and distasteful. Several self-identified lesbians pointed out it was a “stereotypical male fantasy”, and they found the scene a bit insulting. I’ll add that many self-identified males weren’t fans of the scene, either.
In Steve’s case, I think a few factors to explain the gender split: first, the presence of Kaidan as a same-sex LI. Players hoping to engage their BroShep in a same-sex romance had a very strong option in Kaidan. Two, the delicate nature of Steve’s situation, I think was received better by female players. It’s my guess that female players were more open to pursuing the romance than male players.
4. Jacob and Jack are both split around the 60-30 mark, but in the opposite direction. This one surprised me — not so much about Jack, but more for Jacob. Mostly because Jacob is a bit like Kaidan, in a way. He’s very much a “good guy”, has history in the military, and many would say both have “dry-ish” personalities. Neither are very exciting, per se, thought they both have a bit of a tortured past in their own right. I would have expected Jacob to be split about 75-25 just like Kaidan, but we see more of a 62-37 split. I have a couple of theories, but I’d love to hear what our readers think.
5. Team Dextro are split a bit differently. Garrus is romanced by females by a margin of 39%, whereas Tali is romanced by males by a margin of 50%. This might have to do with Garrus’ great personality, and players liking to romance him with both of their Shepards. Tali’s situation is interesting. Players like her a lot, and there are many requests for her to be romanceable by FemShep. What’s pretty interesting, is that female players aren’t flocking to play BroShep in order to romance her. Thoughts?
6. Miranda, Ashley and Thane are all in the same boat. Miranda and Ashley have almost identical splits (76-24, male-female) and Thane is split in the opposite direction 79-21, female-male. BioWare has acknowledged that Miranda and Thane were both designed to attract players of the opposite sex, and they did so — in spades. Ashley’s situation is similar to Tali’s — there are many people asking her to be romanceable by FemShep, and yet most women don’t seem to be taking the opportunity to be romance her on their BroShep toons. So, my guess: most of these requests are coming from male players. Either that, or FemShep players that just don’t want to play BroShep.
7. Thane had the largest split between genders in the survey. This was a very interesting, but not unexpected result. Females romance Thane over males by almost 60%. In other words, most male players are not at all interested in romancing Thane. However, many male players do very much seem to enjoy him as a character, as seen in the comments section of the survey.
In discussing these results with coldwetn0se, she brought up an interesting and important point that I hadn’t considered before: Thane is the only crewmate with a child — an 18ish year old son, in fact (Samara has daughters, but they are grown). Considering that the 19-29 year old male demographic is a huge part of the playerbase, to these players, romancing Thane might feel like…trying to romance someone who feels more like your father. This combined with Thane’s character-design, which is very “female-oriented”, probably explains much of the observed gender disparity. We’ll touch more on this topic when we get into Thane’s individual Focus Friday in the upcoming weeks.
Proportion of Each Gender who Chose to Romance A Specific Love Interest
This is our final question to address in this edition of Focus Friday. The results are essentially a breakdown of player response to question 18 (see this FF), but separated by gender.
Here’s what we have:
This chart looks pretty similar to the last one, so to be very clear, I’m going to using Ashley as an example, and state her results in sentence form. Ashley was romanced by about 45% of the male playerbase and about 16% of the female playerbase.
This is different from what we presented in the previous question, which tells us for a given LI, what proportion of romancers are male vs female. For example, in Ashley’s case, about 76% of players who romanced her were male, and about 23% were female.
So, the last question examines the gender breakdown of the players who romanced each LI. The current question provides the proportion of each playerbase who decided to engage in the romance — it thereby also tells you the proportion of each playerbase who did not romance each LI.
To drive this point further, note that the percentages for each LI in the last question add up to 100, because all players who romanced that LI were either male or female — they added up to a single whole. However in the case of our current question, all percentages for an LI do not add up to 100, because not all players chose to romance that LI. In addition, you can have percentages for an LI that if summed would actually exceed 100, in the case that a large proportion of each playerbase romanced a LI (see Liara) — they are not parts of the same whole.
Ok, I think that should be clear, so let’s wrap this up and take a look at what we have…we’re already at over 2600 words, lol.
1. Major LIs.
- Male players — the following LIs were romanced by 45% or more of the male playerbase: Liara, Ashley, Tali, and Miranda.
- Female players — the following LIs were romanced by 45% or more of the female playerbase: Kaidan, Garrus, and Thane.
2. Liara is the darling of Mass Effect — especially with the guys. She is romanced by more players than any other LI. In addition, over 68% of males choose to romance Liara. However, she is also romanced by a significant portion of the female playerbase — almost 44%, so approaching half.
3. Kaidan and Garrus are the “female version” of Liara. Garrus and Kaidan are for female players, what Liara is for the male players. Both of them are romanced by a similar amount of women — about 63% for each. However, we do see a difference in the amount of male players who choose to romance them — male players prefer Garrus to Kaidan by about 5%. Again, probably due to personality characteristics. Kaidan and Garrus have the 2 largest splits in the genders, with Kaidan at 45% and Garrus at about 39%.
4. Steve, Sam, & Jacob. Only 5.5% of the male playerbase romanced Steve, and as we saw previously, the ladies preferred Steve — by a margin of about 3%.
Sam’s case is interesting. She is the only LI who actually sees a switch here from the previous question. Although Sam was romanced by more men than women, she was romanced (just barely) by a larger percentage of the female playerbase than the male playerbase.
Jacob falls a bit in between Sam and Steve, romanced by about 5% of the male playerbase, but double that to about 10% for the female playerbase.
5. Tali. She is in a class all her own. Tali is romanced by over half of the male playerbase — 57% to be exact. Not as much as Liara, probably due to the fact she is less “humanoid”, but more than all human females, probably due to both her personality and garnering a strong fanbase in the first game. She is romanced by less than a quarter of the female playerbase, at only 22% — which, interestingly enough is about the same percentage that male players romance Garrus at.
6. Ashley and Miranda. Similar to the above, these two ladies have almost identical results in this category. Miranda edges out ahead, but they are romanced by almost the same proportion of the male and female playerbases. Not necessarily the same exact players — just the same proportion of them. Female players are about as interested in romancing Ash and Miranda as male players are in romancing Kaidan.
7. Jack. These numbers reinforce what we see for Jack above. Akin to Sam, Jacob, and Steve, she is not romanced by a majority of either playerbase, but a smaller sample of each — 28% of males and 20% of females. Only an 8% split, actually, which is the smallest of any LI save Sam, Steve, or Jacob.
The smaller amount of romancers probably has to do with Jack’s abrasive character and the fact that physically, she is not “built” like the other conventionally humanoid LIs — Liara, Miranda, or Ashley. She is going to attract a certain player to her that just as well might be male as female.
8. Thane. Thane’s case is an interesting one. He is a bit similar to Ashley and Miranda at a glance — all are romanced by 45-50% of a portion of the playerbase. However, Thane’s situation is complicated by the fact, that like with Kaidan and Garrus, he has a much larger large gender split in the playerbase – 37%.
So, here is the kicker with Thane: while he is romanced by almost half of the female players (48%), he is romanced by only about one-tenth of male players (11%). Save for Jacob and Steve, who are hardly romanced at all, Thane is romanced by the smallest amount of male players in the game. Yet, he is romanced by essentially half of the female playerbase. In fact, he is romanced by 4% more female players than Liara.
Another way to look at this is that Thane is the male equivalent of Miranda for Mass Effect 2. However, for female players he has actually has more significance than Miranda has for male players. Why? Because he is one of only 3 main Love Interests for female players. All other LIs are romanced by a much smaller margin. In contrast, Miranda is one of 4 main Love Interests for the male playerbase.
These results help clarify why Thane’s death in ME3 was a significant blow especially to the female players of Mass Effect. It also explains all sorts of issues with fan reaction to how his character was handled in ME3. We’ll explore this further in Thane’s upcoming Focus Friday.
Nope, not this time! I know it’s a ton of information, but especially because these results cannot be found in the rest of the survey materials, it’s especially important that folks read about them, and not just fast-forward to the bottom of the post :]
This will be our final post before the Christmas holiday — save for of course the Christmas Gallery that will be posted on Christmas Day. We are off until January 2nd to spend time with our families and loved ones.
Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays to everyone. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!