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Gender, Skill Perception & eSports

Role: Research Lead
Collaborators: Andy Boydston, Nicole VanMeter, Samuel Kim
Type: Experimental Research

Overview

Women make up 41% of all gamers, yet are severely underrepresented when it comes to online competitive games. As the eSports industry continues on its rapid growth to being a 1.5 billion dollar industry by 2020, it is crucially important to expand both viewer and player demographics. Some possible reasons for low participation may be harassment and/or stereotyping.

In order to investigate whether there are systematic factors affecting female participation in eSports, we decided to conduct an experiment investigating how gender influences skill perception in online video games. We designed a survey on Qualtrics and deployed it to over 1,700 participants on the r/rocketleague subreddit. Rocket League was chosen due to its large online community, budding esports scene, and lack of gendered avatars. 

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Results

Experimental Design

Our team decided to operationalize skill perception by asking participants to estimate the rank of players from a gameplay clip which was tagged with either male or female identifiers. This was possible due to the fact that Rocket League utilizes an ordinal ranking scheme

The ordinal ranking system in Rocket League

We selected gender identifiers based on the gendered names "Jake" & "Emma". Participants were randomly assigned into one of four experimental conditions and asked to estimate the rank of the player. The experimental conditions were:

An example of the stimulus presented to participants.

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