January 31, 2010

Tomb Raider Player Survey Results

Today I want to post an update on last month's Tomb Raider Player Survey, designed to gather data for my friend Izzie's media studies class at the Sorbonne University. Thanks to everyone who posted and emailed their responses. With your help, Izzie was able to put together an interesting and informative paper.

In it, she explores various ideas about gender and video games. She discusses female archetypes—like the Amazon and Femme Fatale—in games, touches upon the use of exaggerated body shape in titles like Tomb Raider, and brings up some interesting points about male and female players "trying on" another gender while playing video games.

The survey we took here makes up just a small part of the paper. I encourage everyone to download the whole thing, but here's a quick breakdown of the survey results:
  • According to Eidos Interactive, 70% of Tomb Raider players are male; 30% are female.
  • Izzie's survey results suggest that players of both genders are aware of Lara's exaggerated feminine appearance.
  • 62% of female players are annoyed by the way Lara is portrayed physically. 15% admire Lara's figure, and 23% didn't care one way or the other.
  • Only 21% of male players were bothered by Lara's hyper-sexualized appearance.
  • Nearly 20% of players (both male and female) made a distinction between Lara's appearance in the game and the way she was used to promote it (posters, box art, etc.), the latter being more exaggerated.
  • 62% of players said they enjoyed Lara's feminine identity as much as the gameplay. (Of this 62% about half were male, half female.)
  • Only 37% of players were interested in the gameplay only. (Of this 37% the breakdown was roughly 40% female and 60% male.)
In her conclusion, Izzie writes:

"...Lara's feminine identity probably played a big role in sales, and she seems to be a good avatar people relate to and enjoy, whichever their gender.... Tomb Raider relies on a clever mix of gameplay and attractive avatar, so Eidos definitely handled a great coup, both in designs and game concept.

"Despite Lara's exaggerated appearance, she still appears as a positive role model for most women because her intelligence and strength are considered as 'good' qualities. Most women enjoy the fact that for once a female character is no longer in a weak and passive position, waiting to be saved. In fact this aspect was even enjoyed by 21% of male players."

Download the complete paper as a Word document here: Tomb-Raider-Study.doc.

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