Last year, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Jason Rockwood unleashed the "Gaymer Survey" - an online project that was the first of its kind (and perhaps the first minority-oriented study of gamers ever?); the survey aimed to take a census of gay gamers, their habits and demographics, and help build a cohesive image of who we are, what we like and how we like it. Rockwood's expectation of several hundred respondents was exceeded by an order of magnitude: over 10,000 gamers responded - overwhelmingly male, but a surprisingly even mix of gays and straights. Which seems to me to weaken the strength of the study, but Rockwood does seem to indicate disparities between the preferences of straight and gay gamers where appropriate.
The survey includes 87 questions, so I won't attempt to tackle it whole here (check out the full results of the survey for yourself if you're feeling statistical), but there are a few interesting tidbits to tease out of the data.
Aside from the unsurprising maleness of those who chose to participate, no less than 28% identified themselves as heterosexual (with 12.9% choosing the next step on a scale of 1-7); this is mirrored by the 23% and 16.8% of respondents who identified as completely or nearly completely homosexual: 40.9% hetero-ish vs 39.8% gay-ish. That's a surprising amount of straightness, and could certainly give you a sizable grain of salt to carry with you while sussing out these results.
Another interesting result was the take on the word "gaymer," which was met with ambivalence by straight and gay gamers alike: 39.1% felt neutral about the term, and 41.4% viewed it unfavorably or were uncertain. While the term was viewed with the greatest negativity by straights, gays weren't enthusiastic about it either:
In general, it appears that the term is not popular, regardless of sexual orientation.
I must admit, I'm pleased to see that - I've never liked "gaymer" because not only does it look kind of hokey to my eye, it's impossible to speak the word aloud without clarification; and any word that only works in print is fundamentally flawed, especially if it's to be the rallying cry or self-identifier for a group of people who might want to, you know, say it out loud.
Make the jump to play with more fun gay numbers.
When it comes to gaming habits, 83% counted a PC as a gaming device that they owned (Macs earned a meager 12.9%), 66% a PS2, 61.5% a GameCube, and 41.7% an original Xbox. 27.2% owned a 360, and only 1.2% owned a PS3 (given the timing of the survey, next-gen results seem less valid...the Wii isn't listed, for instance). Handhelds came out as you might expect, with 45% owning a DS, 53.8% a GBA, and 25% a PSP. Of the older systems, more than half of all surveyed still own a Nintendo 64...while only 42.1% owned an original PlayStation.
41.8% spent less than $500 on games and hardware in the last year, and 70.9% had spent less than $100 on games/devices within the last month. If taken seriously, this seems to suggest that gay gamers are both frugal and more likely to enjoy their catalog of favorite games, adding to their collection with great discretion. That discretion seems to be pointed toward RPGs, which was voted most favorite genre by 41%, and MMORPGs, which earned 28%. 53.9% said they preferred mostly non-linear games, but only 7.4% preferred completely non-linear games. Also, 52.7% said they preferred conventional player interfaces: I wonder what that number would look like in the post-Wii era.
When it comes to gayness in games, the answers were pleasingly open-minded, given the number of straight men involved in the survey: 76.7% were glad there is more diversity of sexual orientation in video game culture. They may be contributing themselves: 46.8% reported occasionally playing an opposite-gendered character in games that present the player that choice; however, this one was one question where the 4.9% bisexual minority spoke up on - they showed a mild preference for playing a character of the opposite gender, while both gay and straight respondents tended to stick to their own gender.
Almost a third of all surveyed were not bothered by the sexual objectification of females in video games, and more than a quarter weren't bothered too much. 28.5% were somewhat bothered, but less than 10% were bothered a great deal (sexual orientation seemed to play no role in this trend), but 47.4% weren't bothered at all by the sexual objectification of males, and another 24.7% were mostly not bothered. 38% want game companies to create games that connect to their own sexual identity (I second that emotion!), and 42.7% felt gay and lesbian concerns within the gaming community were somewhat or very important.
Conversely, 52.7% agreed with the somewhat loaded question (by its phrasing, which kind of "leads the witness") that the gaming community is somewhat hostile toward gay and lesbian gamers, with another 14% who feel it is very hostile. 87% reported the phrase "That's so gay" as a form of homophobia they'd encountered while gaming, while another 52.3% felt the same way about stereotypical representations of gay characters in games. 42.5% saw homophobia in "refusal of game designers to include well-developed gay characters" and 49.4% felt the same way about "Invisibility of gaymers and/or the gaymer community."
If you're anything like me, you don't need to see another percent sign anytime again for at least a week, but it's worth taking a closer look (briefly, I swear) at whose answers we're seeing. Of the overwhelmingly male respondents, over 45% earned less than $12,000 a year, nearly 80% were both single and white, and two-thirds hadn't finished college (57% were still students) and 60.5% were not employed full-time: I think that paints a pretty clear picture of who took the survey and who, perhaps, did not. I don't think that diminishes the importance or relevance of the results, but it gives you an idea of what ways in which the survey might not be fully representational. Considering that the survey was run online, at SurveyMonkey.com, and was "quickly picked up by the blogging community," young white males who are either students or unemployed isn't exactly a shocker, but it's worth noting anyway.
Check out the full results for a lot more data as well as the original survey, and let us know what you think.