This month’s edition of CrazyKinux’s Blog Banter asks what can be done to attract more women to the EVE universe. I have some opinions about that.

One of my earliest memories is watching the TV broadcast of the Apollo 11 mission landing on the moon. Several years later, I begged for – and received – a telescope for my ninth birthday. My parents bought it at a pawn shop; in those pre-internet days it’s surprising they could even find a telescope in our tiny logging town. I set it up in our attic and had a grand time marvelling at Jupiter and the comet Kahoutek. When I wasn’t up in that attic, I watched Star Trek. I saw Star Wars over and over. I read any science fiction I could get my hands on. And now I’m a woman, and I play EVE.

But apparenly, I’m in the minority. According to CCP, the EVE population is only 5% women, a statistic that seems out of sync with online gaming demographics: according to the Entertainment Software Association, 43% of online gamers are women. So how are we going to get more women to join us in New Eden?

Many women are social gamers. They are interested in the people who play the game, and want to talk to and interact with them. There are a couple of products in CCP’s pipeline that may help attract these social gamers: Incarna and EVEGate.

EVEGate is designed to be EVE’s social networking site, like FaceBook or MySpace. There are millions of women on FaceBook right this minute playing FarmVille – why not get some of them over to EVEGate? Make EVEGate free like FaceBook – don’t require a paid EVE game account to use it. I’m not talking a 21-day trial here, it should be a free EVEGate account that can be optionally upgraded to a game account. Then non-EVE players can sign up and network with their EVE-playing friends, and it’s only a short step from EVEGate to New Eden. Toss a couple of casual games up there and you’ve got the perfect entry into EVE’s world for a lot of people who have never considered it before. (Now maybe CCP is already planning this, I don’t know. I hope so!)

Incarna is a different story, and I believe it speaks to more than just the social aspect of games that women enjoy. While walking around and interacting with other players is going to be great, I think there is the possibility of a lot more. Many women – and I include myself in this group – like to create avatars, and they like to stake out their own personal space in a game world. Right now you can spend a lot of time creating an avatar that represents the character you want to play, and then hardly ever see it. I hope that Incarna will require the creation of full body avatars, not just heads and shoulders like the current game does. I enjoy messing around with the character creation function, making new people just because I can. It’s even more fun when it’s a whole person, not just their head. Shallow and stereotypical? Maybe. But I believe that there are a lot of women out there who will identify more with a full body, customised avatar than with a spaceship.

And while we’re talking about the stations in Incarna, let’s talk about player housing. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I’m here to tell you – lots of us love that stuff. One of the best parts of that old workhorse, Ultima Online, is staking out your own space in the game world. Give players a room at the station, like EverQuest II’s rooms in the inns. Let them manufacture furniture and sell it or use it in their apartments. Housing gives the players ownership of the game world like nothing else does, and it gives them something to work towards other than ship upgrades or huge bank accounts.

Now, a word to the current male players of EVE. Treat us with respect. That means not going easy on us just because we’re girls. It means not asking to see our boobs. Smack talk? Great! We can give as good as we get, but hate speech is right out (for both genders). Treat us like you would your female friends at school or work, and we’ll happily kill you when you’re mining and not paying attention.

Finally, I have to say that I am thrilled that this question is even being asked. It is a big step forward from when I worked in the industry 10+ years ago and I was brushed off in meetings when I suggested targeting female gamers. It’s just good business sense not to exclude 50% of the population, and I hope to see many more of my sisters in New Eden.

P.S. No pink spaceships. Ugh. 

Other entries to this contest include: How to get the Bettys, Blog Banter: Captain Kirk Hates EVE, Don’t Change EVE for Me!, The Female of the Species, Sociability V.