New 'gaymer' survey explores sexual identity, interest in games

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New 'gaymer' survey explores sexual identity, interest in games

A new version of the gay gamer survey is making the rounds, years after the first-of-its-kind, academically approved study attempted to "quantify the existence of an invisible minority." The results of the original were interesting, with one the more surprising aspects being the large heterosexual sample who decided to participate.

Now Paul Nowak, a student going for his masters at gaming school Full Sail, is seeking participants in a similar study (also academically approved), which focuses on "questions of content: such as plot, genre, customization and other in-game experiences."

The survey takes about 20 minutes and none of the questions seemed offensive to us -- then again, we live on the internet. We also spoke with Nowak about what he hopes to learn and why he decided to do this survey. Check out our discussion after the break.

Participate in the "New Gaymer Survey."

Joystiq: A gay gamer survey has been done before, why do it again?

Paul Nowak: Since Jason Rockwood's survey in 2006 was the first of its kind, it got stuck with the burden of proving to the academic community that the gay gaming community even existed. Now that he's been successful at that, we can make a more in-depth study of what exactly gaymers want from their games.

How is this survey different from the last one?

The differences are apparent right from the beginning. Rockwood and I have very different backgrounds. My expertise is design and, unlike Rockwood, I have been a gamer for over 20 years. That difference is reflected in my study. Being the second survey in the field, I am able to shift my focus onto questions of content such as plot, genre, customization and other in-game experiences.

What do you hope to learn from this new survey?

Ideally, I want to learn what exactly it is that gaymers want from their games and how that differs from their heterosexual counterparts. I'll take that information to develop guidelines the industry can use when trying to make gaymer inclusive games that don't become offensive or insulting to any gamer regardless of sexual orientation. If someone had done the same kind of research when the industry was trying to reach out to female gamers, girls wouldn't have had to suffer through the wildly unsuccessful attempts of games like "Mary Kate & Ashley's Winner's Circle" pony racing. I'm hoping to help the industry avoid the same mistakes as it reaches out to gay gamers.

It's called the "new gaymer survey," but is it inclusive of all orientations?

My survey is absolutely inclusive of all game players, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, one group that I would love to hear more from is straight women who play video games. I'm also really interested to see what straight male gamers think of games that contain homosexual content -- like the optional gay content in Bully, Fable and The Sims.

What's your response to people who would say that there's no point in a survey like this?

If the video games industry wants to be taken as seriously as film, television or radio, to really be considered art, it needs to grow up and accept that there is more than just one kind of gamer. Games can be so much more than just the past-time of sexually-frustrated, geeky teenage boys. They can be used not just to entertain and fantasize, but also to inspire, to motivate and enact social change. It is through gaming that we learn how to interact with the world and with each other; its time we asked ourselves what do we really want to teach our children.

Is there anything you'd like to add that I wouldn't know to ask you?
The best thing anyone can do to help the project is to tell their friends.
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