Study on Gender Bias in Gaming Community and Industry - Some Early High-level Initial Information

by Mark published 2022/11/12 09:45:05 GMT-7, last modified 2022-11-12T09:45:05-07:00
While not ready to release a comprehensive report, there are some numbers that are pretty straight forward and should be of interest to many. This is a self-report questionnaire on experiences and perceptions of gender bias in the gaming community and industry.

Gaming Gender Bias Questionnaire Early Overview Summary of Initial Findings Pending Further Analysis by RPG Research Project – (c) 2013-2015 W. A. Hawkes-Robinson –

 PDF Version of this report here:

 TITLE: Gender Bias in the Role-Playing Gaming Industry and Community – Initial High-level overview report of early findings. - Web Version.



The initial results and analysis from the 2013 pilot of an ongoing series of studies regarding the experiences and perceptions of gender bias in the role-playing (and related) gaming industries and communities. A series of questionnaires were disseminated at various gaming locations and events. The questions were about the participant's experiences, observations, and opinions related to gender-based bias, overt gender discrimination, and/or sexual harassment. Responses between female participants and male participants were tracked separately to compare and contrast any potential differences.

 The initial pilot took place in 2013 over several months 2013 throughout the greater Spokane, Washington, and northern Idaho areas. With permission of the owners, participants were approached at gaming-related stores, events, gatherings, and other related facilities. Over 250 people were randomly approached with the screening question, “Have you ever participated in any form of role-playing game: tabletop, live-action, or computer-based”. If the prospective participant indicated yes, then they were asked, “Would you be willing to fill out a brief questionnaire on a related topic?”. Out of the 167 that stated “Yes” to the screening question, 164 accepted and returned the questionnaire. 1 semi-completed questionnaire was removed from analysis due to errors in the questionnaire. A total of 163 questionnaires are included in this analysis.

Gender of respondents:

  • Male: 49% (80)

  • Female: 46% (75)

  • Other: 2% (3)

  • Empty field: 3% (5)

 The end of the form indicated that the respondents had the option to provide additional comments on the reverse blank side of the questionnaire if they wished. 24% (39) elected to do so.

 Community/Industry/Activity types listed were:

  • CCG/TCG (collectible/trading card game)

  • Choose Your Own Adventure books

  • CRPG (computer RPG, solo/offline)

  • LARP (live-action role-playing)


  • ORPG/MMORPG (online RPG)

  • RPG (Tabletop)

  • PBM/PBEM RPG (play by mail/email RPG)

  • Wargaming (board/miniature)

 The questionnaire included 11 questions about the industries and communities related to tabletop role-playing gaming, live-action role-playing, computer-based offline and online gaming, wargaming, and collectible/trading card games. A PDF of the questionnaire is available online here:

IMPLEMENTED BY: W.A. Hawkes-Robinson, a retired computer scientist, and currently a senior undergraduate student at Eastern Washington University (EWU) working on interdisciplinary degrees in Recreation Therapy, Music, and Research Psychology, and founder of The RPG Research Project at This research is not associated with EWU.

 LOCATION(S): Several gaming locations in the Eastern Washington area, including:

  • Gamers' Haven in Spokane Valley, WA.

  • Merlyn's in Spokane, WA.

  • Several independent gamer participants in the RPG Research preliminary observation group in the Spokane, WA area.

  • Spocon Science Fiction convention 2013, in Spokane, WA.

 IRB: The Eastern Washington University Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Washington State IRB both indicated this questionnaire did not require IRB oversight or formal IRB waiver application.

PEER REVIEW: This project, data, analysis, and report, has not as of yet undergone any formal peer review.

RESULTS OVERVIEW: This is just a preliminary overview from initial analysis. A more complete analysis is pending additional software, personnel resources, and potential peer review, for a more comprehensive report.

From initial analysis it appears that beliefs of bias are highly indicated as widespread but varying in belief of overtness, personal experiences of bias are variable. Highest opinion and experiences of bias, harassment, and discrimination, were reported to be widespread and overt by the collectible/trading card game communities and online gaming communities. Tabletop and live-action had more moderate reports, and indicated they were far less overt and widespread.

There is also significant disparity in opinions/experiences between male and female participants between the belief of bias in the industry and community.

  • Only 11% (17) reported no belief or experience of any form of gender bias by the gaming community, and only 7% (12) believed there was no form of gender bias by the gaming industry.

  • Overall report of personally experienced gender-bias (total without differentiation between activity/community/industry): 38% (62).

  • Overall report of personally experienced gender-specific derogatory comments (total without differentiation between activity/community/industry): 43% (70).

  • Overall report of sexual harassment (total without differentiation between activity/community/industry): 29% (48).

  • 29% (47) of respondents reported they had been denied access to participation based on their gender at least once, and all but 3 experienced participation denial more than once.

  • Gender differences in opinion vary between industry/community, but overall are within a few percentage points of each other in perceptions.

 There are plans in the future to implement this same questionnaire program in other geographic locations for a broader population sample. Currently planned locations include Seattle, WA, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere as resources permit.




Q. What is the hypothesis of this research?

A. Is there a prevalence of perceived gender bias in the gaming communities and/or industries? If bias does exist, does it vary between activity types (live-action, tabletop, computer-based, etc.)? Is there a difference in perception between males and females? Background: My personal experience of gender bias, harassment, exclusion, etc, of female gamers has been observationally low-to-none in my groups. Of course I am a now "a middle-aged white guy", and though I have experienced seriously abusive, nearly-fatal discrimination in multiple instances of my life, I realize everyone's personal experiences vary widely depending on their narrow sphere of interaction. I have had many female gamers comment about their negative experiences in other groups (and they have commented over time how relieved they were that it was not an issue in my groups). So I wondered what was the broader prevalence of gender-bias experience for others? Are males and females perceiving any such prevalence differently. 


Q. Why doesn't the questionnaire include a lot more low-level detail in a broader range of categories, such as racial demographics?

A. The original draft of the questionnaire was over 20 questions which included race, in-character vs. out-of-character, artwork, and other topics. During initial testing, it was considered too long, and though those are areas that are interesting, the goal was a more high level question: Is there in general a prevalence of perceived gender-bias in the gaming community or industry? Is there a difference between different gaming communities (tabletop, live-action, computer-based, etc.) in these perceived experiences? Is there a difference between male/female perceptions in those areas? So it was incrementally trimmed down to the 11 questions. Since this was presented at informal settings (people waiting in line at conventions, gaming groups assembling at hobby stores, etc.) it needed to be short enough to fit on one side of one page and still be legible/usable, and be completed in as short a time as possible, while addressing at least the core questions. A more formal setting would allow longer and more detailed surveys. Hopefully the data from this first pass will help address other issues over time.

Q. Does the research address types of gender discrimination? Are we talking about sexual harassment? Being treated in an inferior manner?Did the sexual harassment take place in-character (IC) or out-of-character (OOC)? What type of exclusion?

A.  A portion of the questionnaire does ask, and cross-reference to gender and type of activity (tabletop, live-action, computer-based, etc.) the participant to specify between: being refused allowance to participate because of gender, others refusing to participate because of gender, gender-specific derogatory comments, and sexual harassment.

Document Actions