Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dr. Phil of female gamers sheds some light

Here's a quick PR lesson for you. Sometimes, when your company has no real news to report, you make stuff up. For example, you can throw together some silly sweepstakes and hope something interesting happens or sponsor some wacky event and hope someone gets really drunk and something unsavory gets caught on tape. Or... you hire a survey company to do a study with the goal of getting you a good sound bite. Thus we come to this:

PopCap Games, backing "Information Solutions Group" (Can you think of a more harmless and sophisticated sounding name?), has dropped a release with some info on gamer behavior. Out of all the questions and people they questioned, they decided to focus on the female gamer angle. And so we get data like:

  • Female casual gamers chose playing casual games over spending time with family and friends or watching TV
  • Most of these gamers play games to reduce stress
  • Older female gamers play more often
Here's the best part. The requisite expert quote. This is Dr. Carl Arinoldo who is a "psychologist of 25 years and an author and expert on stress management". Get ready for it, it's a doozy.
"...by seriously attending to the word and puzzle games, people can control stress by cognitively 'blocking out' the negative stresses of the day and ultimately train themselves to do this more reflexively. Furthermore, women tend to be more in touch with their feelings and more introspective than men, generally speaking, so it's logical that when they're feeling stressed women would more readily seek out some sort of remedy such as playing casual computer games"
Let me paraphrase the logic. Women know when they are stressed. Games relieve stress. Therefore, women play games when they are stressed. Man, that's some good experting right there my friend.

Needless to say, I'm not exactly convinced about this whole thing. I decided to do some quick factchecking.

Now I don't want to put down the good doctor but I looked into him first. Yes, the doctor is an author; I found two books on Amazon, one on controlling eating and another on parenting. Googling him reveals that he is also on the payroll of PopCap as just about every press release they do has him saying something experty. I wonder how much he makes.

Now let's look at the survey company. The survey was done online with randomly selected participants. Random, right, got it. Oh heck, I'll just let their mission statement speak for itself:
As marketing professionals, providing quality customer satisfaction measurement research, we guarantee that our clients will receive cost-effective research services delivered in a timely manner. We promise to involve you and communicate with you regularly. We cannot guarantee outcomes; we do guarantee your satisfaction with our service.
Client focused, I like it. Good for them! The customer is always right you know.

Ok, I didn't really mean to try to tear this press release apart. It's very well put together. The world of PR has been separated from the real world for quite some time, nothing to see here, move along.

The problem is that this kind of stuff is dangerous for our industry. Shifty data about female gamers (and gamers in general) just result in erroneous stereotypes and even worse, backing of the industry into a wall. I'm often guilty of taking data for face value too, heck just look at the prior post. But a healthy skepticism is good or do I mean cynicism? I just don't know anymore.

The press release in all its glory here.

1 comment:

Karl Castaneda said...

In other news, I heard female gamers have vaginas.

I know - it's wild.