Why don't more women play RTS games?
...unless of course you get all your "facts" from delusional feminists like Anita Sarkeesian and Lena Dunham. If you want to refute anything I said, you better bring more compelling evidence than something your dumbass dyke of a gender-studies professor said.
Thank you for teeing that up Baz. But let's explore this point a bit - why would a woman reading this thread, or the general tone of gaming forums like this one, not feel like speaking up? Perhaps because she'd either be dismissed as delusional or a dyke?
Let's face it as pointed out when I streamed on Relic streams I was ~100 pounds overweight but my appearance was only mentioned when someone wanted to insult me and couldn't think of anything clever to say. When Cynthia streamed her appearance, despite being far more standard in terms of height and weight, than me was constantly commented on. Even people who thought they were being polite or giving her a compliment were being insulting.
"You're cute" = I don't really care what you're talking about your appearance means more to me.
And I mean that's just a surface level of the kind of stuff she had to deal with. That every visible woman as either a developer or gamer has to deal with. The shit that Cynthia deals with day-in-day-out is just astonishing, and is stuff that I don't have to deal with.
There's also, as mentioned, a cultural component to it. Women are consciously and unconsciously directed towards certain past-times. Gaming increasingly is one of them, more than half of players are now female, but historically it's been a more male pursuit. That's changing and there's fantastic opportunities for the RTS game that figures out how to break into that market. Doubling sales or more, for example.
The competitive question is interesting. Women compete in sports and do so at a high degree of excellence. Yes biological differences mean they largely don't compete with men, since physically men are bigger and stronger, but that doesn't really apply to games. However the kind of caustic reaction women naturally attract in gaming communities isn't exactly the sort of thing that makes women want to be open about that.
Take the site Fat, Ugly or Slutty
which highlights abuse women receive on Xbox Live. Why would anyone want to really draw attention to themselves and that abuse? This isn't just an RTS thing, or a CoH/Relic thing. It's an industry wide issue.
As mentioned by Lucas Troy another issue is that there's relatively few "female" units to play in RTS games. Based on WWII there's not much opportunity for Relic to add them to CoH2 (snipers and medics are exceptions) and while women don't need to play as female characters just like men don't need to be Space Marines to or Trolls to play DoW, the lack of any female representation is an issue. Historically the DoW community has been a bit more female heavy because WH40K (Eldar mostly) has some stronger female characters / units.
This representation overall speaks to a focus and intended audience for a game, studio and the industry. If 95% of all (gendered) RTS units are male it means that studios are aiming for mostly men and that will extend to game design, marketing and community efforts.
Another thing to keep in mind is that CoH2.ORG isn't the CoH playerbase. The number of women who are fans of the CoH Facebook page or follow the account on Twitter is still a minority (by far) but much higher a percentage than who take part in CoH2.ORG.
Which I don't want to be read as a criticism of this particular site. I honestly think that in general Ami and the site staff do a good job with curbing harassment here. Could it be better? Sure, but I know that the official Relic forums could have been better under my watch for some of that too. There's always room for improvement.
So where do you see women more equally represented in gaming? Player numbers clearly show that many women play but don't partake in communities and try to remain invisible.
But where you see them tends to be in co-operative games or focusing around narrative and character elements of games. I'd imagine a woman helping a successful Destiny raid is called 'bitch' a lot less than a woman killing men in a CoD game. And doing fan art or talking about the character arc of someone in a BioWare game is less likely to meet with being called a "dumbass dyke" than arguing about balance in an RTS game.
There's no silver bullet or easy answer to the question. If I had it I'd have solved the problem while at Relic and doubled or more the sales of CoH2 and every game they make from now on. Having visibly female developers helps, and creating environments where female fans can share their love of a game without being insulted or hit on also helps.
Again in general I think CoH2.ORG is pretty good at this part.
But everything is baby steps. Relic, or anyone else, isn't going to solve the problem overnight.