Once thought to be in the vast minority, women over the age of 18 have surpassed teenage boys as one of the largest demographics buying video games today.
According to a recent study by the Entertainment Software Association, 48% of gamers today are comprised of women, and 36% of all gamers are women over the age of 18. This is a much larger number than that of teen males (a mere 17% of the community), who have long been stereotyped as the major audience for games since the industry began. The statistics from this study paint a much more balanced picture of the multi-billion dollar industry than most people see, indicating without a doubt that gamers of both genders are predominantly mature adults, and that adult women are just as important to sales figures as men. And the number of women gamers can’t be dismissed as skewing the numbers with ‘casual’ and mobile games anymore, as author and gamer Stephanie Herweck Paris explained in our interview with her:
“Just about everyone has at least some sort of game on their phone these days,” says Paris, who has been gaming for 27 years, “but I definitely believe that the more hardcore ‘gamer girl’ demographic is expanding as well.“
Far from being the outliers of the past, today women are obviously a huge part of the gaming community, not only playing games, but taking an active role in the industry as well. Women have been joining the development side of gaming for years and outdated notions of a ‘Male Only’ gaming field should never feel more absurd.
But while the study shows that women are a vital part of community, only time will tell if it will lead to a shift in game development and advertising; Despite the growing numbers and evidence of a gender balance, the content of games are still lacking in female characters. And that’s not even addressing the still rampant harassment that women all across the gaming community face day to day. Emily Kolm, video specialist at GOG, isn’t too optimistic that the major issues within the community can be solved so easily:
“If this study is taken seriously and a new social revolution begins, sure. But I don’t know if that will happen any time soon. There has to be a massive effort from big leagues in the industry to combat this. First they have to start treating women as a legitimate customer base, and that catering to them somehow won’t affect their existing one, which itself I don’t have high hopes will change. Then they have to spend all that money and all that effort into thorough moderation to try and protect said customers from rape threats, death threats, and the like, and THEN, the massive horde of idiots that fuel the hate have to actually decide to back off. It is a really sad thing to say, but it seems impossible. I know it will happen some day, but I cant say I am confident to ever see it in my lifetime.”
Paris, who is raising a gamer girl of her own, has a more positive outlook on the future:
“I am from a generation where [women] were unusual enough, we were just sort of worshiped as exotic and highly sought anomalies of geekdom … I think everything that normalizes the idea that women are engaged in the industry will make it easier for women to engage in the industry.“
Though the news each month can make it seem like the community is not ready to accept a female presence in the industry, it certainly isn’t stopping women from playing. Female gamers developers alike are pushing against antiquated prejudices to make our games and our community better. Game on, ladies.
Images: ESA, Microsoft