Everything You Know About Gamers is Wrong

We’ve known for a long time that gaming is no longer the preserve of sweaty, bedroom-bound teenage males (if indeed it ever was). But I was intrigued to read this article on Kotaku UK about just how much the gaming demographic has changed over the years.

This was probably the most interesting part for me:

The gender split is pretty equal no matter where you look. On handheld consoles, the split is male 55%, female 45%. On console, it’s 60% male and 40% female. On mobile it’s 55% female 45% male. Even when you split gamers out into “core” and “casual” based on money and time spent on games, whether on console or mobile, the gender split remains pretty close – a slightly greater percentage of the most casual players are women, and a slightly greater percentage of the most “core” players are men.

Although it’s been common knowledge for quite some time that at least half of the people who play games these days are women, the way games are represented in marketing tends to be very male-oriented. For example, I don’t think that the advertisers of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare had a female audience in mind when they crowbarred Emily Ratajkowski into this advert for apparently no reason whatsoever:

Then again, perhaps you could argue that Call of Duty is predominantly aimed at males. Sadly there are no statistics in the article to back up or refute that particular generalization, but it does point out that women list ‘Action’ and ‘Shooter’ games as their second and third favourite genres, so it seems fair to assume that a great many of CoD players are women.

One commenter notes that he has “never heard” a woman’s voice while playing Destiny online, and suggests that it might be because women might feel uncomfortable with pressure and rudeness from males in online games. ‘CG’ responds to this comment:

As a female gamer … I avoid online gaming, because I rarely get a positive experience. I think there are probably a few people like me out there, who are hard to find because we don’t speak up.

So perhaps there are far more women playing first person shooters than the marketers think, it’s just they choose to play offline. I certainly tend to avoid the general horrendousness of online gaming, and I’m a man. (Monster Hunter is an exception – everyone who plays Monster Hunter is utterly lovely.)

A typical line dancing scene in Monster Hunter.
A typical line dancing scene in Monster Hunter.

It’s heartening to see that the gender divide has shrunk so dramatically over the years – now it’s time for the world, and games marketers and designers in particular, to catch up with reality. I’ve moaned at length before on how women get a raw deal in games, thanks to a lack of female lead characters and a shockingly low number of female developers. Hopefully that will start to change in the same way as the gaming demographic has shifted.

Finally, it was also interesting to note that the average age of gamers is now 31. As a consequence, many more games these days seem to be aimed at the more mature market, and this has left a yawning gap in the market for games aimed at 9- to-15-year-olds. Almost all of the big franchises, such as Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider, have at least a 15 rating, so there’s a big gap between ‘kiddie’ games and ‘adult’ games that is up for grabs, as noted in this fascinating article.

Tomb Raider for Xbox 360 was an 18 - for camparison, the original game was rated 13+.
Tomb Raider for Xbox 360 was an 18 – for comparison, the original game was rated 13+.

7 Comments

  1. I do live in a relatively rural area, but I’d love to meet some of these fellow women. Most of my friends are guys just because a majority of the women my age have no interest in video games, therefore we don’t have much in common.

    1. By the way, I had the same problem. I tried getting some of my girlfriends to play and they couldn’t either figure out how to operate the controller and/or simply had no interest. I think a lot of women are still really shy about talking about it ,too, because of that fear of having to prove themselves.

  2. I’m better at shooters than my fiance and he totally admits it :p But he made it through Dead Space, sooooo there’s that. RPGs are still my favorite, but Bioshock and Borderlands definitely reunited me with shooters. Similar to the lady quoted, I also avoided online games because of the interactions I had heard from other people. But I also have more of an affinity to playing normal multiplayer. When I started playing WoW, we did randoms and I was surprised that people were relatively civil. So, perhaps the landscape is in fact changing for the better ^_^

    Those stats surprised me too. I find it interesting that marketers haven’t caught up. Thanks for sharing! The more we talk, the more (hopefully) marketers will listen.

  3. My last girlfriend thought video games were a waste of time. In fact, everyone I’ve been involved with so far has thought that. Where exactly do I find one of these women who enjoy video games if they’re so damn common?

    I think, if the stats are true, that developers will naturally begin to shift towards recognition of their female fans. This is why I tend not to see the big deal about women getting a “raw deal” in games – it’s bound to get fixed sooner or later, and even so this issue doesn’t even fall on the top 100 list of modern societal problems. Anyway, I guess there’s always going to be a demographic that wants gratuitous sex appeal etc. in their games, and there’s nothing especially wrong with a developer catering to that in exchange for higher sales. It’s a free market!

  4. I’m still surprised that people assume that the average player of video games is male. I’ve said it before, but I grew up in a world where both genders played video games in equal measure, a world no one else clearly belongs to.

    I mean what about video games makes them inherently male? Women watch television. Women read books. Women watch movies. I mean bloody hell, I saw a female in a Fast and Furious movie, once. It’s a ridiculous fallacy to think that somehow video games are either traditionally or in the modern age, something that appeals to males more than it appeals to females. Last time I checked I wasn’t using my scrotum to hold the controller.

  5. I’ve been reading and re-reading this article and I’d love to ask EEDAR (Electronic Entertainment Design and Research) some questions about their methodology. A question that immeditely jumps out at me, but that doesn’t seem to have been asked by the researchers, is how many of those questioned identified themselves as ‘gamers’? Metioned throughout are gamers and game-players but there is a world of difference between the 2. My parents for instance both play Words With Friends on their phones, but neither woud identify as being a gamer – yet I get the impression that EEDAR would categorise them as such. I’m not arguing that people should label themselves as gamers, or that we even need to have a label for someone who enjoys playing games, but I’m dubious about the headline statement that “59% of the American population is some kind of gamer”.

    What is heartening is that the gender divide would appear to be closing. This isn’t scientific, but even a cursory glance at Twitch will reveal that there are all sorts of women playing and streaming games there – and often making a living from it too.

    As mentioned in the article, I’ve also never heard a female voice while playing online, but to be honest I’m not surprised; it’s not a nice place to hang out. I used to be regularly subjected to all manner of verbal abuse in multiplayer games, mostly from what sounded like pre-pubescent teenagers, so have started to avoid those situations. I now always start a private chat party, even if I’m playing alone, so that I don’t have to listen to anyone else ranting at me.

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