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+.