Speak the word ‘gamer’ in polite company, and a whole range of stereotypes might spring to mind. Gaming is often seen as dominated by men. But does reality bear out the stereotype? The answer, in recent times, is increasingly: no (although the picture is a complicated one).
According to Google and their partners, women account for around two out of every five gamers. Other research indicates that women tend to prefer different genres, on the whole, than men. Farming and family-related mobile games, casual puzzle games, and narrative-based experiences are being played by women; sports games, fps games, and racers are not.
Still, it seems undeniable that the market on the whole is looking to cater to women and their disposable income. So, what’s helping to push women into gaming?
Streaming platforms like Twitch offer women a means of getting their faces out into the public realm. Greater visibility for women means that more women can envision themselves as gamers, and thus feel more comfortable buying and playing games.
A greater proportion of games than ever have a female character in a prominent role. In fact, it seems almost unthinkable to imagine a modern game being released without any women in it.
Mass Effect pioneered the use of both male and female fully-voiced protagonists, and this tradition is being carried on into the modern age by games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Hogwarts Legacy for PS5.
Women tend to be a little better at creating products that other women might want to buy. This applies to publishing, art, music, and in gaming, too. Developers who include women throughout the team are likely to create games that appeal to women.
What’s more, many of the women who play the games in question might be emboldened to investigate who is doing the work behind the scenes, and perhaps enter the industry themselves.
Gaming doesn’t just provide an opportunity to rack up high scores and dispatch Bowser; it can also offer a virtual social space. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it might have been among the only places for this.
Online communities, and MMOs like World of Warcraft, provide a fairly non-toxic space for women to interact and to share their experiences with one another – while having fun at the same time, obviously.
It seems likely that demographic trends will help to make gaming more women-oriented in the years to come. What this might mean for the games themselves is anyone’s guess!