For years, the gaming market was directed at men, but it has become apparent that almost 50 per cent of the gamers worldwide are women. Women drive some of the most popular game growth in recent years on MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, or casual games like Farmville, and Candy Crush.
The rise of female gamblers has also become apparent with more females playing online casino games such as slots, blackjack, and roulette. It has been suggested the reason for this change is casino games transitioning online meaning females can play privately on a device rather than feeling uncomfortable at a land-based casino. This is also the same with generic gaming and the accessibility females have with their mobile phones and mobile gaming.
Females were relegated to the margins of console gaming in the early stages. Samus Aran, a space crusader with a helmet from the 1986 game Metroid, was referenced as “he” in the promotional material. If you beat the game in under five hours, Samus will expose her long blonde hair beneath her helmet—not the best start. In The Walking Dead: Season Two (2013), Clementine, the primary character’s kid companion, takes center stage, wreaking havoc on the zombie attack with her intelligence, sophistication, and combat skills.
The change has been slow and steady, and much of the reason is that gaming is now even more accessible than ever before. In the early days, gaming was done via consoles or a PC rig. However, now games can be played on almost every device: tablets, smartphones, handheld consoles, traditional consoles, and PC.
Why Do Women Play Games?
You might think that the answer is obvious – for enjoyment! But actually, there have been studies done into why women play games and are there is a difference in how many play. Gaming has traditionally been enjoyed by men and marketed to men, and you only need to look at games like Lara Croft: Tombraider to see that in action. Modern Lara is still attractive, but this is no longer a need for female heroes. While female characters for little girl gamers have long existed, more females have appeared as characters in big mainstream games in recent years.
Research looking into the female role in gaming shows that women makeup around 50 per cent of gamers and make up the majority of casual gamers, too. Casual gamers tend to play games, but they don’t spend a significant amount of time playing them. They play irregular sessions and are often not committed to playing the game at a high level. This goes some way to explaining why many of the highest performing league teams are often only men. However, there are outstanding women in eSports like Sasha Hostyn, who has 178 tournaments in her portfolio.
The reasons women play games change from demographic to demographic. For example, French Female gamers tended to play games that challenged them, while French men wanted to play games to reduce their stress levels. While American female gamers often play games for social reasons and achievement purposes—the same as Taiwanese female gamers. The male population is often encouraged to play games early, whereas the female population often discovers gaming by other means.
How Often Do Women Play Computer Games?
USA Today reported that there were more women playing video games than teenaged boys in 2019. By definition, a gamer plays a game for at least one hour a week, but typically gamers play for many more hours. The gaming industry is looking at ways to diversify the available games types and provide safe spaces for women to play.
Recent statistics have shown that in the US in 2019, female gamers spent just 1.51 hours a day playing, while male gamers spent 2.88 hours playing on weekdays. However there was an increase for both at the weekends, men reached 3.05 hours and women got 1.69 hours. According to a NewZoo study, 65 per cent of females between the ages of 10 and 65 engage in mobile gaming activities.
Are There Enough “Games For Women”?
There is a distinct lack of female protagonists in mainstream games, and when there are female characters, they are usually designed to be sexualized. In 2019, WIRED posted an article that outlines the issue of underrepresentation. It stated that most female characters are hypersexualized and objectified—meaning that they were either a love interest, completely innocent, or in need of rescue. WIRED stated that there were only 5 per cent of games released had a female protagonist in the spotlight.
It doesn’t seem to have hampered the growth of females in gaming, but it could be a change that sees a further increase in the number of women who game. In 2020 though, there was a notable rise in the games with a female in the lead; it rose to 18 per cent. It is too early to know if 2020 was an anomaly based on pressure from the fans to produce games for females—or it will be the norm as we move forward.
Ideally, a complete disregard for all genre stereotyping will come into play and put the idea antiquated idea of games for boys and girls out of the window. Until such a point, the Feminist Frequency highlights and studies tropes; they challenge sexism in gaming and track the progress made for female gamers.
The Future For Female Gamers
Women have continued to game regardless of the fact the industry has been slow to make significant changes in their marketing and available storylines. It’s not just the games that need to change, the industry as a whole has been very male-focused, but there has been an increase in female game devs, diversity in the board, and C-suite. There is a global and county-based initiative like #RaisetheGame, encouraging diverse working environments and workforces in the gaming sector.
There is no doubt that the statistics have women in the driver’s seat for mobile gaming. As such, corporations who pay little attention to this massive market will be destined to lose out on the rewards—not only in terms of revenue but also in terms of the value of supporting and uplifting a community of gaming women. Women are shaping and enjoying the game industry’s future.