“The typical gamer.” What comes to mind? Perhaps South Park’s obese, pimple-faced WoW players. Maybe a thirty-something year old living in his parents’ basement. Teenage boys playing for hours after school. All of these stereotypes have one thing in common – men. You may be thinking, “Well duh, girls don’t really play video games. That’s why I always triple check when I hear a girl’s voice on Xbox Live or Vent.”
So check out these statistics – according to the report “Games and Girls: Video Gaming’s Ignored Audience,” a whopping 44% of female players prefer genres other than casual, exercise, or music. 42% of American gamers are women, with adult women accounting for a significantly greater percent of the market than boys 17 and younger.
Okay, so the States apparently have plenty of female gamers, but what about Europe? In the UK, 68% of men and 59% of women play games, in Germany 63% of men and 54% of women play games, and in France 61% of men and 52% of women play games.
So what happened to the stereotype shown in TV shows and movies? What happened to all the fat men living in their parents’ basements? Rest assured, they are still there, in some cases seemingly trying to drive female gamers away – There are plenty of blogs and web articles where female gamers write about the annoying questions and comments they receive from male gamers, comments like “go make me a sandwich” and “are you playing on your brother’s/boyfriend’s account?” Attempts to create women-only groups in MMO’s go awry with sexual harassment, generally resulting in females being advised not to disclose their gender. (MMO male gamer harassment really becomes a similar experience to the annoying guy at the club who doesn’t get the hint that you’re only interested in dancing, not handing out your phone number.)
If there are so many female gamers, why don’t we hear about them? While women are playing the same games as men, the entertainment industry apparently sees young girls as more lucrative. Therefore, they rampantly market Barbie and horse games to girls but largely ignore the widespread adult women gaming market (apart from social games). “Video games for girls” right now means lipstick, purses, and ponies. “Little girls found themselves in a ghettoized culture that no self-respecting boy would take an interest in.” So what is left when these girls outgrow their overly pink games? Preteen girls are marketed games about self-confidence (ex. Let’s Talk About ME!) but beyond that?
Let’s type “video games for women” into Google and see what comes up…would you look at that…a host of websites questioning what kinds of games women want and websites for female gamers. Type “video games for men” into Google, and you get lists of top video games (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil), a hands-free video game system for urinals, and how violent video games alter brain function. Basically, people still have no idea what female gamers want, so they are subsequently ignored by game developers and marketing campaigns. Women gamers are seen as the social gamers, laying claim to the Wii Fit, Facebook games, and possibly the DS despite the rise of women gamers in other genres.
Even with the statistics clearly showing the overwhelming number of female gamers who prefer games other than casual, exercise, or music, video games are still developed and marketed primarily to men. What will it take for females to be marketed games beyond Barbie, pre-teen/teenage self-confidence, and the Wii Fit? Female gamers need an increase in the number of women game developers. The industry is currently dominated by men, men who don’t see a need to develop games for or market to women gamers. Despite the industry’s blatant disregard for adult women gamers, it is still one of the largest market segments and therefore can’t be ignored forever if game developers want to exploit it to increase revenue.
As more women become video game developers or create their own video game studios by women for women, female gamers may finally be recognized as a very real and influential segment within gaming. Among Kotaku’s list of “The Ten Most Influential Women in Games of the Past Decade,” is Kim Swift – lead developer for Portal, Jade Raymond – producer of Assassin’s Creed, and Corrinne Yu – Principal Engine Architect for Halo. Women are only starting to make strides on the professional side of gaming. While it may be decades before significant change is implemented, women will of course continue to enjoy games developed for men and marketed to male gamers.
KitGuru says: What is the future for gaming markets? Will games continue to be marketed solely to men as the stereotype remains that of the pale, obese men and scrawny, teenage boys, or will the 44% of female gamers who enjoy genres other than casual, exercise, or music also be recognized? Only time will tell.