the myth that women don’t play games

What do you think game designers can be thinking?

Let’s design our games assuming no women will play. Let’s market games by using booth babes at conventions or employing girl gamers as “totty with trigger” (you’d think it was a parody but it ain’t) and oh, we’ll run ads showing dead, naked women even when the games themselves have no naked women in them. A focus group? Oh great, but remember to ban women from the focus group, because they’re women and therefore not interesting. (Fortunately, several of the men in that particular focus group spoke on behalf of their girlfriends who are also gamers.) And how about the media? When Wired does a special issue on gaming, they leave out the women – oh, except for that risquÈ sex game with the dildos. We’ll include that. (I hadn’t realised Wired was a men’s magazine. It’s my favourite to buy on flights and so on – far more interesting than Cosmopolitan or something, and more, um, relaxing than the more intellectual alternatives.)

Let’s look at the facts. Apparently 24-35 year olds are the heaviest gamers. According to a recent survey, 65% of women in this age bracket play games. Only 35% of men in the age bracket do. The survey found that women play “slightly less” console games than men and that many more women play casual games, like flash games in web browsers, solitaire or online Scrabble. They didn’t think to ask the women why they liked casual games, but assume that it’s because they’re non-violent and non-cometitive (they can’t have played many games at games.com). Great. Let’s just assume gender stereotypes instead of asking.

Interestingly, Nick Yee’s statistics from MMOGs show the same trend: while boys are clearly dominant among teenaged players, women players outnumber men for players above 23 years of age:

gender distribution among MMOG players
[edit 22/5: see Torill’s comment below, this stat doesn’t quite prove that]

So let’s see: despite the game industry marketing games almost exclusively for young men, almost twice as many women as men play games in the biggest market segment, based on age. Many of these games are casual, but even for console games, only “slightly less” women than men play. More women than men over 23 play MMOGs.

And yet the game industry continues to market and design games almost exclusively to that slim market of teenaged horny boys.

And I continue to get stupid comments from male players in WoW – “wow, I didn’t think women played games!” (Doubly idiotic since they can only see my female character and not me.)

11. May 2006 by Jill
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