Culture-shift: Rise of the female gamer
The culture of games being associated with young, male, teenage gamers has been shifting. In fact, for the first time, female gamers now outnumber males according to a major study carried out by an independent research agency.
Populus' study was conducted on behalf of the Internet Advertising Bureau and found that 52% of people who have played some form of video game in the last six months were female, up from 49% three years ago, and pushing women players into the majority.
"GamerGate" was a recent debate which highlighted the lack of female protagonists in games. One of the main arguments from game developers is the requirement to cater games to their main audience in order to sell copies. In an industry where news of studio closures have become a daily occurrence, this is somewhat excusable, however these results prove it has become an invalidated and outdated argument.
Free mobile games are responsible for driving this growth; with six in ten games acquired in the last six months being free. "Gender stereotypes say women don't play video games, so mobiles allow them to do so on the quiet." commented psychologist Dr Simon Hampton.
It's interesting that Hampton highlights an issue where culture has - at least historically - made women who play games feel somewhat ashamed. We can hope this study and the rise of the female gamer marks the start of a culture-shift from both a game development and a player perspective where everyone feels included.
But it must be stressed that game developers shouldn't feel pressured to add in female characters or otherwise adapt their game if it doesn't fit their vision. Games are a digital art form, and whether you like an individual title or not, they represent a form of expression. We can only hope as a result of this study that more game developers will be even more considerate of their growing female audience, and as a side effect, it may reduce game development itself from being such a male-dominated industry through inspiring female gamers to become developers.
Another big takeaway from a development perspective is of the impact which mobile games have had. The free-to-play model, in particular, seems to have introduced whole new players to the world of gaming who would otherwise have missed out. That's something to think about.
Should game developers re-consider their audience based on this study? Let us know in the comments.
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