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become a daily occurrence, this is somewhat excusable, however these results prove it has become an invalidated and outdated argument.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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matthew.silva.7399
17 Sep 2014, 5:18 p.m.

First of all, you're using numbers about female gamers soon to be a majority falsely. Games like farmville and candy crush are not games like the Last of Us or Bioshock.

Second you're blatantly showing that #gamergate is needed. Your article is the same leftist biased article on how male gamers are evil women haters while all the Zoe Quinns who sleep with game reviewers are people our kids should grow up like. Your articles just like the 15 other copied ones this week show the media is on damage control.

And you're losing.

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Ryan
18 Sep 2014, 10:15 a.m.

One of the alleged issues is that women feel they must play these smaller free-to-play titles because they don't feel welcome playing games such as the Last of Us and Bioshock. I'm not a woman, and so I'm not qualified to speak about how they should and shouldn't feel.

Personally I've never witnessed anyone being harassed, and in my groups female gamers are treated as just another player, but it's undeniable that people (both male and female) have been threatened out of their homes; which is something that as a human-being I am qualified to say should never happen.

I've not expressed any opinion here about Zoe Quinn because I don't know her to criticise or support her motives. I'd rather discuss things which I feel we can change. Who people sleep with is their own business, it's happened in every industry throughout history, and I don't think anything we post on the internet can change that.

What I do believe is that we can promote and continue to make women feel more welcome in the kind of games which you and I both enjoy; I'm just reporting that this change has begun and we can all co-exist.

Hope this clears some things up.

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Kav-P
18 Sep 2014, 2:28 a.m.

What a surprise! The only comment on this article talking about the shift in gaming demographics - something that the pre-Gamer Gate "gamers are dead" articles were referring to - is one that completely undermines the movement. If Gamer Gate people want to insist that it didn't start over the sex life of an indie game developer, or that the cause has moved on from it, they really need to stop mentioning her name and her sex life in their comments ostensibly deriding the quality of the article.

Seriously. I have problems with games journalism myself, but I don't really think the choice to attack individual indie developers instead of the big fish companies and their propaganda-laden reviews which are allegedly the REAL problem is giving the movement credibility. Furthermore, I have yet to see compelling evidence to take Gamer Gate seriously. And a word to the wise: anecdotal evidence, Youtube videos and blog posts are NOT compelling evidence. ;)

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Ryan
18 Sep 2014, 10:17 a.m.

Thank you for your comment.

- Ry

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