Gaming trends for players


Girl gamers have a prominent spot in the gaming industry. Photo credit: Andrew Avilla

What does the gaming world look like to you?

The gaming landscape has experienced monumental changes in the last few years when it comes to female gamers. Where once only a select few gamers were female, the Entertainment Software Association’s 2015 publication “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry” shows that women now make up 44 percent of gamers.

Given that the ESA’s 2010 publication of the same name showed female gamers making up 40 percent of the gaming community, it appears that the number of women who play video games is on the rise in the latter half of the 2010s.

Some posit the increase of female gamers is related to an influx of games made directly for women, but, while the “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” game has experienced great success, the majority of console based video games are still created and designed for a male audience.

This may be due to a perception within the gaming community that the majority of women prefer to play games on a smartphone or tablet, conjuring the image of “Candy Crush-ing” great aunt Elma or the plethora of fashion styling tablet games saturating the marketplace.

With the idea that women are more likely to download a mobile game than head to GameStop, it’s no wonder that most console based games made for Xbox or PlayStation offer more male characters and few ubiquitous over-exaggerated female characters.

However, the 2015 Pew Research Center report “The Demographics of Device Ownership” indicates that 42 percent of women own a gaming console such as Xbox or PlayStation, compared to 37 percent of men. This begs the question: are women a silent presence in console based gaming, and if so, why?

The answer may lie in a Pew Research Center study entitled “Teens, Technology, and Friendships.” While the study is focused on teenagers in particular, the insight gleaned from young female gamers may very well be applicable to other age demographics as well.

According to the study, nine out of 10 teen boys play video games online in a network of other players, with 78 percent of those using a microphone to voice chat within the networked environment. By comparison, 52 percent of teen girls play in a networked environment, and of those, 27 percent say they play online less than once a month. Even more tellingly, just 28 percent of girls who play online use a microphone to voice chat.

This means that if 10 girls and 10 boys were playing video games, nine boys would be playing online and therefore visible to other players, and seven of those boys would be heard. On the other hand, at most five girls would be playing, but more likely just three, and of those three, only one would be using a mic.

What have been the effects of Gamergate?

It’s been two years since the infamous media maelstrom surrounding what is now known as “Gamergate.” A series of highly publicized and widely controversial incidents within the gaming community, Gamergate served as a rather unpleasant unearthing of some of the lesser discussed problems surrounding gaming, including female gamers’ place in the community and the media ethics of video game reporting.

Though some of the more negative aspects of Gamergate are still apparent, the phenomenon has also elicited rippling effects that have brought positive changes to the industry as a whole.

One such effect is a new focus on bringing women into game design and development rather than just as players. The annual D.I.C.E. summit held in Las Vegas, NV, which attracts high level video games executives from around the world, brought with it this year the announcement of the new WomenIn initiative.

Unveiled by the summit’s host, the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the WomenIn initiative will sponsor scholarships and internships, facilitate mentorships, and host events for women interested in game design and production. WomenIn serves as a concerted effort to bring more gender equality into the game design space and is in response to a 2014 International Game Developer Association (IGDA) survey which showed that only 22 percent of game designers identify as female.

Another effect has been the emergence of conversations surrounding diversity within the gaming community and the conclusion that in order to produce more diverse content, game companies need to hire more diverse content creators. During the 2015 GamesBeat Summit, IGDA executive director Kate Edwards brought up this shift in dialogue, labeling it one of the biggest and most positive impacts Gamergate has had on the industry, according to VentureBeat.

And she’s not wrong: diversity in the video game industry is sadly lacking. A 2015 self-selected survey by the IGDA showed that 76 percent of video game developers identify as white, with East Asian as the second largest category, coming in at around nine percent.

Without more diversity among video game developers, it’s difficult to create content that appeals to a diverse audience, but it doesn’t help that the monetary gain from creating diverse content still goes largely to white male developers. The publicity of Gamergate has highlighted this issue, and will hopefully go towards improving accessibility and diversity in game creation and development.

Why do you play video games?

It’s clear that a woman’s place in gaming has been solidified over the last few years, but for a hobby previously thought to be driven by violence, anti-social tendencies, or testosterone, some might wonder why. In fact, new research has changed many preconceived notions about the appeal of video games and their effects on other areas of life, such as work and personal relationships. Much of the stigma surrounding those who play video games has begun to lift.

The American Journal of Play published a summary of recent research in 2014 entitled “Video Games: Play That Can Do Serious Good,” which revealed that gaming is correlated with an increase in cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, perception, and decision- making. Action video games in particular requires the player to keep track of many things at once and to be highly responsive to events occurring in the player’s peripheral vision. These skill-sets translate to higher levels of perception and cognition even after the player stops playing the game.

Further research, as published by the University College of London in “Switch on to games: can video games aid post work recovery?” indicates that there is a parallel between the number of hours a person spends playing video games per week and their recovery from work related stress. Both men and women who play video games have been shown to be less hostile during stressful tasks, and have lower rates of depression. This is related to an overall stronger ability to handle stress.

For many women juggling careers and personal lives, video games can provide underlying improvements in work performance and stress management. Furthermore, video games can also provide a welcome respite from work and personal stressors, offering a virtual world to escape into.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of video gaming for many women and men is the opportunity to exercise brainpower in unique and multidimensional ways. Using creativity and perseverance to finally complete a difficult level brings with it the satisfaction of problem solving, and even more than that, solving a problem that is actually solvable. Unlike some of the more complicated and sometimes unfixable problems that people experience in their daily lives, video games do have a solution, if enough time and effort is exerted.



Pew Research Center “Demographics of Device Ownership”

Pew Research Center “Teens, Technology, and Friendship”

Entertainment Software Association 2010 “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

Entertainment Software Association 2015 “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry

2014 International Game Developer Association “Game Developers at a Glance”


IGDA 2015 Self Selected Survey

Switch on to games: can video games aid post work recovery?”