Women and gaming: are you part of the 52%?

What springs to mind when you hear the word ‘gamer’? Many might think of quintessential gamers as teenage boys crouched over computer screens, however, with a recent study finding that 52% of gamers are women, this stereotype has just been proved wrong. Does this statistic sound surprising? You’re not alone. Unbeknown to most, women are in fact taking gaming by storm.

If we forget the stereotypes, ‘gaming’ can refer to a wealth of different genres and forms of game, occupying everywhere from our living rooms to our back pockets. Whilst the male-orientated Grand Theft Auto V (most likely a favorite of our teenage gamer) is the biggest selling video game in the UK, and sold 70 millions units worldwide, it is no match for the massive sales of mobile phone games. The world famous classic, Tetris, has 425 million paid downloads (for some perspective, 300 million of those were sold in the past 4 years, a timeframe comparable to Grand Theft Auto V, which was first released in 2013), and has inspired a plethora of similar puzzle games. The mobile gaming industry increased by 21.2% in 2014, and continues to be one of the most rapidly growing gaming sectors, alongside other areas such as online gaming sites, which have consistently grown by over 10% annually over the past 3 years.

It is the ever-growing presence of mobile phones which has led to another massive factor affecting our gaming habits: the rise of social media. Our constant need to be connected means that we are more glued to our nearest internet connection than ever, and this especially applies to women, as we reportedly spend 30% more of our time on social media than men. It is no surprise, then, that the online gaming market is growing at an impressive rate. The market volume of online gaming was forecasted to reach $56.05 billion in 2018, more than doubling since 2009, with the UK spending a whopping £329 million on online poker alone in 2013. The popularity of these websites, especially amongst women, comes as no surprise. Their accessibility makes a quick game of roulette as convenient as checking Facebook, and the use of virtual currency removes any need to travel round with cash, a winning combination. Now, with women now making up half of online gamblers, the industry is increasingly tailoring itself to the female demographic. Gaming sites such as 32Red are using their entertaining online presence alongside their huge range of casino games to appeal to the social-media savvy, whilst the likes of PinkCasino and 888ladies offer specifically female-orientated gaming experiences. There is some serious girl power to be tapped into here: The female audience is key for gaming sites to stay competitive, and the industry knows it.

It seems significant to consider the lack of gender bias in online casino games and many mobile apps in the context of the wider world of gaming. In an industry which has been so often associated with men, games such as slots, roulette, and mobile puzzle games (the popularity of Candy Crush being a great example) is highly appealing: to play as yourself rather than on behalf of an oftentimes male-

orientated fictional character (as the industry has seen as the norm in previous years) means that gaming is becoming more accessible for everyone. It is no coincidence that the rise of the female audience has coincided with the growth of social media and our obsession with smart phones. Not only has our perception of the typical ‘gamer’ undergone a massive shift in gender, but the way that we play games has also seen great change, from being once static to now permanently on the move. The fact that we now carry mobile apps and online gaming sites around in our pocket also marks a shift in the kind of games we play. There seems to be a move in focus towards games which give something back, be it some brain training or a well-deserved cash win. With our world becoming more fast-paced than ever, the ability to have a quick game whilst on the bus or with a coffee, with no time commitment needed, is a much welcome respite from our busy everyday lives.

It’s fantastic that the gaming industry is developing in such positive ways, and, although there is still progress to be made with women only making up 12% of the game development force in the UK, this figure is on the rise. It seems about time that the gaming industry stood up and took notice of women gamers, and now, in 2017, it seems that they really are. With increasingly more women taking their place as both producers and consumers, the future of gaming is bright: If you’re not one of the 52% already, what are you waiting for?