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Who Says Girls Can’t Game?

There’s a perception out there that gaming is meant for guys: little boys trying Mario for the first time, teenagers battling each other with communication headsets on first-person shooters, unemployed 30-year-old man-boys living digital second lives in their mothers’ basements… right down to the Frank Underwoods of the world turning out the lights and firing up the consoles for some stress relief. Indeed, at just about every level and with most any kind of game, the industry is portrayed as a man’s world. But the truth is, it’s not a man’s world—not even close.

Gamer girls out there will be fully aware that ladies have become more involved in the video game world over the course of the last decade. It’s not just because we’re all downloading Candy Crush Saga or testing our digital creativity building little worlds in Minecraft. We’ll jump right into shooters, MMORPGs, open-world adventures, and even categories like console sports games or online poker rooms (both of which seem to be thought of even more as guy-specific). But don’t take my word (or your own experience) for it: The numbers tellthe whole story when it comes to girls in gaming.

According to a number of different reports out there, women are not just more prominent than we used to be in gaming—we’ve taken over completely. The Daily Dot probably put it best, starting off an article with “Congratulations, gamer girls—you’re officially at the top of the food chain when it comes to games.” The piece cites a significant study that found 36% of all gamers to be adult women (with adult men just behind at 35%). The study also addresses the stereotypes I alluded to previously about women primarily being drawn to “social” and mobile games. Basically, the numbers show that gamer girls have been rising steadily in number since long before the smartphone and social networking booms popularized these sorts of games.

Girl Gamer numbers continue to rise.
Girl Gamer numbers continue to rise.

That said, there is some suggestion that enhanced social components to the gaming industry as a whole (not just games whose high scores you can post on Facebook) has helped to attract women. It’s pretty much understood that women are frequently drawn to these sorts of games, but just what constitutes a “social” game is changing. A Big Fish Games report on 2014 gaming statistics declared emphatically that mobile and social games will become more and more popular, and that the future of gaming will involve more multiplayer options. We’re already seeing the shift in plenty of established gaming genres.

The Betfair Poker platform, for example, now offers what amounts to a chat room environment attached to its poker games, turning ordinary online poker environments into active communities. While playing poker in these environments, users can link up with friends or engage with strangers as they please. Similarly, a number of popular console games have significantly enhanced their multiplayer and social options. Just recently, Far Cry 4 earned rave reviews for its co-op mode that basically lets friends play every part of the game together (rather than being shoved into a half-assed multiplayer side platform). Changes like these are simply making gaming more appealing to a wider demographic that consists largely of women.

Given all of the data and trends, the exciting thing will be seeing if the rise in female gamers continues in the coming years. A CNN article last year summed things up pretty nicely. Some women are drawn to shooters and adventure games due to increased focus on plot (as opposed to brute force); others are drawn to the aforementioned social revolution in gaming; and some are supportive of a growing trend of female protagonists within games. The article even noted the general shift in gaming as something that’s become more socially acceptable in recent years (largely due to more gamers playing with friends and family, as opposed to alone). Frankly, none of these trends seems likely to die out any time soon!

So, while there are still stereotypes labeling gaming as a guy’s hobby, remember this gamer girls: it’s your world now.

This is a guest post by Jan Alger. When she’s not writing about video games on the web, you can find her looking for a new bike-friendly journey through the more rural parts of New York.

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