Women and video games

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Women playing The House of the Dead III in an amusement arcade in Japan, 2005. Girls playing video games in Japan.jpg
Women playing The House of the Dead III in an amusement arcade in Japan, 2005.

The relationship between women and video games has received extensive academic, corporate, and social attention. Since the 1990s, [1] female gamers have commonly been regarded as a minority, but industry surveys have shown that in time the gender ratio has become closer to equal, and since the 2010s, women have been found to make up about half of all gamers. Sexism in video gaming, including sexual harassment, as well as underrepresentation of women as characters in games, is an increasing topic of discussion in video game culture.

Gamer person who plays video games

A gamer is a person who plays interactive games, especially video games, tabletop role-playing games, and skill-based card games, and who plays for usually long periods of time. In some countries, such as the UK and Australia, the term "gaming" can also refer to legalized gambling, which can take both traditional tabletop and digital forms. There are many different gamer communities around the world. Since the advent of the Internet, many communities take the form of Internet forums or YouTube or Twitch virtual communities, as well as in-person social clubs.

Sexism in video gaming Gender-based prejudice or discrimination related to video games

Sexism in video gaming is prejudiced behavior or discrimination based on sex or gender as experienced by people who play and create video games, primarily women. This may manifest as sexual harassment or in the way genders are represented in games, such as when characters are presented according to gender-related tropes and stereotypes.

Sexual harassment includes a range of actions from mild transgressions to sexual abuse or assault. Harassment can occur in many different social settings such as the workplace, the home, school, churches, etc. Harassers or victims may be of any gender.


Advocates for increasing the number of female gamers stress the problems attending disenfranchisement of women from one of the fastest-growing cultural realms as well as the largely untapped nature of the female gamer market. Efforts to include greater female participation in the medium have addressed the problems of gendered advertising, social stereotyping, and the lack of female video game creators (coders, developers, producers, etc.). The term "girl gamer" has been used as a reappropriated term for female players to describe themselves, but it has also been criticized as counterproductive or offensive.

A video game developer is a software developer that specializes in video game development – the process and related disciplines of creating video games. A game developer can range from one person who undertakes all tasks to a large business with employee responsibilities split between individual disciplines, such as programming, design, art, testing, etc. Most game development companies have video game publisher financial and usually marketing support. Self-funded developers are known as independent or indie developers and usually make indie games.

Linguistic reappropriation,reclamation or resignification is the cultural process by which a group reclaims words or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group. It is a specific form of a semantic change. Linguistic reclamation can have wider implications in the fields of discourse and has been described in terms of personal or sociopolitical empowerment.

Demographics of female players

Female participation in gaming is increasing. According to a Entertainment Software Association survey, women players in the United States increased from 40% in 2010 to 48% in 2014. [2] [3] Today, despite the dominant perception that most gamers are men, [4] the ratio of female to male gamers is balanced, mirroring the population at large. [5]

Entertainment Software Association

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is the trade association of the video game industry in the United States. It was formed in April 1994 as the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) and renamed on July 21, 2003. It is based in Washington, D.C. Most of the top publishers in the gaming world are members of the ESA, including Capcom, Electronic Arts, Konami, Microsoft, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Square Enix, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

Human sex ratio Ratio of males to females in a population

In anthropology and demography, the human sex ratio is the ratio of males to females in a population. More data are available for humans than for any other species, and the human sex ratio is more studied than that of any other species, but interpreting these statistics can be difficult.

In 2008, a Pew Internet & American Life Project study found that among teens, 65% of men and 35% of women describe themselves as daily gamers. This trend was found to be stronger the younger the age group. [6] The study found that while adult men are significantly more likely to play console games than adult women, on other platforms they are equally likely to play. [7] But even in this area, the numbers are moving towards equality: in 2013, Nintendo reported that half of its users were women, [8] and in 2015 another Pew study found that more American women (42%) than men (37%) owned video game consoles. [9] In 2013, Variety reported that female participation increased with age (61% of women and 57% of men aged 45 to 64 played games). [10]

A console game is a form of interactive multimedia entertainment, consisting of manipulable images generated by a video game console and displayed on a television or similar audio-video system. The game itself is usually controlled and manipulated using a handheld device connected to the console, called a controller. The controller generally contains a number of buttons and directional controls such as analogue joysticks, each of which has been assigned a purpose for interacting with and controlling the images on the screen. The display, speakers, console, and controls of a console can also be incorporated into one small object known as a handheld game.

Nintendo Japanese video game company

Nintendo Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. Nintendo is one of the world's largest video game companies by market capitalization, creating some of the best-known and top-selling video game franchises, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon.

<i>Variety</i> (magazine) American weekly entertainment trade magazine owned by Penske Media Corporation

Variety is an American media company owned by Penske Media Corporation. It was founded by Sime Silverman in New York in 1905 as a weekly newspaper reporting on theater and vaudeville. In 1933 it added Daily Variety, based in Los Angeles, to cover the motion-picture industry. Variety.com features breaking entertainment news, reviews, box office results, cover stories, videos, photo galleries and more, plus a credits database, production charts and calendar, with archive content dating back to 1905.

A mid-2015 survey reported by UKIE indicates that 42% of UK gamers are female. [11]

Data collection

In North America, national demographic surveys have been conducted yearly by the U.S. Entertainment Software Association (ESA) [lower-alpha 1] since at least 1997, and the Canadian Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC) since 2006. Other organizations including the Australian/New-Zealander Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) since 2005 collect and publish demographic data on their constituent populations on a semi-regular basis. In Europe, the regional Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) and numerous smaller national groups like the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA), the Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers (NVPI), and the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) have also begun to collect data on female video gamers since 2012. One-off market research studies and culture surveys have been produced by a wide variety of other sources including some segments of the gaming press and other culture writers since the 1980s as well.

Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC) is a not for profit trade association serving the business and public affairs needs of companies in Canada that develop, publish and distribute computer and video games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers and the Internet. ESAC's services include, business and consumer research, government relations, and media relations. The ESAC's members include Canada's leading interactive entertainment software developers, publishers and distributors. In 2013, the Canadian entertainment software industry included 329 firms and provided 16,500 direct jobs and thousands more in related fields across the country.

The Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) is an independent federation, representing the interests of the interactive software sector in Europe to the main stakeholders: EU institutions, international organisations, academics, or the general public. This objective is pursued through a variety of actions, such as meetings, conferences, sponsorships and informational actions aimed towards the public.

Belgian Entertainment Association organization

The Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA) is the organization that represents the interests of the music, video and video game industries in Belgium. It was founded in February 2008, when three organizations merged, namely IFPI Belgium, the local chapter of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represented the music industry, the Belgian Video Federation, which represented the video industry, and the Belgian Luxembourg Interactive Software Association, which represented the video game industry. BEA is listed as the local record industry association in Belgium by the IFPI.

Not only has the general female gaming population been tracked, but the spread of this population has been tracked over many facets of gaming. For more than 10 years, groups like the ESA and ESAC have gathered data on the gender of video game purchasers, the percentage of women gamers within certain age brackets, and the average number of years women gamers have been gaming. The ESAC in particular has gone into great depth reporting age-related segmentation of the market between both male and female gamers. Other statistics have been collected from time to time on a wide variety of facets influencing the video game market.

Survey data

ESAC-reported Canadian female to male gamer ratios
(Note: Y-axis corresponds to the percentage of women gamers.)
Women and video games
IDSA/ESA-reported USA female to male gamer ratios per platform
(Note: Y-axis corresponds to the percentage of women gamers.)
Women and video games
International comparison of gamer gender ratios
Region/CountryStudy2012 Ratio
(female to male)
2013 Ratio
(female to male)
2016 Ratio
(female to male)
AustraliaIGEA47 : 53 [47] Not available47 : 53 [48]
CanadaESAC46 : 54 [18] 46 : 54 [19] 49 : 51 [49]
China 17173  [ zh ]Not available27 : 73 [50] Not available
Japan17173Not available66 : 34 [50] Not available
Korea17173Not available37 : 63 [50] Not available
New ZealandIGEA46 : 54 [51] Not available46 : 54 [52]
USAESA47 : 53 [34] 45 : 55 [35] 41 : 59 [53]
EuropeISFE45 : 55 [54] Not availableNot available
AustriaISFE44 : 56 [54] Not availableNot available
BelgiumISFE46 : 54 [54] Not availableNot available
Czech RepublicISFE44 : 56 [54] Not availableNot available
DenmarkISFE42 : 58 [54] Not availableNot available
FinlandISFE49 : 51 [54] Not availableNot available
FranceISFE47 : 53 [54] Not available52 : 48 [55]
GermanyISFE44 : 56 [54] Not available49 : 51 [55]
Great BritainISFE46 : 54 [54] Not available42 : 58 [55]
ItalyISFE48 : 52 [54] Not availableNot available
NetherlandsISFE46 : 54 [54] Not availableNot available
NorwayISFE46 : 54 [54] Not availableNot available
PolandISFE44 : 56 [54] Not availableNot available
PortugalISFE43 : 57 [54] Not availableNot available
SpainISFE44 : 56 [54] Not available45 : 55 [55]
SwedenISFE47 : 53 [54] Not availableNot available
SwitzerlandISFE44 : 56 [54] Not availableNot available

Historical prevalence

Self-identification as gamers

While 48% of women in the United States report having played a video game, only 6% identify as gamers, compared to 15% of men who identify as gamers. [4] This rises to 9% among women aged 18–29, compared to 33% of men in that age group. Half of female PC gamers in the U.S. consider themselves to be core or hardcore gamers. [70] [71] In 2012, an EEDAR survey found that nearly 60 percent of female gamers played on mobile devices and that 63 percent of these female mobile gamers played online multiplayer mobile games. [72]

Connotations of "gamer" with sexism on the fringe of gaming culture has caused women to be less willing to adopt the label. [73] "Girl gamers" or "gamer girls" is a label for women who regularly play games. While some critics have advocated use of the label as a reappropriated term, [74] others have described the term as unhelpful, [75] [76] offensive, and even harmful or misleading. The word "girl", for example, has been seen as an inherently age-linked term that glosses over the difference between women over 30 and younger women. [77] The term "girl gamer" rather than simply "gamer" has also been described as perpetuating the minority position of female gamers. [74] For many critics uncomfortable with the term "girl gamer", its over-embracement may lead to the perpetuation of negative stereotypes [74] of female gamers as oversexualized, casual, and sometimes defiant or confrontational. [78] [79] This in turn can result in poor game design. [77] These critics submit that there is no single definition of a female gamer, and that women gamers are as diverse as any other group of people. [80]

A lack of role models for female gamers [81] contributes to a feeling that they should edit their femininity in order to maintain credibility as a gamer, and that they must fit into the caricatured role of the "girl gamer" in order to be accepted. [74] Negative stereotyping of female video game players as "girl gamers" quite often comes from male gamers who have themselves been negatively stereotyped by the broader society. [74] Social stigma against games has influenced some women to distance themselves from the term "gamer", even though they may play regularly. [82] [83] [84] [85] Parental influence has been theorized to perpetuate some of the stereotypes that female gamers face as boys are bought gifts like Xboxes while girls are bought girl-focused games like Barbie or educational games. [82]

Controversially, some[ which? ] critics have suggested that the term "gamer" is endemic to the stereotypical male audience and has become outmoded by the industry's changing demographics. [85] [86]

Genre preferences

There are differences between the video game genres preferred, on average, by women and men. A 2017 report by the video game analytics company Quantic Foundry, based on surveys of about 270,000 gamers, found varying proportions of male and female players within different game genres. The study didn't attribute the cause of differences in percentages to gender alone, stating a correlation between games less played by women and features that discourage women, such as a lack of female protagonists, required communication with strangers online, or tendency to cause motion sickness. [87] The study also mentioned that, within the same genre, some specific games show a noticeably higher or lower percentage of women than other similar titles.

The study reported the following proportions of gamers within a genre are women or men:

GenreWomenMenOutlier games within the genre
Match-3 69%31%
Family or farming simulator 69%31%
Casual puzzle 42%58%
Atmospheric exploration 41%59%
Interactive drama 37%63%
High fantasy MMO 36%64%
Japanese RPG 33%66%
Western RPG 26%74% Dragon Age: Inquisition (48% women)
Survival roguelike 25%75%
Platformer 25%75%
City-building 22%78%
Action RPG 20%80%
Sandbox 18%82%
Action-adventure 18%82%
Sci-fi MMO16%84% Star Wars: The Old Republic (29% women)
Open world 14%86% Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (27% women)
Turn-based strategy 11%89%
MOBA 10%90%
Grand strategy 7%93%
First-person shooter 7%93%
Racing 6%94%
Tactical shooter 4%96%
Sports 2%98%

While male audiences prefer fast-paced explosive action and combat, [76] women tend to prefer in-game communication [77] and interpersonal relationships (character development and plot dynamics). [76] Women have also been shown to prefer role-playing video games to first-person shooters, [76] and Thomas W. Malone of Stanford University found that girls preferred to play a Hangman video game over a darts simulation that boys enjoyed. [88]

In-game activities may also differ between the sexes in games with less linear plots such as the Grand Theft Auto series. Women are often characterized as preferring story-driven games or constructive games like The Sims or Civilization , but this is not universally true. [80] In 2013, Variety reported that thirty percent of women were playing more violent games. Of this 30%, 20% played Call of Duty and 15% played Grand Theft Auto . [10] There has been persistent female interest in action-adventure games and MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Second Life . [77] Compared to men, female MMORPG players tend to place more emphasis on socialization relative to achievement-oriented play. This emphasis on socialization extends beyond just the game itself: In a study published in the Journal of Communication in 2009, researchers found that 61% of female MMORPG players played with a romantic partner, compared to 24% of men. [89]

According to data collected by Quantic Foundry in 2016, the primary motivations why people play video games differ, on average, by gender. While men frequently want most to compete with others and destroy things, women often want most to complete challenges and immerse themselves in other worlds: [90]

Primary motivationDescriptionWomenMen
CompletionFinishing everything, finding all collectibles and locations17%10%
FantasyImmersion in and exploring other worlds16%09%
DesignExpressing themselves, building or customizing things15%06%
CommunitySocializing and collaborating with others10%09%
StoryElaborate narrative, well-developed characters09%06%
DestructionBlowing things up, creating chaos08%12%
DiscoveryAsking "what if?", looking for novel outcomes07%06%
CompetitionCompeting with other players05%14%
StrategyDecision-making and planning, balancing resources and goals05%08%
PowerMaximizing power in the game, obtaining the best items04%06%
ExcitementAction, thrills, fast-paced gameplay03%06%
ChallengeExercising personal skill and ability, requiring practice03%07%

While video games and advertising were initially gender-neutral, advertising began to narrow its focus to young boys as a target market following the video game crash of 1983. [1] [83] [91] Although commercial hits such as Myst and The Sims appealed to women, these were nonetheless seen by some as being outside the gaming mainstream. Critic Ian Bogost opined, "We're looking at where there isn't diversity and we're saying those games are the most valid games." [1] Industry studies on the lack of women in gaming have also suffered at times from biases of interpretation. Kevin Kelly of Joystiq has suggested that a high degree of circular reasoning is evident when male developers use focus groups and research numbers to determine what kinds of games girls play. After making a bad game that targets those areas suggested by the marketing research, the game's lack of popularity among both genders is often attributed to the incorrect prejudice that "girls don't play games" rather than the true underlying problems such as poor quality and playability of the game. Whereas market data and research are important to reveal that markets exist, argues Kelly, they shouldn't be the guiding factor in how to make a game that appeals to girls. [80] The argument has also been advanced that emphasis on market research is often skewed by the participants in the study. In studies on male gamers of the baby boomer generation, for example, players displayed a marked aversion to violence. The incorrect conclusion that could be drawn from this result—that men dislike violent games—may also be comparable to incorrect conclusions drawn from some female-oriented gaming studies. [77] It has been suggested that developers can learn what girls want in a game by observing similarities in how different girl teams will react to and modify a game if given the opportunity. [77]

The Casio Loopy, created by Casio and released in October 1995 in Japan, was unique in that the marketing for it was completely targeted to female gamers. Casio-Loopy-Console-Set.jpg
The Casio Loopy, created by Casio and released in October 1995 in Japan, was unique in that the marketing for it was completely targeted to female gamers.

In the past, "girl games" have frequently been created by adapting girl-oriented material in other media like The Baby-sitters Club , Barbie , and Nancy Drew [81] while leaving male-targeted genres such as sport and driving sims, role playing games, and first person shooters to the boys. [93] This has begun to change, however, with the expansion of entrepreneurial feminism and the concept of "games by girls for girls" that has been embraced by companies such as Her Interactive, Silicon Sisters and Purple Moon—all video gaming start ups that are female owned and largely female staffed. Creating games designed with regard to sociological, psychological, and cognitive research into girls' cultural interests, such companies hope to awaken a female-only market emphasizing fundamental differences between what girls want and what boys want in gaming. [94] The movement to expand the existing market to include women through the development of gender-neutral games has also had a number of advocates. Critics have proposed that female gamers, especially older female gamers [76] prefer gender-neutral games such as Tetris , Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? , or the King's Quest games to "girl games". [81] [93]

In examining game play habits at Internet cafés, South Korea has seen a rise in female gamers publicly playing games such as Lineage , while in other Asian countries this kind of public female gaming has remained rare; similarly, games such as Tamagotchi are seen as a gender neutral in Japan, but have been regarded as girls' games in the West. [77] In other cases, female trends in one country may be indicators of associated changes in others, as in the case of a rising number of female Lineage players in Korea having led to increased number of female Lineage players in Taiwan. In Japan the rise of cute culture and its associated marketing has made gaming accessible for girls, and this trend has also carried over to Taiwan and recently China (both countries previously having focused mostly on MMOs and where parents usually place harsher restrictions on daughters than on sons). [77]

Skill levels

An aspect of game design that has been identified as negatively impacting female interest is the degree of expertise with gaming conventions and familiarity with game controls required to play the game. [82] In-game tutorials have been found to bring both sexes into games faster, [80] and new controllers such as Nintendo's Wii Remote, Microsoft's Kinect, and the various rhythm game controllers have affected demographics by making games easier to pick up and by providing a level playing-field. [82] This trend has continued through the efforts of Nintendo in its release of the Wii. [95] Leigh Alexander argued that appealing to women does not necessarily entail reduced difficulty or complexity. [96] In 2012, the developers of Borderlands 2 were criticized for referring to a reduced difficulty option as "girlfriend mode". [97] Yet, the perceived skill or performance gap between men and women may be fueled by other factors besides gender. In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, researchers found that, after controlling for confounds such as the amount of play time and guild membership, women players advance at least as fast as men do in two MMOs, the Western EverQuest II and the Chinese Chevaliers' Romance III . [98]

Male behavior towards female gamers

A 2015 study found that lower-skilled male players of Halo 3 were more hostile towards teammates with a female voice, but behaved more submissively to players with a male voice. Higher-skilled male players, on the other hand, behaved more positively towards female players. The authors argued the male hostility towards female gamers in terms of evolutionary psychology, writing, "female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status". [99]

Women in competitive gaming

The top female players in competitive gaming mainly get exposure in female-only tournaments, including such games as Counter-Strike , Dead or Alive 4 , and StarCraft II . Canadian StarCraft II player Sasha Hostyn (Scarlett) first gained notoriety in the open qualifiers of IGN ProLeague 4, where she defeated top-tier Korean players. She is well known for being one of the few non-Korean players who can play at the same skill level as male Korean players. [100]

Women in the video game industry

In 1989, according to Variety , women constituted only 3% of the gaming industry. [10] In 2013, Gary Carr (the creative director of Lionhead Studios) predicted that within the next 5 to 10 years, the games development workforce would be 50% female. [10] According to Gamasutra's Game Developer Salary Survey 2014, women in the United States made 86 cents for every dollar men made. Game designing woman had the closest equity, making 96 cents for every dollar men made in the same job, while audio professional women had the largest gap, making 68% of what men in the same position made. [112]

The following table shows the proportion of women among game developers in several countries in 2005 to 2010. [113]

Japan 201012.8% [114] [ full citation needed ]
Canada 200510-15% [115]
Australia 2010>10% [116] [ failed verification ]
United States 200511.5% [117]
UK 20094% [118]

Support groups for women in the video game industry

WIGSIG (Women In Games Special Interest Group)

WIGSIG is a special interest group of IDGA (International Game Developers Association). The group was formed in order to foster a positive impact on the game industry regarding gender balance in the workplace and/or marketplace. It provides a community, resources, and opportunities for people in the gaming industry. It also works to assess the numbers of the women in the games industry and tracks the changes of these numbers over time. Additionally, it works to recruit women into the games industry and make the field more attractive to women while providing them with the support and connections they need to be successful. [119]

Women in Games International

Founded in 2005, Women in Games International (WIGI), made up of both female and male professionals, works to promote the inclusion and advancement of women in the global games industry. WIGI promotes diversity in video game development, publishing, media, education and workplaces, based on a fundamental belief that increased equality and camaraderie among genders can make global impacts for superior products, more consumer enjoyment and a stronger gaming industry. Women In Games International stands as strong advocates for issues crucial to the success of women and men in the games industry, including a better work/life balance, healthy working conditions, increased opportunities for success and resources for career support. [120] [121]

WIGJ (Women In Games Jobs)

WIGJ is a group that works to recruit, preserve, and provide support for the advancement of women in the games industry by positively and energetically endorsing female role models and providing encouragement and information to women interested in working in the gaming field. The group was incorporated under the UK's Companies Act 2006 on June 2, 2011 as a "not for profit" or Community Interest Company. Companies in the game development industry have, in recent years, been seeking to balance the gender ratios on development teams and consoles like the Wii and Nintendo DS have seen increased numbers of female players. In addition to using this growing interest in women in the game developing industry, WIGJ works to put more women in traditional game development with less stigma attached to them. WIGJ seeks to help women find their place within the growing and rewarding field of game development. [122]

Women in video game streaming

The relationship between women and video game live streaming has been a rocky one. As streaming services such as YouTube and Twitch became increasingly popular, female gamers began to jump on board. Research has found that 52% of the gaming world is made up of women, [123] but most remain less visible[ how? ] in the context of the dominant culture, due to the stereotypes between masculinity and gaming.[ citation needed ]

Gender disparity

Critics attribute the seeming lack of female interest in video games to the negative portrayal of women in video games and to misogynistic attitudes common among professional and hardcore gamers. [124] A 2012 Twitter discussion among women working in games, collated under the hashtag #1reasonwhy, argued that sexist practices such as the oversexualization of female characters, disinterest in topics that matter to women, as well as workplace harassment and unequal pay for men and women were common in the games industry. [125] [126] [127]

Regarding elements of game design, areas such as gameplay, mechanics, and similar features have been described as gender neutral, however presentational aspects of games have been identified as strongly gender-linked. Specifically, gaming is often seen as fantasy and escapism in which empathy and identification with the character is much more easily achieved if the character shares the same gender as the player. [74] Gamers of both genders tend to crave realism and the more realistic the gender of the character, the easier it is for a player to identify with the character. [75] A 2009 academic study published in New Media & Society , however, found that 85% of playable characters in video games are male. [82] [128] Erin Hamilton argues that part of the problem comes from the difficulty in "juxtaposing femininity and feminism in a good video game." [76] When female characters do appear in video games, they are regarded by some as presenting unhealthy messages concerning unrealistic body images and provocative sexual and violent behaviors for players of both genders. [129] Stereotypical female behaviors such as giggling or sighing are often presented non-ironically, and this might lead young children (especially girls who identify with the female character) to think that this is how girls are supposed to look and act. [130] Furthermore, over-sexualized depictions [75] [82] of scantily clad female video game characters such as Tomb Raider's Lara Croft [76] are not appealing to some girls. [80] [131]

Although some of the population of male gamers have been the source of harassment towards female gamers and over-sexualization of the characters, [132] there are many men in the gaming industry who agree that there is a problem with female over-sexualization in gaming. [133] There are also male gamers who argue that some of the sexualization of women in video games also applies to men in video games and that portraying a man or woman in a video game in a sexual way can be acceptable if done in the right context. [134] Perceptions about stereotypes concerning gamers themselves also vary among genders, as well as playing frequency of game genres. A study in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media said that women who play a lot of video games disagree more with stereotypes concerning gender in gaming and are more strongly drawn towards specific gaming genres than men, regardless of the men's gaming frequency. [135]


The concept that video games are a form of art is one that has begun to gain force in the later half of the 2000s with the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts recognizing games as a form of art in May 2011, [136] for example. In viewing video games as cultural artifacts and the industry as a cultural industry, the disenfranchisement of women from the medium is regarded as negatively impacting the female voice in the industry and the woman's capacity to take part in the cultural dialogue that gaming inspires. [82] From an education perspective, certain gaming genres particularly lacking in female players such as the first-person shooter game have been shown to increase spatial skills thereby giving advantages to players of the games that are currently skewed along gender lines. [82] Video games have also been determined to provide an easy lead-in to computer literacy for children and correlations have been drawn between male video gaming and the predominance of male workers within the computer industry. [94] With the increasing importance of tech jobs in the 21st century and the increased role of online networking, the lack of female video game players suggests a loss of future career opportunities for women. [82]

Video games have also been used in academic settings to help develop the confidence of young girls in expressing their individual voices online and in their real lives. Video games such as Minecraft, that promote creative thinking and multiplayer interactions, have helped young girls to communicate senses of authority and confidence in their social and academic lives. [137] [138]


The majority of the people who work on game development teams are men. [139] Researchers have identified that one of the best ways to increase the percentage of female players comes from the aspect of authorship (either in-game as with Neopets and Whyville , or indirectly as with the Harry Potter series' inclusion of Hermione as a playable character subsequent to fan requests). [77] The solution to the problem of societal pigeonholing of female gamers is often identified as interventionist work such as the insertion of women into the industry. [82] Groups like WomenGamers.com and Sony's G.I.R.L. have sought to increase female gamer demographics by giving scholarships to girls considering getting into game development, [140] [141] and game developers like Check Six Games, Her Interactive, Silicon Sisters and Purple Moon have openly courted female coders and developers. [93] [94]

In addressing the future of the medium, many researchers have argued for the improvement of the gaming industry to appeal to a more general gender-neutral audience and others have suggested that the appeal should be directed to women in particular. [74] [76] [142] One of the earliest attempts to broaden the market to include women could be seen in Sega's [76] use of the increased number of female protagonists in fighting games. [94] Other examples of this include games like Mass Effect 3 , Remember Me , and the Last of Us , which include a female option for the main character. [143] The decision to use strong female characters in important roles, however, is often met with skepticism by marketers concerned with sales. [144] Examination of IGN's "Big Games at E3 2012" [145] and "Big Games at E3 2013" [146] shows growth of the female protagonist in video games, rising 4% from 2012 to 2013. [147] Other efforts outside of making games with female characters have also started to occur. One example is that Women in Games International has teamed up with the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles in order to create a video game patch which the two organizations hope will encourage Girl Scouts to develop an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. [148] Activism and specifically female-targeted LAN parties in Scandinavia have helped boost female game playing. [77]

See also


  1. The ESA was known as the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) prior to 16 July 2003.
  2. ESAC-reported Canadian female to male gamer ratios: [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24]
  3. IDSA/ESA-reported USA female to male gamer ratios per platform - Video gaming: [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40]
  4. IDSA/ESA-reported USA female to male gamer ratios per platform - PC gaming: [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46]
  5. IDSA/ESA-reported USA female to male gamer ratios per platform - Console gaming: [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46]
  6. IDSA/ESA-reported USA female to male gamer ratios per platform - Online gaming: [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32]

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Further reading