A new report suggests adult women are nearly half of all video game players. That’s a number that can be read in the changing tone of some of today’s top games. But it’s also one that some female gamers say isn’t really as close to even as it should be.
According to the “2013 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry” report, produced by the Entertainment Software Association, 45% of all game players, and 46% of the most frequent purchasers of games, are female. Adult women make up 31% of the game-playing population.
“This new data underscores the remarkable upward trajectory for video games. It is an entertainment form enjoyed by hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, the trade association that represents the U.S. video game industry.
“A diverse and energized consumer base, remarkable new hardware, and outstanding software all combine to foster growth for our industry.”
Female gamers are obviously a diverse group. Millions enjoy the shooters, strategy games and other titles favored by “hardcore” enthusiasts.
Millions more have eased into the gaming world via social and smartphone games, or through family interactions.
One of the top reasons why people buy video games is an interesting storyline, according to the report. And some women have pointed to a rise in the number of games with complex themes and more scenarios that call for decision-making, not brute force, as a selling point.
And it doesn’t hurt that many of those same titles have begun to include female protagonists, or at least the ability to create your own.
“Today’s game characters are much more customizable than years ago,” said Lauren Eleazer, 26, from State College, Pennsylvania. “This is part of overall game development, but every female gamer I’ve met appreciates being able to style her character and make it more unique.”
Jessica Chobot, a television and Web show host whose work has appeared on gaming site IGN, the G4 network and elsewhere, said the industry has been taking notice of the rise of female gamers, and that the inclusion of female characters in meaningful roles is no accident.
“In a lot of ways, it was the perfect storm for change,” said Chobot, who is also a writer for the Zombie Studios game, “Daylight.” “The gaming industry’s awareness of having to appeal to a wider audience — one that included women — has been reflected with the addition of stronger
“The 2013 re-vamped ‘Lara Croft,’ ‘Mass Effect’s female version of Commander Shepard and ‘Uncharted”s Elena Fisher and Chloe Frazer are just a few examples that come to mind.”
Other strong female characters, like Elizabeth in “BioShock Infinite” or Ellie in “The Last of Us,” show the range developers are willing to put in their games to attract a wider audience and provide a different experience from games in the past.
Upcoming games like “Beyond: Two Souls” and a new “Mirror’s Edge” appear that they’ll continue to put women in the forefront of gaming action and narrative.
But, sometimes, it’s the little things that can help draw more women into the gaming fold.
“Control schemes need to do more to take into account people who didn’t grow up with a controller in their hands,” said Colleen Hannon, a senior editor for the website Gamers With Jobs. “I’m not saying make the game easier; I’m saying give people who need to learn those basic skills a path to learn that doesn’t belittle or sideline them.”
The sustained and growing pop-culture presence of video games also has been a boon for developers looking to add women to their player bases.
“I think this issue is cultural,” said Shannon Gagnon, 28, from Scranton, Pennsylvania. “Since being a geek has become something to be proud of, instead of something to hide, more of my female friends are becoming gamers. But they don’t see a lot of games they are interested in, because mostly when you see games advertised it is ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘World of Warcraft.’ “