Women around the world and here in the US have been fighting for equal rights for many, many years. Although we are far from reaching equality in a number of industries and areas, there have been significant gains. Long gone are the days when it was seen as a scandal for a woman to work outside the home, or for a father to take care of children while the wife is the bread-winner. Thankfully we are starting to see society evolve away from narrowly-defined gender roles with the advancement of gender equality and emphasis on female empowerment.
However, when you look at some ancient cultures and bygone eras, where women were leading armies, heading up monarchies and governmental systems, and running major businesses, it seems almost regressive that a mere 50-60 years ago women were confined to more domesticated roles. It is important to acknowledge the great strides women have made throughout history, despite patriarchal systems trying to dominate societal norms.
Although we still see depressingly low numbers of women in the C-suite, in politics, STEM, and even in Hollywood, there are some surprising industries where women are making gains equal to men, and in some cases out-pacing them. One such industry is gaming. The typical images we see of gamers in media are usually male, but a quick look at statistics shows we need to see an update of these stereotypes.
The Entertainment Software Association releases figures each year on the percentage of people playing games in the US, breaking it down by gender as well as age. For its 2016 report, ESA found up to 41% of women are playing games, compared to 59%, the average male player is 35 years old, whereas the average woman is 44. A Pew Research Center survey from 2015 found that women own more consoles than men, factoring in participants over the age of 18 only.
The stereotype of the typical gamer being a teenage male needs a major update, because there are more adult women playing video games than any other demographic.
With the recent gamergate scandal from a few years ago where female gamers and game developers were viciously attacked online by male gamers for daring to take up space in a world that, to them, should be exclusively for men and boys, it brought to the surface discussions about the culture of gaming and why it is only detrimental to think of any form of entertainment as “male dominated”.
Women like Anita Sarkeesian, who became one of the unofficial spokespeople of those being targeted by trolls online, has spent many years discussing the way women are objectified in video games and how game companies and developers need to cater more to the growing female audience.
Because of this vicious movement, we are seeing more games being tailored to entice female gamers, such as EA Sports’ FIFA 16 which, for the first time in its iconic series’ history, included female soccer players. To their credit, Electronic Arts recognizes that as a power player in the gaming industry, if they aren’t being inclusive of their female audiences, they are missing out on a major revenue source. They believe female game developers are going to be the future of the industry.
While the world of digital gaming has seen an influx of female gamers and developers, other areas of gaming have seen women rise in the ranks. When Facebook introduced its uber popular game Farmville, which far more women than men were playing, it was widely credited with being a “gateway” game to the wider world of gaming. Clearly this demographic cannot be ignored any longer.
With popular casino games likes bingo and poker now being digitalized, fans and players alike should get familiar with names like Maria Ho, pro poker player and one of the top ranked female players in the world, and Kara Scott who is not only known for her poker skills but her presence on sports channels which are now exclusively broadcasting poker championships around the world.
With bingo now being digitalized, and the presence of women in these spaces, it’s not hard to see why more and more females are playing video games. Notable names like Kara, Maria, and even programmers and developers like Kellee Santiago, the digital gaming world will not stay male-dominated forever.
There is still considerable push-back from those who are threatened by the presence of women in spaces that have been exclusively male in the past, but women in gaming aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Gaming is one industry where women are climbing the ranks, and destroying gender stereotypes at the same time.