Girls Got Game! A Look at Gender & Gaming

Mon, Sep 27, 2010

Facebook, Industry, Social

It’s been a hot topic for some time now – that being the growing group of female “gamers,” both in the social and casual gaming worlds, and some new details are arising now that both back up this claim, and that might surprise you.

First and foremost, what would you say if I told you that 60% of women that play games don’t actually consider themselves gamers? That is apparently the case, as survey results posted on J2Games reveal that a recent study/survey of 2,075 Americans, commissioned by Diner Dash creator PlayFirst, resulted in 60% of the women questioned saying that they do not consider themselves gamers, even though they do play games.

The survey was conducted online, but it was sent to members of the general population, rather than specifically at a gaming userbase. The study also questioned men, and when comparing the likes and dislikes of the genders, the survey found that 90% of women list “entertainment” as their primary requirement for a game (that is, whether or not they’ll play the game), while 79% of men listed “challenging to finish” as their primary factor.

To be especially clear, this data focused only on those that had played social/casual games on either PC or Mac, Facebook or a smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc.). Console-only players were excluded.

Speaking of Facebook, women are the biggest cash-cow for games on the social network, with CNN reporting on a study that took place earlier this year that found that the average player of a social game is a 43 year old female. According to the latest NPD reports, 35% of those women who play social games say that they have never played any type of digital game before. So what’s bringing them in?

Former Facebook executive Net Jacobsson claims simplicity and repetition are a huge factor. “These games tap into a nurturing aspect, and players receive small positive encouragements. It’s like Pavlov’s Dog – if you get rewarded, you want to keep going.”

Playfish is looking to capitalize on this “older female” demographic, by announcing plans to digitize classic board games like Monopoly, to cater specifically to that audience.

As these games are “freemium,” meaning that they can be played indefinitely for free, or enhanced through small real-world monetary transactions, it’s the social aspect itself that makes these women want to spend money on fake items. Slide’s Keith Rabois (developers of SuperPoke! Pets and SPP Ranch), says that “People want to look witty and cool on Facebook, even if it costs a little money. We give them the tools to do that.”

But perhaps the biggest reason why Facebook, Big Fish Games, and casual gaming websites in general are so crowded by females is in the simple fact that women and men game differently. BSN has data from research firm M2 Research that further explains this. According to the report, a fourth of the girls in the study leaned more towards cute, frilly titles like Super Mario Galaxy on the Nintendo Wii, while a third of the boys surveyed went straight for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, one of the most violent, “male” games ever created.

These figures are hardly concrete, and a third or a fourth of both genders are hardly the whole, but it does leave one to wonder. If Facebook is comprised of that many older female gamers (even if they don’t consider themselves as such), what will developers have to do to bring in a larger male audience, or even an older male audience? Is there anything they can do to draw dad or grandpa away from Monday Night Football and into the glow of their computer screens, or is it a lost cause? Let us know your thoughts on this topic in our comments below!

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- who has written 2533 posts on Frisky Mongoose.

Brandy is the Social Editor at Frisky Mongoose, focusing on the social side of the gaming world.

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