On Tuesday, the Pew Research Centre published more findings on Americans and gaming, this time probing into who plays video games and general feelings about them. According to the survey, playing video games is a pastime that embraces all genders, with 48 percent of women and 50 percent of men stating that they played video games on a handheld device, PC or console. In spite of this, men are much more likely to identify themselves as “gamers” than their female counterparts, and both women and men generally assume that the majority of those who play video games are men.
Researchers from Pew found that 49% of American adults – just short of half the population – play video games with some regularity. 60% of Americans, including women and men who play video games, assume that gaming is a male activity. That assumption is mirrored in who considers themselves a gamer. Fifteen percent of the men surveyed consider themselves gamers, compared to only 6 percent of women.
The inconsistency between who people assume play video games and those who really do is probably caused by gendered assumptions about gaming which are reinforced by culture and marketing. Video games such as The Legend of Zelda, Madden and Call of Duty consciously target men and boys while leaving women and girls out, creating the expectation that video games are strictly for men.
That scheme bears out for men between the ages of 18 and 29, with 77% of respondents stating that they play video games, and 33% identifying themselves as gamers. That compares to 57% of women playing video games and only 9% of them identifying as gamers in the same age group. However, Pew did also discover that individual’s relationship to gaming shifts as they get older. 38% of women over the age of 50 play video games, compared to only 29% of men.
The findings demonstrate how Americans ought to change how they think about who plays video games, while also urging the industry to better mirror the people who play its games. Although it is difficult to say for sure whether or not women have purchased more gaming consoles than men, as shown in a previous Pew survey, it is definitely time to undo the belief that gaming is only for men.