Over the past five years, the role of women in gaming has evolved astronomically. Representing 47% of European gamers and 30% of game developers (up 7% since 2016), women have entered the gaming scene, considerably accelerated by the pandemic which confined everyone to their homes during the confinement periods.
But according to a new study from Anzu, female gamers in the United States are lagging behind the rest of the world. For this year’s #BreakTheBias theme for International Women’s Day, let’s take a closer look at why it’s happening and how game developers and advertisers can help close the gap.
“Girl gamers” and reassessment of the gamer stereotype
Banish the stereotypical image of the average gamer: a lonely man in the basement, hunched over a console. About two in five gamers in the United States identify as female, which equates to approximately 91 million women. Exclusive research from Anzu shows that 57% of US female gamers have spent significantly more time gaming during the pandemic, and nearly a third expect to continue at this level post-pandemic.
This increase in the number of American female players is not only catalyzed by the pandemic which gives women a way to relax and connect with others. Feminist Frequency has confirmed that there are more female protagonists than ever in games in 2020, with around 18% of new games having a female playable character in 2020 (up from just 9% in 2014).
The female protagonists were also shown to be more psychologically complex, moving away from the typical “fewer clothes and fewer brain cells” image and creating a more complete and realistic portrayal of women in games.
More recently, there has been a 2% increase in female influencers among the top 1000 creators on streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming.
Despite the rapid increase in the number of American female gamers, increased female representation in-game and in real life through streaming, and a higher likelihood of reporting increased interest in the game, only about 43% of female gamers Americans “definitely” identify as a gamer, compared to 67% of their male counterparts in the United States. Why do we see such a disparity?
Why fewer women in the US might identify as ‘gamers’
There are many reasons why women in the United States may be less likely to proudly call themselves “gamers” compared to their male counterparts.
It’s no secret that the gaming industry has had its run-ins with harassment and a toxic culture towards female gamers and women working in the gaming industry, both with player-led movements like #GamerGate and with alarming stories emerging from inside some of the biggest video game development studios.
Many women still feel uncomfortable in a gaming environment, with only 10% of men and 7% of women considering games to be ‘inclusive’. Women have adapted to this over time by keeping neutral usernames when playing online games or just less likely to talk in in-game chat and remaining quiet when playing games. others for fear of harassment.
Meanwhile, although the overall number of female players is on the rise, the proportion of female role models and influencers in-game compared to males is clear, with women making up just 1 in 10 of the most popular Twitch streamers in the world. United States. As a result, male internet users were found to be twice as likely to follow online gaming influencers as their female counterparts in 2021.
In the United States in particular, Anzu’s proprietary research shows the disparity in employment status, demographics and income between the sexes, with a huge segment of the US market as mothers who must juggle life, childcare children and family responsibilities with games, and more. for the 10% of American gamers living alone. Maybe that’s why male gamers with higher disposable income are three times more likely to buy a video game than females?
The research also reveals disparities even in competitive gaming – no female esports player is among the top 300 esports winners globally. This has less of an incentive for women to become “hardcore” competitive players for women, who may not see this as a viable career path when men’s teams are paid more.
How advertisers and developers can #BreakTheBias for female gamers
While nearly three-quarters of American male gamers have acknowledged being exposed to in-game advertising, only 43% of American female gamers have seen them, according to Anzu’s proprietary research. Could this be due to the genre of the game, the playing time or brand targeting by advertisers to target more specifically men, unintentionally excluding women?
The researchers argued that it doesn’t have to be just one genre – female gamers tend to prefer a wide range of genres ranging from adventure games (61%), RPG (56%), action ( 42%), MMORPG (40%), and strategy (31%), with many crossovers into typically “male-favorite” genres.
This opens up a broader discussion about advertisers missing out on a massive, untapped market among American female gamers, and an extremely valuable marketing opportunity. A survey found that 71% of female gamers want to see improvements in game ads, either with more female representation, with female voiceovers, or showing women playing AAA titles.
“Representation is the root of gender bias,” says Chiara Manco, editor at WARC, when discussing gender parity in advertising. “If he misses, it leads to a lack of opportunities. Understanding this, [brands can] reverse the trend, using equal representation to challenge prejudices and transform the vicious circle into a virtuous one”.
Mirroring Anzu’s findings, just over a quarter of US female gamers are positive about seeing in-game advertising and in-game brand placements, while around 2 in 5 are neutral to the idea. Seeing their favorite brands in games is also important to 34% of US female gamers, with just under 20% saying it’s really important to them.
Overall, this is good news for advertisers: they just need to work to capture the “neutral” segment of US female gamers and present their brands to an engaged, knowledgeable, and diverse audience.
Female gamers are here, growing rapidly and making their way through the gaming ecosystem. It’s time for the industry to catch up and listen.