This month marks the one-year anniversary of Gamergate, an ugly online controversy that was ostensibly concerned with journalistic integrity, but that focused primarily on harassing, threatening, and doxing women in the gaming industry. The blatant misogyny that emerged from Gamergate would seem to support stereotypes of gaming as a boys-only activity that is unwelcoming to women, but a recent survey reveals that the opposite is true: Adult women gamers outnumber male gamers under 18 (by A LOT) and make up almost half of the nation’s gaming community.
A 2015 survey from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) found that, in general, gaming is a major national pastime. One hundred and fifty-five million Americans play video games, and four out of five households in the U.S. have devices used to play them. And, despite stereotypes that gaming is dominated by teenage boys, most of the people playing games are not actually young men. The ESA report states:
Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33%) than boys age 18 or younger (15%).
Furthermore, women of all ages make up almost half (44 percent) of gamers in general, and 41 percent of the most frequent game purchasers. The survey also contradicts the idea that these gamer women must be new to gaming; The average age of the most frequent female gamer is 43, with 13 years of gaming experience under her belt.* The survey also provides insight into the types of games people are playing, which are almost evenly divided between social games (31 percent), action games (30 percent), and puzzles, board and card games, and game shows (30 percent).
It’s important to note that these results aren’t new: The ESA’s 2014 report, which came out around the same time as Gamergate was beginning to blow up last year, showed similar results, with adult women making up one of the largest gaming demographics in the country. Gamergate may have projected the message that women were outliers in the gaming community, but the actual facts said (and still say) otherwise.
* This is according to the ESA’s 2014 survey. The 2015 survey reports that gamers have been playing video games for an average of 13 years, but doesn’t differentiate between male and female players.