Close your eyes and imagine your image of a typical online games player. Chances are that you think of a teenage boy or 20-something hunched over a console in front of a computer screen racing round the streets of an un-named city or going to war against rampaging zombies.
But, like many stereotypes, this is one that is ready to be consigned to the dustbin. That’s because today’s typical gamer is just as likely to be a woman, what’s more, a woman who’s in her early 40s.
To put this into perspective, in 2015 figures released by the American Entertainment Software Association (ESA) showed that 33% of all gamers were women while only 15% were teenage boys and this is a trend that is reflected in the UK too.
Another difference that researchers have found is that male players do tend to play console games while, for women, it is the rise and rise of mobile gaming that has led to the explosion of the numbers playing on a regular basis.
The sheer convenience of being able to pick up a phone and a tablet to spend a few minutes “downtime” relaxing has proved to be irresistible to many. For example it’s the perfect way to fill in the time waiting for the bus to come, something to do during a break from a hectic schedule or even to make train journeys pass more quickly.
The games industry has slowly come round to the realisation that this whole new market has emerged and has invested considerable time and effort in developing the sorts of games designed to have a particular appeal to a female audience. So typical games that are proving to be very popular include Bejeweled 2, the Candy Crush Saga and, quite surprisingly, World of Warcraft. Other great favourites include crossword and sudoku puzzles, typical “coffee break” activities that you’d also find in most newspapers and magazines.
The fact that many of the games and activities can be shared on social media also makes them especially appealing to women, some of the biggest users of these channels to contact and keep in touch with friends.
Another exceptionally popular area for women are the many online bingo and slots sites which not only offer entertainment but also the chance to play and win for relatively small stakes. So it’s no surprise that there are many incentives to encourage women to start playing including cash bonuses and free spins on the slots many of which have distinctly feminine themes.
While the games industry seems to have the older female market fairly well sewn up there has been a feeling that younger girls represent a neglected group and one which offers great potential. Although, with the global phenomenon of Pokémon GO it seems like it’s a demographic that is now starting to be courted in earnest.
Many also feel that it’s time for more action games to be introduced with strong female protagonists to reflect the new female audience – so now is surely the time for this generation’s Lara Croft to emerge.