By Nicholas Moreau and Sean Ryder
“It is good because it is no longer just a boy thing but something girls can do,” says Karen Burgess, a sophomore at Fitchburg State.
Of the women questioned about the issue around the Fitchburg State campus, most said that they not only play videogames, but actually owned their own consoles and games. They play an average of about four hours a week (but some many more).
“It’s awesome,” said Sarah Besaw, a senior at Fitchburg State University. “I feel like games are not directed towards one sex, and parents are just as likely to buy consoles for their daughters as they are for their sons.”
“Harvest Moon, Diddy Kong Racing, and Banjo-Kazooie are my favorites,” said Kristen Hogan, a sophomore at Fitchburg State.
According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), women now make up approximately 40% of all video game players.
“We found through research that girls are gamers; they just aren’t traditional gamers,” Tony Key, senior vice president of marketing for videogame company Ubisoft, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Girls are clearly interested in playing video games. They just don’t want to play the same games their brothers play.”
Though the idea that women will play video games may be recent, it is only the result in a surge of women gamers in the past decade. In fact, women have been playing video games for years.
Stevana Case was the first woman to become well-known by gaming competitively in the early 1990s. “I first got hooked as a little kid on the NES,” said Case in an interview with Cerise Magazine in 2009. “My brother and I played endlessly in this tiny hallway upstairs in our house in between our bedrooms.”
Case played games in college with friends, and became “addicted” to the video game Quake. “When I got hooked on Quake, it was only partly about the game itself,” Case said. “The larger hook was the community and all of the fascinating friends and other people I was meeting and connecting with through the game.”
Case also believes that women are playing more video games because many of the original misconceptions about gaming have vanished. “To be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind that it was unusual to be a woman playing games,” said Case. “Back then it was notable to be a gamer at all, let alone a female gamer. I feel like back then there were many more misconceptions and stereotypes about gamers than we see today.”
But women have not only been playing games for years; they have also been making them. Lori Ann Cole created the popular adventure game series Quest for Glory in 1998. In an interview with Cerise Magazine in 2009, Cole states that the series was originally “designed with a choice of genders and characters, but this was too much for the limitations of computer systems.” Though the protagonist was male, Cole believes that the nature of adventure games appeal to a diverse group of players. “We all, in our hearts, want to be a hero and make a difference in the world,” said Cole.
Earlier this year, the women’s cable network Lifetime conducted a year-long study to better understand female gamers. In their study, they surveyed more than 1000 women about their gaming habits. The study concluded that 76% of women play electronic games and women who play games have made an average of seven game-related purchases within the past year.
Lotte Vermeulen, a student of communication at Ghent University in Belgium, studied the preferences of female gamers as part of her dissertation. She discovered that women “mostly opt for shorter and simpler games, such as casual and social games,” according to the press release given by Ghent University in July of this year. “Additionally, they prefer solving a problem or a riddle to conquering or destroying something.”
But the most important lesson to be learned from the statistics is that, just as men vary widely in their preferences of consoles and games, women gamers also cannot be generalized.