Actually, About Half Of Gamers Are Women

Warning: Some links contain offensive language.

If you watched the Microsoft Xbox One E3 press conference this past week, you may have noticed not a single featured game had a woman protagonist. If someone you know argues the reason for this is that game makers are simply reflecting a womanless market, we’re here to prove them wrong.

A new study, “2013 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry,” reports that women make up 45 percent of all gamers and 46 percent of all “habitual video game purchasers.” In fact, adult women make up 31 percent of the video game population and boys under 17 only make up 19 percent. And in a study by Magid Advisors of people ages 45 to 64, about 61 percent of women play video games compared with only 57 percent of men.

It appears not everyone knows this. When Feminist Frequency recently tweeted out …

… there were more than 50 hate-filled replies, including many suggesting women aren’t gamers, or that women aren’t as good as men at gaming:

Unfortunately, there’s more:

And that’s not all of them. If you’re in a masochistic mood and want to make yourself angry, read some more replies to @FemFreq’s tweet.

Another old argument that pops up too often is that games with woman protagonists don’t sell as well as games with male protagonists. But this isn’t a reason to keep women out of games. The only reason those games aren’t selling as many units is because they only receive 40 percent of the marketing budget that male-protagonist games get.

As a last note, let’s take a quick look at another way the video game industry seems like a clubhouse with a “no girls allowed” sign. The aforementioned female-protagonist-lacking Xbox One E3 press conference further pushed women aside when the producer of the game Killer Instinct made a rape joke, telling the woman he was playing against to “Just let it happen, it’ll be over soon.” Yes, it was a rape joke and yes, it is a problem.

So let’s stop making half of the gamer population a minority in the games they play and start pushing to see kickass video game protagonists of all sexes and types.

Photo of gamer girl by Flickr user Mustafa Sayed, under Creative Common 2.0


  1. Desiree says:

    I really hope that user behind the last tweet you posted isn’t in any sort of decision making position. Per the stats you posted, women *are*, as he put is, “mass” users and buyers of games. This in and of itself means that what *we* like and buy is something any maker, distributor and seller of games should note and take into consideration when making decisions about what to sell and how to sell it. This means that their pattern of blowing us off and even blatantly insulting us is likely to be hurting *their* sales. If they’d treat us with basic respect, we might actually buy more and play more. I know I would.

  2. Wow, a huge amount of low insight comments directed at women gamers and women in general. I am absolutely outraged at the *Just let it happen, it’ll be over soon* comment. It’s very much a rape joke and it is very much a problem. The fact that many people are brushing it off as a sideways comment is so fucking wrong.
    This kind of attitude towards women whether in game or not needs to change and has needed to change for a very long time. I am not a gamer myself, however I can make my voice heard when I see this kind of behaviour happening and say *NO, that’s absolutely Not OK*.

  3. Perhaps game makers just wanted to avoid all the accusations of sexism they got when games featured characters like Lara Croft.

    • Oh, FFS. Like Fallout 3 (can be played as a female character) didn’t sell. Like the whole Mass Effect series (with Fem!Shep as an option) didn’t sell. Like Portal didn’t sell. Like WoW, with characters of all kinds of configurations, doesn’t continue to sell.

      And while some of the female characteristics in WoW can be problematic, when did all the other games get howled down about their sexist portrayals of women? Oh… they DIDN’T. Not to mention the later TombRaider games – I don’t recall any bitching at all about the ridiculousness of Lara’s rack and butt after they stopped emphasising them so much. And those sold too.

  4. I feel that the rape joke was not necesarily directed at the other player for being a female. But it is still indicative of the casual rape culture injected by our hegemonic male gender role. The institution of rape and rape victim as normative apposing gender roles creates this sort of thoughtless, knee-jerk, casual, everyday reference to rape. Rape equals victory in America. Let’s uproot the system. Let it fall down

  5. nonskanse says:

    Although it is apparent that some people are trolls trying to prove women don’t play games, I’ll just list off some games I’ve played….

    Asssassin’s creed series – no female protagonist yet. I’ve played all console versions on my 360 so far, haven’t finished the ‘3rd’ (4th really) yet because lazy.
    Tomb Raider – Lara was so… grunty. And then her clothes started getting all ripped up. Sigh. She’s always had ‘nice polygons’ though so the latest TR was an improvement. somewhat.
    Bioshock – Women barely exist in Bioshock Infinite. The only one of any consequence (i’m 1/3 of the way through the game) is thus far a silly tower princess with her usefulness dependent upon a pretty stupid game mechanic.
    Civ – women leaders existed. a’ok.
    SimCity (original, 2k, 4, 5) – seems ok but “you” are the main character.
    Puzzle v. Dragons – protagonist is “you” as a kind of pokemon trainer. Monsters are genderless, male, or female.
    Resonance of Fate (sometimes I play old games) – female characters are pretty meh.
    Final Fantasy 6, 7, 8, 10, 13 – Not terrible but female characters don’t tend to be quite as important as protaga-dude.
    Batman Arkham whatever – well Batman is Batman. And he’s a dude. And there are comics to be true to.
    Castle Crashers – all male
    Spelunky – kind of a male? At least you can rescue not-a-princess.
    Mirror’s Edge – Did ok at having a female character.

    • In fact, most of the games I own feature female protagonists or options. I’ve never thought of it that way, but perhaps a lack of females IS why I hate so many of the current adventure games.

      I will defend some of those games, tho:
      In SPLUNKY, there is a beginning female protagonist option. So you CAN play as a female and anyone can choose to rescue either chicks, dudes, or pugs. Unfortunately, it draws a lot of inspiration from male-dominant adventure franchises and doesn’t feature as large of a female character cast as it could.
      CASTLE CRASHERS (for all of its male posturing) does NOT say that all the playable characters are male, we simply assume they are because they are wearing armor instead of skimpy things and kiss princesses. Most of the cast could easily be seen as female (oh, man, now I need to replay again!)
      BIOSHOCK INFINITE does have the protagonist accompany a young woman, but it is important to note that she does not need protection and is not a romantic interest. While she is an accompanying character, she breaks many of the misogynistic behaviors which ‘protect-the-girl’ games tend to have.
      And technically you can play as Catwoman in that last Batman game. Although she shakes her butt an awful lot…

    • Although you may not see this comment i have to write an essay on representations of women in video games for my A-Levels and looking at bioshock they had some really weird ways of portraying women, its a really interesting topic and a longer essay. however, ‘The Siren’ (bioshock: Infinate) who is Lady comstocks ghost was probably the epitome of women in all bioshock games as she could ‘half-life’ people. Bringing them from the dead back to life which no one else could do. Although, elizabeth was the only character who could ‘really’ tear open portals, she held more cards than you may think.
      not only this, but the way women were looked at as mad scientists too. As in the first game Dr. Julie Langford is the scientist behind the oxygen of Rapture. however, she charges people to enter her gandens and after refusing to let people in for free the trees catch fire and her and her creation burns. This juxtaposes Dr. Tenebaum who creates the adam and realises it turns people into crazed drug addicts and askes ‘you’ to rescue the little sisters. Not only this but in Bioshock: Infinate its a woman, Dr. Rosalind Lutece, who creates Columbia, the flying city. She finds her other self through the tears she creates and calls him ‘brother’ and she learns she is wrong for what she has done and just like the other scientists rights her wrongs and sets the story as a whole.

  6. So I need a bit of help here. No matter how many times I send people a link to that ESA study, I constantly get people telling me that “Sure, if you include handheld/mobile/social games, women are the majority, but those aren’t real games!”, the implication being that women are still an insignificant market on Xbox, Playstation and non-browser PC games.

    I’d dearly like to tell them to shove it, but I don’t have the data. Does anybody know what platforms the ESA study includes, and if it includes all of them, whether we can get a breakdown of specifically Xbox, PS and PC sales by gender? I think that would make the statistics a lot more effective.

  7. davidant says:

    I’m sure the 45/55 split is accurate. Though it might be more useful to compare the money made on the games the genders are playing. Are women more likely to be playing games that bring in less money? Flash games in browser or phone games or etc. I have no idea how these dollar amounts shake out, but it seems women are less likely to be playing the triple A military shooters that top the charts and cost $60. Does anyone have any insight? Also, any rational person can see that female representation in games is pretty pathetic, even worse than in films. I’m just wondering about underlying dynamics. The linked study didn’t address profit in this way.

  8. wow. this article is very biased. 90% of multiplayer games give you the option to play as a female. Sure, most single player games don’t give you that option, but what dose that madder? i wouldn’t mind playing as a girl character. Also, most games that even have a shown caracter are shooting games that have a story mode in war, and correct me if im wrong, but weren’t there recently a LARG amont of women AGAINST sending women to the fron’t lines? most game try to be somewhat realistic, and no female characters in shooting games is realistic.

    • No, a “large amount” of women are NOT against sending women to the front lines. And in fact, the American military is in the minority of countries that don’t currently have women in combat positions. Most countries (such as Israel) do allow women in the front lines. Don’t have any data as to how that’s working out, but they’ve been doing it for a long time. Considering that single-player and online shooters like COD outnumber MMOs, it probably does matter to a large amount of the gaming population. What MMOs are you thinking of? I can think of 2 that are played right now, WOW and FFXI, and of course there must still be someone playing Evercrack and AOL. We are all patiently waiting for the life-changing experience that will be ESO. I appreciate that you wouldn’t mind playing a girl player, and I think most guys agree, but there is an EXTREMELY vocal minority, like the tweeters above, that feel somehow threatened by girls in the community.

      • Couple of factual errors and half truths in your statement there. 1) The US is in the middle of lifting the ban on females in frontline positions. That was the case about 5 months before your post. Integration could be argued as a half-hearted attempt, but technically, its being done. 2) There are about 16 countries that allow women in frontline combat roles. Once the US completes integration, there’ll be 17. Which amounts to about 8.7 percent of the world. Maybe you meant in the minority of WESTERN civilization. In that sense, you are correct. Countries like Denmark, Israel, Australia, etc… do allow women in forward positions that expect to see combat. And while that’s a good thing, the primary driver to allow woman in combat roles in those countries isn’t equality as much as necessity.

  9. Thank you for this article. I teach ALL of my students how to develop video games (writing, character design, story line, environment, code, marketing, and deployment). We have worked in Scratch this year and will move on to Unity next year. I have created a survey about women and gaming. It will help me develop a deeper game design unit, one in which we talk about social justice, gender roles in pop culture, and economic consequences on pop culture media development. If you get a moment, please fill it out. It will directly benefit my middle school student designers.

  10. Valerie says:

    I never and would never play a game where a female is a protagonist. Females characters are really uninteresting and most of the time they end up half naked… I’d like more (half) naked males tough.

    • Nutcracker says:

      I know, I wish they could just ONCE make a strong-minded, smart and independent female protagonist in a game. It would make the experience far more enjoyable.

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