I think that I may have mentioned before that I love playing video games. I am still spending countless hours playing Halo on Xbox Live (brace for carnage), and am pretty good at kicking some ass.
The male-oriented stereotype of the typical video game player still persists, but the 2011 gamer stats recently released by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) indicate that the average player is 37 years old (up 4 years from 2010), and 42 percent of gamers are women (up 2 % from 2010)!
Not only this, but it appears that finally the video game industry is beginning to catch on. “Our industry’s innovative titles are reaching new consumers in broader, deeper and more-engaging ways,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA. As women appear to be the fastest-growing demographic and make up over a third of players above age 18 (37% to be exact), there is some serious cash to be made by appealing more to the female buyer!
The gaming industry is beginning to focus more on recruitment of female developers, and is reaching out to attract, encourage and inform women interested in working in games. David Smith, founder of Women in Games Jobs pointed out that, “those looking from outside of the games industry can now see evidence that key figures in the games industry are taking steps to address the gender imbalance that exists in the video and online games industry,” which is good news.
Personally, I am looking forward to less sexualized and more complex female characters and am curious to see what female game developers will come up with. I see the future of video game characters as being individualized to the player, instead of players picking generic cookie-cutter characters (which will also help with gender stereotypes). Individualized characters allow the player to select face features and body shapes so that the character resembles the player. This allows the player to fully identify with their character and makes the game more engaging. I believe that women, just like men, want to play a character that they can identify with.
Video games and virtual reality are becoming a larger part of daily and mainstream reality. Jane McGonigal recently (Jan 2011) published her book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World and suggests that games challenge us to work harder while learning important life issues such as dealing with failure, working together as a team for a common goal, and solving complex challenges. Others support this viewpoint as well. The ESA report quotes Dr. Allen Weiss:
“Being immersed in a video game, and having your brain stimulation, can encourage creative solutions and adaptations. These beneficial ideas and thoughts can then be applied to real-life situations. The results can be surprisingly positive for individuals, communities, and society as a whole.”
When examining the scientific gaming literature, McGonigal and Weiss seem to be spot on. Studies have found links between video game playing and increased attention, memory, executive functioning and general mental fitness. One study even found that only 10 hours of action video gaming decreased gender differences in spatial cognition, which the researchers point out could have implications for women wanting to enter the mathematical or engineering sciences.
Video games plan on having a more expansive presence as they are broadening their range of content. Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA said, “Technological advancements and terrific entertainment experiences in our industry make it possible for people of all ages to enjoy games at home or on the go, and the creativity of our developers and publishers leads to an ever-expanding variety of video games to choose from in both digital and physical formats.” Even parents are catching on to the positive benefits of the virtual world: 68% of parents believe that video games can stimulate and educate their children, while 57% believe it strengthens time spent with family, and 54% feel it helps their children socialize with friends.
It appears the future of an integrated virtual reality is approaching fast, and women are jumping on board and ready to kick some butt!