“Fake Gamer Girls” Make Up 48% of Gamers, Play More Video Games Than Teenage Boys

Enraged fanboys across America now have indisputable and unarguable evidence that all those “fake gamer girls” they’ve been complaining about aren’t as fake as they say. Well, more evidence than previous reports saying 45% of gamers are women and the personal accounts of all the women who play and love video games.  A new study shows that not only do women make up a whopping 48% of American gamers overall, but women over the age of 18 make up a higher percentage of gamers than teenage boys, the demographic which is often seen as the face of the game playing industry.

This new survey by the Entertainment Software Association shows that 36% of Americans who play video games are adult women. That compares to only 17% of gamers who are boys age 18 or younger, which is often seen as one of the most desirable demographics in the industry. So, if more than twice as many adult women are playing console and mobile video games than teenage boys, why are women considered to be outsiders in the gaming community? Furthermore, when 48% of all gamers (up from 40% in 2010) are women, why do so many people both in the video game industry and in the gaming community continue to pretend that women only “pretend to play” video games in order to gain some sort of strange Nerd Cred?

Fake Geek Girl comic by Meghan Danger at sailorswayze.tumblr.com

Fake Geek Girl comic by Meghan Danger at sailorswayze.tumblr.com

The clear answer is sexism and The Patriarchy. Like movies, comics and pretty much everything else that exists under the patriarchy, video game culture is dominated by men, despite huge numbers of women who enjoy those things. And when women say that they like those things out loud, we’re often called fakes or accused of doing it for attention. This fanboy outcry gives credence to video game developers who often argue that they don’t need to make games featuring female protagonists because there just aren’t enough women playing, or that the women who do aren’t “real gamers.” Hopefully this survey will show them just how wrong that is. Not only do women make up 48% of people who play games, but when the survey looked at people who bought games, the split was an even 50/50 between men and women. So obviously it would a smart move to try and market games toward women.
At the same time, we might want to hold back on that hope a little, as numbers have been similarly high for the past several years and that hasn’t changed things much. Last year, a survey by the same group showed that 31% of gamers were adult women compared to 19% teenage boys. The good news is that the disparity is getting even wider, and with any luck, soon it will be so big that video game manufacturers won’t be able to ignore it any more.
Aveline de Grandpré via XBLA Fans

A woman assassin? Shocking! via XBLA Fans

This issue reared its head again earlier this year at E3 when the new Assassin’s Creed game announced that it would feature multiplayer gameplay, but no women assassins. The absurdly weak excuse that Ubisoft gave was that “women are too difficult to animate.” However, after a backlash from both fans and many video game animators, many people were left with the impression that Ubisoft simply didn’t care to market the game toward women.
None of this is really new news to us women who play video games. Despite the protests of angry fanboys who say we only play these games for attention and don’t really know anything about video game culture or history, and despite the complete lack of interest in marketing toward women many video game developers continue to show, the number of women who buy and play video games is consistently on the rise. It’s just plain ridiculous (and bad business) to dismiss 48% of your customers and to treat just 17% of them as if they are your only customers. Hopefully this survey is just one more shovelful of dirt on the grave of the entire fake gamer girl concept and we’re one step closer to women finally being taken seriously in the gaming world.
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Mey is a lesbian Latina trans woman living in Idaho. Her areas of expertise include comic books, trans issues and pop culture. She has an English Degree, a cat named Sawyer, a tumblr that she uses a lot and a twitter that she only uses occasionally.

Mey has written 152 articles for us.

30 Comments

  1. Thumb up 8

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    Fast approaching 62 and still gaming as are both of my daughters. My Granddaughters also are gamers. The youngest loves the car racing games on PS-3 and X-box, like “DiRT”.

    Where games are lacking is in characters and plots where women are the main protagonist and have something to gain from the adventure, rather than being “eye candy” for the guys. Thankfully that is changing.

    One game I really liked is Funcom’s “The Longest Journey” and the sequel “TLJ: Dreamfall”. April Ryan and Zoe Castillo are both intelligent, brave, resourceful, curious, and don’t have to shed their femininity to handle situations. I am looking forward to the next part of the adventure “Dreamfall: Chapters” due out late this year.

    I’d love to see a female assassin in the “Assassin’s Creed” series as well.

  2. Thumb up 0

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    Part of me really wants more female-led games. Another part of me thinks that if they’ll just be the chick-flick version of games. Basically stuff where your man goal is to get a boyfriend (no gay option, obviously) which side missions like baking and sewing and gossiping with your friends. Not trying to be a downer, but, sigh.

    Does anyone know the statistics of female workers in the gaming industry? I feel like those stats need to improve before we ever get anything close to decent female aimed games.

    Just get back to me when I can play Anne Bonnie in AC: Black Flag.

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      They kind of already do make the “chick-flick version of games.” And it’s great if you’re the kind of person who grew up playing games like Myst, but it doesn’t really help if you’re just dying to play as a girl in the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer.

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        Oh yeah. I’ve played hidden object games before, and they’re fun as little time wasters, but yeah, give me more fully-realised, non-sexualised female characters in “boys” games. With the villain of the game being The Patriarchy.

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    This post is relevant to my interests! My sisters and I have been musing recently about our video-gaming childhood and recently downloaded Starcraft II for some epic three way strategic showdowns- we had our first match two days ago, it was great and now all I want to do is play again (and beat my sister and her freakin Protoss situation).

    But I noticed that the two female … uh.. army members.. in the Terran race are 1) a medic and 2) a fast flying ship ‘the Banshee’ (which is slightly better but still). Why can’t women fly the ginormous Battlecruisers?!

    I remember Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4 having almost zero girl characters (the one girl was blonde with lots of boobs). SIGH x 23423

    May this study help CHANGE THE THINGS

  4. Thumb up 1

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    I have been playing video games since I was old enough to hold a controller. I have owned damn near every console. And their are plenty of other women out there like me. This survey only proves that. We also like comic books, Marvel and DC.

    I don’t know what Ubisoft’s problem is. AC: Liberation wasn’t exactly a failure and saying they can’t animate women is bold face lie due to Liberation’s very existence.

    Another series featuring a female protagonist that sold extremely well was the revamped Tomb Raider. A game that both men and women played. Women also bought the hell out of the Mass Effect series, which game you the option of playing as male or female. And don’t forget Samus from Metroid is a girl. Too bad they ruined that whole series with that last installment. Maybe it’s time for a Tomb Raider-style reboot.

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    As someone who has done the research and owns a casual game studio with a target demographic towards woman gamers, I call foul on this article.

    While the ESA research does a great job on bringing to light what demographics play games, it doesn’t discern the casual/mobile market from the “core” or AAA market.

    The core demographic is still skewed with male gamers above 60%.

    The industry is also a byproduct of what is hurting all of the tech industries: lack of female tech developers.

    Did you know that 96 percent of all mobile app developers are male, and only 4 percent are female?

    The core game industry has gone out of it way to help recruit more female developers, in 2009 only 11.4% of the industry was female. Today it it is nearly 23%.

    These changes do not come overnight.

    • Thumb up 10

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      Ahhh yes. The “real” vs “casual” gamers argument again.

      Aside from that, I guess it’s “foul” to discuss industry wide issues when some employment numbers went up (which outright ignores the massive harassment problem the industry has towards female employees).

      And I also learned from this comment that its foul to discuss these things because change won’t come overnight, which means we just have to sit down and be patient I guess and not publicly expect better and hold the industry accountable.

      I learned so much from this, thanks random internet person that signed up to this site specifically to post this most informative of comments.

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        Comments like this appear to be why men seemingly do not visit sites likes these. Glen just make a perfectly reasonable refutation argument and what does he get in return? Not a rational response he doesn’t. Instead, the entire point of his argument gets deliberately misinterpreted right down to the words he typed.

        He never distinguished “core” or AAA gamers as “real” gamers once. That being said, you cannot ignore the fact that core gamers are a real demographic. If you bring pickup and play mobile games into the picture then, yes, I think you are going to find the female demographic closing in on the male. However, you’d be making huge leap in logic to say that the people who avidly play Kim Kardashian: Hollywood are the same people who avidly play Star Wars: Battlefront 2.

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          “Comments like this appear to be why men seemingly do not visit sites likes these. ”

          Or maybe it’s because this site isn’t meant for men. At all. Like that’s the entire point of this website. And that it’s a good thing that this site doesn’t have to worry about catering to men.

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          Oh Omar, that’s why men don’t visit this site more? I thought it was because it is focused on and written by queer women. Girls, settle down. You’re scaring away the boys.

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          And yet, here you guys are, complaining about an industry that doesn’t cater to your gender identity.

          Fight the good fight, but try not to be a hypocrite while you’re at it.

        • Thumb up 7

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          I’m sorry, the next time I’m having a conversation with my female friends about the video games we play, I’ll make sure to include the opinions of random men to make sure we’re not being hypocrites by having a conversation that doesn’t revolve around them!! Thank you sooooo much for focusing a conversation back onto your feelings!!

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          All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t expect the culture around video games to change as quickly as you may prefer if you’re not going to include men in the conversation. If you’re not going to do that then yeah, Glen is on point. You’re just going to have to wait for women to continue populating the workforce in the industry, and such a change, as he pointed out, doesn’t happen overnight.

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          You seriously believe this is the only website on the internet that’s talking about this issue? What we have been saying is that it’s ridiculous for some random dude to be like “Wow no wonder men never come here!” when it’s a website for queer women (and FAAB individuals). If you expect to be pandered to during the conversation, there are plenty of other websites that cater to an all-gender audience. This website, however, is not one.

        • Thumb up 4

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          *GASP*

          You mean to tell me the boys won’t come to visit if I think “just wait for us to fix it with better employment numbers!” Is an unacceptable response and accountability needs to be continuously held, and I shouldn’t be expected to give the boys cookies when they are just being “reasonable”.

          **gasp**

          This is most distressing, I wanted the boys to visit me on this site ever so much.

          Sweetie, get my fainting couch!

        • Thumb up 5

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          “…such a change, as he pointed out, doesn’t happen overnight.”

          Wow, it’s a good thing some random dudes dropped by to point that out. With our delicate lady brains, we were under the impression that all changes happen instantaneously! If you hadn’t said otherwise, who knows how long we might have gone on thinking it?

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      What constitutes a “core” game or a “casual” game? Platform? Size of the studio? Length of game?

      I play games that fit in both categories, and they’re all fun. Isn’t that the point, whether you’re playing the latest AAA shooter or Candy Crush?

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      I’m not interested in getting into the “casual” versus “hardcore” argument, mostly because it’s incredibly stupid and filled with unnecessary elitism. But I also found issue with this article, if only because consoles and mobiles generally have very different markets. Although it’d be nice to change that, there are many people (such as myself) who play video games in all of their spare time who would never spend money on a mobile game and people who would spend hundreds on mobile games who wouldn’t look twice at Elder Scrolls VI or Destiny.

      It’s a neat statistic, but you can’t really use it as proof that “the games market is getting better for women!” unless it’s split by mobile/casual vs noncasual.

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      I know that everyone else is bugging out about this comment but it’s a REALLY salient point unfortunately. As a woman who works in the games industry, it’s very exciting to see that 48% of gamers are female, but the fact of the matter is that this report doesn’t discern AAA console games from casual gaming, which in my opinion should be considered a completely separate topic.

      Particularly with all the insanity surrounding Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency videos regarding violence against women and women as sexual objects in AAA games, it’s important to be informed about the numbers, and while it’s all well and good to be excited about 48%, and I would like to think that percentage is made up mostly of console and PC gamers, that isn’t true.

      While I find it odd, if Glen indeed is a man, that he’s busy on a website specifically made for women, there isn’t any reason to attack him over the content of his post. He’s simply making a legitimate and founded statement about the state of the games industry. So instead of tearing someone apart, it would be really cool if people could actually have a civil conversation about it, as I did with someone who had an opposing opinion to mine, which you can read HERE if you’d like.

  6. Thumb up 7

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    This is an issue that I care a whole hell of a lot about. I grew up with games, they were a real comfort and an essential coping mechanism as a young autistic girl, and as an adult I’ve really come to appreciate what a great medium for storytelling video games can be — or perhaps more accurately, interactive stories, since a good “game” need not always be concerned with objectives or victory conditions.

    We deserve better than an endless sea of normy cis hetero white male able-bodied protagonists. The unspoken presumption is that this is a mold into which /any/ person can be poured without losing anything of their self, and it’s bunk. There are stories you just can’t tell with that kind of lead, great stories. Look at Tomb Raider, look at Portal, look at Mirror’s Edge and look at the unique experiences you get playing a woman in the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series. And these merely scratch the surface!

    Games are predominantly genre fiction, a realm to which it seems diverse leading characters are so often denied entry. I was just last night complaining how it seems that queer characters only seem to be allowed as supporting characters in high school dramas. Where are my queers in science fiction? Where are my queers in fantasy? Why can’t queer people go on great adventures, go amazing places and do amazing things, save worlds and find love along the way? Those are the kinds of stories I love, and I so desperately wish that I was permitted to see myself in them.

  7. Thumb up 4

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    It’s scary and bizarre how multiple entertainment industries, videogaming, toys, comic books, etc. have strayed so far from their roots, historically speaking. Videogames used to be something for the whole family to enjoy. Before the CCA, comic books in general were very diverse beyond just superhero books aimed at boys, and only in the past decade have started reemerging to the public as a powerful art form. Remember when LEGO was for both girls and boys to express and develop their creativity through fun hands-on construction? I sure as hell don’t. Anyone younger than 40 won’t either. Due to lack of education on these histories, it will seem like these toys, comic books, and such were always intended purely for the enjoyment of boys and men, with an unnecessarily hyper-genderized bone or two thrown to girls, or rather thrown to the ideal of “what girls really want” according to out of touch male company execs.

    The fact that many boys and men will protest female representation in these media by saying “___ has always been for guys! Companies that pander to females are out of touch of what makes the money!” is exactly the same as saying these things should stay the same because it’s tradition! Except, that’s a huge fucking lie, and anyone who scrapes past the past few decades will find that.

    This erasure of representation is a huge part of the problem, with another being actual lack of representation within these industries. I work for a game company and we run into this issue a lot, as do other game companies, despite our best efforts. There are just so many reasons for this, both in-game and in-industry. From my experience, because there are so few women in our company to drive the fight for female representation and diversity, the well-meaning male majority feels it isn’t within their place to portray female characters for fear of portraying them “wrong” or in ways that aren’t “flattering” (aka. anything that isn’t a slim, uber feminine fashion model). It’s also pretty challenging to make them see diversity as “important enough” to design for, as opposed to something delegated to afterthought. Things won’t get better without continued pushing, though. At the very least, the fact that these issues are being brought up again and again means a lot and puts more pressure on game companies to acknowledge that maaaaybe there’s a problem.

    Some person said this amazing thing though, that really keeps my personal fire from dying: just like in videogames, you know you’re heading in the right direction when you find yourself facing a lot of enemies.

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      I remember that lego… I’m 30 and it was my favourite childhood toy. I also remember British comics geared towards “children” rather than boys OR girls. American comics were rare to see in the late 80s/90s newsagents or corner shops here. Fully agree r.e. Erasure and LOVE that quote at the end!

  8. Thumb up 0

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    My girlfriend is a HUGE gamer! The lack of female characters in a lot of her games is something I notice and am really bothered by. I also don’t understand why pretty much all of the clothing options for the few female characters I do happen to see are so hyper sexual!
    I am more of a “casual” gamer myself, but, she did surprise me with Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls and I was so excited I would have danced around the room for joy if I hadn’t just been released from the hospital due to a hysterectomy!
    Great article! Thank you for writing it!

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    yea I recently walked up on a group of ppl outside of my job (co-workers) and when i started talking about call of duty and other awesome games Assassin’s creed being one of them they looked at me like what and then high fives me. I was like lol okk yes thats awesome i know but it was like okk you didnt know chicks are 1st person shooters and gamers who are just as good if not better than ya’ll?

    I saw that assassin’s creed false advertisement with the female assassins creed character came with assassins creed 3 or the brotherhood i think. I was geeked at 1st but then black flag came out like its good but dang really

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