Grown-up women play computer games and the latest research proves it. A report by Nesta revealed UK females are more likely to play and the average gamer’s age is 43. While over the pond, ESA recently reported that around 45% of US gamers are women and the average female video game player is 36.
Yet, neither media nor marketing seem to reflect this reality and so the widely-held belief that gaming is a young and mostly male domain persists. I’d like to take this opportunity to voice my experience, so you, dear reader, can hear from a woman behind the statistic, and maybe, just maybe, my fellow sister gamers and I can get a dash of recognition.
I’m a 39-year-old female who plays video games. Greetings. I’m also a freelance writer and a mother to twin toddlers. I enjoy yoga and fine wines. And I freaking love gaming. My journey started in the late 80s. As a kid my fantasy game was strong, nourished by Lloyd Alexander, She-Ra and ITV’s Knightmare. So, when I wandered into an arcade and discovered Golden Axe (a classic fantasy game with warriors and, importantly, dragons you could ride on), it was the beginning of a deep and enduring love affair.
I got to participate. Yes, I played real-life imaginative games with my pals but we didn’t have dragons. This was as close as I could get to embarking on a fantasy adventure. For my tween self, it was the best. thing. EVER.
Over three decades, I’ve returned again and again to enjoy some good old-fashioned escapism. I’ve seen games, particularly RPGs, evolve to become magnificently drawn epics. Whether it’s the adrenaline-spiking thrill of escaping Indiana-Jones style traps in Tomb Raider or the lofty goal of saving the galaxy in Mass Effect, playing games has given me a heap of child-like joy. Certainly, I have less time to play these days, but it’s still one of my favourite things to do.
And clearly, it’s not just me. I know plenty of other card-carrying grown-up women gamers. They include a retiree in her 60s (loves Fall Out), an Oxford University professor (mid-30s, avid Sims fan), a BBC producer (30s, Fable) and a nanny (40-something) who counts gaming as one of her passions alongside choir practice and dancing.
They are the humans behind the numbers. Yet, they’re still under society’s ‘mass popularity’ radar, despite the glaring fact they should be bigger players in the gaming arena.
We aren’t young and the gaming world experiences its fair share of misogyny, but here’s a macro-level suggestion: society struggles with the concept of females (particularly mothers) indulging in solo and selfish pleasure. Just because there have been some forward leaps for feminism of late, it doesn’t mean society at large is comfortable with older women diving into unbridled, self-indulgent joy, particularly if they do so alone.
The stereotypes pervade. A woman of a certain age is (must be) sociable and socially-minded at all times. This usually means taking care of people’s needs, not sitting in her saggy-arse joggers among a pile of snacks, controller in hand, pleasing only herself. After all, if mummy spends a few hours doing something so anti-social and self-indulgent as gaming what would happen to the world?
Well, I’m quite certain it wouldn’t fall apart. I envision a place where women are simply free to have more fun and not constantly put others before themselves. Perhaps their teen offspring would say: “We’ll make the dinner so you can finish level 5!”
OK, perhaps my fantasy game is still on the strong side. What would certainly help pave the way to this utopia is a nod from the advertising gods. After all, we grown-up gals have purchasing power with our own bank accounts and everything!
How about a beer advert where older men and women are gathered in someone’s living room playing Call of Duty? Or, an ad in which a business woman is nailing level 2000 on Candy Crush while devouring a giant bar of Galaxy? Come on, it makes perfect marketing sense.
Before that day comes, might I suggest you ask your female friends if they play computer games instead of assuming they don’t? If you’re a grown-up gal player, be unapologetic and own it (fist bump). And, if you ever see a mum wrangling two wilful toddlers in a local park, consider that she might let off steam by blowing up mutants with a bazooka when they’ve gone to bed.