One of the mighty tasks in effective marketing is understanding and targeting your specific demographic. In gaming, the face of the American gamer is often stereotyped, erroneously, as a young male, which overlooks a massive portion of the game community that non-gamers may be unaware of.
Yet recent conversations within the gaming community may have misled marketers, entrepreneurs and strategists into misunderstanding the reality of who gamers are today. One of the biggest, saddest, and dare I say moronic, reasons in 2014 was the Gamergate controversy. The hate-fueled Gamergate movement stirred such intense vitriol against women within the community that several women gamers and developers were effectively forced out of gaming community for their own safety.
I’ve heard of Gamergate…but really, what was/is it?
Properly articulating what Gamergate was/is can be a long-winded explanation supported by flimsy rumors. Yet after peeling back the many layers, an explanation of Gamergate necessarily must observe the movement’s beginning as an attack on a woman developer, Zoe Quinn, when she was trying to publish her game Depression Quest. Reviews on the game had little to do with the content of her work, but rather were an invasive look – and attack – on her rumored sexual life. At the core of the attacks were accusations of her sleeping with different men while she was allegedly in a committed relationship.
Yet as old fashioned misogyny gained momentum attacking her gender, coital behavior, looks, etc., an entire community banded together with the sole mission to “make her life irreparably horrible.” Vicious ad hominem insults swelled as the pack sent so many death threats she was forced to go into hiding for her own safety.
While online aggression continued on Quinn, the more level headed participants in the movement began advocating that the attention Quinn would receive from mainstream media would be sympathetic and paint her as a victim. Therefore, other participants in Gamergate advocated for taking the momentum gained from Gamergate and focusing on other issues which include:
- An argument for journalistic integrity in game reviewing. This was because, ostensibly, a review written for Quinn’s game was favorable due to the writer’s romantic affiliation with Quinn – a point later proven untrue.
- A demand for purification in the gaming community, in that gamers should not be bothered with social movement discussions such as sexism or racism – they just want to “play the games.”
- A defense for the young male demographic, that gaming is their industry and theirs alone.
Clearly, the conversation and purpose of Gamergate is muddled at best. However most people walk away from the Gamergate controversy understanding one thing – gamers don’t like women and don’t want them in the community.
In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Who Gamers Really Are – and the Opportunity Waiting for Developers
Savvy developers and entrepreneurs would be wise to understand that regardless of the adolescent cries of the loud and hateful gamergater, women and minorities are bringing their talents – and wallets – to help the industry grow in new and diverse ways.
The reality on gender in gaming is that women make up nearly 50% of the gaming world. According to a 2012 report by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), women trail behind men gamers by a marginal 6%. In a study conducted just before the Gamergate explosion in August, Flurry found that women spend more time and more money on mobile games. Women are reportedly also more loyal to these games than men, as well as spend 35% more time in gaming apps than men. Further studies reveal that adult women play video games more than boys.
Not only are women almost half of the gaming community, adults are just as active in gaming as those under 18. One of the reasons is those who grew up in the arcade era may have grown older, but they failed to abandon their former video game playing ways. The same ESA report put the age of the average gamer at 30, with 32% under the age of eighteen, 31% between the ages of eighteen and 35, and 37% over the age of 36.
What developers are afforded in today’s gamer-scape is that while there is still a prevalence of young males, other demographics are just as dominant in the community – and playing a wide variety of games more than ever. The big opportunity in game and mobile app development is that most games are still packed with primarily male protagonists with a heavy dominance of white characters.
Given the diversity of the actual gamer – why are we still building most of our games to target young males? Perhaps now is the time to think outside of the box, and build new kinds of games.
What do you think? Respond in the comments below.