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New Study Shows Gender Gaps in Gamers

New Study Shows Gender Gaps in Gamers

Apr 10, 2007
Mary Hobson
Technology Schools Columnist

This year 90% of adolescent boys and 40% of adolescent girls will play video and computer games. Of these girls, some 80% will stop serious video game playing within a year. Computer gaming leads many young people into the information technology field, and the gender gap for IT professionals is projected to continue unless steps are taken by the industry to recruit women at an early age.

Girls like People in their Games

So why don't girls play computer games? The obvious answer is that most computer games are written to appeal to boys, and many girls simply don't relate to the kinds of subjects and actions that happen in most games. Research by EA, one of the largest game studios, shows that girls like to create relationships in their video games. EA produces The Sims, basing it on relationships between the characters that are created--and 75% of players are young women under the age of 25. This is very significant, as The Sims is the most successful game produced, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide.

This data has other implications as well. The computing industry is desperately short of recruits and is looking for ways to make computer jobs more attractive to young people. Since the 1980s, it has traditionally recruited men, both directly and through entrance to technology schools. However, for both practical and social reasons, the industry needs to look at potential employees from all possible demographics.

Technology Schools Target Women

Because computer games are often one of the early introductions children have to computing, it is essential for the industry that they are as attractive to girls as they are to boys. So how is this going to happen?

EA may have the answer--but it could be a Catch 22. Four of EA's 11 major studios are headed by women. This does change the flavor of its products, but it must be careful to avoid falling into the trap of making "pink games"--products that appeal to feminine stereotypes and do nothing to really make the industry more welcoming to women.

What does EA's CEO think is the solution to this conundrum? Investing in new talent. If you'd like to be part of the game revolution, regardless of your gender, you may consider getting an information technology degree.

Sources

 

About the Author

Mary Hobson is the Head of IT School at a Polytechnic in New Zealand. She also works as a freelance writer.