There are countless positive effects of your child playing video games—gaming can improve hand-eye coordination, teach problem-solving skills, enhance creativity, and even help kids make friends.
Sadly, however, there is still a common misconception that only boys participate in gaming with any seriousness, and as such, even the most well-meaning articles about the benefits of video games are focused mostly on male gamers.
Why does this narrow focus matter?
Excluding half the population from the gaming conversation prevents girls from reaping the benefits listed above. It discourages them from pursuing tech hobbies and then careers, which in turn limits the variety of games being produced. It reinforces the exclusivity of gaming spaces, telling girls they don’t belong and telling boys it’s okay to make them feel that way. It makes female gamers feel unsafe and unaccepted in their gaming communities.
It results in the assumption that the 59% of girls aged 13–17 who are playing video games don’t exist in public gaming spaces. But those girls do exist and they are playing:
- 44% of the total gaming population are female. Almost half!
- 33% of the above statistic are adult women (over 18 years old). This is double the only 15% of gamers who are teenage boys (the typical target demographic of the gaming industry).
- Out of the 59% of teenage girls playing video games, “47 percent say they never play online. Another 27 percent say they never even play with someone else in the same room.”
- Only 9% of teenage girls playing video games will use voice chat.
That’s a lot of statistics. What do they mean? In a nutshell, female gamers make up the largest percentage of the gaming community to date, even larger than teenage boys, and yet they have the smallest, almost non-existent voice, literally and figuratively.
What can we do?
There are hundreds of articles and studies and sources of information about video games and the rise of female players—this is excellent. The more we talk about the harassment and the daily struggles female gamers face, the closer we can get to finding solutions to these problems. We should also draw attention to the other- and self-imposed silence female games endure to avoid harassment while they play and develop games.
Other solutions include highlighting women who are making strides in the gaming industry, and addressing issues up front (like this open letter to the gaming community, which asks people to call out and stop harassment when it’s spotted). We can support female-founded and female-run indie game studios like Her Interactive and Silicon Sisters. And most importantly, we can teach our youngsters about acceptance and respect, which might be the most simple and effective solution of all.
If we can teach our young boys to treat their female gaming peers with welcome and positive regard; if we can explain to them that they should stick up for any player when they hear gender-based insults about gaming skill (regardless of to whom the insults are directed); if we can instill in them a sense of inclusiveness in their gaming spaces, it could go a long way toward helping mold their attitudes about “girl gamers,” so when they encounter a female voice in their headset while playing Call of Duty, they don’t even blink.
Girls need new lessons too. If we can give our young girls video game consoles as toys in addition to dolls and makeup kits; if we can encourage their technology-driven dreams; if we can give them the tools and the confidence to stick up for themselves; and especially if we can provide safe spaces in which they can flex their gaming muscles, it could go a long way toward eliminating the fear many girls have about turning on those headsets in the first place, and letting their voices be heard.
Take Julia and Jessica, two sisters who grew up loving to play video games but were unsure how to express their passion or what to do with it. Their parents signed them up for camp with iD Tech where they learned women can excel in game development both as a hobby and as a career, and where they received the tools and encouragement to pursue it themselves. They went on to co-own their own indie game studio called Fallstreak, where they released a video game called Axle, currently on sale from Google Play.
Julia and Jessica’s story can be every female gamer’s story. So let’s encourage our children to think carefully about the words they use, and the way they inhabit their digital spaces—remind them there are real people on the other side of the screen. There are a lot of benefits to your children playing, designing, and loving video games; creativity and critical thinking are essential life skills for everyone, not just boys. While women are underrepresented in many STEM fields, industry leaders are working hard to engage more girls in technology. And each of us can do our part.
Let’s change the dialogue together. Let’s give female gamers the mic.
Join us for camp this summer and show your child, male or female, how fun, inclusive, and beneficial playing and creating video games can be. Whether you choose our co-ed iD Tech Camps and Academies or our girls-only Alexa Café option, our game development courses are a great way to learn the basics and get exposure to the endless possibilities of the gaming industry.