Video games have become nearly ubiquitous. They’ve engaged the general population as a viable form of collaborative and interactive art. Beyond entertainment, video games have been applied to help with learning, physical recovery, skill enhancement and a wide variety of other uses. This has been fueled in part by rapid technological advancement resulting in new interfaces—such as virtual reality and augmented reality—and more accessible costs. As more people are able to purchase games for a wider variety of devices, there has been an inevitable demographic shift in the gaming community.

Boys versus girls

According to the Entertainment Software Association’s 2016 Essential Facts data for the U.S., about 41 percent of game players are women. Staggeringly–and perhaps against conventional perception—women age 18 or older represent 31 percent of the game—playing population as compared to boys age 18 or younger (17 percent), with the average age of a female game player being 44 years old. Data from other countries is similar, showing that there is almost gender parity on the consumer side.

“It has remained a male-dominated industry in part because women have been less inclined to pursue technology and engineering.”

Who's playing?

Yet according to the International Game Developers Association’s 2016 Developer Satisfaction Survey, women represent only 20 percent of the workforce for creating games. While there were women who played major roles in early game development, video games originated in the typically male-dominated fields of information technology and computing. It has remained a male-dominated industry in part because women have been less inclined to pursue technology and engineering.

But this is rapidly changing. The game industry has placed more emphasis on increasing its diversity and the plethora of STEM-related programs aimed at women and underrepresented minorities are now showing promise. Many game development tools are now free or low-cost, making game creation more accessible as a form of artistic self-expression —similar to writing, painting, or filmmaking. Anyone who desires to make games now has the ability to do so, and we’re seeing many great games come from indie developers that often represent much greater diversity.

Ultimately, our goal is to reach a point where those who create games will better reflect those who play them, not just to create a more inclusive culture, but to grow the industry by helping us produce content that’s in touch with our consumers.