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Time to change our view of the gamer

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Jem McCarron
WVoN co-editor

If you hear the phrase ‘social gaming’ do you imagine middle -aged professional women who are happy with their lives and having lots of sex?

No? Well, neither do most people, but recent research is changing the way that markets think about games and women.

According to a study conducted in October 2010 women make up 54 per cent of social gamers and their average age is around 43.

The majority have attained a college level or above education and 44 per cent of gamers are earning over $55,000 with 41 per cent in full time employment.

Social gamers are as likely to be married with children as they are to be single without. And they’re social creatures too, spending more time with friends and having sex more often than their non-gaming counterparts.

In essence, today’s gamers are educated, affluent, mature women, a world apart from most people’s preconceptions of the young, unemployed, male geek.

As if this wasn’t enough to throw the industry into disarray, a study carried out at the end of 2011 by Park’s Associates on behalf of HSN (Home Shopping Network), found that women have overtaken men in their love of gadgetry, 88 per cent of women bought tech this year compared to 83 per cent of men.

It appears that on many levels women are now equalling or exceeding men when it comes to online gaming, social gaming and gadget buying.

This is big news for an industry that has traditionally only had to worry about marketing to men.

As Facebook prepares to float on the stock market later this year the social games that are making a tidy profit from its users are also hot property.

Combine the interest in social gaming with the increase in popularity of smart phones and the onslaught of mobile games available to while away a few spare minutes and you have an area of great interest to marketers.

Zynga, for example, created ‘Farmville’. You may have come across it on Facebook – it’s one of the most popular aspects of the social networking site.

It is, as the name implies, a game about the fundamentals of farming, ploughing, sowing and harvesting of fruit and vegetables.

Farmville is a fremium game, free to play, but users can purchase premium content and the growth in smart phones means that these sorts of games are no longer tied to desktops, but can go with the gamer, and crucially, be played at any odd free moment.

Hoping to take advantage of our apparent love of gaming is Gamification, a buzz word coined in 2010 by Jesse Schell, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center and founder of South Side-based Schell Games.

Gamification is the technique of creating a game out of the most tedious of activities, such as responding to a survey or shopping.

Air miles or loyalty cards are perhaps the most basic form of gamification, but with the advent of the smart phone, the possibilities become seemingly endless.

An excellent example of the power of social gaming is when the electronics retailer, Best Buy placed virtual stores in Zynga’s ‘Cityville’ game, resulting in more than a million Facebook fans in just one week.

In the UK the Department for Work and Pensions developed an internal game called ‘Idea Street’. Within 18 months they had around 4,500 users and 1,400 ideas. 63 of these ideas had been implemented.

UK-based technology research company Gartner Inc claims that by 2015 more than 50 per cent of organisations responsible for innovation will be using gamification.

What is clear is that women will be at the heart of this. As people realise that gaming isn’t just for the kids, women are emerging as the new target audience and all the research so far says it makes them happier, more socialised and sexually fulfilled.

  1. The average male gamer isn’t young, unemployed, or a geek either. Also isn’t this article discussing ‘casual’ gaming which skews the numbers as considering traditional gaming does towards men?

  2. No, the average male gamer isn’t young, unemployed or a geek. However, the popular image of the ‘gamer’ is often in line with that misconception.

    The research used for this article also noted that most of the social gaming women also played consoles, and indeed other research is seeing a significant increase in women buying and playing ‘traditional’ gaming platforms.

    I appreciate that in some circles, the impression is that social gamers are mainly women, or rather that women are mainly social gamers, but what this research shows is that men have been matching women in ‘casual’ gaming and it’s only recently that women are emerging as the majority in this area.

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