Hardcore Gaming Gender: Separating Fact from Fiction

By Tye Van Horn
Staff Writer

“Girls don’t play video games,” said a friend of mine on Facebook. I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about addressing that statement. I could point out girls I knew who played video games of course, but I knew he wasn’t stupid enough to think that not a single girl played video games. This was a statistical analysis. He was saying: “On the whole, the male population dominates the female population in gaming.” This isn’t a sexist thought, just a mathematically uninformed one. I sent him a chart documenting Entertainment Software Association (ESA) statistics that stated roughly a 60/40 split from male to female gamers in 2011, and in 2012 a nearly even 47/53 split . This wasn’t enough to satisfy him, and he then threw out the phrase “Hardcore Gamer.” This is where things got muddy.

He pointed out that 80 percent of female gamers own the Wii over the other two consoles, and that hardcore gamers are the ones playing “Gears of War,” not “Just Dance 4.” This was a statement I took time to consider and unpack a few definitions. The term gamer, problematic or not, is not discriminatory. It applies to anyone who plays games, be it “World of Warcraft” or “Angry Birds.” The term “hardcore gamer,” though, is much more difficult top pin down. After some consideration towards his ideas I came up with a few important distinctions that led to the ultimate undoing of his logic.

Firstly the console you use does not have anything, to do with hardcore gaming, neither does it have to do with the genre you prefer. It is impossible to avoid the fact that many high budget Western-based games have a male demographic in mind, and that Nintendo and other Japanese based games tend to be more accessible from any audience. In that respect it isn’t surprising to find that the female audience is slanted towards Japanese gaming. I define a hardcore gamer on similar terms as one would define a movie buff or an art aficionado: one who involves him or herself in gaming as a primary hobby. If you have an investment in the gaming medium on a deeper level than simple entertainment, but also as an art-form to be understood enjoyed and appraised, than you deserve the title hardcore gamer.

Playing difficult games does not earn you this term. Neither does playing obscure games that no one knows about. While a hardcore gamer may do these things, that is a correlation not a causation. Which brings us to my friend’s statement. Playing “Gears of War” does not make you a hardcore gamer at all; just because “Gears of War” was a high budget gritty shooter that many people play does not mean anything about those who prefer other games. If a female plays Japanese role playing games and platformers, and that is all; if she has an investment in that series to the point where she can look at the games and say that they are important to her, she is a hardcore gamer. I know so many females who love the “Final Fantasy” series, who love “Mario” and “Pokemon” and so many other Nintendo games. I know more of them then I know males who love the same thing. That is because of demographics, what advertisers are trying to push. It is the majority, but not the rule.

Plenty of girls love “Call of Duty,” and many girls enjoy “God of War,” but those are male advertised male directed games, so it is ridiculous to point at those games and call that the ratio of male gamers vs. female gamers. There is such a wide variety and because of demographic we have been separated and tricked into believing that we are alone. We’re not. If you look at a group of 10 people at random, statistically seven of them are gamers. We may not always love the same games, or agree on what aspects of games are the most important, or even play games from the same era, but we all love games. We shouldn’t let gender or genre continue to dive us as gamers.

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