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Study: More women than teenage boys are gamers

Fanny Bouton, right, plays the “Need for Speed” racing video game at the EA booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

The average gamer may not be who you think he is.

Women older than 18 are 36 percent of the game-playing population, while boys younger than 18 are only 17 percent, according to a recent study by the gaming advocacy group Entertainment Software Association.

The number of female gamers age 50 and older increased by 32 percent from 2012 to 2013.

Men still make up 52 percent of the game-playing population, but women, now 48 percent of the gaming population compared with just 40 percent in 2010, are closing in. The rising popularity of mobile gaming is one reason why.

But some don’t want to call people who play games on their phones “gamers.” Those playing Candy Crush on their phones, it seems, are the Sunday drivers of the gaming world.

Those “playing mobile and facebook games arent gamers. If your a gamer, your main hobby is playing games. Be it on console, handheld (3ds/psp) or PC,” wrote one Redditor in response to the study.

Some women apparently agree. “As a female gamer I was really excited to read this news title, but as I read on I have to agree with you,” another commenter responded. “There’s a big difference between playing mobile apps and spending hard time and money on console and PC games.”

Whether or not mobile gamers count as gamers, more women playing video games could have an impact on an industry often chided for rampant sexism and promoting violence. To some extent, they already are.

At the E3 gaming conference earlier this year, game maker Ubisoft caught flak for scrapping a female character in an upcoming game, “Assassin’s Creed Unity,” because it would “double the work.” “A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation,” Ubisoft technical director James Therien said in June. The backlash ultimately led the company to include a female character, but female protagonists in games are still few and far between.

“Often, when I play through new games, or check out previews, it feels like the industry is making games for itself — for the demographic of the average developer, a white straight dude in his 30s,” Alli Thresher, a game designer and writer, told Slate.

The only solution, it seems, is for female gamers to be the change they seek.

“A few months ago I sat in on a high school career day,” Thresher told Slate. “The last group of kids to ask questions was made up entirely of young women.  My hope is that those girls aren’t discouraged or deterred from entering this field.”