Online gaming has become a massive industry. The diversity, complexity, and visual appeal of games became more appealing as the internet packages which facilitate the high-speed connections necessary to function in a real-time game improved.
For the first decade or more, this industry was catering almost exclusively to men. There were still some women who were playing the games which were available but there were far more male players. This was mostly because the people designing the games were doing so with male players in line.
It soon became obvious that the female component of their audience was just as engaged and competitive. This led to the realization that they could double their market share by making games women were more interested in, so they did. Now women are playing games in greater numbers than ever before.
Social Networks and Smartphones
The gateway into gaming, for many women, is their social networks or their smartphones. Prior to the development of these, many women would say they weren’t gamers or they weren’t interested in playing games. As social networks began to grow, companies like Facebook began putting out games that allowed you to help your friends or work cooperatively with them to complete tasks within the game.
For many women, building a community is something they naturally want to do and this gave them a fun way to do so. Games such as Farmville may have been joked about in pop culture, but many women (and men) were playing it on a regular basis and it became the door through which they stepped to enter the vast world of online gaming.
Another important technological development that led to the female domination of the gaming industry was the iPhone and the app market. Suddenly women could play these games during their downtime. Standing in line at the grocery store, filling up the car with gas, waiting at a doctor’s appointment, or waiting for a meeting to start were suddenly opportunities to escape into a virtual world.
In this virtual world, they could talk to new people and make friends or they could antagonize and destroy those who opposed them. Their aggression and tactical skills became valuable assets that allowed them to rise in the leaderboards and become top players. In the boardroom and living room they may need to be polite and socially appropriate but in Clash of the Clans, they can plot the destruction of their enemies with ruthless abandon.
The Evolution of the MMORPG
The Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) trend began in the 1970s but it wasn’t until 1985 that it was truly commercialized. These were networked games where people could play together but they weren’t necessarily massive. The development and mass acceptance of the internet was necessary for that final component. The first of these games were entirely text based.
It wasn’t until 1996 that visually stunning interactive worlds began to emerge with the release of Ultima Online. Soon an entire universe of individual online worlds began to be released, each painting a different scenario with new cultures, races, careers, and worlds to explore.
The storylines have continued to evolve into engaging interactive dramas that suck people in and leave them wanting more. Character interactions have also grown and they can now influence the game directly and talk in real time with other players from around the world.
These two final components tend to be the most important for women and where they excel in game playing. They are able to build valuable alliances and social networks with other players in the game which allow them to more easily accomplish the goals of various quests. They are also able to traverse the landscape of the story more easily.
There are also components of these games which require combat and women have occasionally been surprised to find they both enjoy and are naturally gifted in this area.
The gaming industry has become far more complex and as a result, it has continued to attract more and more women. As the industry continues this process through the integration of virtual reality and augmented reality, the number of women who will become interested and eventually invested in a virtual gaming world will skyrocket.