Gaming for Girls

November 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Video games have long been the domain of teenage boys and young men, but no more. According to financial firm "Wedbush Morgan", female gamers now make up 40-percent of the video game market. Compare that with less than 12-percent of females playing video games in 2001.The growth in gaming among females runs through every age group. First it was the portable gaming device by Nintendo called the "DS". The company targeted girls six to ten-years-olds with the game "Nintendo Dogs".

11-year old Kayla Calmes of Fresno likes the idea of caring for her virtual dogs lucky and spot. She feeds them, walks them, teaches them to sit and even enters them into dog competitions.

Kayla, like other young female gamers appreciates being able to personalize her players, or in this case her dogs.

Chip Lange, General Manager of Electronic Arts, Inc., told us in a Skype interview that gaming interests for girls are very different from boys. "Customizing just about everything and personalizing everything inside the product. They want it to feel like "theirs". There's a sense of style, there's a sense of fashion to it. "

Females tend to be more social than males and this new interactive game "Charm Girls Club" is social, and competitive. Kayla and her two friends Kaitlyn and Danielle Pacheco quickly became absorbed in the simulated slumber party games with activities including jumping on the bed, teasing and spraying hair, and sack races.

The increase in female gaming is not just for the younger set, women 35-years and older have become the largest growing demographic in a $13 billion dollar online gaming market.

Millions of women are playing games like Bejewled and Farm Ville on social networking sites like Facebook.

35-year-old Johnna Briner of Clovis is a wife and mother of four. She home-schools her children and runs a business from home. Still, she finds time to play a game on Facebook called Bejeweled Blitz.

A friend challenged Johnna to play and she couldn't resist. Now when she has a few minutes in between activities or late at night when the kids are in bed, she goes to the computer to play. "It's only a minute game and so I look at the clock on my computer and if it's 8:13, I'm going to play 'til 8:15; then another minute, okay 8:20...... No!"

Tamyra Pierce a Communications and Journalism Professor at Fresno State said not only is there more females playing videogames, there are more females producing videogames which shows in the product. "The female characters are different now. They're not the busty, scantily dressed characters that we've seen in the past. But now we're seeing a different type of female character."

There are different kinds of games for every female player. Even Fresno County's Sheriff Margaret Mims is known to sign onto Facebook to play a game called "Pirates".

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims: "You log on and you actually have a persona. You can also choose a pet," said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

Sheriff Mims has a dog named "Justice" that helps her fight her pirate wars. "The thing with pirates, I talked about your pet, You have to feed and pet your pet; otherwise they can't help you with your battles."

Liz Harrison: "So do you do this every day?"

Mims: "Oh no!"

Liz Harrison: "So your pet's gonna die?"

Mims: "He's probably in the red right now."

A parched and unhappy dog may be a drawback, but online gaming fits everyone's schedules, and for the most part it's free, which is why game makers expect their female market to expand next year and beyond.

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