Video gaming no longer just for teenagers and men

When you think of video gaming you probably picture kids, teenagers or young adults. Hands glued to a controller and eyes glued to a screen, they’ll be steering and/or shooting at something.

What you probably don’t think of is over 50-year-olds doing that. Or if you do, chances are in your mind’s eye the scenario will feature a man. Certainly not a woman.

Well, it might be time to revisit your stereotypical view if the latest research is anything to go by. That research suggests that women over 50 are now prominent in the video gaming world. And the numbers are rising.

The latest figures show that women older than 50 are one of the fastest-growing demographics in video gaming. It is an interesting development, particularly for those in an industry that took in $345.5 million last year.

So what is it that is turning women over 50 into video gamers?

Women and video gaming

It’s not just older women who are embracing video gaming. It’s females of all ages. In 2005, women accounted for 38 per cent of Australian gamers. Less than two decades later, that proportion has risen to 46 per cent of all gamers across the country. That might not necessarily accord with your own anecdotal observations, and there may be a reason for that.

The apparent disconnect between those figures and your observations could come down to semantics. The figures embrace a fairly broad definition of the term ‘video gaming’. So broad in fact that it includes word puzzle games such as The New York Times’ worldwide hit Wordle.

Jeffrey Brand, a Bond University professor of communications explains: “Yes, Wordle counts as a video game because it has a win-lose condition [and] it’s a video presentation. Even though it’s kind of like a board or book game, it is played competitively and you have running stats.”

Presumably, Prof. Brand’s explanation means other games such as Words With Friends or Candy Crush fall into the video gaming category. So that widely encompassing definition might mean that your mind’s stereotypical image could still be accurate.

Prof. Brand’s research provided further revelations when it comes to mature women and gaming. “We have found over the past few years … that right around age 50 more women play games than men. They actually dominate the use of games,” he said.

Using these insights

Mr Brand is the author of the Australian Game Developer Survey. The survey, a joint initiative with the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, identified the shifting demographics of gaming in 2023.

It showed a very clear shift towards mature women. In an industry that had a revenue growth of about 21 per cent over the past year, this is significant. In particular, game developers will recognise the significance, with their marketing arms no doubt looking to take advantage.

The recent rise in popularity of ‘mature’ games should be a boon for Aussie gaming developers, according to Prof. Brand. Many of the products that come out of Australian studios are for casual gamers and are really very interesting. We have a lot of original IP that really appeals to that audience,” he said.

Taking on board the broader definition of video gaming, the average age of Australian gamers is now 35. That’s two decades older than the stereotypical 15-year-old many of us have in our minds.

With Wordle, a word guessing game of skill, proving popular worldwide since its 2021 debut, developers will be searching for the next big thing. And it could be women over 50 who dictate what that next big thing is.

Have you started playing more video games as you’ve aged? Do you prefer word games or other types? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Reading, writing letters and card games can delay dementia

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