Teen girls are playing video games online, but they’re keeping quiet

All things considered, you can hardly blame them


Coming to you from ‘well, obviously’ studios, a ‘we already knew that’ production: ‘Teenage Girls Play Video Games.’ Yeah, it’s not exactly groundbreaking information that girls play video games, all kinds of video games – not just casual ones like Candy Crush, they have the capacity to span genres. Amazing. A recent study by The Pew Research Centre titled ‘Teens, Technology, and Friendship’ has, however, revealed information that might go some way to explaining why teenage girls are so often overlooked as avid video game players: they’re much more solitary. The study – which surveyed over 1000 teens – found that when girls game, they tend to avoid playing online or even with other people, and if they do go online, they don’t pick up their mics. You’d think there was a trend of harassing females in online gaming or something.

Here are some numbers: of the girls who took part in the survey, 60% said they play games on consoles, computers, or their phones. Of those, 47% said they never play online and 27% said they never play with anyone in the same room.

Of the teenage girls who game, a quarter of them will play online at least once a month. But only 28% of them will use the mic to talk to other players. This is an extremely small number, especially when compared to the 71% of teen boys who use voice chat to connect with other players.

Sadly, the study doesn’t go into the reasons why the number of girls playing in networked environments was so low. For some girls it could be something as innocuous as a preference to treat gaming as a solitary hobby with no need for a social element to increase enjoyment; it’s natural to want to enjoy an involving game narrative like a good book. However, it should also be considered that these statistics could also indicate the less than welcoming environment women enter when they opt to game online.

Personally, as someone who prefers solitary gaming, my preference undoubtedly stems from a natural introversion. However, it also comes from a fear of being harshly called out for being bad at my favourite hobby in front of other people, a fear that is a direct result of my own experiences in entering the less than inclusive world of online gaming at a young age. My experience in these networks managed to not only put me off communal gaming, they also deterred me from picking up entire genres of games. Only in fairly recent times have I been willing to pick up a controller in front of other people and play with them. And first person shooters still make me nervous.

Whatever is behind these girls’ silence, something that’s undeniable is that teenage girls continue to have an interest in a diverse range of games and they will play in any way they feel comfortable. It seems likely that in many cases the lack of willingness to play online will be the result of the innocuous and more sinister reasons feeding almost imperceptibly into one another; a female gamer will be made to feel unwelcome online to the point that the only way she can enjoy her gaming experience is offline, and she will naturally convince herself that this is her preference of play. The only thing that really matters is that this tendency of teenage girls to opt out of network gameplay is a voluntary decision rather than a naturalised exclusion.

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