Wednesday, October 17, 2007
From time to time, I still come across the opinion that women are less active in the digital world than men. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Women are particularly suited to community-based online environment because of their natural disposition to personal interaction - in other words, they like to talk and they're inclined to sort problems out by talking them through with girlfriends. They have always been at the centre of communities, forming networks to socialise and to achieve personal and collective goals. Online social networks and games are an extension of this.
With traditional family networks eroded by factors like divorce and migration, and longer working hours compromising their social lives, women are reaching out and connecting online. In tandem, social games are evolving to meet their needs, naturally building on real life interactions, so the real world fuses seamlessly with the digital space. From games that simulate workouts and playing musical instruments, to games that double as entertaining car advertisements, this space is getting really interesting. And women are increasingly in the driving seat.
For some time, Internet participation has been split fairly evenly between males and females in many countries. What's more, the sizeable majority of casual online games, including puzzles and card games, are played by women.
In the UK, for example, women aged 18-34 are the most dominant group online (Nielsen Net Ratings, March 2007). 79% of females (almost 19 million women) play games and puzzles online, according to a survey by gaming website Zylom, published in October 2007.
They're also spending more time gaming online. 74% of those questioned spend up to 3 hours a week playing online games, although 17% choose to conceal their gaming habits from friends and family.
Increasingly gaming is combined with social networking and anecdotally, many female gamers have forged lifelong friendships with the people they meet online. The highly popular female-oriented entertainment website and social network iVillage teamed up with the gaming site Pogo earlier this year to deliver over 65 free online games to its 16 million-strong community. They can play alone, or play with other members, while engaging in online chat.
In the US, the Stress Institute and Pogo have been promoting the stress-busting benefits of casual online games to college students in the run-up to exams. According to the Stress Institute, students who take a mental break and clear the mind by engaging in activities such as playing casual games are less likely to experience stress during exams.
Console gaming has traditionally been male oriented, but now, females in Japan have ousted males to become the biggest users of Nintendo’s Wii and DS games consoles, the president of Nintendo Satoru Iwata announced in October. If this trend gains traction globally, it means that women will be driving a move towards even more social and lifestyle-oriented gaming, forcing the games industry to revisit its business models.
Nintendo is ahead of the game. Its new product, Wii Fit, which uses a sensor to register body movement, takes players through a daily routine of yoga, balancing exercises and other fitness activities. Nintendo say the sensor, due to be released in time for Christmas, will cost 8,800 yen ($AU85).