Women Are (Slightly) More Likely to Own a Game Console Than Men, But That Misses the Point

Sexist gatekeepers have another hurdle to try to mansplain away: a recent report by the Pew Research Center examined device ownership in the United States, concluding more women than men own a game console.

The study, which can be read in its entirety here, is based on telephone interviews conducted from March to April of this year with 1,907 Americans at least 18 years old living in the 50 states and D.C. Pew concluded about 40% of American adults own a game console and that “ownership varies by age, household income, and education.”

However, the statistic from this survey everyone is clinging to is the one that looks at gender. According to Pew, 42% of the women surveyed own a game console (such as an Xbox or PlayStation, as surveyors said), whereas 37% of the men surveyed owned a game console. This is a difference of five percentage points. The margin of error Pew lists for much of its statistics fall between plus-or-minus 2.6 points (margin of error associated with U.S. adults group) to 8.4 points (margin of error associated with less than high school education group). For the men and women survey groups, the margin of error is around three and a half points.

Pew states in its study of console ownership that “there are no differences based on gender or race and ethnicity.” The greater differences lie in household income, education, and age. For example, an adult with some college education, coming from a household whose annual income is at least $75,000, and is 18-29 years old, or even 30-49, is very likely to own a game console—to no one’s surprise. Pew found similar results of how household income affects device ownership in other areas, such as smartphones, computers, and tablets.

Yet I saw little of that being discussed in various news articles or on social media. The statistic that everyone clung to, despite Pew stating the difference was minimal, was the fact that women are slightly more likely than men to own game consoles. I love shaming sexist gatekeepers as much as the next person, but we have fallen into a consistent pattern of rejoicing whatever piece of women’s consumerism “proves” we play games, too. You’re not more of a gamer whether you own one games console or three, whether you built your own gaming desktop computer, or whether you buy games the day they come out or play free games on your phone. There’s a reason we always see the same middle class person reflected in games and other media; this stuff is expensive. Owning a game console is a status symbol not every gamer can afford. Forget gender gatekeeping—if we continue gatekeeping based on class as well, we’re still insisting certain people don’t belong in our hobby. We know what it’s like to feel like we’re not allowed; why reinforce that with classism?

Most illuminating is what sexist gatekeepers have done with this statistic. Multiple replies in a thread on NeoGAF asked if this number is a result of mothers owning game consoles for their children (as if the same couldn’t be said of fathers). Another eloquent response included “lol no way this can be true.” Others tried to explain the fact that plenty of women own consoles too is because lots of women own a Nintendo Wii, which they imply means those gamers aren’t “hardcore.”

Pew conducted a similar study four years ago, and little has changed since then. The percentage of men versus women owning a console has changed somewhat; according to Pew, four years ago 45% of the men surveyed owned a game console, whereas 40% of women did. That’s the same difference of percentage points—a minimal difference. Some of the statistics don’t mesh perfectly with the ESA’s 2015 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, but all of this information confirms something we already knew.

Women play games. A lot.

The fact that we still feel pressured to prove this—time and time again to people who aren’t listening anyway—through consumer data is absurd. After all, gatekeepers will continue to concoct reasons as to why the data is flawed. When women play games on their phones, gatekeepers say those games don’t count because they’re not “really games.” When women play games on a console, gatekeepers say they’re not hardcore enough to play PC games. When women play PC games, gatekeepers say they’re playing the “wrong games” (e.g. Gone Home, visual novels, etc.). When women play fighting games, shooters, or MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena), gatekeepers don’t take them seriously.

We don’t need to win this argument. We don’t need to prove anything.

Carly Smith

Carly Smith

Carly is a freelance writer and editor, often working on various publications at once. She loves cats, games, and anime — maybe in that order — and adores cosplaying. Follow her on twitter at @roseofbattle.