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Men call themselves gamers, but just as many women play games

The Pew Research Center today published more findings on Americans and gaming, this time delving into who plays video games and general attitudes about them. According to the survey, gaming is a pastime that crosses genders, with 50 percent of men and 48 percent of women saying they played video games on a console, PC, or handheld device. Despite this, men are much more likely to self-identify as "gamers" than their female counterparts, and both men and women generally assume that most video game players are men.

60 percent of Americans assume gaming is a male activity

Pew researchers found that 49 percent of American adults — just shy of half the population — play video games with some regularity. However, how Americans map gaming onto men and women is one-sided. Fully 60 percent of Americans, including the men and women who play games, assume that gaming is a male activity. That assumption is reflected in who considers themselves a gamer. Fifteen percent of men surveyed consider themselves gamers, compared to just 6 percent of women.

The discrepancy between who people assume plays video games and those who actually do is likely to do with gendered assumptions about gaming reinforced by marketing and culture. Games like Call of Duty, Madden, and The Legend of Zelda consciously target boys and men while leaving girls and women out, creating the expectation that the medium itself is an explicitly male one.

That strategy bears out for men ages 18-29, with 77 percent of respondents saying they play games and a full 33 percent identifying as gamers. That compares to 57 percent of women playing games and just 9 percent of female gamers in the same age group. However, Pew did also find that people's relationship to gaming changes as they age. Thirty-eight percent of women over the age of 50 play video games, as compared to 29 percent of men.

Video games can be enjoyed by everyone

All told, the findings show how Americans ought to recalibrate how we think about who plays video games, while also calling on the industry to better reflect the people who play its games. While it's hard to say for certain whether or not women have bought more gaming consoles than man, as indicated in a previous Pew survey, it's definitely time to undo the notion that gaming is only for guys.