Help! My Girl is a Gamer — What Should I Do?
Gaming is no longer just a boys’ club — not that it ever truly was, as we explored in our article about women in the video game industry. According to gaming news site Push Square, around 41% of PlayStation 4 and 5 console owners are women. That’s a huge increase from the days of the original PlayStation, only 18% of which were owned by women. Factors that could be encouraging girls and women into gaming include better, more believable female protagonists and an increase of female YouTubers running their own gaming channels.
If you have girls who are really into their video games, it’s natural to be concerned that they could be missing out on other aspects of their lives. We explore girls in gaming and what it means for their development and education.
Gaming as Social Connection
Gaming used to be seen as the province of the loner, with media portraying gamers as tucked away in rooms strewn with takeaway wrappers. Hardcore gamers were seen as a bit sad, lonely, and grubby. Today, gaming is a much more social endeavour. BBC’s Newsround found that during the lockdown, over half of 13 to 18-year-olds preferred to stay in touch via gaming devices than via traditional messaging methods. For these kids, gaming was a lifeline that beat back loneliness and isolation. The same report stated that 77% of parents surveyed stated that they believed that gaming had been a positive factor for their children’s mental health.
Gaming doesn’t just have to be internet-based to be social. Thanks to cameras and motion sensors, party games like dancing and karaoke allow friends to get together and compete as they move about in front of the screen. This allows them to stay active while they game, taking away the stigma of gaming as being physically unhealthy.
Gaming as an Avenue to the Sciences
Girls who get interested in games may end up wondering how those games are made. This gets girls into coding and encourages girls in technology to go further, reach for more, and to go for those opportunities. Women in technology fields often need very logical mindsets and the ability to solve puzzles or think outside the box — skills often needed when gaming. STEM education and tech education often revolve around gamification — the adding of rewards and incentives in a game-like scenario to encourage kids and get them engaged. Kids who are learning programming languages like Python will often start out making rudimentary games. Not only is this a fun and light-hearted introduction to coding, but employing the use of games makes coding more accessible and less daunting for those that may have doubts about their abilities.
Girls may even get into esports — the competitive world of gaming. The BBC recently reported on the lack of professional female gamers. It would be great to see that change in the next few years, to promote the fact that women and girls are just as great at making games, playing games, and performing at the highest levels of competition.
My Girl is a Gamer: Should I Be Worried?
As parents, it’s natural to be concerned about the overuse of any type of entertainment technology. Games are particularly rewarding, especially to dopamine-hungry young minds. This can lead to hours spent staring at a screen or clutching a pad. Kids may become obsessed with games, to the exclusion of other things. This can’t be healthy, right?
Thankfully, this pervasive preconception that video games are “bad” is inaccurate and generally perpetuated by the media. A common example is video games being blamed for violent behaviour. Lazy journalism often seeks a scapegoat when teens become angry or tragedy occurs. This occurs over and over, despite research showing that there is no link between violence and video games.
In fact, there may be many positives to your girls playing games, including:
· Better cognitive abilities and memory
· Better powers of observation and possibly even improved eyesight
· Improved coordination and fine motor skills
· Many games provide additional ways to connect socially — a factor which helped many children avoid isolation during the recent lockdowns
· A passion for gaming can lead to a passion for coding or game development which can be a fun hobby and a lucrative career choice
If you notice your girls getting excited about games, ask them what they’re playing. Get involved. Have a go yourself, if you’ve not already done so. If they want to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes of making a game, consider introducing them to coding groups for girls. It’s almost guaranteed they’ll meet like-minded individuals to share their passion with! Games can spark an analytical side of the brain and interest your girls in STEM subjects like engineering or robotics.
Letting girls know it’s okay to game helps fight the systemic barriers currently still in place. Girls that grow up with the confidence to play, to win, and to shrug at anyone who tells them they can’t — those girls will be the women shattering the glass ceilings in the gaming world of tomorrow.