Four teenage girls run through a bloody battlefield armed with machine guns, dodging bullets and throwing grenades. They sit glued to their TV screen as they try to reach the next checkpoint in a video game set in a war zone.
Despite the preconception that violent video games, especially shooting and adventure ones, are only for males, the female audience is a growing segment.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, as of 2011, 42% of all players are women. Women over 18 years of age are one of the industry’s fastest growing demographics. Some of this growth can be attributed to games becoming more mainstream. “Games have become more socially acceptable for girls to play over the last five years,” said Dmitri Williams, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and an expert in video games.
Today, many girls start playing video games at a young age. Seven out of ten girls surveyed at Roosevelt High School who responded to a Boyle Heights Beat Facebook survey said they started playing video games when they were ten years old or younger. While some girls play solely for the entertainment or personal achievement, others play out of a love for the competition.
“It’s all about competition and who has the best strategies,” says Jasmine Martin, a girl gamer and student at East Los Angeles Community College who likes to play “Call of Duty,” a shooter video game that takes place in a war zone. “What makes it fun is being able to think quickly. It really gets you thinking about different actions and whether you should take a chance or not.”
Since many games involve blood, gore, and guns, it is surprising to some that girls are attracted to this kind of entertainment, Williams says, “Females can be competitive and aggressive, but it’s still less common, even in these times.” Some females are as aggressive as males,” he says. “It’s simply remarkable because it’s not socially normal in our culture.”
While female characters are not often seen in these types of games, females themselves tend to receive more attention when they are playing online, especially in a game dominated by males
The three main game consoles: Wii, PlayStation, and Xbox offer online play with certain games, such as Call of Duty, Left 4 Dead, Halo and Rock Band. These games offer communication through headsets to talk to other players when there are certain missions or competitions.
“When I use it people say I sound like if I’m 10 years old and they start asking all kinds of questions, they don’t believe that I’m 17,” said Ashley Ramirez, a student at Roosevelt High.
Martin says that as a gamer she’s treated the same, until she speaks: “If they hear your voice,” she says, “you will be noticed, but most of the time they won’t want you on their team.”
She says this is because males think “girls can’t play”¦ and always lose.”
The fact that females are treated differently in games motivates some girls to try to beat their male opponents. Ramirez was introduced to video games by her brother. Over the years they have become more competitive. Her brother has much more experience, she says, “but I think I can beat him. One of these days I will.”
Although women can be competitive while playing against males, they tend to play differently amongst themselves. Nonny de la Peña, another researcher at USC Annenberg, conducted a study to show the difference in game playing between males and females.
The participants were divided into groups by their sex and were all playing the same game at the same time. De la Peña discovered that the men played with the intent to be the dominant player, but females behaved differently. The women were “not competitive at all but figuring how to break the rules in order to be one unit rather than these separate teams,” said de la Peña.