A new study out of the Pew Research Center has found that more women report owning a home gaming console (like an XBox or a Playstation) than men. The study surveyed more than 1,900 American adults over the age of 18 to get a broad idea of what kind of people are playing games in 2015. Their results are interesting, but deserve a fair amount of unpacking.
First, the hard numbers. Pew's survey found that 40% of their participants reported owning a console. Hispanic people aged 18-29, people making upwards of 75K per year, and those that had some college experience were the most likely to own gaming systems.
The most interesting (and complicated) stat out of Pew's research, though, focuses on gender: Pew found that 42% of women reported owning consoles compared to 37% of men. There's a lot of information that can be interpreted from those numbers.
When Pew asked women and men that same question in 2010, the stats were flipped. Only 40% of women said that they owned consoles compared to 45% of men. We can read that change over time to mean that more women are, in fact, buying gaming rigs for their homes and it stands to reason that these ladies are probably playing video games.
As Adi Robertson points out for The Verge, though, we have to look at Pew's methodology to really understand what's being said here.
Every adult who participated in the survey who said that they owned a console was speaking to the fact that they had a console in their homes. The study didn't specifically ask women if they'd bought the consoles for themselves or if they actively played games on those consoles. So, for instance, a female respondent might have answered "yes" if she purchased the console for her household though she may not regularly use it herself.
"We strive to write our questions in straightforward language so that people can easily answer them," Pew told The Verge. "In some cases like this, there may be interpretation left to the respondent. If they think they 'own' a game console, whether or not they bought it, then we capture them as game console owners."
When you look at personal, mobile gaming devices like the Nintendo 3DS or the PSP, the numbers even out considerably. Fourteen percent of both men and women reported owning mobile gaming devices that weren't cell phones.
It's also worth noting that unlike older gaming systems, like the Nintendo 64 and the original Playstation, modern consoles aren't really just for gaming anymore. Initially, Microsoft's big push for the XBox One was to market the machine as a home entertainment system meant to be integrated into one's television watching experience. Similarly, Playstation has been doubling down on its own streaming content services that are equal parts Steam and Netflix.
None of this is to say that women don't play video games. In fact, if anything, it means that even for those women who aren't gaming now, the barrier to entry is lower than ever.