By now, you have probably seen some of the data from the GameHouse infographic above [source]. Collected by Harris Interactive for GameHouse, the data includes a few particularly sexy statistics. In particular, the suggestion that women online gamers have more sex has attracted a lot of attention. However, I find the more general suggestion of the data — that women who play online games are more invested in social activity in general — more compelling, particularly as it offers some potential explanation for that sexy statistic. 42% of women who play online games socialize in person at least once a day, compared to 31% of non-online women gamers. Similarly, 86% of women online gamers socialize via social media at least once per day compared to 71% of women gamers who play offline games.
The differences revealed here are more significant than the 5% increase in sexual activity for women online gamers, and they suggest that women who game online are more social in general than women who gain offline (which, of course, would be a likely contributing factor to the increase in sexual activity). Research like that revealed in this study often creates chicken v. the egg-type debate. Do online games make women gamers more social? Or, do, more socially active women just prefer online games? I would argue that both explanations seem equally likely, and are therefore likely to both be true.
Online gamers often by default have their gaming interspersed with at least a minimal level of social interaction; this may serve as a deterrent for certain gamers. Although only 16% of the women online gamers surveyed cited connecting with others as a primary motivation in playing online games, this social interaction is an inherent part of play. For women gamers who are indifferent to the demands for social interactions in many online games, the games may drive an increase in social activity; for those who are already quite socially active, these demands may serve as an enticement to play. In either case, the structure of many online games seems to offer a pretty direct explanation for the differences in social interaction levels for online women gamers and offline women gamers.
The other results of the survey, particularly with regards to when women play games and how many women parents play game, are interesting as well and suggest points of departure for future research.