Girl power is changing online gaming and the media industry needs to learn from it

jamie oliver what's cooking nintendo dsNew research out this week reveals that girl power is taking over online gaming: more women over 35 than men over 35 are zapping and firing. This is not what we expect – we expect gaming (online or console-based) to be the domain of the male.

So why are these women bonkers for online gaming?

The answer, according to one report, is that women are online gaming in their droves as they are playing with their tween-aged children, exploring their grown-up futures through cooking games (such as what’s cooking? With Jamie Oliver, pictured), dressing-up games, or pet caring games.

As the report from gaming giant Spil Games states: “Research has shown is that tween girls like to explore their future life through role-play. Acting out grown-up situations they recognise from the world around them (for example, pretending to have a job or be a parent) helps them feel independent. Girls also like to be creative, and they like to share their creativity with others.”

With 700m people active users online gaming is big business. So should media be aware of this?

If one looks at radio, some commercial breakfast radio shows try to take advantage of the generational span tuning in of a morning by broadcasting tailored school run features. But it is difficult to see much generational cross-over appeal across BBC’s flagship radio shows.

Magazines, on the other hand, heavily cater for cross-generations, publishing masses of titles for the 9-12 age group, which are big on educational features. Similarly, TV with its dedicated children’s channels is being watched by parents and children alike.

Newspapers are perhaps undersupplied. On the continent, the Paris-based Mon Quotidien (My Daily) caters for a 10-14 year-old readership and has proved a success.

In the UK, there is First News and the i newspaper but Fleet Street for the most part is unashamedly adult-focused with its content.

First News, which caters for seven to 14-year-olds and publishes national news in easy-to-rad bit-sized chunks, launched with much fanfare by Piers Morgan in 2006, claims that 70% of its 22,000 subscribers are parents who read it with children.

Furthermore, most of these parents  read First News as their one and only title, not having time to read another newspaper. Evgeny Lebedev’s i newspaper had also had success in being the preferred newspaper of choice for schools and universities.

But, on the whole, these appear to be small wins and perhaps it is now time for media to respond to the gaming industry with more of its content catering for a  cross-generational appeal.

Certainly, there is an argument for radio to blur its content lines so it appeals more widely to adults and teens and those younger alike. Likewise, Fleet Street should not ignore the younger generation.

But, as ever, the elephant in the room is the advertising market, which tends to blow against supporting content geared towards a younger demographic, and would unlikely support any such new launch.