Mitsu Chavda has been into gaming for more than a decade now. Every day, the 29-year-old Surat-based lawyer makes it a point to play for at least two hours at night, a ritual she says is a ‘stress-buster’. As a gamer, Chavda understands the nuances and needs of the industry. Hence, she also chose to be an esports (electronic sports) lawyer working towards the development of the esports sector in India.
Chavda is part of a growing community of women gamers who are not just playing casually but also competing professionally or getting involved in the space, and some even becoming successful content creators. They are increasingly changing the perception that gaming is a man’s domain.
The numbers speak for themselves. As per the ‘Think with Google APAC – Play like a Girl’ report released last year, 18% of all gamers in India are women. Moreover, the number of women is increasing at a faster rate than the number of male gamers in India. The same study also revealed that more than 43% of Indian smartphone gamers are women and this is across all age groups.
“This is a very positive statistic — not only for the industry but also as evidence of technology penetration with respect to women. Affordable internet and smartphones have given women a level of access to the digital space which may not have been possible in other social spaces. And this is a big reason why women are participating in online games along with other economic and social opportunities that the digital space has to offer,” said Roland Landers, CEO of All India Gaming federation (AIGF), the apex industry body for online skill gaming in India.
Interestingly, apart from smartphone gamers, the industry is also seeing extremely successful streamers and influencers who have created a niche for themselves. “The whole content creator ecosystem in gaming is witnessing a boom with women creators proving their mettle. Additionally, we have women developers creating Indian games and women leading gaming companies as top-level executives and senior management. All in all, every aspect of the online gaming sector is being supported and has been benefiting from participation of women,” added Landers.
“Earlier, women had their inhibitions regarding online gaming, but that has vanished very quickly. We are sure the trend would continue in tier 2 and 3 cities too,” said Ankur Singh, CEO and founder of Witzeal Technologies, a new-age gaming company that runs the popular multi-gaming platform ‘Big Cash’.
Joy Bhattacharjya, director-general of the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), a self-regulatory body for fantasy sports in India, said the pandemic has seen more women pick up the otherwise traditionally male-dominated hobby. “The gaming industry is always working to accommodate the evolving demographics. As per a Deloitte report published in collaboration with FIFS, about 30% of the registered user base for fantasy sports platforms in India is made up of women users, and this number is expected to see a rise. Factors like rising popularity of women’s cricket, gradual increase in participation and recognition of women in other sports like football, etc have also contributed to the rise in the number of women gamers in fantasy sports,” he added.
So, what are the kinds of games that women are mostly into? According to Satyam Rastogi, founder and CEO of Khiladi Adda, a micro esports tournament and online gaming platform, women are more into action-based, strategy-based and sports gaming. “As per some estimates, while women play about 88 minutes per day when it comes to action games, the average duration is about 56 min/day for strategy games,” he added.
“The break-up for other categories is sports (47 min/day), casual (43 min/day), board (42 min/day), card games (37 min/day) and so on,” he said. As far as ‘commitment’ is concerned, 77% of women gamers play once or several times a day, 12% are regulars (once a week) and 11% are occasional players (once a month or less), Rastogi said.
For Khiladi Adda, in RMG (real money games), women gamers comprise 30% and are growing, he added.
Mobile Premier League, another popular esports and mobile gaming platform, has also seen a huge influx of women gamers on its platform. “Many of our tournaments have been won by women gamers,” said Namratha Swamy, country head, India, MPL.
On MPL, women gamers play a wide variety of games across all genres, particularly casual games, puzzles and esports. Titles like Chess, Fruit Chop, Quiz and Runner Number 1 are popular among them. “We also recently launched LudoWin, a math-based take on the widely popular Ludo game, which has become a huge hit among women within just months of launch,” added Swamy.
A couple of years ago, it would have been unfathomable for women to look at online gaming as a serious career option. But tables are now turning. “More women employees in the sector are valued for their expertise, professionalism and passion for gaming. Accordingly, a policy framework is also being looked into. Especially after the announcement of the AVCG (animation, visual effects, gaming and comic) sector receiving a boost in the Union Budget, women are joining the gaming industry in pretty much every aspect. Women are undertaking courses to hone their development skills and get absorbed in the workforce,” said Sunil Yadav, CEO of PlayerzPot, a popular Indian fantasy gaming destination.
PlayerzPot has witnessed a 50% rise in employment of women in the company, as compared to last year. “We have five women in leadership/managerial roles, 10 in technology roles, and others in executive roles,” he added.
Despite all the positive developments, challenges remain. There is no denying that breaking the monotony of a male-dominated sector is a daunting task. “Like any other social and economic space, gender bias may creep into even online gaming. There is still a lot to be done in this domain,” said Landers of AIGF, adding: “Gaming as a career option for women needs to be promoted by the government and private sector alike. This will not only promote the industry and economic prospect of women, but also further the idea of gender justice and equality in a niche yet meaningful way.”
“Women also face a tough time convincing their families about securing a future in this sector as a player or a developer,” said Yadav of PlayerzPot. “However, we believe that change takes time. Today, leading brands are actively encouraging women gamers to participate in different marketing campaigns and initiatives. A new era for women gamers is dawning. So, don’t be surprised if you start to notice more women-centric themes, visuals and lead characters,” he added.
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