Teenage Girls Are Playing Video Games. You Just Might Not Hear Them.

Teenage Girls Are Playing Video Games. You Just Might Not Hear Them.

A solitary, silent majority of teenage girls plays video games: often alone, rarely online. When teenage girls do venture online to play games — and a fair chunk of them do, quite regularly — they usually don’t speak.

That’s how you go from a world where 59 per cent of all girls between 13 and 17 play video games to a world where teenage girls are assumed not to exist in public video game spaces.That’s all according to a report titled “Teens, Technology, and Friendships,” released earlier this month by the Pew Research Center. The chapter on video games celebrated the role that games play in many male friendships. I was struck, however, by the data about teenage girls.

Here are the numbers. Almost 60 per cent of the girls in the study (more than 1,000 teenagers of both sexes, surveyed last fall and this winter) say they play games on a computer, console, or mobile phone.

Of those girls, 47 per cent say they never play online. Another 27 per cent say they never even play with someone else in the same room. (You can’t add those two numbers together. Some girls are in both groups.)

About a quarter of the girls who play video games do play online at least once a month. Unlike boys who play video games online, however, teenage girls tend to turn off their mics. Only 28 per cent of the girls who play video games online use voice chat to talk to other players. (More than 70 per cent of the teenage boys who play online talk — a lot, as I can attest after years of ethnographic study.)

These two numbers — only 28 per cent of the girls who play video games use voice chat, and only 25 per cent of the girls who play video games go online even once a month — are taken from two different samples in the study and can’t be directly compared. So I asked Amanda Lenhart, one of the lead authors of the study, to crunch the numbers to find out what percentage of all teenage girls use voice chat while playing video games.

It’s 9 per cent. Almost 60 per cent of all teenage girls play video games. Not even 10 per cent of teenage girls open their mouths and speak in public video game spaces.

The margins of error on these numbers are pretty high — between 6 and 9 per cent, depending on the sample — but they’re all statistically significant. You can read the whole report and examine its methods here.

There are lots of reasons why girls might not want to talk while playing video games with other people online. Some of them are innocuous, and some of them are troubling. I don’t want to speculate, because I want to stick to what we know from the research here.

I do want to head off one objection, however, which is the idea that teenage girls are playing different kinds of video games — Kim Kardashian: Hollywood on their phones in their bedrooms, say — and that’s why they’re playing silently and by themselves.

Pew didn’t poll the teenagers in its study about what genres of video games they play. During focus groups about the poll, however, the teenage girls who were surveyed did not indicate that they stick mostly to mobile games, Lenhart said.

“That was not the case at all,” she said. “I was surprised by the number of girls who played all kinds of games.”

A study of 1,400 students between the 6th and 12th grades — mostly between the ages of 11 and 18 — found something similar: Teenage girls play all kinds of video games. The results of that study were announced by Rosalind Wiseman and Ashly Burch in March at this year’s Game Developers Conference.

More than 35 per cent of the girls in the Wiseman and Burch study said they play role-playing games (a larger number than the 32 per cent who said they played mobile games). More than a quarter said they play first-person shooters. MOBAs, RTS’s, platformers, sports games, and MMOs were played by more than 15 per cent of girls — in each category, not all together.

Equally striking, the teenage boys in the study said that the girls they knew played a wide variety of video games. Only 14 per cent of the boys in the study said that girls don’t play video games at all.

So these girls are silent. But — at least to their friends and classmates — they’re not invisible.

Chris Suellentrop is the critic at large for Kotaku and a host of the podcast Shall We Play a Game? Contact him by writing [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @suellentrop.

Top image via Shutterstock


  • How can we use this information to discourage teenage boys from talking? Because gender issues aside nobody wants to hear anything gross teenagers have to say.

  • These stats support my theory that 90% of the girls I spoke to in CoD were actually teenage boys.

    Coincidently somehow 87% of them also slept with my mom.

  • Girls don’t say anything because the minute the do, everyone abuses them which is annoying. OMG you’re a girl. Girls don’t play games, tits or gtfo blah blah bs.

    • My experience is the exact opposite to this. Usually, they are showered with gifts and praise… even if they are playing poorly. But it might just be the style of games we play.

      • I’m an adult female, not a teenager, and I can confirm that this, at least for me, is why I don’t use voice chat when playing online unless I know the people.
        Guys either treat you like you’re a goddess to be worshipped, or keep trying to get to know you as if it’s some dating site/start sexually harassing me. Or, they feel they need to act super polite and not swear. Sorry, guys, but I probably have a filthier mouth than you, no need to act any different.
        The targeting is less annoying, though that does happen too. Better watch out of you’re better than them, though…watch the abuse come streaming in.
        I just want to play like everyone else. Not have my gender dictate the experience I’m going to have.

        • I think it matters a lot also on the game you are playing. I have found many MMOs that embrace female players as equals while FPS and action games, it seems the opposite.

      • Seen this absurdity happen a lot in MMOs over the years. Ingame gifts and such, etc.

        I also specifically remember one day that I called out a female player during a raid for doing something stupid and the reaction from other people was like I’d just drop kicked a puppy into a pool of sharks.

  • watch the numbers skew when you tell the girls all their facebook games are technically social / multiplayer

  • Every now and again I get my wife to talk when I’m playing on-line. The reactions are weird, I get weird messages, a heap of friend requests, people offering to be my body guard and then there’s players that try to single me out. I think my favourite memory is getting her to talk to people while playing a game of Halo, sure enough alpha male tries to keep taking me down, game ends with me at the top of the leaderboard and alpha male having been dominated. Dude messaged me abuse for weeks.

    I can see why some girls might be put off from talking.

  • My girlfriend plays quite a bit online, talks occasionally. I’m surprised she does any of it with amount of shit she gets from dickheads. She recently changed her GT cause she was sick of the messages sh’ed get. She was HugMeIDareYou, to which she’d receive messages like ‘fuck me i dare you’ or ‘I’ll hug you, in bed’…she’d report this crap most of the time, or if she was feeling vengeful she’d invite them to a game and give them a beating. I thoroughly enjoyed helping her with these kind of jerks. Mostly by jumping on the mic and pretending I was into it while she killed them. It’s amazing how quickly it turns around when the guy hears another blokes voice. Yet, few of them ever apologise.

    That’s why girls don’t talk. That’s why they can’t put anything on their gaming profile that indicates they’re a girl. Honestly, it shocks me when I hear a girl online…but it doesn’t change the way I play, or my behavior…well…it does change my behavior. I turn off the blokey bloke speak and just keep it to call-outs (like ‘enemy at B, one shot’)…then again, I rarely hear any chatter because I’m normally partied up with my mates…which also treat girls with the respect they deserve online.

  • I don’t blame them. Most dudes lose their collective minds when they realise there’s an actual real human female, vagina and all playing the same game as them. It’s utterly cringeworthy. Then afterwards they’re inundated with friend requests, propositions for dates and god knows what else, or just plain old misogynistic abuse for daring to be female and playing video games.

    I can only imagine what it must be like, but going from past experience, if I was a girl playing online games I’d be reluctant to speak as well unless I was relatively comfortable with the people I was playing with – like in an MMO guild or somesuch.

    Pretty sad state of affairs really.

  • I’m a guy, I don’t talk online either because people are garbage. Many a night I’ve attempted to form groups in MMOs with most people never even talking to me, just amongst themselves about how my gear wasn’t good enough and subsequent harassment. Quite often this is just arbitrary posturing given that I’m able to complete the task on my own, regardless of the excuses they make about gear. This confused me for a while, there’s so much emphasis on all of these “requirements” that people use to judge your efficacy but what does it matter when the task is so easy that I could complete it with 1 person instead of 4?

    Because people are garbage.

  • just clicked through and read the whole report, quite frankly I find this kind of stuff enormously interesting (I guess being a part of the subject body) and just social interactions as a whole are so intruiging
    great read for my lunch time, I thank you loads <3

  • I’m a guy, but I don’t talk online either. And if I can’t mute everyone in a game, then I simply don’t play/buy the game.

  • From the perspective of a woman who doesn’t talk in games: A lot of times I’ve played online games that have voice functions and all I ever heard was the N-word spewed constantly alongside a slew of other words that I don’t feel the need to relay back, and then you have the flip-side where you feel a bit patronized by male players who while trying to be nice, feel the need to protect you and sort of treat you like you’re stupid.
    People should focus more on just playing the game instead of comparing their E-peen sizes or whatever it is that goes on. I always end up muting them anyway, they are all distractions and don’t deserve to be indulged.
    I play in silence because I want to enjoy myself and not have to worry about other people and their bullshit.

  • Im a guy, have made it pretty clear I’m a big fan of boobs and revealing female “armour”. Playing online, I don’t care who’s on the other end of the mic, if they’re hurling trash they can GTFO, whether its directed at me or anyone else, keep that shit for when you talk to your mother (or mine).

    Incidentally, this weekend saw me nailing a bunch of missions in EDF4 on Inferno with my 7 year old daughter. So proud.

  • For the statistics for what girls actually play, and not what boys think they play, you are looking for 9:18 on the video on the click through.

  • I stopped playing online with anyone who wasn’t a friend because you either get goddess worship or slut shamed. Neither are attractive. I just want to talk someone to cover me or where the nearest enemy AI is without someone asking me what my bra size is, if I have a boyfriend or telling me I should suck his dick.

  • I don’t play with my mic often at all, partially because I can’t seem to get Windows to even show the thing in ‘Recording devices’ and partly because who would want to? The only series I’ve played where the chat isn’t just trash is Battlefield, and only then when you’re in a squad with a couple of laid back mature guys who are content to just have a fun match with a bit of teamwork happening. Other than that, games where you’re not talking just with a friend usually devolve into pretty atrocious behavior. Teenage guys are the literal vocal majority of voice chat users and that’s reflected by their vernacular.

  • I see quite a lot of girls on PS4.
    Every time I log on, it’s always the girls that gets all the attention. Girls use the camera more than boys nowadays in my opinion. The thing is, they get all the sex messages and stuff, which is pretty uncomfortable.
    Game on!

  • Besides playing with some friends, I’ve only ever heard one woman speak while playing an online game, which was in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on PC. Bioware RPGs are pretty popular with women, and this multiplayer mode is co-op, so it’s a less hostile environment, I guess? At first she merely said “thanks!” whenever I revived her, and the first few times I wasn’t even sure anyone had said anything. But then I spoke up too and we started talking a bit more, and it was great because then we could coordinate a bit more.

    I don’t play a ton of other online games with voice chat (often just turn it off when I can), and usually I skype with my friends when I want to actually voice chat for team coordination, etc.

  • The only time I’d play a competitive game on line would be with my IRL friends or my WoW guild of 10 years (there’s a lot of crossover in those groups). I *still* don’t have a mic set up because even so I’m not comfortable talking online.

    Heck, I’m still working up to the online mode of Splatoon, because even thought it doesn’t have voice chat it’s still an online shooter.

  • Been online gaming now for 12+ years. Seen more and more females playing games but the ratio is still lopsided in favour of males. Mostly now they will be girlfriends of clan/guild members if they do start chatting.

    I even played GTA:V online with my 15yr old niece, her boyfriend and a few buddies. She is hell confident and has no issues talking, although it is kinda awkward when I yell at her that I’m gonna tell her dad she just got a lapdance from a stripper. (she just made a rude gesture at me by the way then started a fight).

    Played with plenty others who do no talking and I suspect they are hiding their sex as well although I just tell them to put the fucking mic on because its too hard reading and typing chat when you’re avoiding being shot. In the end I dont care, if you’re willing to play online and enjoy teamwork play then I wont treat you any different, boy or girl.

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