You’ve probably heard the often-quoted statistic that about half of video gamers are women, illustrating how gaming is now a mainstream activity enjoyed by both men and women. This finding comes from the yearly ESA report, and has fluctuated between 38% and 48% in the past decade—currently estimated at 41% in the 2016 report.

Oddly, this statistic can have the exact opposite intended effect. Some gamers argue that the study bundles gamers across platforms and genres, and is thus unrepresentative of the “real” PC/console gamers. Or that the apparent gender parity means there are no longer gender biases in game design.  A game dev we recently chatted with mentioned that some designers she works with still assume that only 5% of core gamers are women, and that the quoted 41% of women are primarily casual gamers.

This statistic can have the exact opposite intended effect.

By bundling across platforms and genres, this 41% statistic doesn’t surface how the percentage of female gamers does or does not vary across genres, or how large that variance is. Using survey data from over 270,000 gamers on the specific game titles they enjoy playing, we’ve put together some findings on the percentage of gamers in different genres that are female.

Data from the Gamer Motivation Profile

The Gamer Motivation Profile allows gamers to take a 5-minute survey to get a personalized report of their gaming motivations, and see how they compare with other gamers. Over 270,000 gamers worldwide have taken this survey. The 12 motivations that are measured in our model were identified via statistical analysis of how gaming motivations cluster together.

See how you compare with other gamers. Take a 5-minute survey and get your Gamer Motivation Profile.

Alongside gaming motivations, we also collect data on demographic variables. In our full sample, 18.5% are female gamers. We also ask gamers to list specific game titles/franchises that they enjoy playing (up to 9). By sampling gamers who mention a specific game title/franchise, we can generate a profile of that game’s engaged audience. Note that the data we have is limited to the favorite games listed by a gamer–they are likely playing more games than they are able to list, but this constraint holds true for all respondents in our data, whether male or female.

The delta between the ESA’s estimated 41% female gamers and our 18.5% is important, but how it impacts the data depends on your interpretation of the cause of that delta. The ESA worked with Ipsos to survey 4,000 US households, but they don’t provide any details on their sampling methods (e.g., phone or web survey?) or who got counted as a gamer–e.g., if playing Solitaire last year counts.

What we do know is their sample has a large proportion of casual gamers. In their 2015 report, their most frequent gamers are most likely to be playing social games (31%) and puzzle games (30%). Note that this is their “most frequent” gamers. We can assume that their less frequent gamers are even more likely to play casual titles. So a large portion of their sample may not regularly play AAA titles at all.

Our sample is biased towards core gamers–people who would click on something labeled a Gamer Motivation Profile. But when we’re drilling down to a