Girls Got Game!

In the vast land of video games, could it be that the industry is neglecting the girl population? Recent reports prove that girls like to get their game on just as much as boys do. But game developers seem to be missing the mark when it comes to making games that really get girls stoked!

Hey, Fair Play!
“The stereotype that only boys play video games is far from true,” says a recent Pew Research report. “Girls constitute a large (if not equal) percentage of total gamers.” The study found that of the 12- to 17-year-olds surveyed, a full 97 percent play computer, Web, portal or console games. Almost all of the boys -- 99 percent! -- report regularly playing video games, and girls aren’t far behind at a surprising close 94 percent.

Get This Party Started
According to a report titled Girl Power: Understanding This Important Consumer Segment, tween girls, ages 9 to 12, are particularly into virtual-world online games. “Girls, in general, are famously social creatures,” says industry analyst Anita Frazier. “The growth in use of social networking and virtual-world Web sites for girls is a natural extension of this core value, which needs to be recognized by manufacturers who count girls as a primary market for their goods and services.” Let us paraphrase: Game makers need to get a clue as to what girl gamers like!

Fun on the Phone
Seems girls are more likely than boys to engage in gaming on a cellie. Fifty-three percent of girls play games on cell phones, compared with fourty-three percent of boys, even though boys are equally as likely as girls to have a cell. But owning a phone isn’t necessarily a factor -- twenty-one percent of teens who play games on cells do not have one of their own.

Battle of the Sexists
Researchers who conducted a University of Maryland study of students with a mean age of 19 years determined that video games probably promote gender stereotypes. Who hasn’t noticed that most female video game characters are overly sexualized? The study found males were more likely to find such depictions acceptable, while the females weren’t so forgiving of unrealistic images that paint women as sex objects. The dudes thought of it as “harmless entertainment.” The gals saw it as a “negative influence.”

Boys vs. Girls
While there are nearly as many girl gamers as boys, the guys tend to spend more time at the console. Play every day? Thirty-nine percent of boys report daily game play, compared with twenty-two percent of girls. And when boys do play, they stick it out for longer periods: Thirty-four percent of boys and eighteen percent of girls play for two hours or more a day. Perhaps girls would put in extra playtime if there were more games to get them jazzed. Part of the problem is that women represent less than twelve percent of the game development industry. Organizations, such as Women In Games International and the International Game Developers Association’s Women In Games Special Interest Group, are working to enlist more women in the game industry. So don’t hit “quit” just yet!

Celtic -- and Cute!

In case you haven’t heard the name, Celtic Thunder is a group of five male vocalists from Ireland who belt out traditional Irish tunes, as well as some originals and modern classics -- and they’re rapidly gaining popularity. We caught up with Damian, the youngest cutie of the clan, as he and his bandmates storm the States.

Ireland Calling
Celtic Thunder is nearing the end of a 48-city concert tour, and Damian is just a tad homesick. Still, he takes the time to phone us up for a chat between calls to his home in Northern Ireland. He misses his family and friends. And he misses his girlfriend Jenna. “I talk to her every few days,” he tells us. “But at the moment, I’m really enjoying my time out here. The tour is ending Dec. 17, then I go home, and I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone.”

Lightning-fast Blast
Damian won’t be home for long before hitting the road again in March 2009. The current tour kicked off in October 2008 at the world-famous Radio City Music Hall in New York City. “My family came to the Radio City show, and it was their first experience of America. It’s kind of weird that their first experience was to see me perform. Our first performance was in Dublin, but we’re focused on America for now. If all goes well, we’ll end up in Europe eventually. Some of the other guys have toured, previous to this, to places such as Germany, Belgium and Canada.”

Doin’ Some Damage
Flash forward to the next evening after our phone call….Celtic Thunder is onstage -- another show, another packed arena. And Damian is a standout. Girls in the audience shriek when he steps out onto the stage for solos, particularly during his rendition of ’70s pop hit “Puppy Love.” The adult men of the group look polished in their tailored suits and shiny dress shoes, while Damian is endearingly disheveled. His Converse sneakers peer out from beneath the hem of his baggy dress pants, a left shoelace slightly untied, his white collared shirt not quite tucked in all the way. While the other singers switch up their outfits frequently throughout the show, Damian does only one wardrobe change: For the encore act, he wears a skirt. (OK, it’s a kilt.)

Storm Chasers
One might mistake this for a Jonas Brothers event, as a slew of lucky fans are lined up after the performance for a meet-and-greet with Damian and Keith Harkin, the 23-year-old hottie of the group. Girls are giddy with excitement, clutching their CDs and waiting for Sharpie signatures and snapshots. Outside the venue, another crowd accumulates, hoping to get a glimpse of the guys as they board their tour bus before heading to another city. Next!

The Forecast
We meet up with Damian backstage, and he’s every bit as charming in person. And he’s even cuter close up than he appeared from our seats in the arena. He had told us on the phone how important his education is to him, in case the music doesn’t take off for the long haul, but he says, “A hundred percent, I want to be a singer all my life.” We certainly predict a long-running musical career for this dynamo from Derry, whose charged-up performance ended with a standing ovation.