It's a Guy Thing

The Rise of Gender Fluid Gaming

Think of casinos, both online and in the real world, and the chances are that you regard them as predominantly male environments. In terms of the former, the language used on the sites and the design and imagery are undoubtedly masculine. In the latter, both single and groups of women in casinos seem to be a rarity; if they are there it’s generally when they’re accompanying men.

However, it seems like the world has been changing in so many ways in the last few years. Debates that were simply not on the agenda are now commonplace and one of the most frequently aired focuses on gender and related subjects. No one catalyst has caused this, although the #MeToo and Woke movements have undoubtedly had a major effect, with the ripples caused by both reaching almost every part of society.

At the heart of the matter, it’s a question of equality, something that women have been striving for long before the suffragettes proved that they were willing to die in their bid to secure votes for women. But it’s only now, well into the 21st century, that real strides are starting to be made.

It works both ways

While much of the focus is, quite rightly, on helping women to achieve equal rights and equal pay, it’s a two-way street in which men are also starting to feel far more comfortable in traditionally female areas. We’ve certainly come a long way from the “real men don’t eat quiche” days of the 1980s – today many will even admit to enjoying a salad or two!

This has led to the increasingly gender fluid nature of gaming which has manifested itself in a number of ways, some of them reasonably predictable, with others being more of a surprise.

First, let’s look at look at how women have increasingly started to feel more comfortable about gambling, before examining the flipside – one which, for example, sees more and more men playing bingo.

Creating a safe space

A number of factors have led to increasing numbers of women being attracted to gambling, some social, others technological with the increase of mobile gaming being a key tipping point. This is because the arrival of mobile casinos has meant that it’s possible to play on a casino at virtually any time and in any place with total discretion. So, whereas women may have felt too self-conscious before to go on a laptop or PC to enjoy an online casino experience, playing on a smartphone or tablet means they can avoid feeling scrutinized.

Another benefit of the online experience for women is that they will never feel they’re in a male dominated environment. Anonymity can be further assured by using either a gender-neutral player name, or even a male one.

By playing games like roulette, blackjack and poker online it’s also the perfect schooling in them and one in which women can develop their skills and ability without fear of being patronised. There’s also evidence that some are starting to take their skills learned online and applying them in the “real” world, hence the increasing numbers of women who are starting to compete in live poker tournaments.

Of course, much of the online casino industry’s success to date has been based on the ability to spot trends and respond to them. So female gamblers now also have a number of sites dedicated to them. This shows itself not just in the design and colourways used on these sites, but the types of games too. Alongside the ever-popular slots, bingo is a big favourite. Its combination of relatively low stakes and the speed of the game makes it the ideal way to dip in and out of playing whenever is convenient.

Eyes down for more male players

But what has proved to be a big surprise to the online gaming industry as a whole is that more and more men are starting to play online bingo too. Unofficial figures suggest that as many as 10% of players may be male – a small proportion, admittedly, but it’s a figure that’s set to grow.

The appeal of bingo is undoubtedly the same for men as it is for women. It’s quick and easy to play and can generate some very good winnings if your luck’s in. So, more and more men are showing a willingness to overlook the feminine design and tone of the sites to enjoy the game.

The enormity of this shift in attitude is more surprising when you consider the origins of the online game – traditional bingo halls. These were undoubtedly bastions of womanhood in which, while not actually banned, any man turning up to play might expect some fairly robust treatment. After all, these were a haven for many women from their everyday lives: somewhere they could meet up with friends, enjoy a few drinks and not receive any unwanted male attention. But, just as women don’t feel intimidated in online casinos, the same is true for men on online bingo sites.

True integration

There’s also a relatively new bingo phenomenon that brings the sexes together – club nights run by operators like Bongo’s Bingo, brainchild of Liverpool club promoter Johnny Bongo. These take place in nightclubs and are part bingo session, part cabaret and part karaoke parties. With a generally camp and charismatic compere to keep the energy high and call out the bingo numbers, prizes range from life-sized cut-outs of celebrities to boxes of breakfast cereal and, for the final game of the night, real cash. From the original, many imitators have also started to spring up showing that it’s a true phenomenon, as well as conclusive proof that yet another gender stereotype has been brought crashing down.

So, as we move forward, perhaps we can see even greater integration taking place in gaming with more women in casinos and, perhaps, men even daring to go to the bingo halls which are reported to have been given a boost by the online game. But, as with so many things, only time will tell.