Breaking down the research that claims more 13-15 year old girls are involved in esports in the UK than boys

Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco digs deeper into the recent Kids Insights study that claims more 13-15 year old girls take part in esports in the UK than boys in the same age group.
Earlier this month a press release landed in my inbox that caught my eye. Its headline read: ‘It’s game over for the boy gamer stereotype – online gaming is now more popular among teenage girls than shopping’.
The release mentioned one particilarly interesting point: More 13-15 year old girls take part in esports (and watch esports) than boys of the same age group.
It also stated that 15% of all girls now watch esports.
In an industry often questioned about its male dominance and lack of female playing talent at the top level, this was good news, surely.
But I just wasn’t convinced. Having followed the likes of the UK school esports tournaments Digital Schoolhouse and the British Esports Championships closely, it wasn’t something I had seen first-hand. Yes those tournaments do have some female players and teams, but they’re still largely outnumbered by the boys.
I also saw several publications, Reddit users and other websites blindly cover the news without questioning it, often changing its angle to incredibly misleading levels. One headline read: ‘Female esports players numbers reach new record high’. 
So I went back to Kids Insights and asked them if they could share the specific data around the point I had identified, and a few weeks later they obliged. So let’s break the data down.
 

The survey

In the initial press release it stated that 5,000 under-18s were surveyed between July 1st and September 30th 2018 to gather this data.
However, that 5,000 number is a little misleading. It doesn’t mean 5,000 girls aged 13-15 were questioned – Kids Insights later confirmed to me that the report was based on 250 girls aged 13-15.
“There are 2.1m girls aged 13-15 in the UK – meaning our sample size for that segment is 95% statistically significant (with a 6% margin of error),” a spokesperson told me on behalf of Kids Insights.

“They have continued the survey in the last two months, that’s an extra 83 girls, which brings the confidence up to 99% (with a 7% margin of error).”

So, around that point, there were 333 girls surveyed overall. I have asked Kids Insights how many boys in that age group were asked and they have not yet got back to me. Because if it’s less or more than 333, the data will obviously be skewed.
Kids Insights also says it questions 400 different kids per week and amasses over 20,000 opinions every year as a result.
Looking across all age groups under 18, you can see that more boys take part in and watch esports than girls – but only just:

 
Then you can see the age breakdown in this graph:

From this graph you can see that girls marginally eclipse boys in the 13-15 age group in terms of taking part and watching esports in person, but more boys watch esports on screen than girls overall (except for the 7-9 age group, where more girls watch esports than boys).
It was a shame that Kids Insights did not answer my question around what exactly they mean by ‘taking part in esports’. Because if they mean play games in general, that is not esports and the distinction should be made.
I don’t know any tournaments that allow 4-12 year olds to take part in esports (other than some 3+ games as well as mobile titles like Clash Royale and Vainglory, and even then the numbers in that age group are very low). So this leads me to believe the questioning may have been more focused around gaming in general than actual esports.
Kids Insights also told me that this was agnostic research, not based on leading questions to get answers which might make a story, and that they are not trying to produce data to sell hardware or games – just what the survey responses are showing.
Overall, it’s encouraging to see this data. It shows that girls in the UK are interested in esports – almost as much as boys – and that is brilliant.
While I personally felt some of the initial coverage around this report was a little lazy and misleading, the fact it’s here is ultimately good. It puts it in the public light, makes us think about it and understand esports is open for everyone.
Now we just need to make sure esports is as welcoming and inclusive as possible for those girls, because as they grow up, the distance between boys and girls in esports widens (see the 16-18 age group section on the far-right of the graph above for example).
I’d also like to see other independent surveys, reports and data around this – we need more data on UK esports in general. The more we have, the better we understand it, and the more we can do to improve it.
Further reading: Esports contributed 18.4m to the £UK economy in 2016

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