It used to be that when someone talked about a gamer, you would imagine either a teenage boy or a man in their twenties or thirties. They were the stereotypical image of gamers and it was a hobby that didn’t really involve other sections of the population. But, since we all got online and the smartphone became an almost necessity rather than a luxury item, the number of people who can be considered as gamers has increased hugely.

Today, wherever you might be in a public place, you’ll see people playing games on their phones, as well as doing all the usual stuff you’d do on a phone like talking to people and sending texts and emails. But it’s not just smartphones that have made the difference. People also play games at home on their PCs, tablets and consoles.

Recently, in the UK, a survey showed that the number of women who gamed had actually surpassed the number of men who were gaming. The Internet Advertising Bureau analysed the gaming and online habits of the UK, surveying 4,000 people. The results showed that 52 per cent of the gaming population was female. Figures like this certainly help quash the myth that gaming remains a male-only domain.

So, what is it that women are playing? Unfortunately, there are few surveys that reveal who is playing what – or split the stats by gender depending on what games are being played. However, if you think about it logically, there are lots of women who prefer to play games in short bursts of time, rather than devoting a larger chunk of time to gaming. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that women like to multi-task.

There are lots of games now available that can be played in short spaces of time. For example, the increased number of online gaming sites such as 32red, Sky Vegas and Gala means that people have access to games such as roulette, blackjack, bingo, keno and baccarat, all of which need only take five minutes at a time. Take a look at 32red roulette games and you’ll see you can play a number of spins in just a few minutes. It’s that flexibility and ease of access that makes playing online games so appealing for people (women or men) who have busy lives to lead, and just want a little distraction from the daily routine for a few moments.

It’s not just real money games that have increased the number of gamers, though. If you think about smartphones, each of the two biggest apps stores – Apple’s App Store and Google Play – both offer around a quarter of a million gaming apps for their users to download. There’s such a variety of choice, and this is constantly evolving, with new gaming apps being released every day. Whatever kind of game you enjoy – puzzler, word game, action/shooter – you can download one in seconds and start playing straightaway, wherever you are.

Another change in gaming in recent years is the fact that you now get families of gamers. A couple of decades ago, parents generally disapproved of gaming as a waste of time activity that their kids were involved in. Those very kids are now the parents – and enjoy playing computer games with their own children. Reasons given for playing these kinds of games with the kids were various, but the top reason that 88% of respondents cited was that it was a fun activity the whole family could get involved in.

However, it’s not just the kids that people play computer games with. Gamers answering the survey said that it was a great way to socialise with other family members (32%) and their friends (42%). In another report by Newzoo, a Dutch games marketing research company, the time spent on gaming has also increased markedly (by 40%) in the last two years. Other activities, such as watching TV or films, have taken a back seat to gaming in some households.

It’s likely that the number of gamers will continue to grow in the same direction – i.e. that is becoming more and more diverse as regards age and gender – in the months and years to come. With prices for gaming technology – phones, PC, tablet or console – becoming ever more affordable, there’s every reason that even more of us will start to game and join the gaming population.