I had read an article some time back that compared the choice of toys made for boys or girls and which were more popular. Not having a photographic memory I don't recall the entire gist of the article, but I do recall that the toys available for boys were meant to (in large part) bring about a sort of 3rd party play. Such as action figures or something to play "with". Meanwhile the toys packaged for girls had a more personal interactive role involved. Such as things that the child could "do".
In comparison to an article posted on PSX Extreme Newsletter the contrasting sides were related to boys and girls or rather men and women and game playing habits. I found the article interesting to the degree of posing the question, but then leaving it open to public comments to propose a rationale that might identify why more men than women play games. I'd have liked to see more of that direction followed. As nice as it is to see that some of the comments evaluated that aspect, I figured I'd add my two cents.
Being a guy, and being what I would consider a gamer, I think I have a good feel for the why I play games. They are fun. They allow me to do things I couldn't such as drive a suped up way expensive sports car. Games give an escape, when I feel frustrated I'd rather play a game to blow off steam than have a fit of actual road rage or any other act of violent behavior. Games can provide an alternate reality allowing me to experience what is "could" have been like for someone in an earlier time period. (Though I'm sure in that time period, I'd have to find some time to sleep and eat, unlike in most games...)
In an effort to not assume what women feel about games or their lives. I have observed that women often are more interested in connections than the standard isolation of game consoles. Perhaps games do not offer enough connection, though they have become much better about that through the various online games that are available now. This of course is not to say that all women dislike video games and like hanging out with others, nor is it to say that all guys would rather sit in front of a TV blasting swarms of alien invaders instead of go out with other real live people and do something. What I do think is that women are more likely to spend less time invested in a virtual game world that doesn't offer any real world value or substance (i.e. level grinding on a role playing game comes to mind). I do think that with the advent of social media and the games that allow for interaction, women are more involved than what they had been. Whether this is a shift in isolated media to social media or if it shows the evolution from treating women targeted games as being only frilly and cutesy to giving more realistic and appropriate roles in games. I don't know... maybe the paradigm hasn't shifted at all.
I think that what I am taking away from this thought process is that by and large games have (either by design or inadvertently) not been effective in gaining women players. I don't know that there is a simple blueprint that would ratify this stereotype, but I think that one place to start would be with asking women what they would want to spend their time playing. Oh, and then of course implementing that into a game. Even if it means not adding that huge meat-headed hero that can slaughter a ba-zillion zombies, rescue the village and whiten his teeth all in a days work.