It looks like the end of an era for the American male. If we thought the cyber arena afforded us a special boys-only zone, free of "girl cooties," we were wrong. Online gaming, it turns out, is ruled by females... and most of them moms.

That's the startling conclusion of a study commissioned by Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL division. The study, based on a survey of over 3,000 online gamers who played at least once in the past three months, found that women over age 40 spent 9.1 hours per week playing online games. That figure represented 41% of their online time and dwarfed the 6.1 hours per week the average man spent playing online.

The same women were more likely to play every day than men or -- believe it or not -- teenagers of either gender. Here's another head-spinner: Adults were twice as likely to have blown an entire night playing online than were teenagers. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 39% of all game players are women. Talk about busting stereotypes.

Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. After all, much of my time playing Vivendi's (NYSE:V) Diablo 2 was spent firing arrows in support of beefy, ax-wielding barbarians that happened to be piloted by women. I have seen firsthand the cyber-community that builds among people who play immersive online worlds, such as Sony's (NYSE:SNE) Everquest,Atari's (NASDAQ:ATAR) Neverwinter Nights, and Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ:ERTS) Sims. (And, I might add, women make better online game buddies. They're much less likely to stick a sword in your back just to watch you die.)

This isn't the only indication that women are consuming technology on par with men. A January study by the Consumer Electronics Association reported that women were responsible for more than half the $96 billion spent on computerized gizmos in 2003. But women have different tech tastes than men, preferring mental puzzles to shooting and sports. Game and gadget makers should take note. The companies who can cater to the women's market stand to reap some hefty financial rewards.

David Gardner has recommended both Time Warner and Electronic Arts for Motley Fool Stock Advisor subscribers. Since the inaugural April 2002 issue, David's total average return is 73.71% versus the S&P 500's 19.85%.

Motley Fool contributor Seth Jayson retired his level 92 hardcore bowazon a few months back in order to plug back in to real life. He has no stake in any company mentioned here.