Gender diversity in games is improving but there’s still a way to go
This year has already seen a number of positive announcements for gender diversity in games. Several more AAA titles, such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Battlefield V and Wolfenstein: Young Blood announced the inclusion of playable female characters. We’re also seeing the return of popular characters such as Lara Croft in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Ellie in The Last of Us Part II. Of course, female characters have long been a feature of great games, but often in supporting roles; either as an unnecessary sidekick or as the damsel in distress (Princess Peach anyone?).
Strong, relatable characters can play a significant role in a game’s success. However, in one of our recent studies, we revealed that just 3 in 10 female gamers tend to feel they can relate to female characters. The majority (71%) felt that female characters are often oversexualized and 3 in 5 felt there are not enough strong female characters in games.
The underrepresentation of female characters in games mirrors the status in the gaming industry. In our survey, 62% of female gamers felt women were not well represented in the gaming industry. And according to an earlier report from TIGA, they’re not wrong; just 14% of people working in the UK games industry are women.
I recently attended the European Women in Games conference in London which highlighted the lack of female professionals in the gaming industry, but also showed the great work that is already being done to change this, by educating and inspiring current and future generations.
It seems that this kind of positive progress is already being recognised amongst gamers too; 42% of the female gamers we surveyed felt the depiction of female characters has improved in recent years and 40% felt that more games are being designed with females in mind.
By encouraging more females into gaming roles, the presence of diverse characters in gaming can continue to improve. That said, it isn’t as simple as adding more female characters to a game. The challenge is portraying female characters in a positive way, in terms of their personalities and their roles in the game, while also still feeling natural.
It is clear that the industry is starting to recognise the diversity across its players and the need to develop games that cater to this. The difficult part now is finding the right balance; it doesn’t need to be a case of a game for males, a game for females, but rather offering a mix of diverse characters so that it is fun for everyone. Encouraging more diversity within the industry itself will help to do this.
Jenny McBean is Research Manager at Bryter, specialising in consumer technology and gaming research. For more information on how we support brands navigate the digital landscape, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bryter Female Gamer Research
- Bryter, with partners Research-i and ResearchBods surveyed 1,151 UK female video gamers
- In order to qualify for the interview, respondents had to be aged 16+ and play console or PC video games at least once a month or more often
- Respondents were interviewed on a variety of subjects including gaming habits, preferences, views of the gaming industry and their experiences of playing with other gamers