In 2020, women accounted for about 41% of all gamers in the United States. And in Asia, which accounts for 48% of the world’s total gaming revenue, women now make up 40–45% of the Asian gaming population according to Google and Niko Partners.
Female gamers are on the rise, and many studies have tried to understand whether female gamers have specific motivations and game play behaviors. Some country-based studies suggest that gaming motivations differ cross-culturally across genders. In addition to escapism, French women seek out gamer competition or challenge themselves; Whereas French men watch sports to counter stress and achieve success through competition. A study by Taiwanese gamers suggests that women play for achievement and social reasons, while men play for the passage of time. In the US, it seems that female gamers play for achievement and social reasons, to engage socially and maintain relationships. Regarding game play, a recent study suggests that female gamers play all types of game genres (especially popular online games) using various devices and platforms.
If anything, these studies highlight the rich complexity of the female gaming population. Within gaming the question is being raised by those seeking full equality of opportunity, treatment and conditions whether the industry is adequately structured to serve this important consumer segment. Organizations such as Women in Sports, advocating for a rebuilding of the gaming industry free from gender discrimination, addressing the culture from the point of view of the workforce, product and player community.
A 2020 study of the top fourteen global gaming companies shows that males hold 84% of executive positions in the gaming industry. Outside the executive ranks, only 24% of those working in the industry are women. Female representation is still a problem. And for those already working in the industry, their gender may work against them. According to a 2015 Gender Balance Workforce survey reported by the Guardian among women working in the American gaming industry, 45% felt that their gender was a limiting factor in their career progression. In the same survey, 33% of respondents noted that they had experienced direct harassment or bullying due to their gender.
The female character representation in video games is only 5% of video game deficiencies that feature female protagonists. Various studies suggest that gender stereotypes persist in video games, in which female characters are often objectified and hypersexual. And when not portrayed in this way, female characters are often portrayed as needing to be saved by a love character, innocent, or a male character.
The good news is that Feminist Frequency, which has tracked the number of female protagonists in video games over the past six years, reported significant improvements in 2020. 18% of games launched last year featured female characters. Whether 2020 was an anomaly or whether this is the beginning of a new trend to portray the female protagonist, free of gender discrimination, remains to be seen.
The 2014 Gamergate controversy revealed the depth of the system of online harassment against advocates, mainly women, who called for a more inclusive gaming culture. Has the player community become more inclusive since then? According to a recent female gamer survey by market research firm Bryter, abuse or online discrimination continues. Although both men and women experience abuse, female gamers are more likely to be sexually harassed and excluded from the game.
Many within the gaming industry are working to make it more inclusive. In their recent New York Times article, Anita Sarkissian and Caroline Petit highlight some of the players, designers, voice actors and activists who are trying to change the culture in their own way.
At the national level, the Women in Games Ambassador Program, has 12 corporate and 446 individual ambassadors around the world working to support women and girls, better understand the sports industry, aimed at sports over ten years The number of women has to be doubled.
At the industry level, U.K. Initiatives like #RaisetheGame based encourage companies to create a more inclusive work environment, with a focus on building a diverse and inclusive workforce. According to the recently released First Annual Report, more than 100 companies have signed up for the initiative, stating that hiring practices and initiatives to develop more inclusive titles have improved.
And at the company level, many large gaming companies, such as Ubisoft, are announcing their appointment of senior leaders in diversity and have been inducted to accelerate their culture change.
There is still a long way to go, many industry insiders believe, but practicing initiatives and developing communities is often the first step.