Even though women make up nearly half of all gamers, female-led video games are still lacking. A continued study by Buzz Bingo has revealed that only 12% of next-generation video games exclusively feature a female protagonist and shockingly 2020 was the worst year for female representation.
The study analysed all new games released on PlayStation and Xbox since 2016 to see how female representation has changed in the gaming industry, and to see how the representation is currently unfolding in 2021.
Research showed that female representation in PlayStation games was at an all-time low in 2020, with only 14 of the 163 games released having female protagonists. That’s just 8.6%. However, things are looking up for 2021, with 23 of the games announced having a female lead. That’s still only 18.4%, but it’s an improvement.
Xbox games had, in three out of the 6 years analysed, only 9 with female leads. So far, 2021 is faring better, with 14 of the games announced having female protagonists, which is 12.8%.
So while 2021 is already showing improvements on last year, the question still remains - why is female representation in video games so low?
The disparity in female-led games reflects the general attitude towards women in the gaming industry. William et al. (2009) noted in their study ‘The virtual census: Representations of gender, race and age in video games’ that the “difference is heightened among the primary ‘doer’ characters, where males are even more likely to appear. As a general rule then, males appear more frequently in games than females, and even more so as drivers of the action. When females do appear, they are more likely to be in secondary roles than primary ones.”
The problem comes down to continuing discrimination in the video game community. Even though the number of female gamers has risen and women now make up almost half of the gaming community they are still seen as a minority, and high-profile female gamers face discrimination and harrassment online. This is in direct correlation to the perception of female gamblers, even though gambling addiction has a disproportionate effect on women.
How can we progress? The simple answer is to increase female representation, both in and out of the games. Encouraging women to apply for design and production roles within the industry and actively keeping sex-bias in check, creating more female protagonists and ensuring that the characters are not sexualised, and changing the discourse around female gamers as ‘rare’ are all steps that can be taken to help improve female representation in the video game indutry. In turn, discrimination based on gender will also decrease.
Here’s to hoping 2021 continues to show improvements, more women can get into and enjoy video gaming, and, as more games are announced, female protagonists will take the limelight (other than Lara Croft)!
Hannah has written news articles and lifestyle blogs for three years. Venturing into the gambling industry Hannah is writing gambling content for Online Bingo and has written content for Lodgis Paris.
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