The lights are on
[The Gender Gap originally debuted in Issue 204 of Game Informer. Here we provide the original article with expanded developer commentary.] Ask gamers who their favorite video game heroine is, and a few names will likely garner the majority of the vote. Samus Aran, Lara Croft, and Joanna Dark are three early icons whose rareness catapulted them to stardom and helped keep their respective franchises afloat for more than a decade. Who could forget the surprise when Metroid’s protagonist removed her helmet to reveal long locks? Players never looked at masked heroes the same again. The exploits of cyber “it-girl” of the late ‘90s, Lady Lara Croft, became a multi-million dollar brand that spawned film adaptations, a comic run, and endorsements deals for everything from energy drinks to luxury cars. With such prominent female leads appearing in the early stages of the interactive entertainment phenomenon, the video games industry seemed well on its way to creating abundant gender diversity. But since Croft's glory days, progress has seemingly halted. Sure, recent years have given us the occasional female leads in blockbusters like Uncharted 2 and critical darlings like Beyond Good and Evil, Mirror's Edge and Bayonetta, but in general the fairer sex has been all but M.I.A. in action titles. Some games even neglect to include a female character when allowing players to choose among multiple protagonists. While some genres like role-playing and fighting games generally offer a level playing field, others seem to be treading water.We chatted about the gender selection process with members of several prominent development studios and learned that the decision between XX and XY isn’t a frivolous one. Demographics, cultural norms, technical constraints, and more must be considered. So when narrative, setting, or historical context doesn’t dictate the gender of a character, why are females noticeably absent from the action? Read on to find out.
The Numbers GameFirst and foremost, numbers matter. Perhaps the most influential factor in regards to core design decisions is player demographic. An NPD survey detailed a five percent increase in female console gamers (23 percent to 28 percent) between June 2008 and 2009. A similar Nielsen Company study showed that females 25 and older now make up the largest segment of PC gamers – holding strong at 46.2 percent. The number of female gamers is obviously growing, especially in relation to specific platforms and genres. This being said, female gamers are still the minority, even if not to the grossly overestimated degree perceived. If there is any truth to the notion that individuals identify closer to characters of their own gender, then it’s somewhat expected that we see a disproportionate ratio of males to females.“The game industry is constantly collecting information about who is buying games, and what types of games they’re buying the most of,” explains Jennifer Wildes, art director at Gearbox Software. “If these statistics suggest that your game will sell more copies within your demographic if the majority of the player characters are big hulking males, then it’s obviously a bit risky to decide they should all be female instead.”Wildes also points out that while modern games may not have a new female protagonist on the level of Samus or Lara Croft, progress is being made. “It’s important to note that only a few years ago, the male to female [character] ratio in these types of games was four to zero. We may be moving slowly, but we are getting there.”
I perfer to play games as a male character.
Occasioanlly a game like Metroid will come out and the sex doesn't matter.
Or like Ms. Pan Man...you actually perfer the female.
A female character doesn't have to be hot to sell games. Does it help...well it don't hurt...but look at games in the 80's and 90's...were the female characters hot?
Was Ms. PAc man hot? And the original forms of these characters...I mean was Samus hot? Paula (Donkey Kong)? Princess peach?
Most guys perfer their characters to be men, but it's the story and motivation that make female characters great..not hotness. This is on the developers and the media. The audience has demonstrated with their wallets sex appeal isn't necessary.
Awesome article Megan.
The gender issue is definitly a balancing act that is hard one to learn. But from what I've seen and played, I'm enjoying the strides the industry is making.
why would guys like to play as girls except in role playing games so they can see how it differs? i mean in street fighter some of the girls just raped but besides that. o i see there once again trying to get lots of girls to play games when the hell are they going to relize the 95 percent of gamers are guys WHY THE HELL DO THEY THINK THERE ARE ONLY 10 GIRLS ON PLAY STATOIN HOME AND ONLY 4 OF THEM ARE REAL
I remember reading this article in issue #204, and I thought it was very intresting. Personally, as long as the main character is intresting and has enough depth, I don't care at all what the gender is.
But I could see how it would be hard for developers to make the main character into a woman, since the video game industry is steriotypically (hope I spelled that right) considered a guy's realm of entertainment. There may be more men than women that play video games overall, but I still know plenty of girls that love video games.
If women were equal with the men in the beggining I think today would be very different in the gaming community.
Play Greed Corps, It's one of those great games that slips in under the radar on PSN. More people should try it out! awesome fun.
How bout Lightning? I love her!!
I can see why the majority of characters would be male but its good women are being added more frequently now you need to bridge the racial gap.
I'm a female and I started out as Lilith but started over to the solider, I can't remember his name, before I even hit double digit levels. I really don't care one way or another about gender but I rarely play as female characters when given the option.
i love playing as both male and female characters. they usually have a different feel to them. they also seem more complex since the developers put more time into them then males. now if theyre doing a female character then they better do it right or else it isnt even worth putting in.
I agree with a few people here,Alyx was a really good female character but i was even more pleased with the MGS ones. They managed to balance beauty, brains, and a great complex personality
Excellent article. I definitely commend DICE for creating Faith the way they did. Quite frankly, she's one of my favorite leads in any game.
Also...that whole fan version made me shudder. It really does look like a big boobed 12 year old and if that's what Asians consider beautiful (as pointed out in the article) I've got to say...I'm a little disgusted. And that makes me feel bad because I'm part Asian...WHY OH WHY?!?!?!
We really do need more female characters.
kids these days they dont like their big burly women we roll hard we got dwarves and orcs on our world of warcrafts we want our ladies hair to grow like chia pets we want our single breasted amazons and man forget that cooking mama give us a haggity old kitchen wench and we will be happy yes give us real women america yes we are not afraid yes we are ready yes we can take it
YES WE CAN
Samus Aran is the real deal, they just can't make heroines like they use to
nice article meagan
I would love to see more female characters that kick some butt but I'm kind of scared that it's going to end up being as horrible as Final Fantasy X-2. If that's what it's going to end up like then stick with the males.
Lara croft is cool