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.”
This was a great article that combined a good chunk of info on a topic not often talked about as it should be. I honestly have no problems with idealizing aesthetic or character traits of any character in games as long as it will make the game more enjoyable by the developer's perspective. I don't see making women beautiful and allowing men to possess more roles which include having them ugly or whatever as a negative thing. Not saying I don't believe in equality but it really is just entertainment. If the role doesn't call for a beautiful female character and you put one there anyways, ultimately it depends on the audience's response as to whether it was the right way to go or not, IF you're aiming for the best audience response. It's all about what the end-goal of the product is. I love to create art, and yeah, I will most of the time prefer that the female character onscreen is attractive, it's just what appeals to me. There's tons of art out there that focuses more on passion rather than physical beauty and it is just as brilliant as the other. While I prefer attractive characters, if it doesn't fit the role then it just doesn't work. In the case of the mirror's edge redesign, while I think the redesign is more attractive, I would prefer the original design because it just works better, the design is simply much more original and it really is just better for the character and advertising too; if the box art for the game was the same super-generic anime-laden features on a girl it simply wouldn't stand out at all on the shelf, the fact that it is more 'westernized' makes it a bit more unique. In this case, I would much rather prefer the more badass look to the cuter despite that i prefer seeing cute girls onscreen, for me, it just simply works better. I personally would wish that the lead developer would be allowed to do exactly what they want to their own game, but if they want to sell the game, unfortunately they don't always have the right to make all the choices that they want to. So I see it as a balance between the developer's desires versus how well they want their game to appeal to gamers
bah, silly article wasn't worth my time to read it. imo it portrayed women as a "victim" of the video gaming times. I don't believe it for a second.
One thing dawned on me while reading this article (which is very good by the way): developers cater to their (intended) audience.
Now, I'm not endorsing a lack of gender diversity in games, not by a long shot. But consider this: I am a 25 year old male. When I listen to music, I tend to listen to rock, and a little bit of country. I listen mainly to male artists. For rock, I listen to Godsmack, Days of the New, Filter, Fuel, Seether, etc. Why do I listen to these songs? Because I can relate to what they are about. I don't feel the same connection to say Flyleaf or Evanescence (btw, Amy Lee is a doll) because I'm not a woman. I don't possess the same perspectives on situations that a woman does, because I'm a GUY. And that's okay. I respect that women make music too, but I focus on what I can relate to. I'm sure a lot of guys are that way.
Now, apply the above tidbit of information to the gaming industry, with these added facts: The gaming community as a whole has been (or at least has been perceived to be)....guys until about 10 years ago. And this is not a fascist-male-egotistical B.S. opinion. It is true. It was a little unconventional to see a lot of girl gamers (or gamer girls). I'm not saying it was right, but that's how it was. Maybe even more so, that's how it still kind of is.
Developers want to cater to their consumers. Fact: More men play video games than woman. Fact: Guys relate to guy-related things, be it music, actors, or video game characters. Ergo, guys want to play games with (guy) characters they can relate to. You can't blame the guys, or even the industry because this is how society is, unfortunately. Yes, women are becoming a bigger part of the gaming community, and they're being stereotyped with games like Cooking Mama and Viva Pinata and even Peggle. Is it right or fair? No, not really.
I think in time as more and more women enter the lush world of gaming, we'll see developers push for more gender-diverse games. We have to give this a chance to evolve, and evolution takes time. For now, lets all just enjoy what we enjoy. Personally, I find Peggle to be quite addictive.
Simple: video games appeal more to men than women. Is that such a hard concept to understand?
Lol where's Alyx Vance? She kick ass too...and a lovely lady...ahh i love her
Basic and simple axiom that has been proven throughout the ages, SEX SELLS, plain and simple. Yeah substance keeps us involved and engaged but our primal instincts are always there and always being stimulated. Using the K.I.S.S. technique (Keep It Simple Stupid) companies can take less risk and reap the benefits. Sex and violence are 2 things we try to censor as a society, at least here in the states, but are strangely and naturally compelled to view. Go fig.
I wonder how a Grand theft auto would turn out if you played as a girl?
Woohoo Lady Gamers Unite! Nice to see progress is being made even if it is in baby steps.
This article would have been better if it were written by a man.
I'm just kidding, just kidding.
Maybe its just your taste in music, but I find that an artists sex doesn't matter as much to me as the content. And women can do meaningful content that isn't just about being a female. Artists like Lucinda Williams speak to me just as strongly as artists like Bruce Springsteen. Both Car Wheels on a Gravel road and Born in the USA, to take the most popular tunes I can think of, speak to that "down on your luck, never had a break" feeling perfectly. I don't find Mary Chapin Carpenters statement on broken marriage in "He thinks he'll keep her" any less powerful than any of the stereotypical male country artists. In fact, I may find it more powerful simply because it allows me insight from a point of view that I may not normally consider as a male.
As for the idea that game developers are appealing to their market and essentially going where the dollar is; male gamers do outweigh female gamers (for various reasons, Sheri Graner-Ray has done some really good work on barriers to female gamers re: tutorials and learning styles), but the female market represents this huge, untapped market potential. If they were smart, developers would be looking at that and instead of saying "psh, they don't buy games anyway", asking themselves "how do we make these games more accessible to, or market these games to, people who would probably also enjoy them."
Based on promotional material, for instance, my girlfriend had no interest in Dante's Inferno. Now she is loving it and playing it more than me. And I have no doubt that, at some point in the future, I'll probably have to get her to come tell me what I'm doing wrong, or maybe even make a particularly difficult jump for me. It isn't that the stories in these games, or the gameplay, don't appeal to women. It's that the characters and marketing (sometimes) seem to be a bit exclusive.
Lmfao. First, I don't mind either way but allow me to share a story with you.
I showed my girlfriend the "Gender Gap" article in one of the GI editions of the last few weeks and she was totally unimpressed. She was like "Well guys are just more appealing to play as in a violent video game." Thought it was funny that shes totally on our side, guys!
Haha, kidding.. I'm all for female protagonists except im disliking FFXIII so far so thats a negative point, ladies!
My friends always make fun of me for using female characters but really I do it because most the time they are thief or AGI type my favorite. So I can't wait for more female characters.
Congrats Meagan! This is a well written, and, quite frankly, a much desired look at women in gaming. As a guy who likes to create female avatars in games where possible, I find that the choice I make has little to do with my gaming experience. Quite simply, if I have a choice between an attractive female character or a bulky, UFC-fighter type of character, I choose the former. The reason that Samus' reveal was so shocking was that it really didn't matter that she is a female; which is a shame. I find that in video game stories the character itself is sometimes irrelevant to a story while the actions of that character still remain paramount to the gaming experience. In Mass Effect, it didn't matter whether you choose a male or female Shepard because regardless of sex, your character will still save the world in the exact same way. I think here lies the real problem. It is not merely about including a female version of your avatar but rather acknowledging that said change has an impact on the story and you interaction with the environment. Perhaps Fable could expand on this concept by having the in-game world react similarly to how real-life society would react (i.e. strong, out-spoken women would be unfairly called 'bitches' in the game).
I think that games that really do address the gender issue well are the Resident Evil series. Not only are the characters male/female but the story and experience change dramatically with different weapons, items, and pathways. The women are attractive but not exploitive which I find refreshing. I would often play with Jill in RE3 in her swat uniform because I felt it fit the world much better than her high tube top. Ditto on Claire and her materniality with Sherry as an important part of the game.
On another note, I am blown away by the gender roles assigned the Gears of War comics so much that I will look into it for myself. In the GOW world, the role of mother and child-rearer is as much important if not more so than simply picking up a gun and shooting baddies?!?!??! FASCINATING! This really takes a sensible and analytical approach to the perception, value, and roles of women in a society that quite frankly can be explored in any gender studies program at a college. Too bad I am not taking any more gender studies courses at my alma mater (GO UCI BASEBALL!!!)
Feh; girls have it easy compared to black people. And other minorities, I guess. Consider this; besides Barrett and now Sazh, how many black dudes can YOU think of from a JRPG? My roommate and I played this game in college and after some serious thought - and we've played a ton - we couldn't name another. And that kinda thinking applies all over the gaming world. Ignoring stuff like Madden or Def Jam Vendetta, it's tough to think of examples.
I mean, there are guys like Cole Train, CJ from GTA San Andreas, and legions of "gangstas" from all those horrible titles that popped up in it's wake - actual, MAIN CHARACTER, icon-level or mascot dudes are hard to come by. Even Kratos, whose voiced by a black dude, is the whitest man alive. Ghost of Sparta? That's like a kick to the balls if you're holding out for a black main character in a game:)
Girls in gaming have been getting attention forever - lets start complaining about minorities! :D
I have to agree with VinsanityV22 when it comes to this because fact is you will see a girl in a game even main character but when it comes to minorities you rarely ever seen them get shine time just think about in FF series u have sazh and Barret both black both wields gun/s truly is that what japan see when they think off blacks or how about GTA:SA or Def Jam why is it black people only get main storyline when they are doing something illegal or using a gun not just blacks all minorities long story short this is messed up and needs to be brought up.
For RPG's i always play as both the male and female to see how different they are.
im kinda pissed they didnt show morrigan from dragonage or miranda or jack from m.e.2
Give chicks a good rep developers