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 thnk this was a well written article. I think there should be more females in games especially, with action games. In the article it discussed the past ten years in Iraq the public/media only has recognized woman such as Jessica Lybch and Lynndie England. The media only wants to promote negative and stories to downgrade the military. Being in the military for 6 years now that is Just my opinion. The media fails to recognized woman such as Leigh Ann Hester, (Silver Star Recipient for Combat) simply because she did an outstanding job and saved soldiers lives. Hopefully the video game industry won't only use the media to get a picture of females doing great things in the military. Woman have been a huge part of every war in US History. Now just because they may not be a Delta force operative in Modern Warfare 2 or something doesn't mean in real life women don't do heroic things in the military. In real life there are many woman doing heroic thing in the military. Hopefully video games will transfer that ralistic outlook in the action games, but time will tell.
I have always been curious as to why game industries didn't include females into their games. But after reading this article it makes more sense now. It's sad that creating a female takes up more resources because they can be a powerful player.
But I do have to say that because I am a female I tend to buy games that have a playable female whether its in a story mode or just in the multi-player. I enjoy playing as a female when I can because I can relate more to the story. I believe it is another reason why I like to play RPG more because they usually have a playable female.
Many of my friends (females) don't like playing video games because they believe its so masculine that it doesn't relate to them by any means. All they see are shooter and racing games nowadays and it doesn't peak an interest to them. I have gotten a couple addicted to Elder Scrolls and Fable because they can play as a female as well as it being more mellow compared to shooters like COD or Halo.
but have you noticed that most females in games are stronger than males?