Since it's a bit of a hot issue right now, I figured I'd throw my hat into the GENDER WARS™ ring and post a project I lost the better part of this morning working on.
A while back, a nifty little spreadsheet titled Games 2013 - Main Protagonist Gender Breakdown hit the internet, showing just how undeniably male-centric game releases are. Unfortunately, even to this day the chart is fraught with errors, multiple entries for the same game getting a staggered release on different platforms, rereleases, and DLC or expansions. As you can imagine, this skewed the results enough that people decided to completely dismiss it as something we should consider a viable resource.
Well, being a game developer, I have plenty of free time thanks to all the
procrastinating compiling I have to do, so I decided to make an updated version of the spreadsheet.
My first order of business was to cull re-releases of games. I specifically wanted to focus on games that got a North American release premiere. This meant looking up each game's release date and, ultimately, eliminating nearly half of the entires. This pass also included removing duplicate entries due to staggered releases.
The next order of business was to remove inaccuracies. Games with multiple protagonists seemed to often erroneously end up being classified with having male leads. In one case, a game with 9 female characters and one male character who barely speaks got classified as having a male lead. Naturally, this required more research into each game.
Finally, I added a new column for games where the player character speficially wasn't gendered. While this wasn't super important, I felt it made a bit more sense than just having mixed gender protagonists and specifically non-gendered protagonists lumped together.
The results I ended up with were ultimately not surprising, though I was happy to see that the average percentage of games with female protagonists were higher than initially reported. I'll give a breakdown of the original data and the new data:
Total games counted: 412
Male:Female ratio: 9.86:1
Total games counted: 288
Male:Female ratio: 8.50:1
All fascinating stuff, really! The ratio drops a slight amount, but unfortunately shows that there is still a very real, very significant problem when it comes to specifically gendered leads in games. What's also interesting is that there are more than twice as many games where the lead isn't gendered at all as there are female leads.
I will be the first to admit that my results aren't perfect and there's some wiggle room on some of the entries, but if you're interested in seeing the updated spreadsheet, you can view it here.