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Gender Disparity in Games
by Innes McNiel on 06/14/14 08:37:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

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:

ORIGINAL:

Total games counted: 412
Male: 217
Female: 22
Mixed/Unspecified: 182
Male:Female ratio: 9.86:1

UPDATED:

Total games counted: 288
Male: 136
Female: 16
Mixed: 103
Unspecified: 33
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.


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Comments


Theresa Catalano
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Sorry to nitpick, because you admitted there's some wiggle room... but I don't understand why the Hatsune Miku game is categorized as "mixed" when the title character is female. And some of these are a bit misleading... Corpse Party may have a mixed cast, but you spend the large majority of your playtime as a female character. Tales of Xillia has an ensemble cast, but the plot largely revolves around a female character.

Which is not to say that there isn't a disparity... I wouldn't mind it if there were more female leads in games. Still, a lot of the games with male leads are either games I wouldn't play anyway, or involve cute animal characters or something like that. And there are a lot of games that either have an ensemble cast, or let you choose your own gender, which to me is just as good as having a female lead. Maybe that's why I just don't feel the disparity that this list seems to indicate.

Innes McNiel
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In ensemble casts, I always went with "mixed." HOWEVER, I did do earlier tests where I went with character focus and the ratio difference was only shifted by about 0.10.

John Maurer
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Nothing character creation mechanics can't fix ;)

Innes McNiel
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No, character creation mechanics can't fix this. A large portion of the games in the "mixed" category featured character creation, but when it came to dedicated protagonists, male protagonists still dramatically outnumbered female ones.

Theresa Catalano
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I think what he means is: if there were less games with male protagonists, and more with character creation, that would be a "fix."

In fact, there's already a lot of games with character creation, and technically those are all games that *can* have female leads, if the player so desires. What if you redid this list, and counted games with character creation in both the male and female category? I think that might make more sense. The way you have them listed now, it's almost as if you're excluding them, and only looking at games with a dedicated protagonist, and I think that paints a misleading picture.

Innes McNiel
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I AM excluding them, quite purposefully, because we still end up with games with dedicated protagonists being predominantly male-led, which is a massive representation problem.

Theresa Catalano
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But why exclude them? That seems to undermine your goal, which is to get an accurate view of how gender is represented. Games that let you choose between a female or male lead are giving equal time to both genders... that shouldn't be invalidated. That should count for something!

Games with an ensemble cast shouldn't be excluded either... you play as both male and female characters in those games. If you want an accurate picture of how males/females are represented in games, you have to include them. To be very accurate, you should probably assign a ratio of points depending on how the genders are represented in each ensemble cast, but as that sounds very complicated, it's probably fine to just split their points between male and female equally.

It's interesting to note that "mixed" accounts for almost half your results. That's a ton of games you're excluding, and I think that is heavily skewing your result and painting a misleading picture. Just as a test, let's try splitting the "mixed" games, and putting half the points in the male category, and half into female. The numbers then become like this:

Male: 136 +51.5 = 187.5
Female: 16 +51.5 = 77.5

And this changes the ratio to 2.41:1.

I believe this ratio is a more accurate representation of gender in games. It's still lopsided, but not massively so.

Christopher Landry
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From what I remember of my statistics lessons, you'd give the full value to each side of the mixed set, so it would be 103 pts to each male and female.

That means just putting mixed back in properly gives us:

Male: 136 + 103 = 239
Female: 16 + 103 = 119
Ratio: 1.85:1

However, I feel that it was the right decision to exclude the mixed category. In fact, the only games that should really count in this question are the story-driven single player games, such as Beyond Two Souls and The Last of Us, where you are handed a character that you will play as you venture through their pre-written story. If the player is asked to create a character themselves and write their own story, especially if they can choose either male of female avatars, that game allows perfect fairness and should not be counted when we're trying to determine the unfairness level inherent to the games industry. So the mixed games should probably be in a separate category.

So if the only games that count are single player, story driven games, just removing the mixed games isn't enough. We also need to make a separate category for all of the games in the list that are "true to life" in their male/female ratio already. I'm talking about sports games where the game shows all males and this accurately represents the real life sport that is all male athletes.

Also, I'm talking about military shooters where the same is true: the number of female front-line troops in most country's military, particularly the US military, is very small. The major exception is the terrorists/insurgents military, who could be anything, even a child. Arguing to have women included in a war game is similar to arguing that we should be fighting child combatants in any war game that includes an enemy that, in the real world, regularly employs children to fight. Maybe it's better that our war games, outside of a few like Spec-Ops The Line, typically have a bunch of nobody's as their army. I agree there is still an argument for diversity in race in this category (the real military is not all white troops), but I don't see an argument for women friendly combatants here, as much as I don't see an argument for children enemy combatants.

Maybe the military question would require more research. What is the real world US military male/female ratio when only counting front-line troops? Compare that to the war games, and see if they aren't already very similar, such as 1000:1 vs 999:1. If that is the case, then these games have similar true-to-life ratios as the sports games, and should be counted out into a separate category alongside the sports games.

Ultimately, this comes down to which question we're trying to address.

1. Do we want a realistic ratio of male/female in our games? If realism is the goal, then the separation of sports and military games fits the goal, as well as the removal of the "mixed" games where the player chooses their own avatar and writes their own story through the game play. This leaves only single-player story driven games, as mentioned earlier.

2. Do we want a fantasy of near perfect fairness in the male/female ratio in our games? If that's the case, then by all means, count it all as one big pool, and only separate out the games where the gender of the player's character is never revealed or is some other creature besides human.

The logic used to separate some things and not others seems inconsistent with the goals it seems we're trying to address.

Theresa Catalano
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That's what I thought too, at first... that you'd give a full point to the male AND female categories. But then each mixed game counts for two points, which seems unfair. That's giving every mixed game two points, where the the others get one point, so that is skewing the results. However, NOT counting them at all is basically giving zero points, and that is ALSO skewing results!

"if they can choose either male of female avatars, that game allows perfect fairness and should not be counted when we're trying to determine the unfairness level inherent to the games industry."

This doesn't make any sense at all, isn't this a blatant contradiction? If what we're trying to determine is "unfairness," then games that allow "perfect fairness," should count in the games industry's favor! They absolutely shouldn't be excluded! By excluding them, we are DEFINITELY NOT getting a realistic picture of how "fair" the industry is being at all!

Jonathan Lin
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We have to remember that not all ensemble casts are created equal. For example, Final Fantasy games are generally ensemble, but the spin-off game Dissidia takes all the 'lead protagonists' of FF I-X. Tellingly, all but one are male. (I'm aware the sequel improved the ratio, but it's still quite skewed). A quick glance at the author's spreadsheet shows Dynasty Warriors 8 under 'mixed', which clearly has a skewed gender ratio (though to be fair to Koei, women generally weren't fighting in that war in the first place). Simply counting 'Mixed/Unspecified' games as even for male and female can give a blurred picture as well.

Also, no single study is absolute or perfect. I believe that showing ratio of dedicated protagonist genders is useful, as well as the ratio for including the both/mixed category as well. As not every game works well with a character creator mechanic, understanding the dedicated protagionist gender ratio is useful too.

Theresa Catalano
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In regards to ensemble casts, you're absolutely right. I mentioned this in my post above: ideally, you'd have to look at every ensemble cast and create a ratio to split the points. So a game like Dissidia might give .9 points to the male category and .1 points the the female category. A game like Corpse Party would probably be more like .7 for female and .3 for male. However, this is a lot of effort, and since there are ensemble casts that skew both ways, I think it's generally okay to just split all of the points from ensemble casts into half male and half female. You're right that it creates a somewhat blurred picture, but I suspect it's not far from the truth and I suspect that "sharpening" that picture won't change the ratio much. In any case, it's certainly a better option than simply excluding all ensemble casts!

Sure, not every study is perfect, but this study I think is obviously very flawed as is. Sure, not every game should have a character creator mechanic, but that's no reason to exclude those games. I disagree with you, I don't think solely looking at the dedicated protagonist gender ratio is useful... all it does is paint a misleading picture. What really matters is the *opportunities* that both men and women have to play characters of their gender. A game with a character creator is wonderful at creating these opportunities for both genders. As such, they absolutely SHOULD be counted!

Jonathan Lin
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I'm not so convinced that ensemble casts are so fair that we can easily assume an even split. Perhaps I'm simply looking in the wrong places. Regardless, you make a fair point in not counting such games in the ratio, but personally I'd only do that with the explicit statement that the ratio in ensemble casts are not confirmed.

There's really no reason *not* to look at both figures. If the most common way to have a playable female protagonist is through character creators, that's still saying something about our industry. There's alot of nuance we can really go into (such as the number of games which are AAA, how many games w/ female protagonist sold, etc). My point being stats within the proper context is always helpful. You mentioned that you're explicitly looking for numbers for whether or not there's a female playable character. I'm just curious about further details and context, and see that as useful to have.

Theresa Catalano
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"I'm not so convinced that ensemble casts are so fair that we can easily assume an even split. Perhaps I'm simply looking in the wrong places. Regardless, you make a fair point in not counting such games in the ratio, but personally I'd only do that with the explicit statement that the ratio in ensemble casts are not confirmed."

That's fair. You may be right that ensemble casts tend to favor men. In my personal experience, it's generally pretty equal... I've seen ensemble casts with mostly men, and with mostly women. I feel like, if anything, the actual ratio might favor female characters... but that's just my rough estimation, I could easily be wrong. You're right that they should add a disclaimer if they decide to count them equally.

"My point being stats within the proper context is always helpful."

I agree. There's no harm in having all the numbers. My criticism with this article though, is that it seems to brush aside games with ensemble casts and character creators as if they don't matter. They're supposedly trying to look at diversity, but the context in which they're using the numbers seems to be unfairly skewed in order to bolster a point. That seems dishonest to me.

Christopher Landry
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Well, your back and for regarding ensemble casts basically supports my initial point that the only games that should really be counted for this debate are the single player, single playable character, story driven games.

This single category is the only category that clearly stands out among the variety of games out there. These are the games that are making a point regarding a single main character, so these are the games where we should be concerned with the "fairness" of whether we see as many games like this with female leads as we do with male leads.

I'd love to see a list of just these games, without all the muddy waters we seem to get when the lists (and there seems to be a new list every couple months) try to include every recent game, or every major game, or every game that sells well, etc.

Another benefit of distilling it down to this single category is that we can then make real conversation regarding the relative number of sales of games with male or female lead characters, adjusted by the quality of the game, of course. Let's face it, a shitty game with a female lead that failed to sell well probably failed because it was a shitty game, not because of who the lead character was.

Right now, it seems like every time a list comes out like this, all of the discussion revolves around the inaccuracies of the list, rather than actually being able to discuss the information itself, simply due to nearly everyone agreeing on only one thing: the list is inaccurate.

Theresa Catalano
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Single player games with a set character are all that stand out? C'mon, that's not true at all.

I think that in this case, the discussion revolves around the inaccuracies of the list for good reason. There's no point in discussing the information if it's slanted to provide a distorted picture of reality.

Christopher Landry
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Yes, single player games with a set character are unique, though I might make an exception for ensemble cast single player games as well. Let's look at all the different types of games for a minute. Keep in mind the assumption here is "Where is gender inequality showing it's face on the development side," with the ultimate goal of locating where the problem actually is so that it can be fixed. Looking at the "games industry" as an entire ocean and analyzing it all at once is the worst way to go about locating the issue, and is exactly how most of these lists have been handling things.

Therefore, most games should be excluded from the discussion, to make the analysis simpler.

1. Sports games: The majority of these are already fair, in that they already reflect the real world version of whatever game they represent. No one should expect female players in a Madden game, as there are no females on any NFL team in reality. So, since there is no problem here, they shouldn't be considered in the analysis of where the problem lies.

2. Military games: Same as sports games, these are very true to life already, so they are not where the problem lies.

3. Games where gender is unspecified or undefined: These are not where we will find evidence of our inequality issue, for obvious reasons.

4. Character creation allowed games: The developer managed to let the player decide who they will play, so there is no gender inequality issue here.

5. Single player set character: Clearly, this is where an issue might be found. The player can only play one character, since the developer has chosen for them. They could have written another story with a character of a different gender, but they chose the story they chose, and now the player must play it.

6. Ensemble cast: This is a little less clear-cut, but if there is a huge imbalance among the cast's gender balance, perhaps it should be pointed out as a possible issue. I must put "perhaps" and "possible" because it might be a game where only females or only males would be in there by virtue of the game's setting. For instance, is it a sport? If so, it might be all female or all male and be true to life in that way. Is it normal all-male military? Maybe it's a planet entirely populated by one gender? Maybe their military is opposite ours? Maybe only females wield magic and only males can swing a sword, or vice versa, by virtue of their particular genetics?

See, the details of the setting might play a huge part in how the cast is assembled, and so it's not particularly simple to just say "All ensemble casts should be balanced to at least XX% by XX% per gender." I'm perfectly willing to exclude ensemble cast games completely just to make the analysis easier.

Did I forget any significant type of game in my list? If so, name it and describe its qualities, I'll see if I can discuss it as well.

Theresa Catalano
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Exclusion Bias. It makes your results meaningless.

If you were looking at the overall gaming landscape, your point about gender disparity might be worth considering. But by throwing away all the data that doesn't agree with your pre-conceived conclusion, you're admitting that you're purposefully trying to skew the data. Here, you even said it yourself:

"3. Games where gender is unspecified or undefined: These are not where we will find evidence of our inequality issue, for obvious reasons."

Is that all you're doing, looking for evidence of an "inequality issue"? That's the wrong goal. If your goal is just to find inequality, then it's easy to "find it" by skewing the data to meet that goal.

I'll say it yet again: games that let you choose a gender for your character CONTRIBUTE to gender equality in games. That's the goal, right? Less disparity, more equality, more choices, right? Then they are part of the solution. As such, they deserve to be included. Excluding them is cheating, pure and simple, and it makes this study a fraud.

Christopher Landry
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I find it a bit amusing that you assume I'm trying to prove that there is a great inequality. In fact, I'm the opposite, I'd like to show that the inequality isn't anywhere close to as bad as these lists keep trying to say.

The issue is, almost every list includes tons of games that shouldn't be counted. The last list I saw a couple months ago was a lot worse. They weighted games according to how much sales they had, and on top of that, weighted them per playable character.

This means that a game like Madden, which in my opinion should be excluded completely because it perfectly represents the real world situation it reflects, instead got some 100x as many points assigned to it as many other games. Huge roster of all male cast * enormous number of sales of the game = incredibly over rated in their list. I wanna say they ended up saying the "inequality in the industry" came out to some 98.7% male. At least the author was consistent in applying this same horrible thinking across the board, but is it any surprise it resulted in a grossly exaggerated male pool?

This is the kind of absurdity that I'd like to see stopped.

The question is, if we exclude or weight any game at all, we have to have good reasons for excluding them. And should we exclude any game for any reason, we should be consistent in applying that reason across all games.

Here's my rule: If it's already perfectly (or close to perfectly) reflecting the real world, it doesn't assist us in locating where the issue lies, if there is any.

1. I feel strongly that any game that accurately reflects their real world counterpart should be excluded because it doesn't help answer the question regarding inequality. This is especially true for sports games, but could also apply to many military games.

2. Unspecified or hidden gender games aren't even capable of addressing the question, so they can't help the data either way.

I'm willing to discuss the merits of including, and weighting differently, character creation games. I imagine just giving them 1 pt for male and 1 pt for female works, regardless of the fact that this counts each game twice. Or .5 per side, as long as it's consistent.

I'm willing to discuss the best way to include, and properly weight, ensemble cast games. I'd be willing to grant 1 pt for every character here, too. Or a partial per character, like if the game is 2 male and 4 female, That's 2/6 male and 4/6 female, so we could give .33 to male and .67 to female.

I clearly want to include single character games.

The one thing I will always argue against is the idea that every single game should be included in the list. That way is just a list of mud, and doesn't help anyone answer any questions at all.

Robert Marney
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This list is a lot clearer than the original, thanks! The marketing campaigns don't help either; even games with studious gender equality like Mass Effect or Dark Souls feature male protagonists on almost all the marketing materials.

A cursory check of the top 10 best-selling games of 2013, in no particular order:
* Grand Theft Auto V
* Bioshock Infinite
* Call of Duty: Ghosts
* FIFA 14
* Pokemon X&Y
* The Last of Us
* Tomb Raider
* Assassin's Creed IV
* Animal Crossing: New Leaf
* Monster Hunter IV
reveals 6 male protagonists, 1 female protagonist, 3 character creators.

Theresa Catalano
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Mass Effect is guilty of this. However, the title character of Dark Souls is technically gender-less. Both male and female characters can wear that armor.

And like I mentioned above, character creators are a very acceptable balance if they let you choose both genders. I think they should count equally in both categories. If you split the character creators' points equally, it becomes: 7.5 to 2.5. Or 3 to 1, which is still lopsided, but not quite as bad. It's actually better than I'd expect, considering that AAA big budget games are usually the guiltiest ones of appealing to the male "dudebro" audience.

John Flush
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If anything this article has proven that the ratio isn't nearly as dire as all the articles and industry smoke says it is. 2:1 is not bad, or even 3:1, especially if that '1' = 77.5 games. That is only 30 more than I play in a year. Meaning if I really wanted to play Female only protagonists I could do so for years straight... which by then I'll have another 4 year backlog at the current trends.

Unless of course this isn't about our ability to actually "play" the games...

Veggen Skrikk
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I always have a problems with "analysis" of this type. Sure, the protagonists are more often male..... so what?
Gamers are more often male. Of course the games cater to their audience. What is this supposed to prove?

Theresa Catalano
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But there are more female gamers than there used to be. So catering to this audience might be a sound business decision. You could think of this article as a suggestion to do that. (Even if the results are somewhat skewed.)

Kyle Redd
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The statistic that there are as many female gamers as male ones gets thrown around an awful lot lately, but that is another data point that could use some deeper analysis. What types of games are each group playing? "Games" is far too broad a category to draw any meaningful conclusions from.

I completely agree with pretty much everything else Theresa has been saying about this article.

Jennis Kartens
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@Theresa

And is it relevant for all female players to have the choice of female characters?

I personally, as well as my girlfriend who I play frequently with and other women, don't give a damn about the gender (as in: true equality) but care a lot more about the actual character. The latter is something that truly gets us beyond the gender issue.

If a person, or a video game character, is interesting enough to care about, the gender becomes irrelevant. As it is in reality.

Theresa Catalano
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Well, not to me. I can play as a character of either gender and enjoy it. Some people might prefer to play as a character of their gender, though... or maybe even the opposite. There's even some men who like to play as women.

I think character creators aren't the answer all the time, as sometimes it makes sense to have a set character for a story focused game. But according to the numbers she posted, there's a good amount of games with a character creator. I think that there's actually a pretty good amount of choices of gender available, according to those numbers.

But a few more strong, prominent female leads in games would be cool, too! And since there's more female gamers than there used to be, I feel like it would make sense business-wise. As a writer, it's always a good idea to take a different angle from what everyone else is doing, and right now female lead feels like a smart way to go.

Jennis Kartens
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Think about it: Most male characters are too overly sexualized stereotypes and mirrors of marketing. So if that would simply turn into female leads, we end up with the same thing everyone is critizising about women in games in general.

I say: Leave it be. Focus on original characters. May they be male or female, quality brings equality, not vice versa. Games don't get better because of different genders.

Theresa Catalano
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I don't know who you're arguing with, but I didn't say that gender affects the quality of the game. I'm not complaining about sexualization either.

Jennis Kartens
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No, you didn't. But you brought up the perspective of "business" which then leads to this part as well. I just followed my initial thought a bit further.

Guess all I am saying in regard to your comment: I don't see where this adds much to business, because I highly doubt women will flood into the games we have only when a male lead would be swapped with a female. I think it matters less to most women and actual game design matters a lot more.

Theresa Catalano
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Talking to you, I feel like I'm caught between two extremes. One camp seems to think that gender in games is vitally important... the other camp seems to think that it's completely meaningless.

I'm not saying that simply changing the gender of lead characters will cause women to flock to those games. I'm not saying it's more important than actual game design. I'm not even saying it's that important. But I think it DOES matter, at least a little bit, to most people. I personally have no problem playing as a male character, but it's nice to have some female characters to play too, if for no other reason than variety.

Jennis Kartens
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Well, I don't disagree there. Diversity is always welcome, of course.

Just over the course of these debates, I find the focus is a bit lost and it's going more into the forced direction of just having a quota. Like it is too with the gender debate in general.
Here for instance, there are outcries for quotas of women in certain job positions and its been a big topic over the past years. But no one talks about the difference in payment. Women still get less paid as men in equal positions.

I think for true change, you always have to get to the root and not change things on the surface.

Going back to games: Personally I find Telltale did both things (and more) very well with The Walking Dead Series in my opinion. Authentic charcater(s). A girl in the lead role. No sexism and rather few stereottypes. It's the kind of game where I personally delevop real emotional connection towards the various characters.

Nathan Mates
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Why not also analyze the gender of the average default-hostile npc faced in the games? I.e. is the player predominantly fighting male enemies, female, indeterminate (i.e. robot), or a mix? Bonus points for splitting the stats into boss and non-boss enemies.

Matthew Calderaz
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Nice Job!

I agree that more weight should be given towards games that allow you to customize your character/avatar's gender.

I also don't see MMOs listed in the list. (At least I didn't see planetside 2 nor Guild Wars 2). Although I don't think it's something you can easily track, if you think about the time spent playing games with customizable avatars versus 'one shot' pre-scripted stories, (MMO's, open world games and such), I think it's generally several times greater than that spent on the more story-centric games with a canned character and story.

Katy Smith
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A lot of people up thread are concerned that the ratio is skewed, therefore the results are invalid. Since the results are not binary, looking at the percentages gives more reliable numbers:

All - 288 - 100%
Man - 136 - 47.22%
Woman - 16 - 5.55%
Both/either - 103 - 36.76%
Not applicable - 33 - 11.46%

This means in almost half of the games out there, you have no choice but to play as a man.

If you just pull out the games that give you a man/woman option, you get:
Gendered - 152 - 100%
Man - 89.47%
Woman - 10.52%

So even looking at the numbers this way, games skew heavily towards a protagonist that is a man.

Theresa Catalano
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"This means in almost half of the games out there, you have no choice but to play as a man."

Conversely, that means in the other half of games, you can play as a woman. The only thing that makes it unbalanced is because in a lot of those games, you can also play as a man too... but it's not like there are few opportunities to play as women in games. In MORE than half the games out there, you CAN play as a woman. That's important to point out!

"So even looking at the numbers this way, games skew heavily towards a protagonist that is a man."

What do you mean "even" looking at the numbers this way? Instead, you should say "IF you look at the numbers with the most skewed perspective possible, you get:" that would be more accurate. Like I was saying above, there is absolutely NO GOOD REASON to exclude the games with a man/woman option. If inequality is the problem, then those games are part of the solution! Sure, more games that feature ONLY a woman protagonist would be nice, but what would be even better than that is more gender choices for everyone, overall! So these games absolutely should NOT be excluded from the results! Doing so makes no sense!

Katy Smith
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No, it doesn't mean that if you aren't playing a man you are playin a woman. It means if you aren't playing a man you are playing a woman OR both OR neither OR a group of people. It's not a binary set, which is why I posted to begin with.

On the "even" issue, I was looking at something different: in games where you are playing a single character (assumption here is that it is a strongly story driven game) what do the results look like? It's actually better (if you are looking for more diversity) than the entire sample.

The next step would be looking at data from other years and seeing how it compares. My gut tells me it is getting better, but it's a slow change.

Theresa Catalano
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But there are lots of story driven games that have a character creator/ensemble cast. And on the flipside there are games with a set character aren't necessarily story driven.

If you are trying to look at diversity, then you CANNOT exclude games that use character creation or ensemble casts! Those are an important part of diversity, and overall important part of the big picture! Excluding them is nonsense! You're just arbitrarily closing your eyes to a whole group of games so that you can see the picture you want to see. Doing this just makes you lose credibility for your cause.

Katy Smith
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I look at these numbers like the BMI; it is a good starting point, but it has flaws. There isn't enough compile time in the world to get correctly weighted results :) so this analysis isn't perfect, as the article writer said.

If you look at not undefined (ugh, weird negative logic!) you get this :
Not-undefined - 255 - 100%
Man (at some point) - 239 - 93.72%
Woman (at some point) - 119 - 46.67%

The hypothesis I can draw from this is that if you want to play as a man, you will have no problem, but only half of the games are for you if you want to play as a woman.

This particular study isn't "my cause". I'm just interested in looking at the data as a starting point for an expanded study in protagonist gender on games over time.

Andy Thomas
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I find it hard to believe that in this day and age that people still care about the gender of X, Y or Z character. If anything I think people can learn a great deal from the individuals that conceptualized the Tomb Raider franchise...

When talking about the development of the initial game in a G4 documentary(and also in the Tomb Raider feature film) its quite interesting to learn from Jeremy and Adrian Heath-Smith that the character that would eventually become Lara Croft initially didn't have a gender until it took form based on descriptions and attributes they wrote down and wanted the character to have..the end result was a female character. Ultimately they wanted the character(Lara Croft) to appeal to both male and female player as oppose to pushing some sociopolitical agenda.

Overall In my opinion if the industry took on the mindset of those individuals who created the initial Tomb Raider games then the debate would be moot, but sadly from what I'm seeing it seem that some individuals are either playing the gender, race, (insert identity)-card to trying make a point or pushing their own worldview/sociopolitical beliefs.

Albert Thornton
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"I find it hard to believe that in this day and age that people still care about the gender of X, Y or Z character"

Welcome to the grievance industry. It now controls every aspect of our lives.

Andy Thomas
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Its interesting you say this, because its a stark and sad reminder of the "entitlement" world we live in e.g. one that say if X, Y, Z identity group isn't represented in the media then there is some secret bias that exist.

When it come to video games though, people seem to forget that like any other business out there this is a hit driven industry one where the success of a game can potentially be determined even by a character and how much it appeal to wide market. I guess this is probably why a character like Lara Croft became so successful...the developer chose to play up the character appeal as oppose to pushing a gender issue even when they could.

Going back to the title of the original article, sure a majority of the games out there might have more male characters but in no way does that mean some kind of gender disparity exist. What people need to realize is that this is still a male-oriented market just like comic books have been a male-oriented market for decades and one that will continue to be so for times to come.

Zora DB
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'Entitlement' as in 'entitled to a fair share'? Or maybe 'entitled to meaningful representation'?

The only entitlement I see in this debate, and it is everywhere; I'm not particularly referring to this comments thread; is already the well-served demographic of dudebros feeling that they're entitled to preserve the status quo.

Albert Thornton
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Gamasutra: when we start circling the drain, the only thing we can think is 'faster'.

Richard MacDonald
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Hello. I just skimmed the list quickly and noticed two minor mistakes. Pandora's Tower is listed under the female column, but is about a couple. The story centers very much around the female protagonist, but only the male protagonist is playable. I don't know if that would change what you would list it under.

Also, Super Mario 3D World includes Peach and Rosalina as playable characters, so I believe that one should be listed under mixed rather than male.

Great list, though. Thank you for taking the time to do this. It's really eye-opening.


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