The vast world of gaming constantly evolves in response to what gamers are seeking and to what industry leaders choose to produce. When considering gender representation in gaming, most may assume that males occupy almost all of the gaming world, both as consumers and industry leaders (such as game designers, developers, and more). However, it’s time to put this misconception to rest, as studies have shown that females constituted 46% of gaming participants in 2019, with men making up 54%. (It’s also reported that 40% of gamers are between 18-35 years old.) This gender statistic is particularly powerful when compared with 2006 statistics that showed female gamers constituting just 38% of gaming participants. Because of the dramatic increase in female participation — and consequentially, representation — within 13 years, the world of gaming is shifting to more accurately represent gender diversity of the industry in game design, “gamer” culture, behavioral norms, equal pay between genders, and more.
Despite the progress that has been made to more clearly accept women in gaming, there is still a significant need for increased female leadership in game creation, management, and design. Because of this need, numerous organizations are devoted to advancing women’s representation in the gaming industry and making their voices heard. Such groups hope that by granting women a more equal slate of opportunities, the gaming world will become more inclusive and enjoyable for all participants.
Why Gaming Needs Women
Seeing as women currently constitute about half of today’s gaming participants, the leaders of the industry can no longer afford to overlook the consequences of leaving women out of key roles such as game writers, designers, publishers, and developers. The occupational segregation that occurs in gaming makes it so that 73% of women who work in the industry do not occupy central roles that influence game content creation, character representation, and development. Instead, women in gaming are placed time and time again in what is seen as “traditionally feminine” roles such as administrative or marketing positions. Amplifying the voices of women in this realm and granting them the opportunity to shape the future of gaming has the potential to exponentially enhance the success of the industry going forward. In 2019, gaming constituted a $36.9 billion industry in the United States. With a market, this prominent, industry leaders are crippling their own potential profits by omitting the ideas, creativity, and opinions of female gaming professionals in writing, design, and beyond.
When granted wider representation in the industry, women themselves will have the opportunity to create games that focus on topics that matter to them all while showing female characters in a more versatile way. Creating games on “topics that matter to women” could include examining women’s motivations in gaming before going into production. For example, studies show that the top two motivations for men playing games are competition and destruction, whereas women’s top two motivating factors for gaming are problem-solving and fantasy. Non-binary gamers tend to seek out fantasy and design. The reasons for these different approaches to gaming are unclear, but they could be innate to men and women. In any case, it would be profitable for such a booming industry to market more directly to 50% of its audience by considering what women seek in gaming. By representing female characters in central, heroic roles and formulating games with women’s motivations in mind, the industry would likely attract more female players and ultimately result in increased success. In these ways and more, gaming would greatly benefit from placing more women in professional leadership roles.
Women’s Careers in the Gaming Industry
Today, there are numerous success stories of women with flourishing gaming careers, and opportunity is growing. In leadership positions, many women have made their voices heard by creating games or by founding organizations that respond to the need for intersectional diversity in the gaming industry. Tanya DePass –the founder of I Need Diverse Games — does meaningful work to raise the visibility of underrepresented groups in gaming. An International Game Developers’ Association (IGDA) study cites that though women make up 51% of the U.S. population and African Americans constitute 13%, only 23% of gaming professionals identified as female as 1% identified as African American. As an African American woman, Tanya DePass and her non-profit, I Need Diverse Games, exemplify how women are showing up to prove that gamers come in all different forms and that the industry should evolve in a similar way to be an inclusive environment. The I Need Diverse Games website also includes information about job opportunities, scholarships, and current events for those interested in becoming more involved in gaming.
Also bolstering female representation in the industry, Microsoft “lifer” Bonnie Ross has found incredible success during her gaming career, starting as a producer of PC sports games in 1994 and later making her mark on numerous titles such as Inside Drive, Zoo Tycoon, Psychonauts and more. Ross’ claim to fame is leading the team for Halo, which has since expanded its franchise into books and even a video series. In fact, Ross was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 2019 for her stellar leadership in developing the Halo universe. Her work promotes STEM education for women, underrepresented minorities and children. There’s no doubt that the gaming industry has benefited from Ross’ contributions both to gaming development and representation of women in the industry.
Resources for Women in Gaming
There are several resources devoted to connecting women with opportunities in the gaming industry and supporting more equal gender representation. For example, the IDGA created the Women in Gaming Special Interest Group (WIGSIG) to “create a positive impact on the game industry with respect to gender balance in the workplace and the marketplace. The IDGA WIGSIG offers community, resources, and opportunities to women and men in the games industry, as well as those seeking to break into the business.” Indeed, in browsing WIGSIG’s website, one can find numerous publications centered around women’s intersectionality, women’s harassment awareness, fundraisers, resources, scholarships, and more. Simply click “Get Involved” to learn more about WIGSIG’s online communities, volunteer opportunities, program committees, sponsors, and partners.
Another superb group fighting for women’s equality and parity in gaming is Women In Games (originally founded as Women In Games Jobs in 2009). WIGJ is a non-profit organization that “seeks a games industry, culture, and community free of gender discrimination, where full equality of opportunity, treatment, and conditions empowers all women to achieve their full potential.” This UK-based organization is on a mission to become the leading force in gender equality in the gaming business. With 291 Ambassadors from 37 different countries, WIGJ is certainly putting the emphasis on diversity within their leadership representation. WIGJ’s website encourages readers to learn more about their current Ambassadors and even become one yourself. As a WIGJ Ambassador, you will help women and girls understand the games industry and the opportunities for success that lie within it.
For additional information about resources available for women in gaming, take a look at Women in Games International, womengamers.com, Sony G.I.R.L., and companies like Check Six Games, Purple Moon, Silicone Sisters, and Her Interactive.
An Overview of Women in Gaming
While the gaming industry may seem male-dominated at first blush, current research shows the prominence of women in gaming. After all, nearly half of the gamers in the U.S. were female in 2019. However, the abundance of women in gaming does not mean that industry leadership or even games themselves are reflective of this gender diversity. On the contrary — studies continue to show the lack of female representation in professional gaming positions and men and women alike acknowledge the at-times problematic nature of women’s roles in games. Whether it be the stereotypical “feminine” behavior of female game characters or the fact that women’s intersectional representation in the industry is still at an all-time low, it’s time for the gaming world to step up and make a place for women’s voices to be heard. To help make equal gender representation possible, there are numerous resource groups that offer job opportunities, informative publications, and valuable networks for women who want to get involved in gaming. Take a look to see where the future of gaming might take you.