There’s an eternal debate as to whether or not video games are a creative medium designed for both men and women to enjoy. The debate has gotten much louder as reports of harassment of women in online games are becoming far more frequent. The GamerGate controversy left a lot of gamers divided by gender and questioning the importance of representation in games, and whether or not the medium has some inherently sexist tendencies.
The purpose of this discussion will be to take an objective look at the industry over the course of the last year, using Entertainment Software Association (ESA) statistics, and comparing them with patterns of modern development to see if the game industry is truly becoming more welcoming to people of all genders.
To give some basic context, in their most recent analysis, the ESA has determined that 63% of households play video games. Or at least 63% of households contain one person who identifies as a “gamer” of some sort. To give some fiscal context, our industry grossed $23.5 Billion in 2015. Of the gamers mentioned previously, 41% of them are female. That’s almost half.
So instantly, the question of the importance of representation is answered. We’re talking about a $23 Billion industry, and half of its consumers can either be pulled further in or pushed away based on representation and treatment within video game content.
So now to delve into games. Statistically, games that tend to gross the highest are games designated towards a far
more mainstream audience, such as Sims and Madden. These games aren’t necessarily marketed to fans of video games, but fans of concepts both broad and beloved by many. Sports, simulation of life experiences, architecture, and so on. It lacks the sort of niche that a dedicated RPG might have.
We tend to notice high numbers of female streamers, and despite incredibly bold assertions and perceptions that women in games are simply attempting to market their own sexuality, a lot of the more commonly streamed games have gameplay elements that appeal to numerous demographics. There are pure pillars of various streaming communities such as Eloise and CyborgAngel, who manage to capture the attention of many games, male and female alike.
Take a game like Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, which a lot of regulars here on MMOExaminer know I write about quite often. The game offers the ability to exercise critical thinking in an environment where every move counts. The appeal of that might be based on a love of strategy, or the accomplished feeling that a mentally stimulating task can award. This is something that can be felt universally, not just based on something as trivial as gender.
Then there’s the impact of mobile games on the industry, and on the types of people who play games. While it was underestimated as a contender for the medium, the mobile game market has reached an incredibly large threshold in which dedicated gaming experiences are being released to these platforms on a daily basis.
Women who may not have necessarily intentionally gone out and purchased game consoles for themselves (as a result of established gender roles or whatever else) now have access to these smart devices that encourage the downloading of free games on almost every online interface available.
The arbitrary rules and laws we’ve established around who is allowed to enjoy games can no longer be enforced as the convergence of media calls for all types of people to explore games. As virtual reality, augmented reality, and the continued success of mobile games help shape an industry of varying interests, we’ll eventually see that the gender divide of games will cease to exist altogether.
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