Maybe it’s me or maybe I am just behind the times, but I really feel like the video game industry is on the verge of another surge in gaming equality. The air around this topic is charging up and I feel that over the next few years we will see a drastic shift in the way games are made.
It’s common knowledge that over the past decade the number of female gamers has increased dramatically. A study last year by the Entertainment Software Association entitled “2013 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry,” found that adult women represent 31% of the video game population, and boys 17 and under make up only 19% of gamers. The study further went on to say that 45% of gamers are women and they make up 46% of the most habitual video game purchasers.
Another study from last year conducted by Magid Advisors found that 70% of women between the ages of 12 and 24 play video games, as do 61% of women between the ages of 45 and 64, compared to 57% of men in the latter age group.
You only need to browse the top YouTube gaming channels and Twitch channels to see that female gamers are pulling in the subscribers in their droves.
I recently played the award-winning Gone Home (check out my Gone Home review here) and both the female protagonist and the female-orientated storyline was a clear milestone in gaming equality. I hadn’t experienced anything quite like it and I feel a more rounded individual for playing it.
In a report a few months ago Ubisoft mentioned that in the new Assassins Creed game ‘Unity’ there would be no Female Characters. Whilst I won’t say this caused an uproar, I will say that the gaming community was collectively disappointed in Ubisoft’s backward mentality. Another studio openly mocked Assassins Creed such as Sunset Overdrive which declared that players had the choice if both male and female players. Now, here we are, three months later and there is a recent announcement from Ubisoft that Assassins Creed will have a female player. Good one Ubisoft for realizing your mistake and fixing it, bad one for pretending that it was in your plan all along. (And shame on you for making her get rescued in the CGI trailer… she could have quite easily been the rescuer)
Over the past couple of years we have seen a re-vamped ‘Lara Croft,’ ‘the Mass Effect’s female version of Commander Shepard and ‘Uncharted”s Elena Fisher and Chloe Frazer. All of these characters are strong, independent individuals that represent women in gaming in a positive light.
Other strong female characters, like Elizabeth in “BioShock Infinite” or Ellie in “The Last of Us,” show the range developers are willing to put in their games to attract a wider audience and provide a different experience from games in the past.
Other upcoming games such as “Beyond: Two Souls” and the new “Mirror’s Edge” appear that they’ll continue to put women at the forefront of gaming action and narrative.
Any game with a multiplayer aspect should consider adding playable female characters from now on to avoid any unwelcome press. When one of the big FPS’s announced that it would include a female soldier it was originally met with mixed responses. Many celebrated the fact they could finally play as a woman whereas a few felt uncomfortable performing acts of violence against female avatars. Since this however, many of the more recent titles such as Titanfall and Destiny all have the option to play as a female throughout.
In my opinion, unless there is a clear narrative direction that means the main character can’t be a female then there is little reason not to include them. If the game has a multiplayer section then there is no excuse not to include female characters.
Hopefully soon, it won’t be women or girls in games but simply people in the games industry?