The world of gaming generates billions of pounds in annual revenue, has countless millions of people as players among its ranks and draws in a diverse crowd of players from all over the world. Thirty years in the making, video games have managed to spread from the standard game console into a variety of different areas, including personal computers and mobile devices. As with most elements of gaming, the player base continues to change in ways that do not reflect its historical roots. Namely, more and more females are getting in on the action.
While there are still a number of cultural barriers and stigmas associated with females in the gaming world, it is very obvious that this is no longer a male’s domain exclusively. Below, you’ll find several examples of why gaming isn’t just for males anymore.
A Majority of Gamers Are Female
While the perception of gaming to many is one that still revolves heavily around a male identity, revolutions in mobile and portable gaming have drastically shifted the player base. According to a 2014 study, a whopping 52% of gamers are female, with many of these opting to play games like Candy Crush and Sun Bingo primarily on mobile devices. This metric includes gamers across all genres and platforms, from console games to mobile apps. While there is still a relatively stark difference between the mobile game experience and that of PC/console gaming, the fact that there is significant demand for gaming options from females in some of the most profitable areas of gaming is shifting how developers and marketers view female perception of games.
An Increasing Focus on Female Protagonists
Traditionally, video games have featured protagonists almost exclusively as male. This left much to be desired by hardcore female gamers, who were relegated to experiencing games through an identity not linked to their own. Increasingly, however, game developers are providing choice – or outright randomising the notion of gender – in their games.
The highly successful Mass Effect trilogy broke with orthodox views on gender when, in 2009, it provided players with the ability to play as either male or female. Along with a variety of other customisable features, Mass Effect provided the full experience for female players: custom relationships and personalised dialogue based on whether you play as male or female. For its highly anticipated fourth release, Mass Effect Andromeda, the developers at Bioware made the decision to feature the female version of Ryder, its protagonist, in their first trailer highlighting the backstory.
The popular online video game Rust, where the sole objective is survival, generated a ton of controversy when it was revealed how characters would be assigned. Using the master Steam ID of players, both the gender and race of the player’s character is randomly assigned. Unsurprisingly, many male reactions to playing female characters were less than sympathetic. The game’s developers explained their rationale for doing so, noting that “We understand this causes you distress and makes you not want to play the game anymore. Technically nothing has changed, since half the population was already living with those feelings”. This is a rather bold statement from a game developer, and something that would not have been uttered by any company concerned with its bottom line just a few years ago.
(Some) Men Are Reacting to Changing Negatively to Changing Times
If you need any more proof that gaming is no longer a male-exclusive world, then look no further than the accounts of females who experience constant harassment in-game. The BBC released a documentary on female abuse in gaming, highlighting the chronic sexism that is experienced. In years past, many females did not play online or collaborative video games, meaning that the amount of vitriol thrown about was minimal or not to be taken personally. As females have increased their influence in the world of gaming, some men feel threatened. This extends not only to female gamers, but female game developers as well.
There is still a lot that has to change for the gaming world to be truly gender-equal. However, the fact that more women are playing games than ever before, that more developers are appealing to this growing bloc and that tensions are increasingly obvious means that gaming is no longer a male-dominated world.