It is no secret there is a pronounced gender gap in the games industry. While nearly half of all game players are women, only 30 percent of developers identify as women.
Why does this gap exist and what can the game industry of today do to correct it for the next generation of developers?
Heroes to follow
The current generation of game developers grew up playing games that almost purely featured male protagonists. White skin, short hair, and masculinity reigned supreme. As a girl in the 90s, few popular games featured women; “Metroid,” “Tomb Raider,” and some Barbie titles. When most game boxes feature characters who look nothing like you, it can be hard to feel like you belong. It is unsurprising that fewer women attempt to enter the game industry after such exclusion in their youth.
Though many girls today play video games, there are still few women heroes in games for them to follow. The International Game Developers Association’s recent whitepaper, “Inclusive Game Design and Development,” dives into methods for combating this barrier with diverse inspirations research, varied game mechanics and goals, and relatable character development. A diverse team will innately generate diverse content, but any studio can pursue an inspiring mosaic of content.
Game developers need to prioritize representation and depth in their character choices to provide the heroes that can inspire the next generation of women gamers.
Just as girls need to be supported by relatable heroes, women in the games industry need leaders who uphold their interests and empower their growth.
The women who are within the games industry see harassment and discrimination at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. An overwhelming 74 percent of developers also felt there was not equal opportunity for all within the industry. Three key approaches to combat these issues are outlined in the IGDA’s “Guide for Game Companies: How to Create and Sustain a Positive Work Culture:” proactive cultural development, team building, and team development.
Upholding inclusive company values provides a North Star that guides workplace decisions to support all employees, especially those who are often forgotten. Employees of a company with a good culture will feel inspired, and will grow and carry their projects along with them.
Yet, where are the women leaders in games? These values and cultural decisions are driven by leadership. Recruiting women talent is only the first step. The average game developer changes studios 2.2 times every five years, and diverse hires leave our industry at a higher rate. Without mentorship and growth opportunities, women developers will not be empowered to evolve into the leaders we need.
Together, we can condemn the failures in the game industry’s past and take the steps forward to ensure our games and the game industry will uplift our current and next generation of women developers. It’s time to power up women in games.