Women in Gaming

Pixabay user: Olichel

Deputy Science & Gaming editor Ryan Gulliford explores the issues surrounding gender in the video games industry following its significance throughout recent years.

With 2018 now in full swing and the spring term well underway, the topic of women in video games and the gender diversity gap in the industry was brought to light in 2017, so let’s make sure that continues throughout the year. The video games industry has several factors influencing its negative perception and among them are key issues surrounding gender and the nature of these views. So, here we look at what’s causing the problem and how we can continue to solve it.

Opportunities Through Education:

A key, yet overlooked factor which has a large effect on the inclusion of women in the video games industry, surrounds the lack of support from the educational system. From a young age, women can be discouraged from pursuing a career in video games simply because they didn’t know it was a career option and a lack of educational support, even at degree level, can in some cases, become crucial to levels of female interest. This lack of awareness constitutes part of the gendered occupational norms associated with the industry, mirrored in today’s student demographics and the gender split amongst gaming professionals, with women making up 22% of the industry.

By contrast, certain initiatives exist to address the above problem, studios such as LearnDistrict are among those who take part in educational programmes, but focus on providing them specifically for girls. Their ‘Girls Make Games’ initiative, provides a summer camp experience where young women can learn the fundamentals of games development and work on their own ideas in small teams, with the best teams being able to pitch their ideas to industry leaders. Programmes and schemes such as this, provide a creative playground for young women, educating them on the industry and its opportunities.

Societal Norms and Industry Gender

The presence of various social stigmas and unconscious ideas form a substantial amount of the problem facing women and their experience with the games industry. Communicated from a young age, video games are assigned the stereotypical, introverted male audience, supported by mainstream media which, in some cases, sexualises the female aesthetic in games, playing to a dominantly male viewership.

Furthermore, the 2016 IGDA survey depicts the various factors which influence the negative perception of video games, with the top 3 surrounding sexism among gamers, working conditions and sexism in games. Additionally, 58% of survey correspondents feel that exposure to opportunity and development within the industry is not equal for all workers. These findings are only part of the sexism and harassment issues experienced by women in the industry which has a direct effect on the cultural upbringing of younger generations. Quite rightly so, parents may not want their children, particularly daughters, being exposed the industry’s oppressive perceptions. However, this leads back to the problem of pre-existing social stigmas and assumptions which, deter women from the industry.

By contrast, we can expect the problems associated with these social norms to improve. In an IGN article, an anonymous games developer from the UK stated that “The minority who are sexist, and promote sexist or othering environments, are an old guard, being phased out by an increasingly liberal new wave of game developers,”. This notion is supported by the plethora of support communities and initiatives geared towards women in the industry. Groups such as IGDA Women in Games (WIG) and Women Who Code, promote an ethos which, surrounds gender balance and awarding opportunities to those already in the industry, or who are looking for their big break.

Similarly, the use of digital media initiatives such as #HowIWillChange and #girlsbehindthegames, promotes awareness of the negative perceptions that we see in the video games industry and adds to the increasing support network available to women pursuing a career in the ever-growing world of gaming.