The video game industry has long had a reputation for being a male-dominated space, even here in the 21st century. In reality, however, almost half of the world’s gamers are women. In the US alone 46% of gamers are female, while globally, women make up 51% of the mobile gaming audience.
Despite women contributing so much to the gaming market, however, only 24% of game developers are women, which explains why so many female characters in modern games are still nothing more than stereotypical tropes, continually framed by the male gaze.
Thankfully, the number of women working within the industry is on the rise. In this article, we’ll be celebrating the success of some of the most influential female figures within the industry, as well as taking a look at the games that are proving popular with women across the globe.
A Female Gaming Market
Being such a male-dominated industry, many of the titles that make up the world’s best-selling games are created by men. Although these games aren’t intended to solely be played by male gamers, they’re nevertheless influenced by male perspectives and perceptions.
Numerous studies have been conducted recently into the behaviours and motivations of female gamers, which did uncover some differences between the sexes. In France, for example, women look for games that challenge them, while men typically look for games to reduce stress.
Additionally, only 18% of video game titles released in 2020 actually showcase female characters (despite this being a record rise in representation), meaning female-centric gaming experiences are sadly lacking.
So, with very little in the way of games either built by women or featuring them as leading characters, what are the most popular types of games with women at the moment?
The widespread availability of innovative gaming verticals, such as iGaming, have directly impacted the types of games that women are now playing. Online casino platforms, pioneered by gaming brands such as PokerStars Casino, have seen a marked increase in female consumer sign-ups; a trend that’s also evident in the professional arm of the vertical, with pros like Muskan Sethi making it big in the iGaming world.
A glance at the gaming habits of top female Twitch streamers also paints a broad picture of the genres of games that modern women are enjoying. eSports titles like CS: GO, Fortnite, PUBG, Overwatch, World of Warcraft and Dead or Alive all rank highly with the world’s best female gamers. Kat Gunn, a Guinness World Record holder, is a national champion in Dead or Alive 4, while Australia’s xMinks is regarded to be one of the best Call of Duty players in the country.
Celebrating the Women in the Industry
Between 2018 and 2020 there has been an increase in the number of women working within the industry, and there are notable female trailblazers who are instigating change for the better.
Aya Kyogoku has been instrumental in achieving gender balance in gaming giants Nintendo. Working her way up to the role of Sequence Director for the Animal Crossing series, she purposefully hired a team that was 50% female to create the New Leaf instalment in the franchise, leading it to sales of over 12 million copies in the process.
Kyogoku’s success didn’t end there, however. In 2020 she was responsible for the Japan Game Award’s “Game Of The Year”, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The most-tweeted-about game of 2020, New Horizons sold over 1.88 million copies within just three days of its release in Japan alone.
Robin Hunicke is another female power player changing the game in 2021. After an impressive career that encompassed working for EA, thatgamecompany, and Tiny Spec, where she developed Glitch, in 2013 Hunicke co-founded the game studio Funomena.
The studio behind the truly unique 2019 hit Wattam, which has charmed gamers with its eccentricities, Funomena builds games that are “experimental, playful, and engaging” to appeal to a broad range of players. Hunicke is also known in the industry for her advocacy for women in gaming and her support of indie games.
The Future of Gaming
Not that it needs proof, but the female players enjoying games right now prove that the future of the industry needs to move beyond outdated viewpoints and transcend gender binaries. Yes, women choose to play games for different reasons than men, however, they clearly enjoy the stereotypically “masculine” genres of eSports, RPGs, and iGaming.
What we need to achieve this level of parity is to develop more games that feature fully-realised female characters, because they appeal to every type of player. New data compiled by Quantic Foundry has revealed that one in three male gamers prefer to play as female characters, making female-led games far from a niche genre.