Female gamers and developers: should there be more?
Does it stand to reason, if women are to play games and be consumers of the latest title, should they be equally represented within the game, during the development of the game, and when promoting the game?
It’s probably not a surprise that the majority of gamers are male; however, the split may not be as drastic as you’d assume. Recent figures from UKIE state that 42% of gamers are female. That’s a hell of a market to ignore for any company. And if you need to get into the psyche of women, it’s probably a good idea to employ women…wouldn’t you agree?
That there’s the same proportion of women in game development, well, that lacks a little. A study by Creative Skillset Media shows that, whilst more women are today choosing the game industry as their place of work more than ever before, the UK still lags behind other countries when it comes to female developers. Stated the survey, fewer women opt for employment in the gaming sector than in any other creative industry – they make up just 19% of the gaming workforce. Though this sounds like bad news, this figure was just 6% in 2009, which actually shows good progress. However, compare this to the percentage of women in television – 45% - and it’s perhaps clear that more needs to be done.
The CEO of ESA (Entertainment Software Association), Michael Gallagher, is positive. He says, “31% of those enrolling for game programming are women. That's helpful. It's nowhere near that for engineering, so the pipeline looks much brighter. And every one of the major game releases in the fourth quarter of 2015 had playable female characters.”
Ciara Man, a game developer of ten years, started out as the only woman in her department. Some of her colleagues even admitted that they’d never met a female developer before she joined the company. Though she says that she’s always been respected by her male colleagues, she does admit that the industry needs to be more family-friendly, given that work often spills into the evenings and weekends. “Though that applies to men, too,” she adds. Her suggestion, with regards to attracting more women to game development, is to start early. She says, “We need to stop putting a gender on kids’ toys. Let girls play with trucks and Lego, and let boys play with pink dolls if they want to. We need to stop having girls believe that maths and physics are for boys, and encourage them to enjoy maths and science in school. This issue is not just a female IT issue either. If a boy says he wants to be a nurse he gets teased and laughed at. We need to just let kids be who they are without moulding them into a gender role.”
Many larger companies have initiatives aimed at attracting more women to the sector. However, women working in the industry commonly cite their decision as simply stemming from their love of games. Others credit women developers talking in schools or colleges as the inspiration for their choice of career, whilst a good portion enjoy developing because it makes use of their artistic talent.
So, should gender be an issue? Taking Ciara’s point, singling females out may do more harm than good, particularly in their younger years. On the other hand, budding female developers seem to be inspired by female role models working in the industry.
It’s clear progress is being made either way.