When you sit down to play a new game, that has garnered a lot of attention and accolades there is a lot of excitement and anticipation for that title screen to first greet your eyes. As I got older a lot of the excitement and anticipation for new games has dwindled, I kept asking the question; “where are the lead female characters in games? Countless times over the past six years, I find myself starting a new video game only to be greeted with the fact that there is little choice involved in choosing the main characters gender, the character I am playing and actively trying to connect with.
In this chart created in 2017 by Carolyn Petit, managing editor at Feminist Frequency, you can see how major video game releases from 2015-2017 portrayed the main character. In 2015, 7% of all the 76 games produced had a female lead character. While in 2017 only 7% of the 109 games were female.
In contrast to the female representation, male representation in 2015 was 32% and in 2017 it was 26%. There are games that offer both genders for selection, in 2015 46% was either gender and in 2017 it was 52%. Half of the video games that are released offer a selection for male and female genders. This representation is better but it still doesn’t encompass all of the games created, and on top that this only focuses on male and female gender identities. THERE ARE SO MANY IDENTITIES THAT ARE NOT BEING TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION!
The issue of gender representation in video games isn’t just about male or female. It’s every gender in the LGBTQ+ community. Individuals who play these games want to connect with the character they are playing, there is a huge disconnect when you are of a different gender than the character on screen that you are actively controlling.
Although gender representation and freedom can be difficult across video game settings, there are potential solutions that offer players the freedom to design their characters as they choose. Video game creators should implement a system in where the person playing the game has complete creative freedom over their character and they aren’t forced into selecting a specific gender. Upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077 has a character creation system where the player doesn’t pick a specific gender or even specify the gender of the character at all. The creation and interpretation of that character is completely in the hands of the person creating that character.
Gender representation in video games is an important issue to address, and I hope video games begin implementing features that promote inclusivity. Video games are a wide-reaching form of media and by having the strict portrayal of only males and females you are once again oppressing individuals who don’t fall into the institutionalized norm. We have to break down these so-called norms to create a better place for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sex, and sexual preference.