Gaming, in general, is a pass-time which is often considered geeky, entertaining and often filled with a sense of shared experience (be it through online gaming, communities for certain games or sharing videos). However the important issue to explore here is the gender make-up of not only the community, but also the industry.
It is generally typical to assume that gaming is a predominantly masculine influenced hobby and industry; many would find it surprising to walk into their female flatmate’s room to find them ‘bashing a bit of COD’, ‘smashing FIFA’ or trying to build a wonderful house out of blocks. Responses may range from, “Wooooaahh, why’re you not on Cooking Mama?” to “My sister’s got some Barbie games I could bring up for you?”
It’s apparent on online platforms such as Xbox Live that being a female gamer is classed as a rarity; the attention (often in the form of abuse, but primarily in the form of awe and amazement) that a female voice in a game chat, or a relatively feminine gamertag (the online persona that a gamer is identified by), can generate is striking.
But it seems in fact that the presence of female gamers is growing drastically. According to a report released by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) in June 2013, 45% of the gaming population is made up of females. This highlights the continuing development of gender equality in a wider sense and therefore its effect on the gaming world.
The unfortunate thing however, is that the industry itself is still predominantly operated by males. Often, women in this form of work almost feel like a ‘novelty’; a rare piece of gaming memorabilia upon which those stereotypical ‘gamer-geeks’ take awe and pride. Although positive, this response ultimately reveals that there is a distinct lack of women working in this ‘world’.
Those who do try to speak out against this are often criticised; Anita Sarkeesian (a feminist media critic and blogger) was verbally attacked for pointing out some ‘damsel in distress’ tropes that reside in many games. This highlights the apparent power of male dominance within the gaming world on two levels: the critique of someone viewed as not having enough authority within the field to give an opinion and also the strong sexist influence upon many narratives of games.
Movements are being made, that much is clear. But it is obvious that more must be done within the workplace to diminish this ‘boy-club’ mentality that rules throughout the industry.