Tag Archives: gender

21 Percent Delta

Polygon’s Charlie Hall reporting from GDC 2015:

Rosalind Wiseman and Ashly Burch collaborated to create their survey in the spring of 2014. Wiseman, herself a teacher, educator and author, was able to deliver the survey to 1,583 students aged 11 to 18 over the course of the year. The results, the authors say, are enough to turn the games industry’s understanding of gender issues on its head.

The most compelling data point for game developers is the fact that girls in high school are far more likely to prefer to play female characters than boys of the same age are likely to prefer to play male characters.

Only 39 percent of high-school aged boys surveyed preferred to play as male characters, while 60 percent of high-school aged girls preferred to play as female characters.

That 21 percent delta, the authors say, is more than enough reason for game developers to rethink who their main characters should be going forward.

“We as developers,” Burch said, “understandably … are afraid of our games not selling.

“It’s terrifying to imagine that your game’s not going to sell. But it could be that we are falsely attributing the success of past games to things that don’t actually matter to the kids that are playing them.”

Since hearing Rosalind Wiseman on The One You Feed podcast, I’ve been an avid fan of her and Ashly Burch’s work. In case you missed it, their GDC 2014 talk on The Connection Between Boys’ Social Status, Gaming and Conflict is worth the watch.

See also: My recent breakdown of protagonist gender and video game genre from the games announced or highlighted at E3 2014.

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E3 2014: Genre/Gender Breakdown

Continuing my research of video game genre and protagonist/main character gender, here is the collected data from E3 2014. The sample list of 152 video games was sourced from IGN’s Games at E3 2014, platform data mapped to a quantifiable “TRUE”/”FALSE” list, genre lists collected from both IGN and Wikipedia (limited to primary genre), and the main character gender researched to the best of my ability.

Elaborating on the gender categories:

“Multi” being either:
a) multiple characters to select from (ie. Mario Kart 8 / Killer Instinct receive 1 count for “multi” although there are several characters to select from)
b) customizable gender
c) large customizable party

“n/a” being a:
a) gender ambiguous character
b) God-view game
c) first-person with no direct gender association

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Some key points:

  • My data can be found here. (Numbers online)
  • Sample size = 152 games
  • 13 exclusively female protagonists/main characters vs. 47 exclusively male protagonists
  • Female protagonist by year
    • 2012: 2%
    • 2013: 6%
    • 2014: 9%

Additional reference:

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Garena Philippines Limiting LGBTQ Women from League of Legends Competition

Garena Esports (empahsis my own):

For any events we do, we always want to make sure we are able to have an inclusive environment where no one feels left out, and of course for everybody to enjoy.  On this angle, we believed that allowing more to be eligible to join is obviously the answer and as many of our female teams have expressed — Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered Women members are their friends too.  On the other hand, for any competitions, we seriously look at ensuring there’s a fair level playing field for all participants.  And there are arguments and concerns from other participants who disputes that Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered Women members may probably have some unfair advantage.

I have zero tolerance for the twisted logic/suspicion/assumption that one’s physical traits, let alone sexual orientation, “may probably” provide them “some unfair advantage” in a competition based purely on mental prowess. Unbelievable.

[Via Polygon]

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Assassin-in-the-room

Polygon’s Quality Control is a fantastic short-form podcast hosted by Justin McElroy in which video game reviewers (primarily from Polygon) offer insight to their review of a particular new release and answer listener questions.

On today’s episode, Polygon Reviews Editor and guest Arthur Gies elaborated on his review of Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

Upon reading Gies’s review, I was taken aback by the lack of mention to the E3 hubbub surrounding Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio’s comments regarding the lack of playable female avatar’s in co-op:

It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.

I posed the following unabridged question to Justin via email:

“Arthur seemed to avoid the elephant-in-the-room regarding female playable characters in co-op. While Polygon (and Arthur) has/have made sexualization and representation an impetus for review scores in the past (see Bayonetta 2 (albeit, on the opposite side of representation)), why was this not addressed? Did Arthur feel that female representation did not affect AC: Unity’s overall review? Did he feel the damage had already been done and no more worthwhile discussion could be added? Or was it that Arthur simply wanted us focus solely on the end-product, sharing the detail we may miss when distracted by the elephant?”

Arthur’s response, time stamp 8:20, edited for clarity:

I mean Arno is the character in the game. And I don’t think women are treated particularly well in the game; It’s certainly not even close to the most egregious misstep that I’ve seen in a game this year with regard to that kind of subject matter. And honestly, the game has so many other problems to discuss that at a certain point I feel like I’m running out of reader patience or attention span to get to the heart of the statement that I’m trying to make.

With Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the traversal problems that the series has had for years and the massive technical issues and a really underwhelming story are all things that undermine Unity very seriously. I could go on at length at various things in the game that bother me but those are the most substantive things that hurt the game. It could still have been a fantastic game despite the absence of women in it as playable avatars. [If that were the case], that might have been a discussion I could have had, but that wasn’t as material as everything else.

Thanks for the time and clarity, Arthur.

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One Hell of a Talk from Anita Sarkeesian at the 2014 XOXO Festival

Anita Sarkeesian, XOXO Festival:

For these detractors, it is easier to believe that I’m a skin-bleaching, mind-controlling, video-game-hating, scam artist involved in a masterful long-con than it is to believe that the tide is turning in gaming. That larger numbers of developers and fans are challenging the sexist status-quo and embracing the ideas and critiques expressed in my work and the work of many other women doing the same cultural criticism.

That about sums up #gamergate. We are extremely fortunate to brave folks like Sarkeesian facing this head-on.

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‘Sexism, Lies and Video Games: The Culture War Nobody Is Winning’

Leigh Alexander, writing for Time:

As video games unshackle from old constraints, traditional fans double down on keeping the treehouse sacrosanct. The tension between “games as product” and “games as culture” is visible within these online controversies as everyone invested in the industry watches to see which will “win”. Someone should tell the internet conspiracy theorists they can relax — we’ll absolutely, definitely have both.

One of Alexander’s many terrific pieces. Another great bit at Daring Fireball. (via Peter Hollo)

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‘The most radical thing you can do to support women’

Anita Sarkeesian, as quoted by The Verge:

One of the most radical things you can do is to actually believe women when they talk about their experiences.

Falsehoods about me are initially pushed by detractors who use them to post to 4Chan and Reddit to rally more people to the cause. It’s bouncing from Twitter to Tumblr to Facebook to YouTube and back again. Once the cascade reaches a critical mass, it no longer matters what the facts are. It becomes a viral meme.

I really wish I had the privilege see Sarkeesian speak. Such an inspiring and perseverant woman. Opening and closing to a standing ovation at the XOXO Festival. Amazing.

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Poisoned Well

Zoe Quinn, as quoted by The Guardian, on Gamergate:

I think right now the well is incredibly poisoned: it’s likely a losing battle and that’s incredibly disappointing. I also feel like discussing ethics and fairness is antithetical to a campaign originated in and motivated by a fair bit of misogyny and harassment.

Does it say anything that my Twitter usage, gaming news consumption, and overall web browsing is down by a considerable amount?

It is exhausting to think that digital mobs and trolls may never be stopped due to the anonymous and unquantifiable nature of the digital space. I was young and dumb too, saying things in Quake and Starcraft chat rooms that were likely horrific by today’s standards. But I was an in monitored child. It wasn’t until real classroom debate, introduction to socially aware music and film, and being called out for my idiocy in person by a respected peer that I wised up.

Is that what we are dealing with? Are these children? Adults? Are they bluffing for fun? How many are there? A handful? Dozens? Hundreds? What failed their social growth?

In the real world, we can identify the source of seemingly monstrous shadows. In the digital world, shadows are the source.

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‘How to attack a woman who works in video gaming’

Jenn Frank, The Guardian:

See, the best, most successful hate campaign dreams big. For some, it isn’t only about targeting one woman, two women, or a handful of women. The endgame is to frighten all women out of the video games industry – no matter what they write, film, create or produce – and to additionally frighten anyone who would support them.

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Au contraire

Dennis Scimeca, The Daily Dot:

One of the complaints is that if Quinn were a man who slept with women supposedly for influence, the games press would have been all over the story instead of remaining silent and ignoring the story out of fear they’ll be tarred with accusations of sexism.

Au contraire. Were the story about a man sleeping with women it would be even less of a story. Readers would virtually high-five the male developer because we celebrate male sexuality and punish female sexuality in our culture.

Don’t take my word for it. There’s decades of scholarly research to demonstrate the point. But it’s kind of a lost cause to ask these audience members to bother with research. Anita Sarkeesian has produced some of the bestresearched and documented studies of sexism in video games out there. Her critics accuse her of “cherry-picking” her data, however, which boggles the mind.

I’m with Fleishman.

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