Just How Gender Diverse Are Video Games Right Now? - Computer Disposal Limited
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Just How Gender Diverse Are Video Games Right Now?

Throughout the history of the medium, the characters that inhabited video games have been, for the most part, male. From plumbers and gunslingers, Greek gods to hitmen, some of the most iconic video game characters come with a Y chromosome installed.

But diversity in games has been a hot-button issue over the past few years. And when it comes to representation, things are definitely changing.

Male characters are no longer the default setting for gamers; we’re seeing more female protagonists centre stage across a range of titles. And while the split isn’t 1:1, the recent developments are encouraging.

To delve a little deeper into the matter, we carried out some research to see how much girl power there is in video games right now.

What did we do? 

To carry out our investigation, we collated data on the representation of women in video games, augmenting our findings with additional data on the most popular female characters from Google search data. 

Key findings from around the world

The world’s most-searched female video game characters

Out in front by 100,000 average monthly searches, Bayonetta from PlatinumGames’ Bayonetta takes the crown as the world’s most-searched female video game character, with 301,000 searches. And there’s good reason for such a leap: online search popularity for the character has jumped by +172% amid the buzz following September’s announcement of the series’ third instalment.

In joint second place, the Half-Life games’ Alyx Vance racked up a respectable 201,000 average monthly searches. Despite being released at the beginning of a global pandemic and only available in VR (an industry that’s struggled to gain ground with gamers) Half-Life: Alyx is certainly a major step forward in both technology and the continued characterisation of a burgeoning new heroine.

Lara Croft – second place’s other joint holder – needs no introduction. Since her introduction to the gaming world in 1996, Croft has frequently been cited as the reason for more female leads in video games.

Her position in our results reflects her status as a cultural icon; the character has appeared in films, she’s the only female character in California’s Walk of Game and played a huge hand in how gender was viewed across the medium. Quite literally, she’s a game-changer.

Elsewhere, the Mortal Kombat franchise has been represented in our top ten with two different characters: Mileena and Kitana. And while certain gamers may grumble that fellow fighting games like Street Fighter and Tekken feature more iconic characters, the numbers don’t lie: Mortal Kombat is the best-selling fighting game franchise of all time.

The UK’s most-searched female video game characters

Here in the UK, the top three was swapped around slightly. Alyx Vance now takes the top spot with 14,800 average monthly searches, whereas Bayonetta shares second place with Lara Croft (each holding 12,100 average monthly searches).

And like they did across the world, Blizzard Entertainment’s team-based FPS Overwatch accounts for 20% of the top 10, with characters D.Va and Mercy coming in number six and eight, respectively. 

The ratio of male to female gamers per country

Historically, video games have been viewed as a bit of a boys’ club. However, the gap between male and female demographics is closing. Female participation in gaming is increasing, a comparative balance that’s reflected in the population at large.

Take Finland for instance. With a 49:51 split of females to males in 2012, the divide is nearly 1:1, while Canada, Australia, and France have all been similarly split at some point in time.

There are some anomalies, however. Japan’s 2013 ratio shows a 66:34 split of female to male gamers, the latter of which was the lowest amount of any gamer – regardless of gender – across the data. France’s 2016 ratio, meanwhile, came in at 52:48.

Elsewhere, both China and Korea showed wild disparity between female and male gamers, with ratios of 27:73 and 37:63 in 2013. However, it would be interesting to see how those numbers have changed in recent times.

Gender split of gamers by genre

So, how do the two genders fare when it comes to specific genres? From our data, only two kinds of game genres favoured female gamers: “match-3” or tile-matching games and simulators (such as family/farming).

Considerably more casual than other genres on our list – and easier to access (not to mention, far more affordable) – these games can be played on phones and other handheld devices. It’s perhaps easier to see why female gamers might favour these more approachable options in comparison.

Casual puzzle games and atmospheric exploration games get closer to equal numbers (42% of women to 58% of men, and 41% of women to 59% of men respectively), but the genres still favour men considerably.

As we move towards genres that are typically more favoured by hardcore gamers (Action RPG, Sandbox, and the first-person shooter), the numbers become increasingly unbalanced too. Sports games, in particular, reflect the dominant perception that men enjoy sports more than women, with just 2% of female gamers playing sports titles compared to male gamers’ 98%.

gamers gender

List of women in games

Looking for a who’s who of female characters in video games? We’ve got you covered. Take a look at this extensive catalogue of protagonists, antagonists, and anti-heroes from some of the biggest video games throughout history below:

CDL: Female Characters in Video Games
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