While women make up almost half of all gamers in the world, there is far from an equal representation of women as leading characters in titles. What’s more, the number has been declining in the last five years, according to a study.
In a recent report, Verve Search analyzed more than 2,500 video game releases over the last five years (2016-2020) to find out how representation in terms of gender has changed over time. The research for Buzz Bingo shows that less than 1 in 10 games released in 2020 features a female protagonist, down in comparison to 2016. In fact, only 9.2% of all game releases in 2020 feature a female protagonist, the lowest proportion in five years. The difference in proportion is overwhelming: game protagonists were three times more likely to be male. While 30.6% of all games released since 2016 featured a male protagonist, only 11.4% chose female.
This year, the Xbox platform offered the lowest number since 2016, with 7.1% featuring a female protagonist. IOS is the platform with the highest female representation, half the male number at 12.7% vs. 25.9%. As expected, sports games have the lowest proportion of all genres, with 1.2% of female protagonists, mostly focusing on male sporting games. The adventure genre has the highest proportion of females, at 22%. In general, all games genres, except for simulation games, have more male protagonist-led releases than female. As a minor consolation, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of games where the player has multiple gender options, rising from 32.6% to 47.6%.
Over a total of 2,536 released titles in the last five years, the researchers assigned games with options of female, male, multiple options, ambiguous or NA. Female and male protagonists were only assigned when there was only the option to play as either a male or a female, not both, and defaults were ignored. Ambiguous protagonists are those that are not explicitly presented as male or female, while NA denotes a game where there is no discernible protagonist that can be assigned a gender, such as a city-building game. For titles with an ensemble cast, gender was researched for all playable characters.