Representation of women in games and movies: the awful numbers


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I’m never sure what to do with sourceless statistics. The numbers would be much more awful if I had some reason to believe they weren’t made up entirely.


Awful numbers, indeed. I do not doubt that woman are underreprensated, but the implied correlation may not even be there.

For example, 45% of all gamers might be women, but if all they play is Solitaire, Minecreaft or Wii Fitness, they’d be overrepresented.

Same with movie goers, where I’ll note that 12% or all protagonists should be below the age of 18, if we’d apply the same logic.


This may be true of games in general but over the past year there have been some strong games with Women Protagonists. Myself I have picked up Tomb Raider and Sanctum 2 other games let you pick your gender like Spelunky, Boarderlands 2, Skyrim, and Diablo 3 then there are games like Hammerwatch and Risk of Rain, FTL that you could be any gender they don’t add that extra pixel down there. Also many games keep it completely ambiguous like most driving games and some First Person games like say Antichamber. You might be a cat driving a car. You’ll never know.

Hell more games let you be a woman than be left handed.


How good of a measurement tool is that for determining how well an industry deals with equality? If I count up the protagonists of a particular author and find they’re about 85% male, that doesn’t make them a sexist pig.

The source is linked. It’s a chart of the bestselling games of 2013. Mostly shooters, sports, and some Mario franchise stuff. It doesn’t seem to include free to play things like Candy Crush Saga (I don’t think that has a protagonist anyway). It also excludes Humble Bundle sales I guess. The Humble Origin Bundle in August sold 2.1 million copies, meaning every game in that bundle would be in the top 25.

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A 85% male cast would not make an author inherently sexist, but if the remaining 15% of the protagonists were oversexualized parodies of the female gender…

For every rebooted Tomb Raider there are a half dozen unrebooted Tomb Raiders, a hundred Miss Fortunes, a thousand pieces of nameless “eye candy”.

More can be done. This is no time to pat ourselves on the back over anecdotal outliers.


This is one thing that drives me crazy about the statistics. In a driving game you’re just a car and maybe a disembodied arm and unless the car is pink and had boobs on the hood it’s just assumed it’s male for the purposes of the statistics.


Let’s talk about poor representation in SF, shall we?

I think protagonist in this case means the character the player controls for video games and the main character for movies. Or the viewpoint character in a novel. It doesn’t really tell you much about the gender breakdown of the cast of a story.

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Oh, there’s egg on my face and no mistake. I didn’t realize that the
percentages were links. Thank you.


I continue to hear the “roughly half of gamers are women” statistic and I continue to not believe it.

Why? Because, A) it seems to come from game distributors who have an interest in getting women to buy more games and, B) I simply don’t see women playing games. I don’t hear them chatting over headsets online. I don’t see them at game stores. I don’t run into them in bars. None of my female friends, who tend toward nerdy, game much. If there’s so damned many of them, where the hell are they and what are they playing?

Sure, that is anecdotal, but I simply don’t believe that women are into video games as much as men (in many ways a credit to their gender).

Game producers aren’t stupid; it’s big business. If there truly was a gigantic, under-served female gaming community, chomping at the bit for games with strong female characters, we’d see more of them.


So…um…I’m not sure what you mean. And I’m being serious here. Are you saying that, in order for the Tomb Raider reboot to be a serious effort, all the previous Tomb Raiders have to be remade?

I think the question about source is more about the number of female gamers and male moviegoers. While I am in agreement that there are a lot of male game protagonists and the majority of movies end up being sausage fests, stats about the number of female gamers never seem that informative. As mentioned by someone else, if 45% of the gaming population is female but 80% of them spend their gaming dollars on Candy Crush Saga, then these numbers are less egregious (or at least less informative).

Marketing firms have these finer stats, and it would be more informative for everyone if the information was more available to know the actual breakdown of gaming preferences and movie preferences. Personally, I actually prefer female game protagonists because they often fall outside of the “rescue the damsel” storylines (where there is a story present). Are there women who like games where you shoot guns? For the women who do, do they wish for more female protagonists in their games?

Someone said it on Tumblr, and it’s enraging, so it must be true…

EDIT: My apologies. I went to the link to read the thing, saw the typical terrible Tumblr layout, and the tiny text was apparently enough that my mild color blindness caused me to not notice the red links. So…um…yeah, please, Tumblrites, stop it with the terrible ablist design, willya?

Given the feedback loop known as marketing research, what I see from this is that we can expect a lot more first-person shooters in the future. :-/


And if almost all the traditional games cater to men, are coded as male, and the culture goes NUTS at the very idea of women being involved, having an opinion, or playing…what then? Would it be shocking that women tend to stay away from something that advertises in ten foot high neon letters that no girls are allowed? The fact that many women are casual gamers suggests that women are not inherently uninterested in playing video games. It suggests there’s a market that’s going untapped.

I think it was boingboing that linked that utterly depressing article on the feedback loop of marketing.


I did a count myself of gender representation in 2013 videogames and counted games where gender is not visible, like most racing games, separately. Almost every game released in 2013 was playable as a male character (with a few exceptions like Tomb Raider). In just under half of the games there were also playable female characters. The “saving grace” that pulled the female playable characters to just under 50% were JRPG’s and beat-em-ups. Take those out of the equation and you’re left with just a handful of games playable as a female character. Like the article says, in just a handful of games women were the protagonist.


We’re there… we just probably aren’t talking to you. I’m not kidding. I don’t really talk to anyone about games and LEAST of all to male friends… ever.

Why not? Same reason I don’t talk about photography. It’s something I do. I don’t care to hear what others think about it one way or another. It’s my hobby, and I don’t care to prove myself, defend myself, or even share it with anyone.


If your sample is the 25 most successful games, then you’re confounding the industry bias with the consumer bias.


The statistic is genuinely outraging if true, but the way the numbers were achieved simply isn’t credible considering that the largest market for gaming last year, the PC at 51%, wasn’t even taken into account for the statistics. Of similar studies I can find, none of them take into account MMOs, MOBAs, or any online gaming, or show breakdown of male vs. female characters created or NPC representations.