The Guardian featured an article written by an anonymous writer last week that I would like to talk a bit about. The author makes some very good points, and she asks some relevant questions.
In short she works within the video game industry, my guess is as a developer of sorts. Her general point lies in the title of the article: “Video games have a diversity problem that runs deeper than race or gender”. By this she alludes to the way in which just about every AAA game title release within the last few years has appealed mainly to a male audience. Now she is arguing her point not only as a game developer, but also as a gamer. It is of course desirable to work at a large game company, but at what cost if you are not actually that interested in the games that the company is producing?
She definitely has a point in pointing out this problematic. If we start looking closer at the industry, most of the AAA games are fairly similar – they are generally sports games, first person shooters, or third person action games. To be honest the variation can at times seem lacking, and at times feel boring. Sitting down with a game and getting the experience of “Oh, I’ve played this game before”, is simply saddening.
Statistics show that 50 % of gamers are female. Within this statistic we must remember that it includes mobile games, which is especially where we find a lot of female gamers. This is in other words not a traditional definition of a gamer, but no harm in that, it just widens the perspective on how many people play games of some sort, and take a lot of enjoyment out of it. This makes me wonder why the game industry has not made more attempts at making large, impressive games, that will appeal to a larger audience – we know it isn’t impossible, just look at The Sims franchise.
Well, in general it is safe to assume that the big companies simply do not have as much experience in producing games that would for instance appeal more to women, but is this a good enough excuse not to try? Laziness? I shouldn’t think so. It would be great to see more research in areas such as this i.e. what would make games appeal to a wider audience, how does social expectations women play a role, does structure and length of game-play affect who plays them, how does well-written narrative effect the prospects of captivating more people in games? There are lots of questions, and not a lot of sufficient answers, so yes, it will require more work from the companies, but I would warrant it a worth-while investment.
Luckily there is the indie part of the industry. The small time developers who are more experimental in their games, and also offer some interesting takes on visuals and aesthetics. They do fill the gap in the market slightly, but not enough. As the author of The Guardian article mentions, having indie developers as the only option could limit the amount of women who get into game development, and therefore it will naturally severely limit the amount of new and creative ideas that could be introduced.
So please, be aware of the indie developers and the games they produce, as you may just find the game you’ve been looking for. Consumer habits also play its part, if more people start buying indie games, then maybe, just maybe, the bigger companies start rethinking their ideas on what games they should and could produce.
The article from The Guardian is definitely worth a read, you can find it here: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/10/video-games-diversity-problem-runs-deeper-than-race-gender
Thank you for reading