E3 2015 showed a promising increase in female characters headlining major video games. Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn and Emily Kaldwin from Dishonored 2, among other heroines, offered hope for an industry that largely caters to male players. Feminist Frequency has run the actual numbers to determine female representation in games featured at E3 in 2015 and every year since. Five years into its data collection, the statistics are very disappointing. Female representation in video games is not improving as it should.
The percentage of games that allow you to play as multiple genders continues to increase. But the percentage of games that outright star a female character is the second lowest since 2015. That might be attributed to fluctuation caused by a small data set, but it clearly illustrates that female representation isn’t improving.
Video game developers and fans both bear responsibility. Protagonists like Aloy and Celeste are some of the most popular video game characters from recent years. Despite that, publishers continue to be skittish over making games starring women. At the same time, data shows that most video game players still prefer to play as men. Melissanthi Mahut’s performance as Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was lauded by critics, but two-thirds of gamers still played as her male counterpart.
The video game industry as a whole needs to be better. I can’t think of a better way to empathize with others than to walk in their shoes. Video games let you do that. You can play as individuals of a different gender, or race, or sexual orientation through interactive media. So why isn’t representation improving? Video games hold so much potential to help us understand others. Let’s hope they reach it.