Something’s happening in the video game industry. Since the early 2000’s there has been a trend that can no longer be stopped: the days when the stereotype gamer was a young, single man with a headset are over. Today, the figures speak a completely different language: around one in two Germans* plays video, console, PC or mobile games and 47 percent of gamers* are female. This gap shows the huge catch-up potential, because while women claim almost half of the gaming space for themselves, many still feel misrepresented or underrepresented and at times not at all welcome. One of the reasons for this may be that large gaming groups hire too few women or none at all. According to a survey initiated by Xbox, only about 22 percent of all employees* in games companies are female. The search for developers is handstruggling, so that male and female roles can be designed from their point of view and not as currently from and for the “Male Gaze”, which has been the bitter reality so far. Despite the booming female market, the current Google Play Top 100 games show almost 50 percent more male icons. So it’s no wonder that 60 percent of all female players in the USA think that not even a third of all games were developed specifically for them.
Stereotypically, however, women belong to the majority in virtual reality or casual games such as summoners war teams, “Sims”, “FarmVille” or Kim Kardashian’s billion-dollar game “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood”. In other genres and in livestreams, however, women still fight for a right to exist.
We find: 2018 is the highest railway ever, women who play and women who are active in the gaming industry to give a voice. E-games could even become Olympic in the coming years. But in Paris 2024 it won’t work out yet with Gaming for Gold but for the next venue, Los Angeles, in 2028 it’s quite realistic. Closer to here and now is the Gamescom in Cologne starting on Tuesday. The mega-fair puts the topic of gaming back on the front pages of all media. We talked to five female gamers who have made their hobby their profession and are still active in the male-dominated industry.
Gaming and money
The fact is, even the companies miss something if they are reluctant to make the market more accessible for female gamers, because the untapped potential is huge. An estimated $100 billion is spent annually selling hardware and software worldwide. Kiara Hufnagel has been firmly rooted in the e-sports scene for eleven years, wrote for Dexerto in the past as editor-in-chief and is currently working for Rocketbeans.tv on the show “Red Bull Game Date”. She appreciates the fact that games like “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield” now give you the opportunity to play as a female avatar, no matter what the motivation behind it is: “Surely one or the other publisher decided to take this step because they wanted to ensure more equality in video games. However, it should not be forgotten that women are a target group that has not yet been fully exploited. So money also plays a big role in this development.”
One thing is clear: Women are clearly shaping the future of the gaming industry, represented in the content they are sometimes worse, sometimes better, because they adapt to the rising female demand only slowly. In many games, women still serve classic or degrading role models such as that of the victim or are the target of sexual desire. And there is also a need among gamers* within the community to open their eyes. Many women often do not dare to put on their headset to discuss strategies because they are insulted.
This has already happened to Anne Warnicke, presenter and editor for the official German YouTube channel of Sony PlayStation, Inside PlayStation. This is not an isolated case. On the website Not in The Kitchen Anymore, for example, Jenny Haniver documented her personal experiences with male gamers while playing. There she published Soundbites with sexist remarks and insults, which she had heard personally. The media also keep getting sensitive: The BBC has done a report on this topic, Shannon Sun-Higginson was able to produce the documentary “GTFO” about women in the gaming world through crowdfunding, and the German Anita Sarkeesian became a victim of a public shaming campaign known as #GamerGate after she wanted to finance the same community-based money collection tool for the analysis of stereotypical images of women in computer games. The agitation against her became so bad that she was forced to leave her apartment to seek shelter. She believes that many games to this day tend to “underpin and reinforce women’s sexist and misogynistic ideas,” reports the TAZ. Today she runs a blog called Feminist Frequency, where she publishes content that she hopes will spur debates about female characters in computer and video games and attract the attention of game developers* to start creating more interesting and complex female characters.