Food for Thought – Is Gender Inequality in Video Games is as bad as Some Claim?


The following article is by no means advocating the tendency for male-dominant games to be more apparent and still more preferred by a number of developers. However, it should also be noted that due to various discussions over the years, the depiction and amount of female protagonist appearances in video games has come a long way from what it was back in the day. This article also aims to provide thought that there are other significant reasons, more relevant than gentrification, on why the percentage distribution between male and female protagonists hasn’t changed much in more than four years now.

Some niche topics require the male presence

While it is without a doubt true that the video game market favours male lead characters over their female counterparts, there are arguments that make a strong case for such a tendency to be completely just. Female characters are represented as strong, independent, and often as intimidating as male characters, and the gaming community feels nothing but joy and appreciation for the available variety. Though, much like in real life, certain genres, categories, and niche topics simply favour male presence.

This is in no case related to the strive for equality, count it as a mere observation of the predominant numbers in certain cases. Much like the police force, firefighters, military units, woodcutters, and numerous other occupations – that without a doubt include a fair share of female workers – simply show vastly greater numbers in men; the same tendency occurs in video gaming industry too. Games about war, especially those of historical origin, cannot portray women committing horrendous acts, as in the very essence of thought, it’s much easier to associate violent behaviour to male figure – it’s more believable, more realistic.

Inequality in gender-exclusive campaigns

But let’s take a step back from the previous generalization and rather take a look at some facts from E3 2015, the biggest gaming event in the world. Why precisely the event in 2015? Because that event presented a bunch of video games with female protagonists in lead roles. Such titles as Dishonored 2, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Shadow of the Tomb Rider, ReCore, and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (though the latest had both genders as leads). Even though these games had immense numbers in popularity and brought extraordinary success, still, E3 2015 had only 6 female-exclusive titles, while there were 28 entries for the male-centred lead.

Titles with multi-choice option – the majority

However, the former event’s statistics shouldn’t end there, as 65 other titles had a selection for either gender depending on player’s preference, and all the rest portrayed androgynous characters, including animals, alien species, and others. So, the point we’ve tried to make in the above paragraph – some genres and topics simply require male protagonists – might also stand true, despite the presented titles and their number disparity. And unfortunately, or rather (if we consider possibility other than inequality) as it should have been expected, the percentage between female and male exclusive characters in video games didn’t change much up until this day.

One could argue that it’s rather bad, though one factor, in particular, should be taken into the equation. More and more video games are including either both gender choices or present androgynous character types as such options open various new possibilities, offers more freedom of action, and don’t cause as much ruckus as prioritizing exclusivity for one gender rather than the other. Combat and violence topics in video games are as strong as they have ever been, for example, in E3 2019, from the 126 featured titles, 107 featured some form of violence. And this, in our thought experiment, should definitely be accounted for in the discussion.

Violence in video games – a factor to consider

There are many ways to portray violence in video games, with no argue we could say that violence in Devil May Cry V is vastly more different (and stylish) from that of the newest The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening release, however, such high number of violent games should not be taken for granted when the talk turns about the preference of gender roles in video games. One could even make a deduction that with the lower quantity of violent games on the market, there would be a significant rise of female protagonists in games. Though, that’s nothing but speculation until proper measures for the analysis have not been taken.

New season of games – for both sexes

Getting back to the present moment, the summer is closing in, and the new season of captivating releases is about to begin. With such titles as Gears of War 5, Borderlands 3, and NBA 2k20 standing in the forefront of the gaming stores, we’re sure to receive a fair share of entertainment and inclusion regarding both genders. Gears of War 5 will feature female-lead fighting off the deadliest aliens’ humanity has ever had the pleasure to witness. Borderlands 3 presents a new batch of Vault Hunters (the new roster consists of two male and two female characters) and the NBA 2k20 brings out a whole league for WNBA showcasing!  

Final thoughts on the matter

So, even if the situation is still considered as dire by some, there may be numerous other factors in charge. The blame often gets put on circumstances which do not really play the lead part in the whole ordeal. This article only aims to provide you with some food for thought, if you’ve gotten anything from it, get this – the situation regarding female and male exclusive video games hasn’t been changing for a while now, however, the overall situation (games now including option to choose between the two) has experienced a significant rise, and if we can agree upon one thing only; at least the latter tendency has been greatly appreciated by both frontlines.

Salut to that.