Does the games industry need to recruit more women?
What is your vision of a gamer? Possibly a male aged between 14 and 25?
Recent figures by the US Entertainment Software Association states that in the US, 44 per cent of gamers are female with the average age of female gamer being 43 years old.
In the UK, a 2014 study by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) shows the majority of gamers are female (52 per cent). So the stereotype of gamers does not fit the reality. Mobile games are an important market, but in the IAB report of the female gamers polled within the previous six months 47 per cent played a disc-based game, 68 per cent had played an online game and 56 per cent have played on a console.
So what about the games industry? In recent years, there has been a lot of criticism of a large workplace gender imbalance, unfair treatment of women in terms of pay and conditions; combined with a mentality that produce female game characters that are ‘hyper-sexualised’.
The recent Gamsutra 2014 Salary Survey for US-based staff showed that female games designers earned on average 6 per cent less than their male counterparts and female visual artists earned 26 per cent less. Some of the difference has been put down to the effects of careers breaks on long-term earning potential; leading to suggestions that culture of working long hours needs to change.
Claudia Goldin in the same report said “The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who laboured long hours and worked particular hours.”
The industry is trying to address this. TIGA, a UK trade association for the games industry has been trying to make changes by working with partners including the organisation, Women in Games, to produce a set of Equal Opportunities Policies to help address some of these issues. Women in Games is one of the leading groups actively trying to address these issues, actively seeking to address the gender imbalance but also through providing discussion opportunities for industry and academia to come together.
One of the other ways that could increase women into this industry is the welcome changes in the UK National Curriculum. By making computing a separate area from the related area of ICT, could make computing and games programming seem less threatening and ‘less male’. There is also the question of whether parents’ views need to change to increase women into this industry.
Department of Education (2013) National curriculum in England: computing programmes of study – Publications – GOV.UK. [online]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study [Accessed August 22, 2015].
Entertainment Software Association; (2015) Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Games Industry.
Gamasutra (2014) Gamasutra Salary Survey 2014. Gamasutra. [online]. Available from: http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2014/09/05/GAMA14_ACG_SalarySurvey_F.pdf [Accessed August 22, 2015].
Jayanth, M. (2014) 52% of gamers are women – but the industry doesn’t know it | Meg Jayanth | Comment is free | The Guardian. Guardian.
TIGA (2015) TIGA | Tiga Publishes Free Equal Opportunities Policy Templates For Uk Games Businesses | Press Releases. [online]. Available from: http://www.tiga.org/news/press-releases/tiga-publishes-free-equal-opportunities-policy-templates-for-uk-games-businesses [Accessed August 22, 2015].