We’ve all heard stereotypes of gamers and people in the gaming industry. The homogeneity has been undeniable in the world of game developers in the western world being universally white and male. According to data by Statista, the distribution of game developers worldwide from 2014 to 2019 by gender has shown male distribution being an average of 73.6%, while the average number of female developers has been 22.4%, and the remaining 4% being developers that identify as “other.”
For an industry that is forecast to produce $196B in revenue by 2022, it’s odd that diversity is still an issue, but that is beginning to change, albeit slowly. According to a report by the Entertainment Software Association, women currently make up 22% of the video game industry workforce, and that is a number that has nearly doubled since 2009. Additionally, 30% of students enrolled in video game design programs are women–nearly twice the number of women enrolled in other computer science and STEM programs. Such progress does take time.
Grabbing representation by the horns
Then there are companies such as Appnile. Appnile is putting all their efforts into female representation both in terms of the gaming industry and the games themselves.
Appnile is a mobile game startup that is based in Shanghai. Their all-female team is dedicated to creating and publishing mobile apps and games. The Appnile team built their own machine learning platform to take mobile games publishing and promoting to the next level. Many of their games have trended in the app store, most notably Nails Done, which was released in partnership with Lion Studios, and quickly garnered over 200k downloads worldwide.
“Appnile was created from the realization and need for female representation and talents to be prominently showcased in the gaming industry,” says Founder Lin Zhao. In addition to her work with Appnile, Zhao is also a prominent public speaker in technology, marketing, and communications, and behind hospitality blog Happy Host.
“I’ve taken on numerous endeavors and exciting projects over the years,” says Zhao. “But the untapped female potential in the gaming industry has always been what I found most unsettling. From the lack of balance in gender ratios within development teams, to the harassment faced by female gamers, to the negative portrayal of women within the games themselves, there are too many issues that are being swept under the rug in the name of stereotypical masculinity in gaming.”
Problems and Their Solutions
The problems are plentiful. Some of the issues that stem from the lack of female representation in the gaming industry include wage gaps and workplace harassment. In terms of the games themselves, the over-sexualization of female characters are a given, especially in fantasy games in which functionalities, options, and behaviors are strongly linked to gender stereotypes. That is ,of course, for the few token female characters in the games themselves, because according to an academic study in New Media & Society, over 85% of playable characters in video games are indeed male.
Through her own individual efforts and through Appnile, Zhao is on a mission to spark a series of changes to counter each of these issues. “I do my best to inspire female developers to enter this arena,” says Zhao. “We need to break the mold, and create more games that cater to things such as fashion and lifestyle in place of shooting, war, battles, and conquests. Female entrepreneurs and talents in the gaming community need our collective support to excel and ultimately change the course of the industry.”
Zhao recommends entrepreneurs and leaders throughout all aspects of the gaming industry to be more keen on the needs of the female demographic and take a stand to make real changes. Despite the stereotypes, more than half of gamers are female, but they seldom have a voice in the gaming community that is taken seriously, and their requests go unheard. Female talents, ranging from development to design, to research, marketing, and management are also suppressed. They are barely given the acknowledgement, compensation, or the career advancements that they deserve. Diversity is needed, both in terms of the workplace, and in terms of content development.
The gaming industry needs to stop seeing women as a genre, and understand that they are a market with depth and a true force to be reckoned with- and this is exactly what Zhao ultimately hopes to accomplish.