Ken Levine, Irrational Games founder and Bioshock creator, is a smart man. And he's an important man for the industry.

So when he says something, it's probably a wise idea to listen. Recently, he Tweeted about the gender gap in the video game industry, which he calls flat-out "terrible."

In a series of updates, Levine stated the following:

"The gender gap in the industry is terrible for the industry. b) to work on the problem, we need to have an understanding of the problem. c) The first step is research that doesn't ignore basic statistical standards? (small sample sizes, self-reporting, experience x ref).

Probably statistically safe to say 50% of potential game talent is female (adjust for nurture issues). Long way to go, but need good data."

Mr. Levine, with all due respect, I don't think we need any "good data." The only data we require is that from an entertainment and interest standpoint, video games are still, in large part, most appealing to males. While certain statistics may show that nearly half the population of "gamers" are female, we have to realize that when speaking about hardcore gamers, the percentages are drastically different. It isn't merely the expansion and slight increase in diversity in gaming itself, it's the explosion of mobile and social gaming that has helped swell the ranks of women who enjoy interactive entertainment on a routine basis.

In short, and I don't believe this is sexist or inaccurate, the majority of hardcore gamers are male. In turn, the majority of those who wish to dedicate their lives to the industry, who wish to make a career out of their favorite hobby, are male. That being said, I would like to add that if – as a recent survey indicates – men are still making more than women for the same jobs, that needs to be addressed. And not just soon, now . Secondly, there's no reason whatsoever to believe that men are somehow biologically or chemically more suited to the various areas of game development. That too is a ridiculous theory and should be immediately dismissed.

But my point, Ken, is that the facts of the matter remain. So long as 9 out of every 10 customers at GameStop on a daily basis are men (and trust me, that is indeed the case; in fact, if you stood there and counted for one day, it might be an even higher percentage of male purchasers), things won't change. They can't. More men are more deeply in love with video games and hence, more men want a career in video games. However, I think we can take solace in the fact that as more women get involved – and that does continue to happen, as time goes on – the numbers will begin to shift. Hopefully, we'll get more games that cater equally to males and females and as a direct result, more women will be applying for game-related jobs in the future.

Lastly, I think we need to recognize another simple fact- Most games are about action. Many are about shooting in some way. One can call it sexist if they wish, but in general, these are not forms of entertainment to which women gravitate. Take your most recent game, Levine, Bioshock Infinite . It's a fantastic achievement from top to bottom. It also has a great story, a wonderful atmosphere, and compelling characters and situations, all of which women would enjoy as much as men, I think, and there is nothing about any of those factors that seem intrinsically "male" to me. But the action, however, is. I'm not sure the world will ever change enough to the point where an equal number of men and women will like flashy action movies and FPSs. This may indeed be biological.

Such a tiny percentage of the industry is about games like Journey , for instance, which has no inherent gender appeal. But when the absolute biggest titles in the world involve heavy action, from either a shooting standpoint ( Call of Duty ) or combat standpoint ( Assassin's Creed ), can we really expect more women to become interested to the point of adoration? Enough to make young girls consider a career in the field? Yes, all games today have elements that both genders should enjoy and appreciate, as I stated above. But the core of video games remains interaction and as that interaction is still 99% based on action, I'm not sure you'll ever see the day when there are an equal number of hardcore, dedicated men and women who have embraced the industry.

Thank you for your time.

Disclaimer: For the purposes of clarity (and harmony), I would like to add that I don't believe women "should" like something, nor do I believe them liking a certain form of entertainment is "right" or "wrong." I'm merely stating reality without opinion.

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Shams
Shams
8 years ago

I think when Levine is referring to potential female gamer talent in the industry, he's referring to developers, not consumers. Regarding the consumers, even with the advent of the Wii, video games is still a resoundingly male hobby.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

I know he's referring to developers. My point is that unless someone is a gamer and consumer first, they probably won't ever become a developer.

Shams
Shams
8 years ago

Regarding your conjecture, the demographics of industry workers and the demographics of consumers are not necessarily closely related. For example, the proportion of male designers of female fashions is quite high compared to, say, male trannies, or the proportion of male gynecologists is much higher than, say, male patients with vaginas or pregnant males.


Last edited by Shams on 4/6/2013 3:23:45 PM

Beamboom
Beamboom
8 years ago

Ben, I'm afraid you misunderstood his tweet there. As far as I can see he's talking about the male dominance in the industry – he's not talking about end users here.
Furthermore his 50% estimate is about the *potential*, not the reality.


Last edited by Beamboom on 4/5/2013 1:02:25 PM

Teddie9
Teddie9
8 years ago

yes, but Ben's point is that if that potential is to come to be, it's not a matter of equality in the workplace or the outreach from developers. Rather the some of what the industry produces must change to appeal to females and inspire them to be "game talent".

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Should women be equally represented in the development world? Yes, of course they should. more importantly though men and women should be paid and treated equally regardless of the proportion of female to male developers or designers. Why do I say it that way? Because as long as gaming is a male dominated activity, and as long as male oriented games dominate the market, it's *possible* that fewer women will want to be part of the industry.

Action games, shooters and all that fun stuff tend to be at the 'masculine' end of the sensibility spectrum. So it may be that a consequence of the male orientation of games – female developers and game industry professionals may be fewer than you might see in other parts of the Computing world.

I'm not saying that female developers can't or should not work on such games, absolutely not saying that. But I do think it is possible that fewer female game developers would be interested in making such games than male ones. But rather than look at male/female ratios, I think the industry would be better ensuring that pay and conditions are equal so that female developers do not feel disadvantaged or taken advantage of by the industry.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
8 years ago

I'll leave the role of women in the development world to the experts, all I know is Elizabeth is a great step for leading female game characters. She's a great new take on the princess in the tower motif.

SmokeyPSD
SmokeyPSD
8 years ago

Completely agree

SmokeyPSD
SmokeyPSD
8 years ago

I would never tell you what to write Ben but your obviously not going to get any female members writing articles like this. I don't even see why you engage on issues of equality and gender because you really seem to have trouble not being aggressive and well, not belittle the women out there who game in my opinion…

Female geekdom exists. It's under the radar especially with games because it's discussed in exactly this tone. Check out Tumblr or doesn't always cover gaming but http://www.themarysue.com/

I for one hate (and so does my partner) that the industry is so heavily centered on action. If we take your statement at face value why should that matter? So the industry is dominated by men, and is action orientated.
Sounds like the industry desperately needs a change to me, in so many ways.

Equality is one area that I think games desperately needs to move forward. Both in the people in the industry and in the culture surrounding games itself.

wackazoa
wackazoa
8 years ago

Well one thing for me, most of the "artists" I know are female. My cousin is a tattoo artist, my sister paints, another cousin takes pictures. But yeah I get Ben's point. More men applying means more men will get the jobs. Common sense. I have never understood the wage thing though.

Never worked in food but do waiters and waitresses make the same? (minus tips of course.) Do McDonalds employees or people who work at the grocery store? Or is it only in the well paid jobs that this occurs?

ransomink
ransomink
8 years ago

I agree with Ben. People would naturally become an consumer first, then a gamer, and if that "potential" exist they would attempt to learn more and befit a developer.

I believe you must have an interest in games if you plan on making them. Yes, it's a male dominant industry because mainly guys are attracted to games and garner an interest in them.

@SmokeyPSD: I agree, the industry is very centered on action but the developers are not all to blame. Us, the consumers speak with our dollars and they chose those heavily action-oriented, shooter-based games. It's hard to turn away from a profit and put your studio at stake on a game your not sure gamers would like. In this day and age your game must have a following and create a profit to be successful.

I bet some developers would love to make their own kind of game but can't, because it's too different from what sales. Too much of a risk.

This is why Indie games will continue to grow and change the perspective of the industry as more and more of them create new, engaging stories, and gameplay, that peak interest in males and females alike.

Closed_Account
Closed_Account
8 years ago

Things are changing. More and more women are getting involved and that is the way it should be.

Gaming is predominantly action oriented, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I know girls who play Tomb Raider.

The real issue is feminine representation, both in-game and out.

More female characters potentially results in more female gamers engaing in "male dominated genres".
More female developers could result in fresh ideas to revamp existing genres and even the creation of new ones.

I strongly advocate for more women to get involved in gaming.