Don't Worry Levine, The Gender Gap Will Diminish With Time
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.
4/5/2013 11:14:15 AM Ben Dutka