When it comes to representation in gaming, be it gender or race, we should always aim to be realistic in content and proportion. To do that, we need to know the actual composition of the gaming community, or a reasonable approximation of such. Unfortunately, while we can get reasonable ballpark estimates of racial demographics, we can never get a straight answer about the female gamer population, because people are too busy twisting the numbers to address the truth: Women are not nearly the market force that social justice oriented individuals would have you believe.
In recent history there have been popular reports that have greatly overestimated the female market due to flawed terminology and shoddy methodology. Most of these studies are simply not valid, meaning the questions asked do not measure what they are purported to measure. This makes the information gathered 100% useless for determining the size of the female gamer audience.
The very first issue that haunts most of these studies is the failure to differentiate between the groups I will designate “Real Gamers” and “Mobile Gamers.” I know it’s popular to pretend that mobile gaming is equivalent to real gaming, but there’s a very simple distinction that destroys that illusion quick, fast, and in a hurry: Real Gamers spend large sums of money on dedicated gaming devices and premium content, Mobile Gamers complain when asked to pay for a premium game.
Previously there was a study that was used to claim more females played games than men. I’ve addressed this issue before. Among other issues, the study considered Sudoku, Crossword puzzles, and online gambling to be gaming. This means that 10-43% (varies depending on distribution in the “puzzle” category) of the women in the study didn’t actually play a video game, mobile or otherwise.
The second major issue is that many studies fail to differentiate between surveyed women playing someone else’s game or their own. Buying a game for your child, or playing a round of Mario Kart 8 with them, does not make you a gamer. If you are not making Real Gamer purchases for yourself, or having someone make said purchases for you in cases such as being a minor, and do not play out of your own volition, then you are not a gamer.
This is why the facts in the ESA’s most recent “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry” are stupid. Saying “37% of the most frequent game buyers are female” means literally nothing without context, which the ESA fails to provide. Do micro-transactions in mobile games count towards these purchases? Were these purchases made for themselves or others? The ESA pamphlet is filled with these huge problems.
I had planned to go deeper into the ESA’s failings, but Brad Glasgow has already done so, in a manner more succinct and to the point than I could have managed, so I will defer to him on the matter:
AAA game development is extremely expensive, and publishers always target a specific market. If you aren’t buying products for yourself, then your opinion means Jack Diddly Squat to them. Not because they’re evil or soulless, but because if dev/pubs don’t make enough money they will crash and burn, impacting the livelihoods of dozens to thousands of people. Every business will do its best to appeal to the largest audience possible, and in the case of these types of games, it’s white men.
We often hear people complain about the generic white male protagonist, or a lack of representation for minorities in video games. However, any gamer worth their hardware knows this is a silly claim. A simple browsing of Steam can dispel it. The only reason it persists is because AAA games are high profile affairs, again, aimed at white males.
Representation changes with market participation. If you’re a female or a minority that wants more representation in AAA games, then buy more Real Games. The big publishers will take notice of who’s buying their products and try to better accommodate them, because it’s in their best interest. It’s either that, create your own games and try to build your own style/brand like the black community did in the music industry, or become a social justice proponent and ruin things for people of every race and gender.
The absolute worst thing a company or organization can do is placate a minority to the ongoing annoyance of the majority, which is a situation that only arises when social justice is brought into the picture. Social justice always sees a major backlash: It infested comics, and Marvel lost tons of sales. It infested the Democratic party, and now Republicans have risen from the brink of failure to control the White House and Congress. It infested gaming, and the clusterflock it created has resulted in a disgusting narrative that gamers hate women, in turn making the hobby of gaming seem even less accessible to women.
Every thing social justice touches turns toxic, because it creates an enemy of the majority.
Forced social justice, as opposed to a natural suffusion of real equality, is a good way to alienate an established fan base and create potential ire towards the minority group you’re trying to support, while undermining the viability of the product you want to improve. A gesture of kindness and understanding for minorities that want to be heard is great, but there’s a reason majorities rule and shouldn’t be antagonized. Instead of poking the bear again, why can’t we just have honest, valid research into the presence of female gamers? It’s not even hard!
“Hello ma’am, have you ever purchased a piece of hardware to play video games? Did you buy it for yourself or somebody else? Have you ever purchased or requested retail/premium quality video games for yourself? Have you made such a purchase in the last six months? Thank you for your time. Have a nice day!”
That’s just off the top of my head, and yet it seems to be more valid than any popular survey of female gamers to date. With a little clean up, such a survey would paint a better picture of the female gamer demographic.
So again I ask: Can we please try for valid numbers on the female gamer demographic?
Since someone’s bound to take this article as some sort of misogynistic attack on women, because that’s the age we live in, let me just say that it’s not. I love video games and want to share them with men and women of all walks of life. I just believe turning to social justice mob mentality and biasing information out of a desire to do good is more harmful to all parties than justifying better representation through valid information.