Up For Debate - Diversity and inclusion gaming, is enough being done?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Sep 7, 2019 2:09 PM

Currys PC World, of all places, put together a pretty interesting analysis on diversity in gaming. Long seen as the hobby of spotty teenage boys living in their parent’s spare bedroom, gaming has busted out over the past two decades and become a globally appreciated medium for people of all backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities.

Their process is actually quite simple. Currys analysed the last 15 years or so of Game of the Year and Best of E3 nominees, grading them based on diversity. A grand total of 20 points are up for grabs, although just 10 is required to qualify as ‘Very Diverse’. IE, there is no need for a developer to ‘crowbar’ in every element of diversity for the sake of being diverse. All a game needs is a playable black female character and it already hits the threshold for ‘Good diversity’.

Onto the data then, and there’s quite a lot which I’ll sadly have to reduce down to the key points for the sake of succinctness:

  • In 2018, there was an even 33% split between games which were Very Diverse, Good Diversity, and No/Low Diversity. It was one of the most diverse years in history, although both 2014 and 2015 were both arguably more diverse. Still, the trend is definitely upwards from where we were 16 years ago.
  • A game is more like to be a Game of the Year winner if it is ‘Very Diverse’. We would assume this is because it appeals to a wider audience.
  • The 5 most diverse GOTY games are:
    • Overwatch
    • Celeste
    • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
    • Horizon: Zero Dawn
    • The Walking Dead
  • The 5 least diverse GOTY games are:
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops 
    • Call of Duty 2
    • GTA: Vice City
    • Gears of War
    • Gears of War 2
  • PC games are more likely to have a diverse cast
  • First-person shooters have the least diversity
  • Role-playing games have the greatest diversity
  • The 5 most diverse E3 winners are:
    • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
    • Mass Effect
    • Skyrim
    • Fallout 4
    • Spider-Man
  • The 5 least diverse E3 winners are:
    • Doom 3
    • Gears of War
    • Zelda: Breath of the Wild
    • Crysis
    • Metal Gear Solid
  • Just 3% of GOTY nominees feature a playable person of colour (POC) as the main character, compared to 60% white. 27% let the player choose.
  • Most games feature a woman on the front cover.
  • Just 33% feature them as a focal point.
  • 73% of the games feature no LGBTQ+ representation.
  • 11% feature same-sex relationships.
  • 2% have negative representation of LGBTQ+
  • From 2009-2018, games with LGBTQ+ elements in their storylines have increased 300%

The one counterpoint I would have to this data is it would be nice to know the reverse of what they’re telling us. 11% of games featuring same sex relationships is actually quite a decent proportion (it could be better, but it could be a whole lot worse too) but how many of these games feature heterosexual relationships as well? Games like Doom 3, The Last of Us and Call of Duty don’t have any love interests whatsoever, whether same sex or hetero.

Overall, the results are a mixed bag. There’s still a very long way to go in terms of racial diversity, that’s for sure. Gaming is a global hobby, while the global population is around 16% white, and therefore 84% ‘POC’. To see just 3% of GOTY nominees feature a playable POC as the main character is quite eye-opening. 

Diversity in gaming isn't about pushing an agenda, it's about making games a better time for everyone rather than the few. People want to see themselves represented in games, unsurprisingly. Studies indicate 45% of gamers are female, for example, while just 13% of action-adventure games feature playable female characters (including multiplayer). In 2019 we're now so far out of the remit of the stereotypical 'gamer', and yet here we are still struggling to cater to this vast audience.

When we limit ourselves to a narrow field of acceptability, we close the door to some of the most interesting stories that can be told. Video games can be a powerful medium for storytelling, and there's so much that can be done above and beyond a grunting marine churning through baddies in another brown corridor. 

However, representation is certainly on the up, with LGBTQ+ representation slowly on the rise. AAA developers in particular do struggle in this regard, with the indie scene leading the way. All facets of diversity are still very much in the minority in AAA titles though, with the de facto straight white male lead still seen as the marketable approach.

Despite the low numbers on offer, though, there’s still significant blow-back when a game of note does actually feature a diverse cast. All you need is a black woman to feature in a remotely prominent role for someone to screech ‘SJW’ while deftly ignoring the literal thousands of games with white male leads. Only a couple of weeks ago I saw someone complaining there was a black player in the FIFA 20 trailer. A black player on a football pitch. I’ve seen it all now, what an absolute shocker. What’s the narrative reason for a black football player? Explain yourself to us EA Sports, you soy boy beta cucks. /s. But sadly, it’s indicative of the underlying fragility issues which still affect some folks, perhaps worrying that changing the status quo and accepting others will somehow diminish themselves. It's all nonsense of course, but here we are.

You can read the full report for yourself here, where there’s all sorts of juicy graphs and the like.

So then, let's open it up for discussion - what are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion in gaming? Is there enough being done, do you perhaps even think there's too much focus on diversity, for what reason? Share your thoughts below!

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23:43 Sep-10-2019

Not gonna bite...

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09:26 Sep-09-2019

lets be honest how many of us pick a playable female character hoping that her hitbox is smaller than that of the male counterpart? I bet I cant be the only one!! that being said I dont know whats the point of that in World War Z

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14:48 Sep-08-2019

i could not give less of a f about diversity, i will play the game if it is good. But when the games TRY to cater to the 3% LGBTQ/feminist population they lose more players then they gain... just look at Battlefield 5

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13:12 Sep-08-2019

Don't give a f about diversity or politics or SJW nonsense. I just want quality content. Good story, graphics, gameplay and optimization. Gimme those and i'll gladly spend my money.

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08:50 Sep-08-2019

This will be one of those subjects which I'm not going to touch with a 10 foot pole.

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01:23 Sep-08-2019

I think that artists should make whatever they want to make. It's fictional work, and the only thing I care about is good gameplay and good writing. Beyond that, I don't care. They can include as many diverse characters as they want, just make it believable within the game and the setting that they made.


My problem starts with forced diversity and tokenism.

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21:47 Sep-07-2019

Gameplay > Story, DGAF about rest.

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21:07 Sep-07-2019

The problem is that they are not creating new "diverse" games. Instead they are shoehorning it into established IP whose target audience is not interested in it. You want to make a game featuring a transgender furry ? Go for it!

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20:19 Sep-07-2019

easy and simple: its great!! cause its actually a great sign not to buy the game ahhahahahahaha

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20:00 Sep-07-2019

Drinks a shot every time reads "diversity"

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10:52 Sep-12-2019

Thx for the lol

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19:22 Sep-07-2019

I honestly don't see the point in changing a character's gender/sexuality/ethnicity just for the sake of ''diversity'',make them interesting,captivating,unique,etc.I think that's what games should focus on,after all we've all seen how well BFV"attempt"at introducing women with bionic arms and calling it accurate ended.

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18:53 Sep-07-2019

Diversity for diversity's sake is definitely worse than having no diversity, if you want to make a game with diverse characters then make sure whatever makes them diverse is also reflected WELL in their personalities, not just "hey guys I'm gay and this is all my character has to offer"

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18:17 Sep-07-2019

I want good characters and story, I don't want what I have taken to call "duh"-versity for "duh"-veristy's stake. The character is important, his/her personality, background, strengths and weaknesses. Those are what are important in a character. Their skin color or sexual politics are way down the list of importance in a good character.

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17:46 Sep-07-2019

Personally, I think diversion issue is overblown out of proportions. Most of actual gamers don't really care about it, only reason some of us have issue with it is because diversity sometimes get higher priority than actual game quality. And it is mostly issue pushed by SJWs and "gaming journalists", who are actually political activists masquerading as gaming journalists.

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17:49 Sep-07-2019

And don't get me wrong, I have no issue with diversion in games. I just don't want it to be more important issue than gameplay, story,... and of course I want it to be included when it makes sense. Throwing female characters into a game, based on historical events, where there were no females fighting, is just forcing it. If they build game around diverse cast, I am fine with that,if game is good.

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17:52 Sep-07-2019

But I do hope developers stop catering to those SJWs and activists, because they aren't buying games, they are too poor for it. They should make game for their target audience, which is gamers.Because as gamer, as someone with 550 games on Steam, diversion is not even on the list of my priorities, I just don't care about having diverse cast in game,if game is good and well written around its cast.

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17:58 Sep-07-2019

As for those "studies", I don't trust them, because too many times they include people who just play Candy Crush or other Facebook or mobile phone games. I don't count those as proper gamers. There is nothing wrong if you do enjoy them, but those are often use to blow statistics into more diverse waters. And by all means I welcome anyone to play games, I just don't count FB games as actual games.

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18:00 Sep-07-2019

But I doubt diversity has to do anything with games being GOTY, at least not if GOTY is something gamers vote for. It has more to do with shows trying to push diversity. Because they don't judge game as gamer would, they judge games differently. But for gamers, game will be GOTY if it is good game gameplay wise and story wise.

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18:59 Sep-07-2019

Well said, couldn't agree more.

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16:47 Sep-09-2019

What a load of bulls--t lol

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17:34 Sep-07-2019

Really, I don't think anyone that enjoys video games for reasons of gameplay cares a whole lot about a game checking off for diversity points. I, personally, just want to play a game with fluid gameplay that hooks you in and characters that I can actually care about on some level to interact with inside of the game's universe.


P.S. Did it shock anyone that RPGs had the most diversity?

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16:49 Sep-07-2019

I don't care if there's diversity or not in games, but I do hate it when it's forced down everyone's throats.

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16:37 Sep-07-2019

As an attack helicopter I feel offended.

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18:12 Sep-07-2019

as a lamp post im offended my your offense!

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18:18 Sep-07-2019

Won't be a lamp post for long once an attack helicopter goes on the offensive. -grin-

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19:07 Sep-07-2019

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19:09 Sep-07-2019

After your poor performance in MGS5 you will always be typecast as 2nd Henchman Lieutenant's vehicle of choice. We gave you all the armour and weapons you needed to land right next to us on the road but you still made your LZ 80 clicks away. Your dream of playing a Jawa cheerleader in KotOR 3 will never be.

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16:25 Sep-07-2019

I used to like the words "Diversity" and "representation". But the people who want to force it in video games makes me hate it.

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16:13 Sep-07-2019

Why is diversity even important? who actually cares about it beside the vocal SJWs who never play any video games?

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15:36 Sep-07-2019

As a brown guy all I have to say is who tf cares. All I want to do is have fun

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