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:
- 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
- Fallout 4
- The 5 least diverse E3 winners are:
- Doom 3
- Gears of War
- Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- 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!