Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency did a gender breakdown of E3 2018, outlining how many different playable characters were male or female, or some other non-human creature. It also attempted to outline how many games allowed for non-violent conflict resolution or gameplay progression without relying on combat. The data was published on June 14th, 2018 by Carolyn Petit and Anita Sarkeesian.
The data purports that 118 games were shown in total during E3, and that out of them 29 of those games featured male leads, and 8 of those games featured female leads.
The outline for the methodology here is based on every game they recorded from the press conferences, including Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Square Enix, Ubisoft, Sony, Bethesda, the PC Gaming Show, and the Nintendo Direct events. They excluded [email protected] montages for whatever reason.
Here is where things get spurious: A lot of the games featured during the [email protected] montage were also featured throughout the E3 show floor. For instance, Sable was featured during the [email protected] montage, which features a playable female character, as outlined by the developers during the PC Gaming Show.
So was this game included in the list? Or is there any reason why any [email protected] game wasn’t included?
It’s disingenuous to say that there weren’t as many games on display featuring female protagonists as male protagonists if only certain games were being counted.
Also, they mention that it counted the Nintendo Direct events – did that include games that were only on display during the Treehouse live segments or did it only include games featured prominently during the Nintendo Direct?
- Was Sakuna: Of Rice And Rain counted?
- How about A Plague Tale: Innocence?
- What about Ashen?
- Jump Force lets you play a number of characters from Shonen Jump properties. Was that classified as male only or does that go into the multi-category?
- Sessions is an [email protected] game that lets you create your own character, was this included in the list of games that feature multiple playable characters or was it, too, excluded?
- SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy only lets you play as females, and it was featured during E3 as well. Did this count or no?
- And where did games with minor E3 appearances such as Greedfall or World War Z fall? Were they counted or no? And if not, why?
Again, the methodology was not properly outlined and there is no list on what games were counted under which categories.
Nevertheless, the article goes on to state…
“[…] the percentage of games shown at E3 that focus on women has hovered around the 7-9% range for the past few years, and this year shows no improvement, with 9 games, or roughly 8% of games shown, featuring female protagonists. (We counted games such as Gears of War 5 here, which may allow players to sometimes take the role of supporting male characters, so long as they clearly focus on a female character as the primary protagonist.) By contrast, just over three times as many featured games, 29 in all or roughly 24%, focus on male heroes or solely have male playable avatars or characters.”
They don’t list these 29 games so we have no idea what “focus on male heroes” really means.Is this including games that mostly showed males even when you can play as females, such as Rapture Rejects? Or how about sports games where the focus is on males? Were those being counted, too?
SJW websites such as Paste Magazine and Polygon ran with the angle that this is somehow terrible for the industry and there wasn’t enough representation during this year’s E3, all while doing zero diligence to at least dig into the numbers.
Gaming pundit Liana Kerzner did some of the math and pointed out that even going by Feminist Frequnecy’s stats, games presented at E3 still offered more choice and diversity than the film industry.
So the percentage of male characters in gaming is the same as the number of female characters in movies. Tell me again how gaming is uniquely bad to women? https://t.co/kVzhDCU2KW
— Liana Kerzner (I ♥ Atari) (@redlianak) June 15, 2018
So to recap…
Gaming has 76% of products that don’t have a hard-wired male lead.
76% of films have male leads.
Gaming wins. Fatality.
— Liana Kerzner (I ♥ Atari) (@redlianak) June 15, 2018
However, Feminist Frequency’s staff isn’t concerned with choice, it’s about inculcation.
In the article they write that it’s about “normalizing” views…
“When a game (such as 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, or the upcoming The Last of Us 2) features a set female protagonist, every player who enters those worlds must experience them through the lens of Aloy, or Ellie, or whoever the female protagonist might be. These games work to normalize the notion that male players should be able to project themselves onto and identify with female protagonists just as female players have always projected ourselves onto and identified with male protagonists”
This entire premise ignores the fact that more males play hardcore action games than females, and more females play mobile games than males. There have been multiple studies breaking down the gender demographics, and the purchasing trends predicate that males make up the majority of the hardcore consumer base, even with Nintendo products.
In one particular marketing study by DeltaDNA consisting of 9 million registered gamers spanning games published by Square Enix, Bandai Namco, Take-Two Interactive, Bethesda, Sega, and Wargaming (to name a few), only 25% of females were interested in action games and only 10% were interested in first-person shooters.
Essentially, most of the games on display at E3 are aimed at the hardcore gaming demographic – these are the people who tune into the streams, who pre-order the products (even when they shouldn’t), and who buy the day-one editions of games for $10 more than the MSRP. Even with the hardcore market swaying male, even by Sarkeesian’s own chart, there were MORE games that were gender neutral than gender specific.
The funny thing about it is that even going by Feminist Frequency’s stats, more than 50% of games at E3 were gender neutral, and yet that still wasn’t enough. Instead the organization is basically advocating for and targeting games aimed at the mostly male, mostly hardcore market by introducing even more female-only roles in order to subvert the demographic and cater toward a phantom audience that doesn’t actually exist. We’ve already seen how catering towards that phantom audience has caused games such as Lawbreakers, Battleborn, Agents of Mayhem and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider to tank in sales.
(Thanks for the news tip Lyle)