2019 represents our fifth year doing a statistical breakdown of the games featured at E3, and analyzing what the data tells us about the representation of women in video games. This year, we ran the numbers on E3 events from Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft, EA, Bethesda, and Square Enix, as well as the annual PC Gaming Show, and we partnered with WIRED to present our data.
In short, what the numbers this year demonstrate is that the overall percentage of games that center female characters is not getting any higher, and that it remains consistently and significantly outstripped by games that center male heroes. As we comment in our analysis:
Of the 126 games we tallied from the E3 events held by Microsoft, Nintendo, Bethesda, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and EA, as well as the annual PC Gaming Show, a paltry six centered exclusively female protagonists, while almost five times as many, 28, centered male characters. (When you consider that we place role-playing games in which you control a party of heroes in our “multiple options” category, the numbers are even more dire, since a significant number of these games, including the Final Fantasy VII remake, Final Fantasy VIII, Dragon Quest XI, The Last Remnant Remastered, and others, clearly center male heroes.)
It’s true that the number of games in which you either control characters of different genders or get to choose the gender of your hero character significantly outstrip those with established male or female protagonists. And of course, as a general trend, the freedom to choose or create your own character is a welcome one. However, it’s fundamentally different from being asked by a game to take on the role and experiences of a specific character. A male player who is more comfortable with experiences that center men can and will simply play as men in games that offer him the choice. On the other hand, every player who comes to a game such as Wolfenstein: Youngblood must step into the shoes of a female character in order to play.
For our full statistical analysis of the games of E3 2019, as well as on-stage presenters and a look at violent vs. nonviolent gameplay mechanics, visit WIRED