Video games. Who doesn’t like to play video games? Some more than others. But has the video game industry tapped every market no matter how small it is? This is where I think of inclusion. I have seen countless die-hard gamers spending humongous amounts of time in front of gaming consoles, mindlessly playing video games. Even occasional gamers know no bounds. No matter the genre, the characters are mostly from a white ethnic background. Amirite? But if you are one hell of a gamer, you would agree that now all this is changing.
The gaming industry is becoming more diverse and all-inclusive. Speaking of genders, the disparity among the audience is gradually shifting, women player-base are seen to be making their mark and are on the rise, both in the live streaming and game development industry. Studies also show us that women make up almost 45% of U.S. gamers. Sure there was a time when women were underrepresented, even though still the ratio between men to women is unbalanced – the shift is gradual yet remarkable.
Additionally, we can see more diverse and culturally sensitive gaming content. For example, Cyberpunk 2077 has multiple character creator options. Players can seamlessly customize their face, skin type, hair, even body parts to stay real to themselves. This is most important majorly for groups with inadequate representation such as non-binary and trans communities. The need for empathy and understanding is important regardless of gender. Games such as cyberpunk promote the very essence of what makes you, you. Gamers don’t have to settle for just choosing between male and female genders rather they can be whoever they want to be.
Another important thing that I would like to talk about here is designing games for people with accessibility issues. This topic may sometimes be overlooked because the market is considered to be small yet it exists. People with disabilities have equal rights to enjoy a game as others. Surprisingly, the gaming industry is taking a step in this direction as well.
The popular game ‘the last of us part 2’ has over 60 different settings for gamers with disabilities such as vision, hearing, or motor skill impairments. Gamers can tweak settings to serve themselves better. Adaptive video game controllers are being launched for differently-abled gaming and for games that require quick action. Now to elaborate more on that, the single-handed Ps4 controller was designed and launched by Ben Heck for disabled gamers years back. In fact, he also made one for Xbox players.
Even though the landscape is changing, the need for games and gaming hardware to be specifically designed for people with disabilities such as limited mobility, deafness, eyesight issues, color blindness still needs a push.
Moving forward, one of the most important gaps that I observed previously is the portrayal of non-white ethnicities as lead characters and how are they massively ignored. But it’s changing too.
Game creators are placing a strong focus on women and people of color. They are exceedingly making an impact through their character design. For example Ghost of Tsushima brings out the Asian culture, Death Loop has 2 black leads followed by Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation et al. Additionally, games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy VI, and others are oozing up with women lead characters.
Having said that, the core gaming industry does have a visible lack of inclusivity to some extent in terms of gender and ethnicity. This can be said for the industry as well as for the audience and the characters within the games themselves where almost 79% of present characters in games are mostly male and about 54% are white. I was reading the other day, that almost 90% of e-sport scholarships are going to men. You would agree that that are no physical barriers in online gaming or e-sports that distinguish women from men. Then why the huge gap?
A culture of online trolling and toxicity among online in-game communities like Twitch, Reddit, and MOBA also exists because of white supremacy. Morover, developers of various core video games are continuously failing to tap into the untapped market potential – leading to inaccessibility.
Talking about people working in the gaming industry – according to studies, an estimated 10% of people working in games in the UK are from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Even though we can see a clear disparity but what is leading to this disparity and how can the gaming industry address it – is a real question.