Breaking Down The Barriers: Women in Gaming

Zoe Quinn Car 2014The month of April marks the beginning of a number of events across the gaming world, which is set to revolutionise the way in which the industry is viewed, particularly for one demographic.

Sacramento’s California Museum recently displayed its latest exhibit, Women in Game Development, on 12th April. The exhibit sought to “increase awareness of women’s contributions to gaming by celebrating their works,” and has so far been well-received by its public.

“Since the days of Atari, women have made some of the most influential and important games, despite the perception that only men make video games,” says a statement on the museum’s website.

Women’s contributions to the world of gaming are not just being acknowledged in North America either; it’s a message which has reached Australia, which recently added a new segment to its popular gaming show Good Game, entitled Women in Games, which addresses the issue of diversity in modern day gaming.

The recent GamerGate scandal back in August 2014 served to slow the development of something which, in 2015, should be celebrated across the industry. In a world in which 52 per cent of gamers are female, it is deeply concerning that a developer such as Zoe Quinn should receive death threats as a result of her connections within the gaming world.

Thankfully, times are changing. Games developer Quinn is already receiving support from thousands of gamers, male and female, thanks to the launch of her new anti-bullying website, Crash Override, which aims to “combat online hate.”

Moreover, whilst female games developers themselves are still relatively few and far between, many developers are now changing their marketing direction to attract the female demographic. In February 2015, gaming giant Intertain attracted headlines when it acquired Canada-based Gamesys’ brands in a deal worth $650 million.

While much of the incentive for the acquisition was Gamesys’ position in Europe, its influence on female markets also played a huge role in the deal. Intertain CEO John Fitzgerald said: “We are very excited about the completion of the Jackpotjoy acquisition, which is expected to add substantial free cash flow to our business and allow Intertain to further target the female demographic in regulated markets.”

As a predominantly female-based market, online bingo is a form of gaming which is on the rise. Indeed, Intertain could have its critics, such as those who consider this to be a form of gender stereotyping, but the simple fact that developers are actively targeting a female audience can have little more than a positive outcome. This, coupled with an ongoing mission to stamp out online bullying, is indicative of the mammoth shift that the gaming industry is undergoing today.

There is still a lot of work to do. Currently, only three per cent of programmers are women, but this is something which could dramatically increase within the next decade. What is important for women in the industry is that they join communities with like-minded interests – for example, the Code Liberation Foundation and Black Girls Code organisations currently offer free coding lessons for women.

It will take time, but this all marks positive change for gaming, breaking down the barriers which have been in place for far too long.

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