A majority of gamers say that making video games more inclusive is “important” to them. 56 percent of gamers felt that way, compared to 31% who were “neutral” towards making games more inclusive. Only 13% of respondents said that inclusion was “not important,” according to a new survey.
The findings – which are part of a survey of 2,252 gamers ranging in age from 13 to 54 years old – may be somewhat surprising to critics of the industry in the mainstream media, given that gamers are often portrayed in a negative light. The survey shows that gamers are not, in fact, hostile to the inclusion of female, LGBT, and racially diverse characters.
Of course, gamers have rallied behind female heroines like Lara Croft, and LGBT characters have appeared in games since the 1980s. Same-sex romance in games may have attracted controversy a decade ago, but it’s now fairly common. Moreover, games are more racially diverse today than ever before.
These trends in favor of inclusive games are not driving gamers away.
To the contrary, inclusive games are more likely to succeed. 45 percent of gamers are “likelier to play” an inclusive game, while 48% remain “neutral.” Fewer than 1 in 10 gamers said that they are “less likely to play” inclusive video games.
A majority of gamers also believe that representation is getting better in the industry, and there wasn’t a statistically significant difference between respondents who were white and non-white. Still, while gamers are certainly receptive to games that offer inclusive storytelling, characters, and customization options, they also want games to be authentic.
“Despite the notable increase in representation, many players stress that diversity and inclusion shouldn’t simply be a checkbox for game developers and that it should come from a genuine place. They don’t just want to see more variety of characters. They also want those characters to seem authentic and have substantial, meaningful roles instead of falling into stereotypes.”
The findings were published in a Medium article titled “What Inclusion Means to Players” where Jenny Shi – who works for EA’s Global Analytics and Insights – recalled her experience playing video games as a young girl.
I was in middle school when Super Smash Bros came out on N64. To say that I loved this game would be an understatement. I loved the characters (Kirby was my main), the maps, the thrill of the competition, all of it. So, when my local Blockbuster announced they were hosting a Smash tournament, I was excited to show off my skills and meet others who loved Smash as much as I did. This was my first gaming event, and it turned out to be a pivotal experience in my life — as a gamer and in my career.
I had spent weeks before the event perfecting my combos and was ready to take on the competition. As the event got started, one of the guys in the crowd smirked at me and said, “Get out of here. Girls don’t game.” I’ll never forget how much his words stung as his buddies laughed at me. I glanced around and noticed that I was the only girl there. Feeling out of place — like somehow because I was a female I had less of a right to be there — I stood up to leave. That’s when I heard another voice say, “Let her play.” I could see that the clear and assertive voice belonged to a guy at the back of the room whose blue baseball cap bobbed far above the crowd. That shut up the bullies quick. Even though I got knocked out the first match, it didn’t matter — I was incredibly happy to be there and play my favorite game with others who loved it too. To the guy in the baseball cap, my 11-year-old self was too shy to mention but thank you for being one of reasons why I’m a huge gamer today.
Jenny, of course, is not alone. And today, nearly half of gamers are female.
Hopefully, these survey results will spur developers to continue making games that are mindful of the diverse audiences that play their games. That is, after all, what most gamers expect.