E3 2020 analysis shows significant shift toward female protagonists in games

Joe White

Posts: 62   +0
In context: For many years, far more titles have featured male protagonists rather than females. However, this year, we saw an almost equal divide between male and female game protagonists for the first time. Could this be the sign of a more inclusive and gender diverse future for the video game industry?

Feminist Frequency's annual analysis of E3 game announcements looks at the divide between male, female, and gender-ambiguous or non-binary game protagonists. The data also indicates the percentage of games that allow players to choose the gender of their playable character.

The data—tracked since 2015—has typically been male-heavy. This year, something unusual happened: some 18% of video games featured playable female protagonists—a far higher figure than previous years and closer than ever to the percentage of male-protagonist video games, which stands at 23%.

Interestingly, more than one-third of this year's 18% of female-protagonist games came from Sony's PlayStation 5 reveal.

"A new console generation could bring about significant change, and Sony's influence within the games industry is vast," the report reveals. "The PlayStation 4 has sold more than twice as many units over its lifetime as Microsoft's competing Xbox One—so if this does reflect a larger strategy on the part of the console maker, the repercussions in years to come could be very significant indeed."

Feminist Frequency is unsure whether this positive change is here to stay, but 2020's results look promising. The data from this year could be a one-off anomaly or a sign of lasting change. Here's hoping the latter is the case, as it's undoubtedly time that stubborn notion—that gaming is the pastime of boys and men—is eradicated forever.

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Posts: 4,907   +5,451
I don't quite understand how a dominance of male protagonists is indication of "gaming is the pastime of boys and men" but whatever.

What's sad is that putting female protagonists into a game IN NO WAY empowers females in general or changes the fact that it is a male dominated hobby. Nor does it change the fact that mostly men will earn money for being the heads of R&D.

Just slapping a female face on something changes nothing.


Posts: 141   +257
I disagree with those that form conclusions that these changes are automatically positive. As it stands, all that it proves is that change is happening. I see no data here to support the change being positive or negative.
Is character writing improving? Are new and 'better' stories being told? Do people actually connect more with these characters? That's ultimately what matters. Arbitrarily making characters female and shouting 'look how woke we are now' doesn't make it better (looking at you Ghostbusters).

Do women refuse to play the Witcher series because the main character is male? Is the game bad/wrong because of it? No. And no. It's a great game loved by many because they love the characters and the story.
Do men hate tomb raider because it means playing as a woman? No. In fact many men enjoy playing as female characters. The reason they play the game is because the game itself is fun.

I wish people in general would stop talking about gender representation. It's (almost) universally the most useless metric when determining who should be placed into a role. Let alone a virtual role.


Posts: 313   +491
I remember reading about Assassin's Creed Odyssey by a guy that he loved playing as female protagonist so that he can stare at her a*s all day climbing all sort of buildings and polls.

There is your empowerment ladies and gentlemen. Have at it.


Posts: 141   +257
it's undoubtedly time that stubborn notion—that gaming is the pastime of boys and men—is eradicated forever

Depends what you mean. Statistically, more men/boys play games as a hobby than women/girls. It's not a notion. It's measurable fact.

If you mean that there's some unwritten rule that women/girls shouldn't play games, then I'm afraid you must know very different people to me, or possibly be much older. Many of the girls I went to school/university with played games. Women I work with play games. Some of the people I play online games with are women (often as part of a couple with their s/o).

I'm not seeing or buying into this (fake?) narrative that women and girls and being shoved away from games because of a perception that it's a boys club.


Posts: 3,460   +4,036
Why do these entertainment companies think that the only reason women barely play many types of games (FPS, strategy, etc) is because their "underrepresented"? Are so far up their own behinds that they can't acknowledge simple cultural and biological preferences?


Posts: 803   +1,104
TechSpot Elite
How many players are so invested in the role playing aspect of it that it actually makes a meaningful difference to them?

Personally, I am never going to believe that it is actually me in that space marine suit killing demons by the thousands, and that's not going to change based on the gender on screen or in the voice over.


Posts: 114   +84
I write movies and books and my first instinct is to make my protagonist white and male, like me. That's what I know best, so it seems most natural to shove someone similar to myself into whatever situation I've conjured up, which is a situation I am interested in exploring. I guess you'll get real diversity when the best movies, stories or games are being written by people who aren't white and male and shove themselves into the protagonist. Above everything though whatever book is published, movie made etc, it should be chosen because it's got the best story. I haven't managed to get a publishing deal after twenty years of intermittent trying, most likely because my stories, or execution of them, haven't been quite good enough.


Posts: 2,452   +3,603
Why do journalists assume women are all so vapid they can only enjoy a product if it embodies them?

Seems kinda sexist.....

"But only time will tell if this positive shift is here to stay"

What's "positive" about this? We've seen a huge increase in "female protagonists", that is to say protagonists written around the fact they are women, as opposed to interesting characters with personality. Replacing good characters with self insert auto-gynophilic fantasies doesnt indicate quality, as if the number of disappointing half baked games this generation didnt show that clearly enough.

Just like in real life, an increase in an arbitrary physical trait among a measured set doesnt indicate an increase in quality, especially when the only people having problems with the quality of games are the screeching harpies that dont even play games.


Posts: 2,064   +768
Absolutely fine however give the player the option to choose. I think it's more than fair for both genders to be present and equally represented.


Posts: 95   +75
So apparently having multiple gender choice is not as 'positive' as having female protagonist? If anything I would have thought multiple gender = progress and equality?

E.g 2019 would have highest percentage of multiple gender option.

Angga B

Posts: 135   +117
These people would never be satisfied, thus will not stop asking for more either.

And gamers, which are predominantly male -not because of sexism but simply because men and women has different activity preference- has becoming more aware of this 'forced diversity' and they would adapt and decide accordingly. Nothing good will ever comes from social engineering trial, it could only backfire.

Upcoming franchises, mostly Ubisoft's, would implement this social engineering trial agenda. Then we can see directly the result and have proper comparison against their older releases within the franchises.


Posts: 313   +491
Gamers love women protagonists when done right.

Gamers hate women protagonists when they are shoehorned for political agenda.

Alien Isolation, Hellblade, Tomb Raider, Alyx, A hat in time, Transistor, Berseria, Nier Automata..... And many others were played and cherished by us all.

But the moment we say, please don't force female soldiers in Battlefield V or that story of Last of Us 2 was underwhelming, then it must be because gamers dislike girls. Companies are never at fault. Consume with a smile what is thrown before you, peasant.


Posts: 729   +730
Perhaps more men like doing research and development?

Yes they do, it's also why men dominate stem fields, even though grants and scholarships are created just for women to take those jobs, they have problems finding candidates because most women arnt interested. It's same thing in it services, it's male dominated, simply because women arnt interested in it by and large.