The marginalised status of women in the video game industry will be challenged by a new international research project involving the University of Leicester.
Video games routinely feature ‘hyper-sexualised’ female characters , and despite around half of all game players being women they remain dramatically underrepresented in the industry, with only 4 per cent of programmers being female and women making up just 22 per cent of the industry workforce as a whole.
A new project, titled ‘Re-figuring Innovation in Games’, which is funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), aims to support a dramatic re-think and ‘re-configuring’ of the video game industry, where a lack of gender diversity, inclusivity and interventions that can shift the status quo stifles innovation.
Dr Alison Harvey from the University of Leicester’s Department of Media and Communication explained: “Women and girls have largely been excluded from games culture − as players, makers and protagonists. Additionally, many of those who do participate in games have been publicly harassed both online and offline as exemplified by the ‘Gamergate’ hate campaign.
“Addressing long-standing gender inequalities in the global digital games industry is a vital means by which to stimulate innovation and sustain the growth and consolidation of this massive creative arena.
“This project recognises that these issues can only be tackled through the inclusion of a range of international and interdisciplinary partners thinking about and planning to create equity in games culture, education, and work.”
Dr Harvey is co-leading the Formal Education research theme of the project and will be conducting a study of UK-based game design higher education programmes in order to assess how diversity is encouraged or hindered within formal education such as degree and certificate programmes in game design and game studies.
The study aims to make an intervention in how these programmes are promoted and organised to foster more inclusive game design training, through consultation with educators, students, skills bodies, professional associations, policy-makers, and industry representatives.
Key outcomes of this international cross-sectoral partnership project include the development of: an inclusivity toolkit for the games industry, gender-inclusive curricula for game programs and incubators, and high-impact blogging, journalism, and scholarly presentations and publications that inform and prepare the next generation of researchers and game-sector employees to rebuild a games industry and culture that supports inclusion and innovation.
The project, which will run until 2019, is led by Professor Jennifer Jenson at York University in Canada and includes the University of Leicester as well as 20 partners from international universities, gaming companies, gaming collectives, gaming NGOs, and professional associations.
The project website is available here: www.refig.ca