In the past, the gaming industry has been roundly criticized for the less-than-diverse lineup of leading characters they’ve brought to E3. For years it was hard to find a main character that wasn’t a generically handsome, white, brown-haired man sporting stylish beard stubble. The trend arguably reached its nadir in at E3 2014, as the video above ably demonstrates (as an aside, man, have graphics come a long way in only three years).
In recent years, publishers have been making more of an effort to diversify, and complaints about a lack of female and minority characters has died down to a murmur, but have things really changed? For the past three years Feminist Frequency has been keeping track of every game shown at E3, and what gender their main characters are. Turns out things haven’t really changed that much.
The video game industry is steadily offering more games that let you choose to be male or female, either by letting you choose from a roster of characters, or letting you create your own. The bad news is, games that specifically star female characters remain rare. This year, of the 109 new games revealed at E3 2017, only seven starred a female character, which is at least an improvement over 2016, when there were a mere three. As you can see, the number fluctuates from year to year, without any real growth.
Of course, this is sure to inspire plenty of online bluster, but Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian rightfully believes it’s important to get the actual facts out there:
“We're not trying to be bummers. But it's like, let's look at the actual numbers so we can actually improve for real. There is this sense in the air of, things are changing and there are more games starring women announced, but we were like, OK, but we might be getting ahead of ourselves. So, we just started counting.”
There’s definitely still work to do. A lot of games are taking the “give ‘em a character creator and hopefully they’ll stop complaining” approach these days, but actual stories told from a uniquely female perspective? Those are still hard to find. That said, some major E3 2017 games like Star Wars Battlefront II and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy did put women front and center, so hopefully we’re moving in the right direction.