The online gaming environment is constantly changing and becoming increasingly diverse with every passing year. As such, it is important that PC games and the online gaming community become more inclusive so players of all walks of life can feel comfortable, accepted and safe while playing their favorite games online.
Changing Demographics Among PC Gamers
There was a time when both the console and PC gaming markets were dominated by men, but times are changing. A recent study has found that women outnumber men in the PC gaming world by .2%. These findings dispel the myth that women are only casual gamers, and that term has very little meaning anymore regardless.
The Evolution of Female Representation in Video Games
Today, most games allow you to pick from a handful of female characters, but this hasn’t always been the case. Even when developers started featuring women as playable characters, their representation was still quite problematic. In a 2005 study, researchers at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Lenoir-Rhyne College identified three stereotypical depictions of women in video games: sexualized, scantily clad and a vision of beauty. It was found that 80 percent of all female gaming characters fit into these categories.
However, a 2016 study found that the sexualization of female characters was at its peak from 1990 to 2004 but has been on the decline since 2005. Games like Overwatch, Borderlands and Half-Life 2 have done a great job of straying away from the stereotypical depictions of female characters in video games. These top-rated titles have helped to inspire developers to be more inclusive of the average female gamer.
Overwatch, A Lesson in Character Diversity
The large cast of Overwatch is one of the most diverse in today’s PC gaming market. There are nine female heroes who are divided pretty evenly between the four different character types: offense, defense, tank and support. Each one has her unique backstory, and they come from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds.
The game also does a great job of portraying female characters in a realistic light. Women playing PC games online can find characters who look like themselves rather than the overly sexualized, scantily clad models that we’re used to seeing in video games. Overwatch characters are a realistic representation of the female PC gaming demographic, and the game’s popularity could see it set a trend for character design in upcoming releases.
Attitudes Towards Female Gamers Still Need to Change
Despite more women joining the online gaming world, they still continue to be marginalized. Many female gamers experience verbal abuse from their male teammates and competitors, while some even have their accounts hacked. To keep themselves safe, plenty of women in the online gaming market mute their microphones and choose to play as male characters in order to avoid being harassed and mocked. Others use Virtual Private Networks to hide their location and to prevent their accounts from being compromised.
Now, female members of the gaming public are coming together to make a change. Organizations like Heart Mob aim to end harassment in the online world, offering players the opportunity to document and report abuse while providing support for victims of online abuse. In fact, Facebook, Twitter, and Google have started reaching out to women’s groups around the world to find new ways to combat online abuse.
The PC gaming market continues to become increasingly diverse, and the design of games is now beginning to reflect this. However, there is still a long way to go before women can truly feel comfortable in the online gaming world.
Female gamers out there – what are your experiences playing PC games online? Leave us a comment! We’d love to hear more.