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Although the video game industry continues to flourish, the diversity of its staff does not; A variety of theories exist to explain the lack of women involved in the industry.

Despite today's economy, the video game industry continues to thrive. The diversity of its employees, however, does not.  According to a 2007 survey by Game Developer Magazine, women comprise less than 1 in 5 workers in the video game industry and make up only 3% of game programmers.

The women who do make up this small portion of workers also make less money on average than males in the industry. According to the survey, women in all positions within the video game industry made an average of $64,643 last year. Men on the other hand, earned $74,459.

"Historically, the people who play video games have tended to be more male," said Kathy Vrabeck, president of the casual games division of Electronic Arts Inc. (one of the world’s biggest video game publishers). "So it's not surprising that these boys grow up and aspire to work in the industry. That's why we've seen fewer women think about it as a career choice."

Some theories regarding the lack of women gamers reach back to elementary school. EA’s executive vice president of human resources, Gabrielle Toledano, describes, "It goes back to school, during those early years when you had that teacher who either encouraged you in math and science or didn't…It's the same reason why the statistics on women enrolling in [college] computer science programs have been way down. So, by the time we go out and hire, the pool of candidates is already skewed."

Brenda Brathwaite, a game developer who teaches game design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, shares another theory involving a common perception of the industry as a party atmosphere. "Some of the recruiting ads scream 'college fraternity,'" Brathwaite explained. "And there are still companies that throw recruiting parties with strippers. Now, if you say you want women to work at your company, why would you hire strippers?"

The stereotype of the industry as a man’s atmosphere also received support in the past through the Electronic Entertainment Expo. This trade show, the biggest of the gaming industry, used to be known for its costumed "booth babes", who were eventually banned from the shows in 2006, in effort to help break the stereotype.

The industry’s long hours may serve as another reason for lack of female involvement. Each game consists of a two- to three- year commitment, with longer hours during “crunch time”, which occurs around 12-26 weeks before a game is sent to stores. These conditions can make it difficult for women to obtain time off in order to have babies or raise children.

Aside from looking at women’s involvement from the working sense, some game executives also look at this group as a market with great potential, especially for purchases involving consoles such as the Wii and the PlayStation 3. A lot of the same executives also believe that an increase in women developers would result in increases of women purchasing video game products. According to a 2005 Michigan State University study, girls rated video games higher that were designed by teams of all women than games designed by teams consisting of all men. The girls did not know the gender groups of each game's designers prior to their rating. 

The Sims program, which has sold more more than 100 million copies and largely appeals to women, also shows how females can affect game development.  

"Some of the human qualities of The Sims didn't come out until women started working on it," Lucy Bradshaw, general manager of EA’s Maxis Studio, said. "It wasn't until we added kids and relationships that things changed. It became more about these little human beings, these 'Sims,' rather than just the objects in their lives." 

People continue to work toward increasing female involvement in this field, understanding that for the video game industry to truly flourish, it must become more diverse by venturing out from such a specific market of young males. Among all other arguments, women do make up a greater percentage of buyers, creating opportunities for increases in sales.





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