A new study has found that more than half of all current-gen games feature playable female characters and that games with female leads actually earn higher average review scores than those with male leads.
We all know about the whole "lose the chick" business from a few weeks ago, when Activision was accused of mandating male-only lead characters in its videogames because the ladies just don't sell. There's no question that the industry has been dominated by male characters but the imbalance today may not be as great as generally perceived. According to new EEDAR research, 51 percent of games in the current console generation feature playable female characters.
The casual genre goes a long way toward keeping that figure high, with 80 percent of games in the genre featuring playable females, but the core genre does surprisingly well on its own: 46 percent of core games offer playable females as well.
The numbers are still heavily skewed toward males, with 90 percent of games across all genres featuring men in lead roles (ten percent were rated as "not discernible") but as EEDAR's Jesse Divnich pointed out, the relatively high rate of female representation "is an incredible accomplishment for our industry and reinforces our progress towards serving ever widening demographics."
Also of note is the fact that games with chick leads actually tend to review slightly higher than those featuring dudes. A look at the review scores of more than 910 core games found that games with female leads averaged a score of 67.88, compared to 65.78 for those with male leads. Games that offered a choice of gender averaged out a score of 67.21 points, while games without any discernible character genre managed only 59.86.
The differences in review scores are "insignificant," but that in itself is significant. As Divnich noted, "Console games over the last five years show no aggregate statistical evidence that indicates that gender selection (aside from having no gender at all) impacts quality scores."
Sales, of course, are harder to quantify and the exclusion of female characters tends to have no impact on the success of top-selling franchises like Madden, Mario and Call of Duty. "The factors that drive sales are based more on brand licensing, marketing budgets, development budget and a thousand other factors that have little to do with the gender of playable avatars," Divnich wrote. "But as gender relates to game quality, as long as consumers and media critics rate games purely on their inherent quality (and the data suggests they do), then our industry is progressing nicely."