While it has been a frustratingly slow process, the world of gaming is shifting away from being a male-dominated hobby. That change is being driven both by developers and players. Some developers have begun to correct their mistakes by giving female characters better representation in their games, while there are several successful female gamers that have rallied against the misguided notion that gaming is a predominantly male pursuit.
The character of Lara Croft demonstrates the battles that females have had to fight in the world of gaming. Early depictions of Croft were geared towards an audience of straight male players, something that is analyzed in a fascinating editorial by Aja Romano for Vox. The most recent iterations of Croft are still blessed with a remarkable skill-set, but they are also presented in a much more nuanced manner that moves away from some of the more typical gender stereotypes.
There are other characters emerging in Croft’s wake that also indicate that change is afoot. Alyx Vance is a beloved NPC in Half-Life 2, but she will be the main character in the upcoming virtual reality release Half-Life: Alyx. The Last of Us II will feature Ellie, a secondary character from the previous game, as its protagonist, while newer Pokemon games allow players to start as either male or female.
You could argue that these female protagonists should have been available on the original versions of their respective games, and you would be right to do so. Yet modern game developers can only seek to redress the imbalance put in place by their predecessors so that their games better reflect the playing population. After all, almost 70% of the players in certain gaming genres are women.
Given that they comprise such a high proportion of players, it is no surprise that women are among the most celebrated players in several areas of gaming.
Classic movie depictions of poker show a group of men sitting around the table, but both the table and the men are now inaccurate. The table has disappeared, with players able to access poker games on their desktop, mobile or tablet instead. Also, the success of the likes of Annette Obrestad, the Norwegian star with around $4 million in career earnings, shows that poker is not just for men. While Obrestad has strutted her stuff on the European Poker Tour, she made her name as an online poker superstar in the mid-2000s, providing inspiration for female iGamers across the world.
Sasha Hostyn, aka Scarlett, is a Canadian gamer who is testament to the fact that eSports should be a level playing field for all gamers. Just like Obrestad in poker tournaments, Scarlett has thrived in a competitive environment. Scarlett is one of the highest-paid female gamers of all time, having earned over $362,000 through her skills on StarCraft II. Scarlett emerged on the eSports scene as an unsponsored amateur in 2012 and has become a familiar name on the StarCraft circuit since.
While it is always important to put down technology and go outdoors, these successful female gamers demonstrate that putting in practice can help you to carve out a career in what you love. These women of poker, eSports, and Twitch show that, when given the same platform, they can match or outperform their male counterparts. It is up to developers to ensure that women in games are given fairer representation, to inspire and guide female and male gamers alike.