E3 2020 analysis shows significant shift toward female protagonists in games

In context: For many years, far more titles have featured male protagonists rather than females. However, this year, we saw an almost equal divide between male and female game protagonists for the first time. Could this be the sign of a more inclusive and gender diverse future for the video game industry?

Feminist Frequency’s annual analysis of E3 game announcements looks at the divide between male, female, and gender-ambiguous or non-binary game protagonists. The data also indicates the percentage of games that allow players to choose the gender of their playable character.

The data—tracked sine 2015—has typically been male-heavy. This year, something unusual happened: some 18% of video games featured playable female protagonists—a far higher figure than previous years and closer than ever to the percentage of male-protagonist video games (which stood at 23%).

Interestingly, more than one-third of this year’s 18% of female-protagonist games came from Sony’s PlayStation 5 reveal.

“A new console generation could bring about significant change, and Sony’s influence within the games industry is vast,” the report reveals. “The PlayStation 4 has sold more than twice as many units over its lifetime as Microsoft’s competing Xbox One—so if this does reflect a larger strategy on the part of the console maker, the repercussions in years to come could be very significant indeed.”

Feminist Frequency is unsure whether this positive change is here to stay, but 2020’s results look promising. The data from this year could be a one-off anomaly or a sign of lasting change. Here’s hoping the latter is the case, as it’s undoubtedly time that stubborn notion—that gaming is the pastime of boys and men—is eradicated forever.

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