Jay Castello
Freelance Writer

The Game Awards Census

The Game Awards 2015 provides a pretty interesting opportunity for me in my mission to investigate the demographics of gaming. It was already criticised for having just one woman on its jury of fifty-two industry experts. Whilst I ideally want to go through every single game that was nominated and provide all the raw data like I did with Fallout 3 and New Vegas, this is going to take some a LOT of time (if it’s even possible) and the preliminary information is already really interesting so I wanted to put it out in a vaguely timely manner.

Let’s start with a look at protagonists. A total of 50 games were nominated. Of these, five had no human protagonists. Four had multiple protagonists that were both male and female, but did not provide player choice. 15 allowed players to choose their own character and included both male and female options, though this category includes both character creation (for example, Fallout 4) while others had a roster of characters. Those in the latter set often had more male options than female ones (for example Rising Thunder, which has two female options out of six). Of those games with fixed protagonists, seven were female, eighteen were male, and one (Frisk of Undertale) was non-binary.

That’s a lot of numbers. Have a handy pie chart.

So, explicitly female characters make up 14% of these games and explicitly male characters 35%. (By the way, I did some extra maths and the percentages stay broadly the same if you take into account each nomination, not individual games (i.e. count The Witcher 3 multiple times because it had the most nominations etc.)) It’s pretty damn uneven.

Another thing to consider is which categories women-driven games were nominated in. The Games for Change category was made up of four games with female protagonists (Life is Strange, Her Story, Sunset, and Cibele) and one with a non-binary protagonist (Undertale). While I like the inclusion of this category and what its nominees seem to say about the preferred direction for games, this is overshadowed by the fact that every other category is dominated by male-led games. Nominating more female-driven games in other categories would also help to bring about the desired change that is implied by that one category.

What about winners? There were 17 available awards for games. Of these, four were won by games that had no human protagonist. Three were won by games with player choice. Four were won by games with female protagonists, and six were won by games with male protagonists. Explicitly female characters therefore make up 24% to explicitly male characters’ 35%. Note that male-driven games won exactly the same percentage as the percentage of nominees they were, while female-driven games won significantly more. This would indicate that while female-driven games are both rarer and often overlooked, those that are great enough to break through this and be noticed are often therefore good enough to go on to win.

Finally, a word on the non-game categories. The nominations for the Trending Gamer award were five white men. The nominations for esports player of the year were all men. The honorary award for industry icon went to two men. As far as I could tell (though I am willing to be corrected on this, it was hard to gather all the information), of the five teams nominated for esports team of the year, just one of them contains a single woman (Yuko “Choco Blanka” Kusachi of Evil Geniuses).

Come on, Game Awards. We can do better than that.

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