Jonathan Shroyer is the Chief CX Innovation Officer at Arise Virtual Solutions and has 20 years of experience as a business leader.
About 48% of all gamers in the United States are women. Despite women playing games at around the same percentage as men, the gaming industry has largely neglected women for decades. One excuse for this has been the misconception that women do not spend the amount of money that men do to play games. However, the reality is that many women do not feel welcome in a lot of gaming spaces, and this is a design flaw. This is in part a result of women rarely being in game design conversations in the industry itself. In addition, when women feel unwelcome and are treated unfairly as they play a game, they and other potential players are deterred from that particular game.
So how can video game marketers better communicate with women consumers to make them feel welcome in the industry? As a communications professional who’s in gaming and runs several player-facing services, let me share some suggestions.
Place women in executive roles in the gaming industry.
Men make up the majority of gaming executives, which means it is often the case that design choices get approved without a woman seeing them, or women are not being created as star characters at all. In some cases, this can result in sexualized or even infantilized women characters, which can create an environment that is not respectful to women from the very beginning. If women are in the design room when characters are being created, it may result in more realistic women characters. There can also be spaces created for women players to voice their opinions and concerns about a game and its features.
By creating characters that are designed with women in mind, you are communicating with all players that you value women and see them as human beings, not objects.
Communicate that harassment is a priority issue and take action against it.
In my experience, harassment in a game is typically not taken seriously by gaming companies, and this is especially true for games that utilize verbal communication. This is also where women players tend to face the most harassment. From misogynistic comments to slurs and death threats, harassment needs to be taken seriously by gaming companies. While it is easier to monitor in chat rooms, verbal harassment is where women players face the greatest chance of being targeted. That means that companies need to monitor those spaces and ensure that all players are engaging with each other respectfully. Players should be able to report players that are harassing themselves or others, and gaming companies should review the conversations where the harassment took place.
Gaming companies need to be transparent and verbal in their messaging that they take harassment, particularly against women gamers, seriously.
Communicate with and design spaces and groups specifically for women players.
As a gaming company, or any company, for that matter, that works with the public, creating spaces for marginalized groups is essential to maintain equitable and safe environments for everyone. Communicating to your players, customers or the general public that you value everyone and make a concerted effort to create spaces that stimulate an inclusive community is crucial to succeeding as a gaming company in 2023.
In conclusion, gaming companies need to realign their priorities to better include a good percentage of their players—their women players. From overly sexualized characters to mediocre harassment policies that are regularly not upheld, gaming companies and the gaming industry as a whole need to be proactive in creating spaces where everyone feels comfortable, safe and welcome. By having women in executive roles, especially during the game design process, games are more likely to consider women in addition to men players. By taking harassment seriously and actively working to remove harmful behaviors and actions from gaming spaces, more people will feel welcomed and spend more time in games. When people feel accepted and welcomed, they may well be more likely to spend money and time playing games.