It’s that wonderful time of the year, that time when gamers everywhere read, digest, and debate the relative merits of lists of the top games of the previous year. Issue 274 of Game Informer contained the yearly Top 50 list from 2015. Like any gamer reading any Top Whatever list from any year, there were choices with which I agreed (Undertale as Best PC Exclusive? Hell, yeah!), choices with which I disagreed (to my mind, Divinity: Original Sin has the best cooperative multiplayer, not Destiny), and choices about which I cared little (I’ve never played a MOBA, so I don’t have much of an opinion about the apparent ascendancy of Heroes of the Storm).
As always, Game Informer follows their Top 50 feature with a two-page spread of top ten picks from each of their editors. And, just like last year, I was reminded of the irritating lack of diversity on their editorial staff.
Now, to be fair, this is the exact same editorial staff breakdown from last year: one Asian man, one white woman, and sixteen white men. Did I honestly expect Game Informer to sack four to five white guys in the last twelve months and hire a bunch of African Americans and women? No. The eighteen editors that Game Informer employs are good writers who do good work. That’s why I’ve been a regular subscriber for the past ten years or so. Some sort of gaming affirmative action plan is not the solution here. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what the solution is.
But I think we can agree: this is a little weird. If you take a look at the Entertainment Software Association’s 2015 Essential Facts report (and I would recommend that you do so; it’s a fascinating read for any gamer), you’ll discover that as of 2015, 44% of gamers are female. More specifically, 33% of gamers are adult women, and adult women are typically the women that are hired as games journalists.
Shouldn’t the demographics of game reviewers more closely correlate to the demographics of gamers? Shouldn’t we expect, therefore, around one-third of game journalists to be women? That would mean about six women on a staff of eighteen editors. Instead, we have one, which comes out to about 5%, 28% fewer female game journalists than our demographics might suggest.
Of course, our sample size is very small. Maybe other gaming journalism websites and magazines have better gender representation! How about PC Gamer? Oh, huh, their editorial staff consists of 100% white men. EGMNow does much better, with two women on a staff of ten. An editorial staff consisting of 20% women is much closer to our actual demographic representation as gamers! IGN employs twenty-five people on its US editorial staff, of whom five are women. 20% again, not bad! GameSpot does even better, with nine women out of a staff of thirty-nine: 23% women! GamesRadar does the best out of this completely informal and unscientific survey: out of twenty-one staff members, six are women (including the managing editor!), so 28.5% women!
All, however, fall short of the actual demographic representation of 33%. Why?
I certainly don’t know the answer. I doubt there is even just one answer. But I’m curious about it. Certainly, the percentage of women in news journalism in general has evidently remained stagnant at 36% since the late 90s. Sports journalism, in particular, has remained around 90% white and male, and one could make the argument that gaming has traditionally occupied a similar cultural niche. Are there systemic issues are discouraging women from pursuing these careers? Probably.
As I am not a wizard, I do not have a magic fix for any of this. As society in general becomes more welcoming of the idea that people of whatever gender or race can pursue whatever the hell career they want, I hope that some of these issues will begin to fade, but these problems can only improve if we acknowledge them as issues and are able to have a dialogue about potential solutions. I can say that I want to read more excellent games journalism from more diverse perspectives. I mean, I can also say that I want to become a wizard, but I’d like to think that the eventual social eradication of sexism is more likely than my becoming a wizard.