Despite corrective initiatives, there are too few gaming industry opportunities for women and people of colour. This needs to change if it is to have a healthy future
Glance at last year’s big releases and you might think video games have cracked the issue of diversity. Two of 2016’s most acclaimed action adventures Mafia III and Watchdogs 2 both had black male leads, while Mirror’s Edge 2, Uncharted 4 and indie game, Virginia, all featured women of colour. This year, we have flagship PlayStation4 title Horizon Zero Dawn as well as Gravity Rush 2, Nier Automata and Tacoma, all showcasing female protagonists. But look beyond the games and into the companies that make them, and you get a very different picture. Representation is still very much a problem.
In an age where a whole generation is taking its cultural cues and influences from games, this has vital importance even outside of the industry. Video games now make $90bn (£74bn) a year worldwide, dwarfing the cinema and movie businesses. According to figures from industry trade body UKIE, 50% of the UK population plays games, a figure rising to 99% among 8-15-year-olds. The growing popularity of games – on PC, console, smartphone and tablets – has also led to a surge in young people seeking to work in the industry: over 60 UK universities provide undergraduate and masters degrees in games development. But who are the people guiding this inspirational and pervasive cultural sector?