Picture it in your mind. Someone is furiously tapping buttons on a video game controller, as the characters roam on-screen running, jumping and navigating the course.
Well, what did you picture? Most people would say a young male — but a crop of women gamers say they’ve been there all along and are rapidly becoming part of, and being sought by, the video game industry.
“We’ve been getting more females playing games,” says Maria Vargas, a blogger by the name of La Chica Gamer, who is pursuing a career in video games and is currently attending Inter-American University in Puerto Rico to receive a degree in computer engineering specializing in software. “The video game industry is realizing games for women don’t have to be brain games or puzzle games.”
In fact, The “Need for Speed” franchise by Electronic Arts (EA), which has sold 100 million games in more than 60 countries over an 18-year span, featured Latina race car driver Glory Fernández for the launch of “Need for Speed: Most Wanted” in 2012. “EA’s Need for Speed franchise has been a favorite among Latinos for years,” says Susana Núñez who works in public relations and was involved with the campaign for EA. “However, it wasn’t until last year that EA really celebrated their connection with their Latino – and Latina – fans by partnering with Glory Fernández.”
“I was really excited,” Vargas says of Fernández involvement in ‘Need for Speed.’ “For her to promote the game in the Latino market, the fact that they decided to have a woman in racing, it shows companies are changing the way they try to reach women gamers.”
In a piece for Forbes, Gabrielle Toledano, the executive vice president and chief talent officer of Electronic Arts, admitted there are existing problems with getting more women in the video game industry. She touched on sexism, which was brought to the forefront of the conversation in a high-profile hashtag on Twitter #1ReasonWhy, where women talked frankly about sexism in the industry. In a 2012 report entitled “Essential facts about the computer and video game industry” by the Entertainment Software Association, the number of female gamers was reported as 47 percent — but employees in the industry were 88 percent male.
“It’s a concern,” says Daisy Salazar, a contributor to LatinoGamer.com, who is also pursuing a career in the video game industry. “Sexism is nothing new. It’s always been a male-dominated area, but women can do the same things men can and their input is invaluable. Women can prove their worth.”
Salazar says video games are about more than just programming as well. “I personally love the art and the music and the storytelling,” she says. “Video games are becoming interactive movies and I believe it’s about more than just the math behind the game.”
But in the Forbes piece, Toledano went further. She said while the industry must do better, everyone also has to understand that there aren’t enough women graduating with STEM degrees.
La Chica Gamer, Vargas, who plans to pursue her Master’s in the United States at MIT in software engineering, agrees.
“That’s true, we’re a minority,” she says. “Here in the engineering program there are maybe 20-25 women,” she says, adding that the program has a few thousand students.
Both Salazar and Vargas said that the depiction of women in games has been an issue with characters wearing sexy outfits, but they see progress in the industry overall.
One example is the upcoming “Beyond: Two Souls” game from Quantic Dream. The game features a female lead many might be familiar with — Ellen Page, star of huge movies, Juno and Inception, in the paranormal thriller.