E3 and Gender: Gaming Still Has a Woman Problem

Elisa Melendez

This year’s E3 was full of reveals, surprises, and razzle-dazzle. Just as we’ve come to expect strong showings from AAA and select indie developers alike, we also expect that this large a meeting of industry minds will produce a conversation about the state of games culture. Gender representation found itself once again at the forefront of these conversations.

On Monday, the major press conferences were heavy on pomp and circumstance but light on the ladies. One reporter from industry site Polygon commented that severed heads in demos and trailers outnumbered the amount of women actually talking about games.


Brighter spots included the trailer for the newest Lara Croft joint, "Rise of Tomb Raider," and the raucous applause it received, as well as the amount of women playing games during the Xbox press conference in particular. Aisha Tyler totally brought it as the host of the Ubisoft press conference.

On Tuesday, Ubisoft took a considerable amount of heat for not having playable woman assassins in the co-op portion of "Assassin’s Creed: Unity" (and later for saying they came only thisclose to having a lady protagonist in "Far Cry 4").

It wasn’t so much the lack of a playable woman but the reasoning behind it that had so many up in arms—-they just didn’t have the resources. It would be double the work. They had considered it, but couldn’t make it happen. It was inches away. These were excuses many fans and developers alike could simply not abide.


In each of my appointments that Tuesday, I played as a woman, watched a decently fleshed-out NPC, or knew I’d be able to play as one upon released. However, as one colleague noted, it’s just as important to the representation discussion to see how women are represented in the industry itself.


The games are one thing, but who is making them? Who is showing them off to you in this space? I admittedly struggled to come up with a number of how many women I personally encountered in those booths that day who played an active role in the game’s production or marketing team rather than a promo model.

Last year, I looked at the conversation surrounding promo models, or “booth babes,” who are employed in the service of “sex sells” but end up alienating industry professionals and consumers alike. A symptom of this at last year’s show was a set-up near the doors of the convention center promoting the Blu-Ray release of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, of all things. A movie. Not a video game. The booth was a gingerbread house with women dressed as scantily clad witches handing out bags of candy.


This year, I didn’t feel their presence as heavily. Perhaps the laser focus on gender representation in games drew attention from an otherwise hot-button issue.

Of course, that doesn’t mean this wasn’t happening:


::sigh:: It’s getting better, but we still have a ways to go.

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