Gender gap persists among video game developers

Gender gap persists among video game developers

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When it comes to gaming, women make up nearly half of all players. So you'd think we're the ones designing the games, too, right? Nope. There's a huge gender gap in the industry. Now there is a big push to change that.

"Some male attendant will come up to me and say 'Hey do you know how to play? Let me show you all the buttons,'" Sherri Smith says. "I've been gaming since I was 6 years old."

Sherri is used to catching men off guard when they find out she's into video games or that she reviews them for a living.

"They're like 'oh wow you really know how to play,'" she says. "Yes, yes I do thank you very much strange person."

A lighthearted anecdote illustrates an overarching issue within the games industry. Although women like Sherri Smith and her colleague Jill Scharr make up 48 percent of all gamers, 90 percent of the people who make the games are dudes.

"I didn't even know that there was an option to have a career in video games as a teenager," says Abbie Heppe. She handles community outreach at Respawn Entertainment, the company behind one of the biggest games of the year: "Titanfall.

"My hope is that women will start getting into games as a hobby and as a potential career at a younger age and they'll start being more interested in the tech side of things," she says.

Ridicule and sexual harassment are often an unfortunate by product of the gender gap. An explicit proposition from a male games journalist towards a female game developer recently surfaced online. But plenty other encounters go unnoticed.

"That is something that is the norm in the industry," Smith says. "And as a woman, or anybody that's trying to speak out against those practices, you really do run the risk of maybe you don't work again, maybe you don't get that promotion."

As this conversation attracts more ears, many are speaking out and calling for reform in the workplace and in the games they create.

"I'm happy to say that games like 'Last of Us' and 'Bioshock Infinite,' they've been improving on that trope and the female characters aren't the helpless damsels that we're used to seeing," Smith says.

Nintendo believes the success of their game "Animal Crossing: A New Leaf" is because of diversity. Nearly half of that creative team was female.

"People also want to something of themselves in the characters that they create and play," Scharr says. "Fifty percent of world identifies as female. In marketing terms, that's a lot of money."

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