Since the early days of gaming, video games have been characterized as a big boy’s club. However, we are now seeing a paradigm shift. Women now outnumber men in the University of Southern California’s graduate video game design, which, if this trend continues, may soon put to rest the notion that video games are a male-centric form of entertainment.
USC’s video game design program is ranked by Princeton Review as the nation’s top place to study video game design. The women enrolled in the program are not just there because they love video games, they want to change video games. “There’s not enough stuff that I would want to play,” student Stephanie Henderson told the LA Times. “I want to make more of what I want to play so I can play something that I enjoy.” She’s far from alone, and the industry appears to be noticing.
In 2011, USC admitted 15 men into its video game design graduate program and five women. In 2015, those numbers were nearly completely reversed with 12 women and seven men enrolled in the program. Even at the undergraduate level, there’s a similar trend. In 2012, just seven out of the program’s 27 freshmen were women. In 2014, freshmen women outnumbered the men 14 to 7. And in 2015 the numbers were even.
“We live in a culture where the first impulse is to have a male main character, to assume a male gaze on the screen,” says Tracy Fullerton, a game designer and professor who oversees the program. “That’s got to change. Young women need characters to have as role models. … It’s important. The more that games become a key medium, the more important it becomes for this to happen.”
While no one has any delusions that there is still a long, uphill battle to be fought before video games are not entirely slanted towards male interests, it is encouraging to know that there are more women getting into the field, undeterred by the rampant sexism and simply irrational fear/dislike of women in games that’s been in the backs of everyone’s minds since GamerGate.
Fingers crossed that these women succeed in providing us with compelling heroines soon.
[h/t: LA Times]