Gender in Play – large-scale content analysis about the character representation and diversity in Finnish games

Following the publishing of the literature review about character representation and diversity in games, the next step in the analysis phase of the Gender in Play – Representations of Gender in Games project consisted of a large-scale analysis of character representation in the Finnish game industry.

Setting the base: examined content and analysis guidelines

The base of the analysis were games made by Finnish developers, released from 2018 to 2020. This list of around 240 games in total has been provided by Neogames. Considering the large sample and the short timeframe available for the analysis, the first step needed to be taken was deciding on the selection (i.e. exclusion) criteria which would make the workload realistic, on the one hand, and bear fruitful results in line with our project aims, on the other. Thus, when taking into account the large number of games featuring exclusively animal or abstract characters, the decision was made to only examine games with human characters, or those humanlike enough, with the presumption that those will bring out valuable results considering aspects of gender representation and gender-based violence in games. “Humanlike enough” refers to when despite not being human, the characters expressed decidedly human behaviors and performed human actions, such as going to work and having relationships. One example of such characters can be found in the game STONE, with its protagonist being a “hungover koala detective [who] wakes to find his lover Alex has been kidnapped.” (STONE on Steam, May 8, 2021) Additional to the games with no human or humanlike characters, educational, virtual reality and iWall games as well as   games based on intellectual property were excluded from the analysis. Limiting the number of games to one per company per year, our final sample size was reduced to the total number of 117 games.

Picture 1: Stone (Source: Stone’s Steam page.)

With that still being quite a large sample, the following strategies were agreed upon: 1) the focus will be put solely on the controllable characters and 2) the games won’t be played. Instead, the information was gathered from sources such as the marketing materials provided by the developers/publishers and, when available, gameplay videos, limited to 15 minutes of gameplay. This information, although very limited, paints the picture of the Finnish industry “at a glance”, as well as shows the general insight and provides key information to any interested person before buying or downloading the game.

Once the list of 117 games was finalized and the examination materials agreed upon, the different aspects of the analysis were organized. As the name of the project says, our interest lies in understanding representations of gender in games. As we also understand that there is a number of different factors that can affect how gender is experienced in society, we opted for a more intersectional approach, which in the context of this research meant looking not only at gender representation, but also the sexual orientation, the skin color, age, religious symbols and disability connected to the characters. Those were followed by specific questions regarding the presence of violence and possibly violence against women. The choice of, at this point, focusing on skin color rather than ethnicity was due to the brief nature of this analysis, which focused more on the visual and the “apparent” features in games, and thus does not allow going deep enough into the games to understand the ethnicity of the characters.

The analysis was based on the visual, written or audio materials provided by the game companies with a special attention dedicated to finding as much publicly available information as possible about the examined characters. In terms of gender, for example, with this approach a character simply looking feminine, androginous or masculine was not enough for us to mark them as a woman, non-binary or man. Instead, an effort was put into looking mainly for character descriptions and pronouns used. This led to many characters being marked as “unspecified” as we could not assume the intent of the developers when the descriptions were not clear enough. With that in mind, after the analysis was completed, the results were shared with companies whose games were analysed with a chance to comment on the results and notify us in case of misinterpretations. Although the findings presented in this article are those resulting from the conducted analysis, the information gathered from the developers’ feedback will also be provided where relevant as separate insights.

Results

Gender

Most of the games did not specify the characters’ gender (68). 39 games had character selection or creation offering at least one man and woman option. The ratio between games that offer men and women characters is almost equal, with the number of 63:51 in favor of men characters. Non-binary characters are recognized, however, in a small amount of only 3 games. Our analysis showed no indications of transgender characters.

Chart of gender of character in Finnish games 2018 - 2020. Women 51, men 63, transgender zero, nonbinary 3, unknown / unspecified 68.
Picture 2: Gender of characters in the examined games.

Skin color

The skin color of examined controllable characters is presented based on the colors’ hex codes (Picture 3). The samples were collected from the area of the skin most representative for the character (i.e. avoiding shaded areas, bright spots etc.). However, it is important to note that the samples were not collected from the games themselves but from the available materials and YouTube videos which indisputably had an influence on the quality of the sample and the overall end results. Additionally, in some cases the in-game scenes and characters were distinctively stylized, which influenced the skin color sample and might lead to possible non-realistic depictions of those characters (Picture 4).

Picture 3: Skin color gradient of controllavle characters in Finnish games 2018-2020.
Picture 4: Stylized character in Company of Crime (left) and their skin color as a hex code (right). Source: YouTube (screenshot)

Religious symbols 

Religious symbols were rarely depicted and often difficult to recognize and define. A total of 14 games included some religious symbols, specifically from Christianiaty, paganism, shamanism, or African and Ancient Egyption elements (e.g. Gods). Of particular note was the game Raanaa – The Shaman Girl which has the player playing as the titular Sámi girl as she goes through levels inspired by Sámi gods and shamanism. This was also the only game where we found Sámi characters.

Picture 5. Raanaa – The Shaman Girl. Source: raanaa.no/en.

Sexual orientation

It was not easy to tell the sexual orientation of characters, as it was mostly unspecified and irrelevant to the gameplay and story, with only one game having a character described as homosexual (Your Royal Gayness). Because of that, we chose to also look for the characters’ intimate relationships. This approach was not flawless, however, as a character being in a homosexual or heterosexual relationship does not necessarily mean they are homosexuals or heterosexuals themselves, for example. Taking all that into account, we found 8 games with playable characters involved in heterosexual relationships and 2 games with characters either described as gay or in a homossexual relationship. Finally, an interesting view on the expression of sexual orientation was found in the virtual world game Hotel Hideaway in which the players communicate and interact with others freely and have a possibility to express their own sexuality.

Picture 6: Sexual orientation/relationships of character in the examined games.

Age

This was the category most difficult to determine and gather information on; it was found that specific age of the characters and their age group is something developers do not often bring up in discussions or clearly state in the promotional materials. Therefore most of the characters in our analysis were marked as unspecified (108 games in total). However, in such cases an estimation of age has been added, so that a general view and indication of the most represented age category could be brought up and discussed. It might not come as a surprise that most of these characters were estimated to resemble the age category of young adults or middle-aged persons. Personal interpretation, however, can be misleading as it was shown in the example of the character Audrie Smoothspy from The Spy Who Shrunk Me. Audrie, who based on our interpretation seemingly fit the adult category, is actually in her 50’s as it was confirmed by the developers.

Picture 7: The Spy Who Shrunk Me Steam banner. Source: Steam.

Cases where characters’ age or their age category was explicitly mentioned in the game itself or the promotional materials were only a few, concretely: child (1), teenager (1), young adult (1), adult (2). Table 1 gives an overview of all age categories and their respective age ranges.

Table 1. Age categories with respective age ranges (as defined by United Nations for Youth and Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

CategoryAge
Child0-12
Teenager13-19
Young adult20-24
Adult25-44
Middle-aged45-64
Elderly65+

Disability

The analysis showed only 2 cases of explicit disability, one game included a character with a physical disability (a wheelchair user) while the other incorporated a character with mental disability (depression). The existence of disability (among other features such as sexual orientation or age) was very difficult to determine without playing the games. It is, however, important to note that in some games we have indeed noticed potential representation of characters with disabilities, which we unfortunately could not tell for sure from the examined materials. One such example, Lotus, a monk character from Friends & Dragons,  was actually confirmed to be blind by the developers of the game.

Picture 8: Lotus, the blind monk character from Friends & Dragons. Source: Playsome Ltd.

Violence and violence against women

Violence is a feature often present in games today so most of the examined games (87) also incorporate or depict some form of violence. Violent actions or behaviors found in these games mostly reflected the core game mechanics of fighting enemies and trying not to get hurt. When it comes to violence against women, violent actions or indications of violence against women were found in 8 cases. In-game violence is directed at women characters in different forms and it is important to make a distinction about how the character’s gender motivates these actions. Games were marked as depicting violence against women when they involved imprisonment of women characters (that needed to be saved), used gender-based offensive language towards women (e.g. “that old hag” or “the dread wizardess Galatax was rearing her ugly head”), or when violent actions were directed towards women heroes and/or villains. As it was the case in the previous category, this feature was also very difficult to determine based on the small sample of materials and the limitation of not playing the games. This limitation emphasized the need for a closer examination of the games where the examples of gender-based violence against women were found. Therefore, in the next phase of the analysis we will examine the aspects of gender-based violence against women characters in more detail, by playing the games and analysing them from a player’s perspective.

Limitations

As already mentioned, our main limitation in analysing such a large sample of games in such a short period of time was finding the best and most representative source of information. Making a comprehensive overview was rather difficult considering we were not playing the games and were basing our information solely on published materials and walkthroughs. This means that the examined content was largely influenced and our analysis steered by the choice of the providers of gameplay videos (e.g. often the videos will start only after the character selection has been made, which made it difficult to determine which characters were available at start; the character selection often depends on the person playing and as most of the video creators were men, data gathering about women characters was scarce). Furthermore, getting to know the characters, their stories and identities was not possible with just 15 minutes of observed gameplay. For this to be possible, one would need to watch/engage in full gameplay, do a thorough research of published materials and/or even ask the developers directly.

Future Steps

Considering the limitations of the large-scale analysis, a need for a more focused approach in examining character identities and the narrative elements in the games has emerged. Therefore, the next segment of the analysis will be an examination of a smaller sample of games with a special focus on:  

  1. representation of women characters and character diversity in Finnish games
  2. gender-based violence against women in Finnish games

The selected examples are games from the large-scale analysis which appeared as interesting and/or relevant examples of features mentioned above; they will be played and analyzed from a player’s perspective. As within the scope of this analysis we  cannot play all 117 games and therefore will not be able to address all interesting cases and efforts devoted by the Finnish companies, we also find it important to bring this topic into a discussion with developers themselves. While the presence of some specific groups was found to be lacking in the games analysed, there is interest and initiatives (such as this project) aiming to improve that. Therefore, in the next stage of the project, we will conduct interviews with the developers, discuss their good practice examples and challenges in creating diverse characters in the gaming industry.

Our findings about underrepresented features, as well as good examples of women and diverse characters and possible cases of gender-based violence will be added to the information gathered from the interviews and will be a source to inform and assist developers in creating and designing their future characters.

Planned actions for 2021

In the annual meeting, the action plan for the year 2021 was approved. The organisation decided to focus on the following topics for this year. If you want to help with any of the topics, contact the responsible persons! All help is welcome, and you can always contact the board or email info@weingames.fi to become a volunteer<3

We raise awareness of diversity and inclusion in the game industry

The association continues actively promoting diversity and inclusion within the game industry. Members of WiGFi will give talks at game industry events about diversity, inclusion, the association and its aims.
Contact: info@weingames.fi, the board

We share and promote best practices of diversity and inclusion in the industry, e.g. arranging events with companies willing to share their DEI practices.
Contact: events@weingames.fi, Emmi Hattunen / Essi Jukkala

The association shares fact-based information on diversity and inclusion via its own public channels and other suitable channels.
Contact: Tarja Porkka-Kontturi

The Inclusive Leadership program is an accessible eight month leadership training that aims to catalyse positive change in the way we lead, engage and retain our industry’s diverse talent. The project will be funded by Finnish game companies. The current plan is to start the project in autumn 2021.
Contact: The program is designed and led by Salla Hiiskoski.

We amplify the association’s expert role on diversity and inclusion in games

The association shares knowledge and provides fact based information on the state of diversity and inclusion in the Finnish game industry. In addition, it shares this knowledge to the international game industry in general, for policymakers, the public sector and other associations outside the games industry. Collaboration activities include, for example, working on the Generation Equality project, collaborating with Fairplay Alliance, and doing research with the National Council of Women of Finland on the Gender in Play project.
Contact: Taina Myöhänen

The association participates in the public debate around diversity and inclusion about the game industry.
Contact: info@weingames.fi, the board

We offer role models

WiGFi’s Speakers List facilitates the diversification of the conference scene by promoting the talents and experience of industry professionals. The Speakers List is our longest running project, it started right after the constitutive meeting. The project will continue for 2021 and focus on promoting the list as the most used source for seeking game industry speakers.
Contact: info@weingames.fi, Essi Jukkala

WiGFi is actively seeking possibilities to present the game industry in schools.
Contact: info@weingames.fi, Taina Myöhänen

We enhance the career of WIGFI members

The Mentorship program is aimed at WiGFi members at the beginning of their career, or at their career crossroads. The call for the third mentorship program closed at the end of February 2021, and the program is running from mid March until mid June. Planning of the Mentorship program 4 will start in late 2021.
Contact: info@weingames.fi, Salla Hiiskoski

Plans for WiGFi’s members working in middle management to advance their careers are ready, but the project launch is postponed until 2022 due to the difficulties that the coronavirus presented. In 2021, WiGFi will focus on events supporting career growth and personal growth.
Contact: events@weingames.fi, Emmi Hattunen, Dina Ramse

We enhance the position of LGBTQ+ persons in the industry

To increase LGBTQ+ understanding in our industry, WiGFi will partner with Helsinki Pride to offer education for Finnish games studios on how to support LGBTQ+ persons in the workplace. WiGFi will also act as the official Helsinki Pride partner and organise an event during Pride Week, and partner with Finnish Game Jam on organising Pride Jam.
Contact: Licia Prehn

We support gender equality in games

Gender in Play – Representations of Gender in Games project discusses gender representations. The project collects fact-based information about gender representations in Finnish games from 2018 to 2020, analyses gender-based violence in games and collects & shares best practices on creating more diverse characters in games and promotes healthier game words for all genders. The project is implemented in collaboration with The Council of Women of Finland / Making an Impact with Equality Acts project, and funded by the Ministry of Justice.
Contact: Taina Myöhänen

Our internal development

To strengthen the brand, WIGFI will allocate this year some money for visual presentations of the organisation. This includes photos of events, stock-photo-like photos for the website and other marketing materials and visuals.
Contact: Essi Jukkala

The second membership survey will be organised in autumn 2021.
Contact: info@weingames.fi

The WiGFi board responsibilities and practicalities

What is the board?

During the term 2020-2021, the board of We in Games Finland has had the president, eight board members and two deputy board members. The board can have two to eight members, and up to eight deputy members. The members are elected at the annual meeting. The term for the board members is two years, and for deputy members one year. Board members can also resign after one year, in which case a new member can be elected to their place in the annual meeting. The board is the entity that handles the association’s affairs. 

What do the board members do?

The president leads the board meetings, looks after the board, volunteers and the organisation as a whole, and in 2020-2021 the president has also actively participated in activities and discussions promoting diversity and inclusion in the game industry and society. The board needs to have a vice-president, secretary and a treasurer. The secretary handles all the practicalities regarding meetings: preparing the agenda together with the board, sending meeting invitations for board members, writes the meeting minutes and handles any space or equipment needed for having the meetings. The treasurer takes care of the financials of the organisation, paying bills when needed and manages the organisation’s bank account. For 2021-2022 Essi and Anna will continue in these roles. The vice president has been in charge of membership issues, internal communications, and has also been participating in discussions with our partners as well as running projects. The vice-president takes the responsibilities of the president, when the president is unavailable. 

In general, board members can quite freely choose what topics they focus on. As WiGFi has organised a lot of events before the pandemic, an events coordinator is a position we wish to have in the board every year. Other than that, any role can be suggested for the board. In 2020-2021 we have had two board members focusing on event processes and organising, one board member leading external communications, social media and diversity work, and two other board members who have been focusing on different projects and collaborations like the speaker list, UNICEF, LGIN etc. The two deputy members have been helping the board members with certain matters and they have also organised some things based on their interests. 

What are the responsibilities of board members? What about deputy board members? What does this mean in practice?

The board members and deputy board members are invited to attend the board meetings approximately every month. At least half of the board members need to be present in the meeting so that a quorum is present, i.e. the decisions made in the meeting are valid. If there are not enough board members, deputy board members can be invited to act in the place of the absent board members to reach quorum. Attending the meetings is very important as the decisions about the organisation’s affairs are done only in board meetings. The meetings last usually one to two hours, and the attendees are expected to read about the matters on the agenda beforehand. 

In addition to the meetings the board members work in smaller groups, or by themselves, to advance the topics they are responsible for. This workload varies a lot monthly based on the projects and responsibilities, but the board and the president are actively looking out for each other so no one has too many responsibilities on their plate.

The board members, deputy board members and volunteers communicate on Slack, so following and taking part in those discussions on a regular basis is highly recommended for all board members. 

Keeping track of your tasks, attending meetings and collaborating are the three most important things a board member needs to do. The association has to follow its rules and the association law, but you do not need to be familiar with these beforehand, the more experienced board members will help in any matters regarding the official business. The board works on topics the association members feel are important, and follows the members’ opinion in their decision making. All the work that the board members do is voluntary, so everyone, with even the smallest ideas to take forward, is warmly invited to join the board. No work done is too small and every little step takes the organisation forward!

Review of Character Representation and Diversity in Games Research

In 2021, We in Games Finland and The National Council of Women of Finland will implement a project “Gender in Play – Representations of Gender in Games”, funded by the Finnish Ministry of Justice. The aim of the project is to encourage the Finnish game companies to take into account the gender roles in games and to diversify these into their own games. The project will identify obstacles creating equal game worlds and stimulate discussion about gender stereotypes and gender-based violence in games as well as how those are constructed within the game industry. The project activates the Finnish game industry to promote gender equality and diversity.

This will be achieved in multiple steps taking place throughout 2021. First of all, an analysis will be conducted to examine the representation of women game characters in games made by Finnish games studios with special attention towards gender-based physical or mental violence towards women game characters. The analysis will consist of two parts: 1) a broader, quantitative, analysis (representing existing tendencies in the Finnish game industry) and 2) a more focused, in-depth analysis based on the framework created by game culture researcher Usva Friman.

Secondly, interviews with Finnish game developers will be conducted. The purpose of this step will be, on the one hand, to further examine and find explanations of the findings of the study, and on the other, to raise awareness of the existing practices and to collect best practice examples. These examples will, finally, be disseminated in form of implications for companies and game developers to support diversity and inclusion in the Finnish game ecosystem.

As the very first step to initiate this change, the following article will present how character representation and diversity in games have been researched until now and will draw upon some of the key findings and most relevant aspects examined globally. It will show that some important steps into examining the issues of characters’ representation in the game industry have clearly already been made. More importantly, it will discuss the lack of true diversity and will emphasize the limitations which are yet to be overcome on a global scale. At the end of the article, a full list of references will be included (with links for open source publications, when possible) for everyone who searches for inspiring and thought-provoking literature about the examined phenomena.

The authors of the article are Antonio Rodrigues, BA in Interactive Media from Tampere University of Applied Sciences, and Nevena Sićević, Master’s student in Games Studies at Tampere University.

Character representation and diversity in games

We’re a nation that believes in the power of play. No matter who you are or where you’re from, there’s a game for everyone”, are the words opening the Entertainment Software Association (ESA)’s Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry published in July 2020 (ESA 2020). According to the same report, 41% of all gamers in the United States are women; therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that games today are constituted by a rising number of playable women characters (Lynch et al. 2016). Gaming is also a popular activity among women in Finland, with 75.4% of them playing digital games and 54.5% of them playing digital games at least once a month (Kinnunen et al. 2020). However, the question of whether contemporary games can speak to each individual player still remains. Moreover, do we even dare to assume that the diversity of human identities and features that can be observed among the players is to be expected within the games, too? This issue has to a certain extent been closely researched and discussed among academic circles; mostly through the examination of the representation of men and women characters in games, depicted by the viewpoints of their (men and women) players.

Over the last two decades, women’s representation in digital games has been a rising interest of academic researchers and games studies scholars. Back in 1998, a research examining 33 Nintendo and Sega Genesis titles popular at that time has given important implications for the future researches dealing with this topic (Dietz 1998), stating that there is “[an] overwhelming tendency to neglect to portray [women] characters at all or to portray them in stereotypical traditional female roles” (p.439), portraying them as victims or “damsels in distress” (p. 434). This tendency does not seem to be a mere zeitgeist of the past millennium. The question of the over-dominant presence of men characters and protagonists has been examined and confirmed multiple times in the following decade (see examples: Janz and Martis 2003, Burgess et al. 2007, Williams et al. 2009, Hitchens 2011). Additionally, Dill and Thill (2007) found that there is a significant difference in players’ perceptions of men and women characters where the former were described by using the words “warrior”, “superhero” and “cool” whereas the latter were characterized as “helpless”, “victim” and “pretty” (p. 860). An interesting insight into the relation between women’s representation, sexualization and societal changes has been provided by Lynch et al. (2016) while, on the other hand, a (limited although) thought-provoking discussion about the traditional beauty ideals and non-traditional gender roles can be found in an article  about the woman protagonist in action-adventure video games by Grimes (2003).

However, with time passing, a noticeable shift was to be seen in the games creation and, consequently, in the games research; the option for character customization (Richard 2012) and genderless character selection (Fecher 2012) seemed to have ambitiously opened the space for diversity and inclusion within the gaming realm. Unfortunately, success of these efforts remained scarce due to the poor implementation of the new features. In case of the former (Richard 2012, p. 75), things like game glitches and unsynchronized animations lead to an inadequate addressing of the game towards the player (e.g. by using the wrong pronoun). In case of the latter and on the example of Leo (an androgynous character in Tekken 6), Fecher (2012) discusses how such efforts can backfire, emphasizing the importance of the game context and the limitations set by the traditional gender binary.

In terms of diversity and representation, features such as race, ethnicity and age have also found room in academic research. Unsurprisingly, the results in the studies about the characters’ race reveal that the majority of characters could be depicted as “Anglo” (Dietz 1998), “Caucasian” (Janz and Martis 2003) or “White” (Williams et al. 2009). It is perhaps unsurprising, yet still worthy of noting, that in the study of Janz and Martis (2003), a large number of even 83% of all leading women characters was Caucasian. In their study, Williams et al. (2009) examined the representation of different age, race and gender groups in comparison to the proportion of the same groups in the actual US society. The result of this analysis witnessed an over-representation and over-popularization of white, adult men in games.

Lastly, another important aspect of game research that must not be disregarded is the depiction of aggression and violence in video games. Even though the researchers do agree that the existence of aggression and aggressive behaviors in games is evident (see Dietz 1998, Dill and Thill 2007, Edenstad and Torgersen 2003, Henning et al. 2009, Brennick et al. 2007), their effect on players’ violent behaviors is disputed. For example, the mentioned article by Dietz (1998) examined violence and gender stereotyping and concluded that 80% of the examined games included some form of aggression or violence with 21% of the depicted violence directed at women (p. 437). Dill and Thill (2007, p. 859) elaborate on this finding by introducing the phenomenon of eroticized aggression, a combination of sex and violence which could pose as a threat towards real women. There are also findings, however, which state that there is no clear connection between gaming and violent behaviors (Edenstad and Torgersen 2003) or that playing video games doesn’t affect players’ attitudes considering that the players do not actually replicate the observed behaviors (Brennick et al. 2007). The study by Brennick et al. (2007) does, however, acknowledge a correlation between the intensity of playing and view on negative behaviors, stating that high frequency players (and particularly males) are more likely to condone and be less critical towards negative stereotypic images (p. 411). While it is clear that playing violent games does not automatically lead to violent behaviors outside of those environments, the relationship between game activities, behaviors and cultures is a complicated one. Games are both part of our culture and reflect it, which is why it is important to critically analyze the meanings, values, and behaviors depicted by them.

Throughout the history of feminist game analysis, a common figure often found is the one of Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, the so-called “First Lady of games”. Much of the criticism of Lara has focused mainly on her sexualised appearance (MacCallum-Stewart 2014). The criticism of this voyeuristic appeal of Lara can be understood in connection with Laura Mulvey’s (1975) landmark film theory of the Male Gaze. Other articles, from as early as 2001 (see Schleiner 2001, Kennedy, H. W. 2002, MacCallum-Stewart 2014) attempt to look at her through different lenses, trying to understand the differences in the process of identification that goes on in movies and video games. This may be seen as part of the process in which the discipline of game studies formalised itself as a separate entity from film studies, a process discussed by Amanda Phillips in the book Gamer Trouble (Phillips 2020). In the book, Phillips also analyzes a few games and playfully problematizes the limits of Mulvey’s theory in the context of video games, even going back to Lara and criticising her not for her looks, but for her coloniser attitude in the latest games in the series. The limitations of Mulvey’s theory when applied to videogames was a topic also studied by one of our researchers in their previous work (Rodrigues da Silva Neto 2020). Among the new analysis methods tailored specifically for game characters, one that will be particularly relevant continuing this project is Usva Friman’s model for analyzing women character representations in digital games (Friman 2015).

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that games and their characters do not appear from a vacuum, but from real-life companies and real-life developers. The lack of diversity within the games industry is something that has been well documented (e.g. International Game Developers Association 2019, Interactive Software Federation of Europe 2020, European Games Developer Federation 2020), where in Finland the number of women employees in the game companies makes just a little over 20% (Neogames Finland 2019). Issues with misogyny within the gaming community came to mainstream attention during 2014’s Gamergate harassment campaign, which saw attacks focused against several women in the game industry, notably developer Zoë Quinn and feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, along with conspiratory accusations against game researchers (Mortensen 2018). Moreover, reports of sexism, abuse and harassment in the industry have been cropping up in the media at alarming rates in the past years as a part of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements (Lorrenz and Browning 2020, Orr 2019, Schreier 2020). The matter of diversity in the games industry is a global one and the media silencing of women’s disadvantage in the game industry has been observed both in the US and Finland (Kivijärvi and Sintonen 2021). If, as Philips puts in her book “critique is an important and vital part of achieving justice” (Philips 2020, p. 169), then the textual analysis and criticism of representation can be an important tool in achieving equality in game worlds. However, this improvement in representation should go hand-in-hand with improvements in equality within the industry itself. This is something this project will also seek to address in its next stages, firstly through interviews with the Finnish game companies about matters of diversity in their games and development teams. We will compile the results of these interviews with the findings from our game analyses and present them as a collection of good practice examples and implications for the developers. These implications will, finally, be disseminated nationally and shared with the whole Finnish game industry in form of a series of lectures and workshops advocating for and promoting equality and diversity among the Finnish game companies and their games.

Publications

Brenick, A., Henning, A., Killen, M., O’Connor, A. and Collins, M. (2007). Social Evaluations of Stereotypic Images in Video Games. Unfair, Legitimate, or “Just Entertainment”?. In Youth & Society. Volume 38, Number 4. p. 395-419. DOI: 10.1177/0044118X06295988

Burgess, M. C. R., Stermer, S. P. and Burgess, S. R. (2007). Sex, Lies and Video Games: The Portrayal of Male and Female Characters on Video Game Covers. In Sex Roles. Vol. 57 issue 5, p. 419–433. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9250-0

Dietz, T. L. (1998). An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior. In Sex Roles. Vol. 38 issue 5–6, p. 425–442. DOI: 10.1023/A:1018709905920

Dill, K. E. and Thill, K. P. (2007). Video Game Characters and the Socialization of Gender Roles: Young People’s Perceptions Mirror Sexist Media Depictions. In Sex Roles. Vol. 57 issue 11–12, p. 851–864. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9278-1

Edenstad, T. and Torgersen, L. (2003). Computer Games and Violence: Is There Really a Connection? In Level Up Conference Proceedings. Utrecht: University of Utrecht. (open access: http://www.digra.org/digital-library/publications/computer-games-and-violence-is-there-really-a-connection/)

European Games Developer Federation. (2020). European Game Industry in 2018. Available online at: http://www.egdf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/European-Report-on-the-Game-Development-Industry-in-2018.pdf

Fecher, D.L. (2012). Gender Issues, fighting games, and progress: Finding a place for a genderless character in Tekken 6. Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 12(2). (retrieved from http://reconstruction.eserver.org/Issues/122/Fecher_Leland.shtml)

Friman, U. (2015). From Pixel Babes to Active Agents – How to Fix the Lack of Diversity in Female Digital Game Characters. Pori: University of Turku. (open access: https://press.etc.cmu.edu/index.php/product/well-played-vol-4-no-3)

Grimes, S. M. (2003). You Shoot Like A Girl!: The Female Protagonist in Action-Adventure Video Games. In Level Up Conference Proceedings. Utrecht: University of Utrecht. (open access: http://www.digra.org/digital-library/publications/you-shoot-like-a-girl-the-female-protagonist-in-action-adventure-video-games/)

Henning, A., Brenick, A., Killen, M., O’Connor, A. and Collins, M. J. (2009). Do Stereotypic Images in Video Games Affect Attitudes and Behavior? Adolescent Perspectives. In Children, Youth and Environments. Vol. 19 issue 1, p. 170–196. DOI: 10.7721/chilyoutenvi.19.1.0170

Hitchens, M. (2011). A Survey of First-person Shooters and their Avatars. Game Studies. In The International Journal of Computer Game Research. Vol. 11 issue 3. (open access: http://gamestudies.org/1103/articles/michael_hitchens)

International Game Developers Association (2019). Developer Satisfaction Survey 2019. Available online at: https://s3-us-east-2.amazonaws.com/igda-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/29093706/IGDA-DSS-2019_Summary-Report_Nov-20-2019.pdf 

Interactive Software Federation of Europe (2020). Key Facts 2020. Available online at: https://www.isfe.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/ISFE-final-1.pdf 

Janz, J. and Martis, R. G. (2003). The Representation of Gender and Ethnicity in Digital Interactive Games. In Level Up Conference Proceedings. Utrecht: University of Utrecht, p. 260–269.  (open access: http://www.digra.org/digital-library/publications/the-representation-of-gender-and-ethnicity-in-digital-interactive-games/)

Kennedy, H. W. (2002). Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo? On the Limits of Textual Analysis. In Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research. Vol. 2 issue 2. (open access: http://www.gamestudies.org/0202/kennedy/)

Kinnunen, J., Taskinen, K., Mäyra, F. (2020). Pelaajabarometri 2020: Pelaamista koronan aikan. Tampere: Tampere University Press. (open access: https://trepo.tuni.fi/handle/10024/123831)

Kivijärvi, M. and Sintonen, T. (2021). The stigma of feminism : disclosures and silences regarding female disadvantage in the video game industry in US and Finnish media stories. Feminist Media Studies, Early online. DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2021.1878546 (open access: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:jyu-202101281331)

Lynch, T., van Driel, I. I., Tompkins,  J. E. and Fritz, N. (2016). Sexy, Strong, and Secondary: A Content Analysis of Female Characters in Video Games across 31 Years: Female Game Characters across 31 Years. In Journal of Communication. Vol.66 (4). p.564-584. DOI: 10.1111/jcom.12237

MacCallum-Stewart, E. (2014). Take That, Bitches! Refiguring Lara Croft in Feminist Game Narratives. In Game Studies. 14 (2). (open access: http://gamestudies.org/1402/articles/maccallumstewart)

Mortensen, T. E. (2018). Anger, Fear, and Games: The Long Event of #GamerGate. Games and Culture, 13(8), 787–806. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412016640408

Mulvey, L. (1975). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen. Vol. 16 no. 3, p. 6-18.

Neogames Finland (2019). The Game Industry of Finland Report 2018. Available online at: http://www.neogames.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/FGIR-2018-Report.pdf 

Phillips, A. (2020). Gamer Trouble. New York: New York University Press.

Richard, G. T. (2012). Playing as a Woman as a Woman as if a Man. In Well Played. A Journal on Video Games, Value and Meaning. Vol. 1 no. 3, p. 70–93. DOI: 10.1184/R1/6687059

Rodrigues da Silva Neto, A. (2020). Lara Croft and Jill Valentine : understanding the representation of female protagonists in triple-A video games in the #MeToo Era (Bachelor’s Thesis). (open access: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2020112424016

Schleiner, Anne-Marie. (2001). Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons? Gender and Gender-Role Subversion in Computer Adventure Games. Leonardo. Vol 34, No 3. P. 221-226. DOI: 10.1162/002409401750286976

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) (2020). Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry , 2020. Open access: https://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Final-Edited-2020-ESA_Essential_facts.pdf 

Williams, D., Martins, N., Consalvo, M. and Ivory, J. D. (2009). The Virtual Census: Representations of Gender, Race and Age in Video Games. In New Media Society. Vol. 11 no. 5, p. 815–834. DOI:10.1177/1461444809105354

News articles:

Lorrenz, T and Browning, K. (2020, June 06). Dozens of Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/style/women-gaming-streaming-harassment-sexism-twitch.html

Orr, L. (2019, September 17). ‘This industry has a problem with abuse’: dealing with gaming’s #MeToo moment  https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/sep/17/gaming-metoo-moment-harassment-women-in-games

Schreier, J. (2020, July 21).  Ubisoft Family Accused of Mishandling Sexual Misconduct Claims. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/ubisoft-sexual-misconduct-scandal-harassment-sexism-and-abuse 

Games referred to in the article:

Bandai Namco Games (2007). Tekken 6.

Eidos Interactive (1996-2009) and Square Enix 2010-present). Tomb Raider Series 

Notes about WIGFI vision and values

We in Games Finland’s board accepted and published WIGFI’s vision and values at the beginning of this year. They can be found here:

Our vision and values are not set in stone; on the contrary. We want them to stay up-to-date and to reflect the variety within our organization and the Finnish game industry. If you have any feedback for our vision and values, please send a message to me or use any of our channels that best suit you

Two years of making  

Drafting our vision and values started at the end of the first operational year of WIGFI. In December’s board meeting, the board 2019 summarised thoughts and experiences from the first year, wrote them on post-it notes, and tagged a wall full of post-its. Then these ideas were left to rest.

Why? WIGFI is not a homogeneous group. We are diverse in so many ways: we identify as women, non-binary, men, students, professionals, C-level people, parents, singles, entrepreneurs, persons with disabilities, persons of color; we have different religious views, sexual orientations, generational experiences, and we come from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We can be many of these at the same time and even more that were not listed here. We unite in diversity – and in the fact that we are interested in making video games.

So it is possible, even quite likely, that when a small group of people representing many collects what we are and what we want to be, something might be missing. The very nature of diversity is to realise that your worldview is not shared by everyone. Giving ideas a bit more time, discussing them with many, and publicly asking an opinion can help to make the outcome better.

Listening and communications is <3 of what we do

Because of the diverse nature of our members, our experiences vary a lot. When some people might feel that there is nothing negative in a given situation, someone else might find the situation overwhelming. Nobody is wrong. The experience is different.

What would be wrong in a given situation would be to say “there wasn’t anything negative in that situation”. We can’t deny other people’s experiences. But neither can we deny other’s opinions. 

We are strong supporters of open discussion in our forums, as we believe that communication is the only way to understand others. We want you to share knowledge, listen, inspire, encourage, and to help others.

Following that, we are strong supporters of the possibility to disagree. If you feel that the opinion someone has presented is not quite right, you have all the right to say it aloud on our channel. 

But we hope for civilised discussions in our channels and events. There are plenty of ways to disagree, and we urge you to find a constructive way. It is very likely that the angry or uncompromising words will echo back. In our word, none of us is more important than the other. There is no need to find consensus, but there is a strong need to accept that others have different opinions.

We are the organisation our members want this to be

Our members make us what we are. In our annual meeting, our members define the focus areas for the next year. But everything we do is based on the ideas from our active members who are willing to work for the things they see important. So if you feel WIGFI is not doing the right thing: come to our annual meeting, raise your voice, and join our activist making this little corner of the world a little bit better place.

Questions and Answers about Finnish Labour Laws for Game Developers in Finland

This blog post is done in collaboration with Game Makers of Finland.

Earlier this autumn, We in Games Finland, Game Makers of Finland, and IGDA Helsinki collaborated in organising an online talk on the labour laws in Finland and the rights of employees. The event was specifically targeted to games industry employees.

This blog post includes questions sent anonymously for the event and after that. These questions cover some typical cases discussed in the games industry, so we believe that the answers will benefit all.

Answers are written by Maria Jauhiainen, lawyer and social impact specialist from Insinööriliitto. Please note that as the cases may vary, it is advisable to contact asiakaspalvelu@ilry.fi for further advice in the event of a dispute. 

As IPR rights are an important part of the games industry, there will be a separate post about IPR rights coming up!


Q: Can I download the slides?

A: Yes, totally. And I hope you got them already 🙂 (Editor’s note: slides of the Labor Law event can be found from here.)


Q: Can an employer intervene in an employee’s leisure activities, for example, if a person wants to stream their play? Or make their own game with own computer and or programs?

A: In principle not (the employer cannot intervene, that is), but there can be some limitations. A person cannot engage in anything that would compete with the employer’s activities or how the company makes money or harm the company in any way. Anything else is in principle – like said – allowed, but for that, you cannot use the company’s devices, ideas you sort of get from the company, your working time, or the company’s programs for this unless you get permission from the company.


Q: What are the employee’s rights to his/her own idea or artistic work (like graphic art)? What is a fair agreement for all parties on the use and rights of this work?

A: This is quite a complex question, but in principle, the work that you do in order to fulfill your working duties, the result of your work – all the results of your work – will belong to your employer. The rights that will remain with the employee are the so-called fatherhood right (to have your name mentioned in connection with the work) and the right that the work is not changed without your permission. The right to use the work for commercial purposes and to disseminate it belong to the employer. If the work has been done without an actual connection to one’s working duties and if you have not gotten “inspiration” for it from fulfilling your working duties, then the chances of it belonging wholly to you, are greater. There will be a separate post about IPR rights coming up!


Q: Non-competition agreements: Are they even legal in Finland for non-executive positions?

A: Unfortunately, yes. They usually rule out only shop-floor level/blue collar workers, and if you do something a little bit “brainy” work where you are involved in the company’s core work and that you get to hear the company’s trade and business secrets, it’s very likely to be legal in your case.


Q: If you are on unpaid leave (lomautettu) for over 6 months, can you disregard your 6-month non-competition agreement and start at another company immediately?

A: After the 200 days of furlough (laid-off) and if you are let go by the company or if you resign yourself, that is true: the non-competition agreement doesn’t apply to you anymore.


Q: If I have a fixed-term contract first (6months) after which I get an open-ended contract immediately, do I still need to go through the probation period?

A: No. Once is enough for one employment and for the same tasks.


Q: Quite many game companies in Finland are co-founded by a bunch of friends, how does union serve entrepreneurs – and does it at all? Or what is your suggestion for the entrepreneurs where they should get the support if/when needed?

A: Yes, we do serve entrepreneurs! Just send your questions to our Customer Service asiakaspalvelu@ilry.fi, and we will try and find you all the answers you need.


Q: What if, due to lack of resources, I am asked to take up other responsibilities in addition? Do I really need to have an addendum to my contract? What if initially asked temporary, but they become a more permanent part of my working day? Can you be let go off if refusing to take up responsibilities initially not mentioned in your contract?

A: My advice would be to make a temporary agreement about the new duties and yes, write them all down. And temporary so that it will start and end, especially if the employer just tells you “to fill in for a little while” without extra payment. And make it clear to the employer that if the extra tasks become a permanent part of your working duty, they also have to pay you more. In that case, you can also call our Customer Service (see contact info below) and ask them to connect you to our salary advisors as to how much more you would deserve extra money for the new tasks. But if you start doing the new tasks without anything written about above and you have been doing the work for a long while and then refuse to do them anymore, then yes, you can end up in trouble with the employer. Since refusing to do your work can be seen as a big neglect on employee’s part in the eyes of the law.


Q: I don’t live near Helsinki. If I have to move to Helsinki area because of my work, do I have a right to a better salary because of the increased cost of living, or am I meant to just suck it up?

A: Unfortunately, there is no direct right, but it can be used as a powerful negotiation tool, because where you live or have to live will have a big effect on your living costs. The best way is to call our Customer Service first and ask them to connect you to our salary advisors so you can come up with a precise sum of what to ask for when negotiating about the move with the employer.


Q: How well all of these Finnish laws transfer to other EU/non-EU countries?

A: Sadly, mainly only to the other Nordic Countries, not elsewhere. The employment laws are at their best in the North of Europe.


Q: When you say that the collective agreements usually give better benefits for employees, could you make sure you also mention that most game studios give much better benefits than any collective agreement to their employees?

A: I will remember to do that 🙂


Q: There are many creative artists working in the games industry. Part of an employment contract should mention Intellectual property. However, many people are uncertain of their rights in this area. This is especially relevant as the EU Digital Single Market Copyright Directive comes to force. Can you confirm that it is actually the employee who is first owner of copyright in an employment relationship and there is no regulation in the copyright act that compels an employee to give up complete ownership of their copyrights (exceptions to software).

A: Unfortunately, I cannot.

There will be a separate post about IPR rights coming shortly.


Q: In Finland it is common for firms to exploit loopholes in the law and hire professionals under “työharjoittelu” agreements (work-based training). This is where they can exploit professionals who are job seekers trying to get a ‘foot in the door.’ Can you confirm that it is illegal to commercially exploit creative work made by an “intern” who is actually receiving benefits from Kela rather than wages or other remuneration.

A: This is a little bit tricky, since the companies can get people who fulfill the requirements for työharjoittelu or työkokeilu and it’s legal unless otherwise proven. We are aware of some exploitation happening there, but since it’s Kela and the employer involved in this equation, the real exploitation cases seldom reach our ears. My best advice is to contact Kela if it’s obvious that the employer is just making improper use of the system without any real intention of hiring these people afterwards. When you let Kela know, it is more likely that the company will not get the subsidized trainees anymore.

But combining this question and the previous question, there is one major difference related to internship:

The intellectual property rights apply when the work has been accomplished in a working relationship, meaning when the employer actually pays the employee money. In an internship, the money is coming from Kela in this case, so all the (copy)rights will remain with the maker.


Q: I work in a game industry company, and my work contract is a full-time and fixed term. The employer made my full-time work to part-time in the middle of my fixed-term contract, based on financial and production-related grounds. At the same time, the employer has hired other employees, full-time and part-time, also for the same and similar tasks that I do.

The employer has emphasized that the change is not a lay-off but a permanent part-time job. No other employees will be changed to part-time or laid off. The employer has also emphasized that I have not been offered or will be offered any other job and no job other than this part-time job is available.

Thus, my working time has been reduced from full-time to part-time, which has a significant impact on my livelihood, but the employer has hired other employees at the same time. Since the contract is fixed-term, I have been under the impression that the employer must provide work until the end of the contract, and offer the other possible vacancies for fixed-term employers before the others.

Has the employer violated the Employment Contracts Act or the information sector’s collective agreement, and if so, what are the consequences? How are such violations generally monitored? For example, by Game Makers? What rights do I have as an employee?

A: The essential terms of the employment relationship may only be changed while the ground for dismissal is in force and therefore instead of and as an alternative to dismissal. Substantial change means, in particular, changes in working hours and pay, both of which are realized for you here. A fixed-term employment contract may not be terminated at all, unless otherwise agreed in the employment contract; of course, a mere mention of the period of notice which the employer must also comply with in the case of a change before the change enters into force is sufficient. And by law, there is no ground for dismissal if a new person has been hired or is hired after the dismissal procedure for work that the person could do. In addition, the employer must, in accordance with the law, offer a person working part-time, if he or she so wishes, more jobs if they occur. In other words, it would seem that there are matters that need to be settled with your employer.

On 1.4.2020, some changes in the law came into force on a temporary basis. According to these changes, the employment relationship can now also be terminated during the probationary period based on financial and production-related grounds if those actually exist. Normally this cannot be done. The employer cannot rely on this directly in your case either, because there have been and then apparently still is jobs.

In these kinds of matter, please contact our customer service (customerservice@ilry.fi) or directly to me (maria.jauhiainen@ilry.fi), and we will find out more and contact the employer if necessary.


Q: What are the employee’s rights to his / her own idea / artistic work (eg graphic artists)? What is a fair agreement for all parties on the use and rights of these works?

A: In these cases, the contract options are quite limited, although of course there are some contract options. In the case of a computer program and / or a database, there are no contractual possibilities, and in other cases, the commercial rights to the work (ie the right to make copies of the product and to place them on the market and for sale) always belong to the employer, but in principle – again for non-computer programs – right to modify and right to forward can be separately agreed. Moral rights, the parenthood right and the right of respect, always remain with the employee.

Take a closer look to our upcoming blog post about the IPRs, and contact us for a possible agreement!


These questions were answered by Maria Jauhiainen, lawyer and social impact specialist from Insinööriliitto. For further inquiries, contact asiakaspalvelu@ilry.fi or have a look for Game Makers of Finland’s website.

Working in the Finnish Game Industry

Game Makers of Finland, the official protector of Peliviikko, published game week related video series on YouTube. It shares narratives from people working in the Finnish game industry.

This year’s Peliviikko (Game Week) was held on November 9. – 15. Peliviikko raises gaming-related themes to public debate and aims to spread knowledge of the industry itself. Finland is full of talents, who all have their personal story to tell.

What it is like to work in games?

Problems and difficulties have been a strong focus of the debate when it comes to gaming industry and the individuals working there. Many see the position of women and other gender minorities as extremely challenging. Fortunately, we also have numerous positive stories colored by the warm experiences of solidarity and equality. Therefore, it’s important to hear different kind of narratives from industry professionals in the eye of the action.

Working in the game industry video series by Game Makers of Finland. Speakers on videos.
Working in the Game Industry video series by Game Makers of Finland.

Working in the game industry video series bring up the voices of different people. It dives into their diverse experiences, elaborating what it is like to work in the field.

Five different professionals share their stories

Working in the Game Industry playlist introduces five professionals and their career stories. Barbara Leal, Game Developer (Playsome), Minna Eloranta, CEO (Boom Corp), Marko Laine, Game Artist (Veikkaus), Sari Lindberg, Talent Acquisition Lead (Remedy) and Jyri Kuokka, Game Designer (Rovio) offer a peek behind the scenes. Game Makers of Finland produced this video series in co-operation with National Audiovisual Institute.

We in Games Finland’s board member Barbara Leal works as a Game Designer at Playsome. Besides telling her story, she shares tips on how to reach your dream of working in games.

Working in the Game Industry – Barbara Leal, Playsome

Minna Eloranta is the CEO of a fresh company , Boom Corp. Minna talks about her own path from a game enthusiast to a game developer.

Working in the Game Industry – Minna Eloranta, Boom Corp

Discord Tea Time: Casual voice chat every weekday

The need that we noticed

Since working from home became the new normal, most of us have started to miss the casual discussions at the workplace and just being around other people. Some of us started to feel lonely, or like we haven’t used our voice at all during the day. Simple “water cooler talk” started missing from our lives. Even as little as computer noises from others.

We created the Tea Time chat in Discord as a low-effort way to talk to other people and feel less alone in these times. In the afternoon, some time around 14.30 EET we join the Tea Time voice channel and chat about various things. There’s no rules, you can come and go whenever you want and discuss whatever you like! Sometimes the chat goes on for hours (once or twice until after 19:00 XD), so just check in the afternoon to see if we’re still there, we might 🙂

Why should I join?

One great experience we have had during the Tea Time was that, for example, we started talking about professional development and progress. One participant was struggling with figuring out exactly what they want to do in the Industry when they graduate. Others started talking about how they got to where they are now and talking about how their career path is not necessarily a straight line. We loved hearing that this conversation helped share a light into what the future in the Industry may look like for different people. It comes in all shapes and colors, and what works for one can be different for someone else. Sharing with others is a great way to bond and find what works for oneself.

Another great thing which happens on the side is: We get to practice speaking in English! Some of us can practice diction and eloquence, tone of voice and also practice delivering lines without telling so many side stories in between. 

For some people it’s a good way to focus on work if you have issues from working at home. It can give you some structure to your day or the break you always forget to take otherwise! Talking about your work can also make you feel more confident in what you’re doing or if you’re fighting a difficult bug, taking a break with other people might help you get some new ideas.

How does it work?

At around 14:30 EET every weekday anyone can tag @TeaTime on the #text channel (Located on the Voice Channel category) and “summon” the rest of us. Because we all are working or studying, sometimes we need the little nudge from someone to start it up.

To be pinged automatically for Tea Time, you can go to the #rules channel and react with the Tea emoji on the message to be awarded the role.

Everyone is of course welcome to come and go as they want or need. Talk or just listen! As much or as little as you see fit. So please do come and join us in Discord: https://discord.gg/Q2YmW4k

Have an idea of other activities we could do online? Let us know!

Authors: Barbara and Essi.

Questionnaire 2020 Results

The lion share of WiGFi members and the Facebook community are people who have been in the industry for several years. The LGBTQ+ community is solidly represented within the members.

We in Games Finland conducted a survey for its members, in order to better understand the background of its members, their desires and opinions on phenomenons of the industry. The questionnaire comprised topics on industry seniority, gender, sexual orientation, and race, opinions on the association and the reasons people might have left the industry.

A total of 111 people answered the questionnaire. It was shared on WiGFi’s Facebook page and on the member newsletter. It is worth to note that the results cover only WiGFi members and followers and not the whole Finnish game industry. We in Games Finland ry. has 250 official members and the Facebook community has 1300 members. A noticeable amount of members and followers are thus represented in the results. The whole Finnish game industry employs 3200 people.

Seniority and Positions in the Industry

The greater number of respondents, 78.4% were working in the games industry and 17.1% were not involved with the industry but would like to, and 4.5% were game industry alumni. 

These results indicate that our association members and the Facebook community are primarily people with senior to mid-level backgrounds. The members were asked for how long they have worked in the game industry: 14.5% of respondents had over 10 years experience in the industry, 8.2% had 8-10 years, 22.7% had 5-8 years, 19.1% had 3-4 years and 21.8% had 0-2 years. A tenth, 9.9% of respondents, were studying in hopes to work in the game industry in the future. 

We in Games Finland’s Questionnaire 2020 Results
Seniority in the industry

We in Games Finland’s questionnaire also touched upon the questions on why people left the games industry, and would there be anything that would make these people consider rejoining. The results show that respondents had found a better or more suitable job outside of games, or the company they worked at had been shut down. Indeed, it was mentioned that they would like to come back if a suitable position would open up.

However, there were some hints about unequal treatment at the workplace being the cause of leaving the industry. Even if this was not a common phenomenon based on these results, it is severe enough and something WiGFi wishes to dig a bit deeper in its next questionnaire. 

Diversity of Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Race Prevalent in WiGFi members

The gender spectrum in games professionals is diverse, but that the majority of WiGFi members and followers identify themselves as women.  From respondents, 88.3% identify themselves as a female, 6.3% as male and 4.5% as non-binary. The genderfluid, transgender male, transgender female, and agender categories were also represented in the results.

Most of the respondents, 85.5%, prefer to be addressed with she/her pronouns when speaking English. They/them were preferred by 15.3%, and he/him by 4.5%. The tenth part of members, 10.8%, said any pronoun would do. The results give clear insight for game companies to take into account wording in their internal communications. Companies with English as a working language could, for example, ask new employees their preferred pronouns. Game studios should make it clear to their employees that they will accept and adapt their pronoun use if employees come out as transgender or non-binary. 

A considerable part, 22%, of respondents were non-Finnish, and 15.6% were non-Finnish speakers. This follows the trend that Neogames has noted in their previous Finnish game industry report stating that 27% of the game industry workforce were from abroad. It is a common practice in the Finnish game industry to make the company language in English at the latest when the first non-Finnish speaking person joins the team. 

The LGBTQ+ community is well represented in WiGFi: 25.7% of respondents belonged to the non-straight group. It can be assumed that the percentage is higher than in the industry total as the questionnaire was directed to We in Games Finland’s members and followers. The high percentage on itself reflects the fact that in the games industry, one should not assume that heterosexuality and cis-gender are the norms. At a company level, this should be taken into account in everyday language: for example while discussing personal family relations, neutral expressions are recommended. 

SETA has published in Finnish a useful information package for employers how to take into account hlbtiq community in working life.

Another high percentage that should be noted is that 24.8% of the respondents mentioned having a non-visible disability. WIGFI’s survey did not ask for specific examples of these non-visible disabilities. However, it can be read from other studies that mental illnesses are rising in the games industry. IGDA Developer Statisfaction Survey 2019 noted that out of 28% of respondents identified as having a disability, 11% choose the psychiatric or mental illness category. Mental health issues and mental stress are commonly listed occupational health risks in our industry, and something every employer should take into account. Crunching, uncertain development cycles, the judgement of one’s creative work, and the sometimes disturbing content game makers have to create for certain games can exacerbate pre-existing mental health problems, and cause employees to need sick leave. 

For more information, check the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s page about psychosocial workload and a nonprofit organisation for mental health in games, Take This’ materials.

When it comes to race, 8.2% of WIGFI members are non-white. It should be remembered, nonetheless, that being non-white doesn’t automatically mean that someone is foreign, or that being white makes someone a native Finn. Many native Finns come from mixed ethnic backgrounds, and it is important for companies and event organisers not to assume someone’s ethnicity or linguistic abilities based on skin colour alone. 

Another noteworthy issue is that 2.8% of respondents belonged to a marginalised religion. If it is known that the employee belongs to a marginalised religion group, the best practice is to discuss if the employee has any hopes or wishes related to this. For example, for Muslims, offering a peaceful place for praying is a dignified act, and holiday acts might vary. Taking different religious practices and preferences into account when organising events is a very recommended practice.

Conclusions

The results and the open feedback give some clear takeaways for the organisation to analyse and to work for in the future. 

One of the organisation’s goals is to represent marginalised groups in the Finnish game industry- This is a constant process. The more data and feedback WiGFi is able to gather from its members and from minorities within the industry, the better the organisation can plan and target its actions. Raising issues into the public discussions and generating change in the industry is easier with the data these results provide.

WiGFi is very thankful with the heartening amount of feedback and ideas the survey respondents supplied. The organisation will review all comments, both negative and positive, and will be acting on some of this feedback immediately. Please stay tuned to the WIGFI Facebook group and website for more information!

Part of these results will be published in the Finnish Game Industry Report 2021.

For recommendations, we wish to thank SETA, Inklusiiv, Eve Crevoshay from Take this and Tarja Porkka-Kontturi. 

Thank you also for Taina Myöhänn and Felicia Prehn for analysing the results and editing this post.

Labour laws in Finland for the Game Makers

On 15th September 2020, We in Games Finland, Game Makers of Finland, and IGDA Helsinki collaborated in organising an online talk on the labour laws in Finland and the rights of employees.

The speaker at the event was the lawyer and social impact specialist Maria Jauhiainen from Insinööriliitto (in the picture above).

The following topics were covered and discussed:

  • what could be and should be in your employment contract,
  • what is a trial period,
  • what should you agree on or not agree on a non-competition agreement,
  • how and on what grounds you can be temporarily laid-off,
  • on what grounds you can and cannot be legally laid-off,
  • how working hours are regulated and how do you gain annual holidays.

Maria Jauhiainen was kind enough to share her presentation. You may find the presentation here:

The event was recorded and can be found on IGDA Finland’s Twitch:

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/741769577

Questions related to the topic were collected before and after the event. Have a look for the important questions and their answers here: “Questions and Answers about Finnish Labour Laws for Game Developers in Finland”.