Gender in Play – Representations of Gender in Games

A project to diversify the gender roles and worldview of games In 2021, We in Games Finland and The National Council of Women of Finland started a project that empowers Finnish game studios to create more diverse characters and character worldviews in their games. The project examined the character development and world-building within Finnish games […]

A project to diversify the gender roles and worldview of games

In 2021, We in Games Finland and The National Council of Women of Finland started a project that empowers Finnish game studios to create more diverse characters and character worldviews in their games.

The project examined the character development and world-building within Finnish games studios’ games from the perspective of gender equality and representation. All games made by Finnish game studios during the years 2018-2020 were part of the large-scale analysis, where gender, skin color, religious symbols, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender-based violence were studied. A qualitative study was made based on games having good examples of character diversity, and game developers were interviewed about their reasons to select certain character and worldview.

The project wishes to promote healthy discussions about gender stereotypes and gender-based violence in video games. We want to help game studios find ways to diversify the gender roles of the characters in their games while reducing gender-based violence in-game worlds. 

Project Publications

Gender in Play – Large-scale Content Analysis about the Character Representation and Diversity in Finnish games

by Antonio Rodrigues and Nevena Sićević

This article concludes the quantitative analysis of games made by Finnish developers from 2018 to 2020 that were based on orginal IP and had human-like characters. In the analysis, gender, skin color, religious symbols, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender-based violence were studied. The results show that women characters are playable characters almost as often as men. Transgender and non-binary characters, religious symbols or characters with disabilities were rare in this sample. It is also noted that the chosen approach was not suitable to examine gender based violence, so this topic will be covered in our upcoming articles.

Review of Character Representation and Diversity in Games Research

by Antonio Rodrigues and Nevena Sićević

The 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.

Women Character Representation and diversity in Finnish Games: a Qualitative Analysis

by Antonio Rodrigues and Nevena Sićević

In this article, our researchers take a closer look at six selected Finnish games that were standing out as positive examples of gender and diverse character representations. The objective of this analysis was to look for what those games did well in terms of gender and diversity representation, as well as possibly identify spaces for improvement in that regard. Those insights are summarized in this blog post as a useful reference for developers interested in good practices for the representation of their own women and other minority characters. 

Character Diversity

by Antonio Rodrigues and Nevena Sićević

In this article, positive examples and good practices regarding character diversity and representation in Finnish games are highlighted. This article is the second part in our blog post series on representation of women characters and character diversity in Finnish games.

Make Game Characters More Interesting, Unique, Diverse, and Approachable

by Maria Maunula

Maria Maunula, Producer in Nitro Games, wanted to understand more about what the market thinks about character design, what the players need, and how they could improve character diversity at Nitro Games, so she made a study case. “It became crystal clear to me how much the industry caters to the stereotypes and how simple & doable requests our players have to make them feel happy and considered.

Gender-based Violence against Women Characters

by Antonio Rodrigues and Nevena Sićević

Violence is a common feature in action video games. Violence against women is “a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in physical harm, sexual harm, psychological, or economic harm or suffering to women“ (European Commission, n.d.). We inspected aspects of gender-based violence and violence against women characters from different perspectives, namely by looking at both images and visual portrayals as well as dialogues and narrative. The questions we asked were: which forms of violence are directed towards women characters, are women characters only receivers of violent actions or also providers, are there pornographic images or sexualized views on violence in video or audio materials (such as the existence of sexualized screams and moanings, overemphasized feminine body features and voyeuristic camera angles focused on specific parts of women’s bodies).

In Games I Can Be Free to Express Myself

by Nova Liiho

What kind of characters you select when you play, and why? We asked Nova Liiho to share the reason to pick up a certain characters in games they play for our Gender in Play project. A good read for everyone designing characters and thinking gender expressions in games.

What is Gender-based Violence in Games?

by Taina Myöhänen

Thia article concludes the approach used in this project for gender-based violence in games.

Diversity matters because you matter

by Jenni Varila

“Strong, independent men are the perfect fantasy boys — the untouchable is always the most desirable.” This exact quote has never been given. We don’t hear this kind of description of men.

In this article, Jenni Varila discusses solving the puzzle of a modern female character, based on her master thesis “Flipped Male Gaze” findings.

Gender-based Violence in Games: Game Developers’ Perspectives

by Taina Myöhänen

How game developers reflect on gender-based violence in games? This article is based on interviews conducted as a part of the Gender in Play project among Finnish game studios.

Best practices for creating diverse characters

by Taina Myöhänen

The article summarises best practices for creating more diverse characters, collected from Finnish game studios’ interviews.

Project Members

The four-member steering group includes Researcher, M.A. Usva Friman from The Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies at Tampere University; Project Manager of Turv@verkko project by Women’s Line, Lic.Soc.Sc., D.A Louna Hakkarainen; Specialist at the Council for Gender Equality (TANE), Ph.D. Nina Järviö; and Head of HR, a member of the Leadership team at Rovio Entertainment Corporation, M.A. Heini Kaihu.

Research was carried out by B.A. Antonio Rodrigues and B.A. Nevena Sićević.

Project images were created by talented Tuuli Hypén.

The We In Games members facilitating this project are Taina Myöhänen and Emilia Machuca. The National Council of Women of Finland’s representatives for the project is Project Coordinator Karoliina Pakkanen.

Contact

If you wish to learn more about the project, please contact Taina Myöhänen, taina@weingames.fi

In Collaboration:

Special grants have been received from the Ministry of Justice for the implementation of the project.

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