Diversity and Representation: How To Improve Inclusivity in Shooting Games
Many people would argue that first-person shooter games have something of a diversity problem. Technically, the same could be argued for many other genres. However, in an age where titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive dominate the growing esports sector, representation in shooting games has never been more important. In the United States, the gender gap in the general gaming community is narrowing. Currently, around 49% of US gamers are female. However, home in on first-person shooters, and only 34% of players are female. So, what’s keeping girl gamers away?
A History of Representation in Shooting Games
Although it might feel like we’re slowly crawling toward proper female representation in shooting games, much of the groundwork was laid earlier. In fact, several standout first-person shooters from the turn of the century featured female protagonists. Medal of Honor: Underground allowed players the chance to take the reins of Manon Batiste, a French Resistance operative who had made appearances in earlier titles. The game was well received, with Batiste becoming a mainstay of the franchise.
Rare’s Perfect Dark is another noteworthy example of an early female hero fronting a shooting game. Perfect Dark was met with critical acclaim, with many reviewers lauding its engaging narrative, superior graphics, and challenging gameplay. TimeSplitters was another game to emerge around this period with female characters front and center. Once again, reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Sadly, you’ll struggle to find much diversity in shooting games over the next decade.
How Diverse is the Genre in the 2020s?
With games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valorant, and Call of Duty occupying the top flight of professional esports, it would be nice to see more diversity within the games themselves. Let’s have a look at CS:GO for a measure of the kind of disparity we’re talking about. The vast majority of male agent skins are male. At the time of writing, players have less than a dozen female skins to choose from. Of that paltry number, it’s favorites like Special Agent Ava that most players tend to go for.
Valorant from Riot Games is a little more exclusive. There are 22 Valorant agents to choose from, with half of them being female. What’s more, some of the best agents in the game have the XX chromosome. The likes of Jett, Reyna, and Sage are among some of the most powerful and frequently picked agents.
While in-game diversity is improving, the esports industry in general is taking a while to catch up. Female gamers are a rare sight on the benches of many S-tier clubs, with female FPS players even unheard of. However, there are some standout female shooters out there. Ukrainian outfit NAVI Javelins boasts an all-female roster, with Wiktoria ‘vicu’ Janicka often ranking as one of the best CSGO players currently competing.
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