Levelling the playing field: How female representation shapes our gaming brand
The last few years have been a transitional period for the world of video games. The rise of the content creator, the fall of the Let’s Play sector and the growth of esports have shaken up a lot in terms of how the games industry has presented itself. Despite all its changes, it’s arguable that nothing has affected video games more than the loss of the ‘Girl Gamer’ and the now unignorable presence of female representation in gaming.
Contrary to the belief of many, the ‘Girl Gamer’ represents a negative stereotype: the idea that a female video game player is defined by that and that alone, or the idea of a barely-clothed live-streamer with limited professional gaming skill. The last few years have seen the stereotype of the ‘Girl Gamer’ finally begin to disintegrate, leaving room for women who enjoy games to step forward with more of an identity than ever before. From the content creator side of things, YouTubers like Alanah Pearce and YOGSCAST Hannah are now huge influencers both in the online world and in the video games industry. On the flip side, game developers like Amy Hennig and Rebecca Ford continue to lead the way for the normalisation of females in the gaming workplace.
Following in the footsteps of these inspirational pillars of the video game industry comes GameByte and FragHero, part of Social Chain, which is proudly making waves when it comes to gender representation in the workplace. The GameByte and FragHero network boasts big numbers on social and, completely without intention or representation quotas to meet, we have found ourselves with a workforce consisting of nearly double the number of women to men. It’s a refreshing position to be in, especially when looking at the normality of male-dominated spaces in the world of gaming.
I joined the GameByte team back in 2018, entering the fray just a week after our video editor, Vicky, was hired. The hiring of Vicky and myself diversified the then-wholly male team, shaping the way the brand worked for the better. Since 2018, we’ve evolved into the GameByte and FragHero network, hiring more people – both male and female -, and arriving at where we are today: with two thirds of the team being female (my being a BME gamer has also helped to diversify the team, though that’s of course a topic of its own). Sadly, our teams are in the minority with this.
Sexism and gender discrimination in the workplace may be starting to disappear, but in the world of video games, you’d be hard-pressed to find publications with more women than men, be that game writers, developers, publishers or even journalists and video editors. Our unique position in the market allows us to pursue a more diverse range of content without fear, and I have taken immense pride when writing about topics such as gender discrimination, the gender pay and the evolution of women in gaming.
Speaking of pride, as a diverse gaming team in many ways, we’re perfectly primed to discuss such topics during interviews with developers, creators and game actors, with genuine interest in the topic and an unmatched perception on the issues. In my opinion, discussing diversity with a team that actually can demonstrate that they exercise what they preach, goes a long way.
In a similar vein, myself and the other women within our network have all faced the difficulties of toxicity in gaming. As such, we’re equipped to handle and limit any negativity we might see attached to content we’ve created. Recently, our community manager for FragHero, Liv, went to a gun-shooting event. When the promotional video she created received negative comments suggesting she was an actor who’d been hired to pose with the gun, she was very quick to clap back, leaving the negative commenters to eat their words. This is a common exercise that myself and all of the women in the team find themselves doing – flexing the fact that we’re women to help defy the stereotype and empower ourselves and others.
A prime example of this comes during Facebook Live videos. When someone compliments gameplay assuming the player is male, we’re quick to correct them, each doing our part to dissolve the negative stereotypes of women in gaming. Perhaps more notable is the fact that it’s not just the women in the team who do this, but the men too. When faced with the adversity of gender stereotypes, defying them is the first step in removing them, something which both of our gaming brands strongly believe in. It’s not only the wider scope of the problem of gender discrimination in gaming that our brands tackle – we, of course, have a huge platform within which providing good content is key.
Since expanding the editorial team, we’re now at four times the average number of page views than we were when the team was all-male. Whether or not this is down to the expansion of the team, or if this is down to diversifying the workforce and the content, can’t be proved. However, being able to cover a wider range of content, aimed at a wider range of people, is undeniably a massive benefit to a social-first page. The future of the GameByte and FragHero network is looking brighter than ever, especially when it comes to women in gaming.
With a deep and personal passion for the importance of female representation in the industry, the GameByte and FragHero network has recently partnered with long-time client, Logitech G, to create content that explores the negativity faced by female gamers. The partnership will see us address the issues head on, following a wave of abuse comments a female streamer received on a Logitech G advert at the end of last year. We will use this as a springboard to start dialogues with women in the gaming industry and beyond, focusing on those who’ve overcome adversity and negativity to thrive in the field they love. This is just the beginning of our plans to level the gender playing field.
When it comes to consuming content covering a topic as focused as gaming, it shouldn’t matter who has written the piece: what should matter is that person’s experience as a gamer. If you pooled together our team’s most-played games of the last few years, what you’d see is Borderlands 3, Pokemon Sword and Shield, The Witcher 3, Overwatch, Final Fantasy, Call of Duty, Resident Evil and Zelda just to name a few. Though I definitely do have a passion for what are often considered to be “female-friendly” social simulators like The Sims 4 or Stardew Valley, I’m also well-versed in horror and more than skilled at Naughty Dog games like Uncharted and The Last of Us.
In short, both myself and my fellow females in the workplace are not ‘Girl Gamers’. We are women who enjoy video games. The stereotype of the ‘Girl Gamer’ is finally disintegrating, both in the workspace and in day-to-day life. There is definitely still a way to go before its entire dissolution, but we’re finally seeing it give way to a brand-new era of gaming for all.
Lara Jackson, brand journalist at GameByte, a hub for gaming entertainment at Social Chain.