The video games industry is in excellent shape. In 2020 Covid boosted the time and money spent playing and the penetration of gaming in everyday lives. More people than ever engaged in mini-adventures to play on their smartphones or started longer quests with others online. After such a jump, most expected a slight decline. Yet, in 2021, the market size improved by 1.4%, with a revenue of 180.3 billion dollar. And some expect it to expand further at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.9% from 2022 to 2030.
That is good news for many businesses in the compartment, and in terms of employment opportunities. From the advancement of technology, the needed updates and innovations in software and hardware, and the extension of gamification to most aspects of life (from learning languages to shopping), the need for technical and creative profiles is growing.
In the European video-game sector, the growth is consistent with worldwide numbers; currently, the industry employs around 90.000 people. And women comprise 20% of the developers (according to EGDF – European Game Developers Federation – data). On a national level, Italy appears to do better than most, being above average and reaching 23% of active female professionals (2021). In terms of gender, even though players are almost equally divided (in Europe alone, 44% of the gamers are women), there is still room for improvement on the professional side.
The video game industry has a diversity problem. And overlooking female talents, the sector still gives up a lot of potential creative resources, with the trend starting early, sometimes even before reaching the first rung of the career ladder.
The guide, Building a Fair Playing Field
The association Women in Games, founded in the UK and present in most European countries, is putting a significant effort to change the status quo. It has recently published “Building a Fair Playing Field” with the support of the ISFE (Interactive Software Federation of Europe) and the research and development centre InGAME. This guide aims to build and maintain a fair, equal, and safe environment to empower girls and women in the game ecosystem. The need for such a blueprint already says something. No matter how much the subject is discussed, businesses need practical and cultural tools to tackle the issue. There is a more ample awareness of the lack of diversity in the industry; it is time to directly experience how beneficial it can be to include overlooked profiles.
I asked a few questions to Thalita Malagò, Director General of IIDEA (Italian Interactive Digital Entertainment Association), one of the organizations promoting the guide. The market in Italy has been growing, also on the professional side. According to 2021 data, it employed 1.600 specialists – 500 more than in 2018. 79% are under 36 and work primarily in the art (30%) and technology (25%) functions.
Where are girls in the italian industry?
In her answers, Malagò confirms the persistence of the diversity gap in the industry and that, indeed, it starts early. “In Italy, girls who choose to study STEM disciplines are still significantly fewer than boys. It is also reflected in the professions related to them. In our country, female workers in the video game industry mostly have a background in humanities or economy and finance: This leads them to deal with aspects generally related to communication and marketing or the more commercial aspects of the companies they work for.”
Italy is one of many in this trend. According to the Guide, “girls and boys are equally touched by the wonders of science, technology and engineering. But as adolescents move from primary to secondary schools, things begin to change; girls become much less interested in these topics. Years later, as large numbers enter university, again these subjects are more popular among boys than girls. […] Most young European women become attracted to science, technology, engineering and maths between the ages of 11 and 12. But that interest then drops off significantly between 15 and 16, with limited recovery.”
Nonetheless, some change is happening. “In recent years – continuers Thalita Malagò – we have seen a growth in design and game narrative. At the same time, we observe how those who decide to apply to more technical areas and choose studies related to physics, engineering, computer science, or mathematics end up excelling. I think that is because they are often driven by a very strong passion for the medium.”
Now that the Guide is out (available in the different languages), how can it help businesses and professionals? – I. e. the ones that may benefit the most from its findings and indications?
“As an association,” explains IIDEA DG, “we worked on this project because we believe that the guide can be an incredibly useful tool to help those in the industry to foster greater openness and forward thinking. And to make workplaces increasingly inclusive of diversity. But also because we know that companies in the gaming world are very receptive to this, as they spend a lot of time on social media talking to gamer communities, taking into account the diversity of gamers and user experience. They know that extending this consideration to their workforce can help them include more diverse messages in their products and thus reach a wider audience. Some progress has been made over the past decade, but there is still a long way to go.”
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