Nearly 80% of Video Game Characters Are Male, According To New Diversity Study

Nearly 80 percent of video game characters are male, according to a new survey by gaming website Diamond Lobby.

Over 100 games from 2017 to 2021 were surveyed, including 10 of the highest selling games from each of the respective years. The remaining games that were studied included every other major release from large publishing companies like Activision, EA, Nintendo, and Ubisoft. Games that allowed the player to customize a character—as in titles like New World and Animal Crossing—were removed, leaving a total of 93 games.

In terms of gender diversity, the study found that 79.2 percent of lead characters in games are male; 54.2 percent of lead characters in games are white, and only 8.3 percent of main characters in games are females of non-white ethnicities.

Apex Legends gameplay
A picture of a game character in Apex Legends. EA Sports

In addition, 63.3 percent of games had both playable male and female characters; 31.7 percent of games only had male characters; and 5 percent of games only had female characters, meaning that there are more games with only male characters than they are with only female characters.

In the diversity portion of the study, 9.5 percent of games only have a playable white character, meaning that there's no other ethnic representation. 5.3 percent of games don't have a playable white character at all.

The most diverse game that was studied is Apex Legends, where 50 percent of the playable characters in Apex Legends are female. The other half of the game's characters include seven males and one non-binary character. Six out of 17 characters in the game are openly gay or bisexual, and 50 percent of the characters are Black, Asian or another race.

The issue of diversity has been a hot-button discussion that has come and gone in recent years. Rashad Redic, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Brass Lion Entertainment, said that regardless of race, a quality product should be at the forefront at all times.

"Telling these stories isn't as niche as people think it is," said Redic to Tech Crunch in 2020. "Look at [the Marvel movie] Black Panther. The content is defined by whether it's entertaining, period."

Game industry journalist Gita Jackson described to Tech Church the backlash she's received when she speaks about diversity and gaming.

"I think the presence of more video game characters who are women of color is good, but these should not be controversial statements," said Jackson. "I'm simply stating something I appreciate, something that's relevant to me. And yet some readers responded as if I'd suggested that all gamers should amputate their pinky toes."