Why aren’t there more female protagonists in video games?

May 13, 2024

Similar to Hollywood, the game industry is facing a moment of introspection. Gaming audiences are becoming more diverse than ever, yet leading game characters are still centering on the same stereotypical male heroes. Whilst there are numerous leading female video game protagonists, women continue to be underrepresented in gaming.

Most gamers play video games as a form of escapism, engaging in play through interactive worlds. Video game audiences are stereotypically male dominated and game developers have focused on this, creating mainly leading male characters.

An early exception of this was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 1996. Unsurprisingly, Lara Croft resulted in highlighting the lack of leading female characters in video games.

Not only do video games lead with overly masculine male heroes, female characters appear to be portrayed as a romantic conquest, typically submissive when comparing to their male counterparts.

Whilst we seem to make progress with occasional female protagonists leading in video games, we are still seeing a lack of acclaimed AAA games including positive female characters.

Demand appears to be the reason for the lack of diversity. However, a number of games such as Fable now offer gamers the chance to choose the sex of their leading character.

Although this does not ensure female characters are leading, we can now predict the likelihood that video games will begin putting diversity at its forefront, no longer focusing on specific oppressions.

Video games no longer occupy a niche audience. It's now a multi-billion pound industry enjoyed by people from different parts of society. Whilst there is still room for development, we’re moving on from the stereotypical sexualised Lara Croft character with game developer Guerrilla leading the way in Horizon Zero Dawn, setting its leading female protagonist Aloy free in a truly progressive world.

Ultimately, it is imperative that this change happens. Introducing diversity in video gaming, producing superior games with better and more dynamic female protagonists which the industry once lacked.