Less than 2% of console video games include LGBTQ characters or stories, even though 17% of gamers are gay, according to GLAAD’s first industry survey.
The survey, the results of which were released Tuesday, indicates that a majority of respondents had experienced some form of harassment while gaming online. But the study also found that many queer gamers saw virtual worlds as an escape in states where recent legislation targets LGBTQ people. Seventy-five percent of queer people surveyed in these states said they could express themselves in games in ways they didn’t feel comfortable in reality.
“This is a statistic that should tug at everyone’s heartstrings,” said Blair Durkee, who led the advocacy group’s investigation alongside partners at Nielsen, the data and marketing company. “The statistics largely come from young players. Gaming is a lifeline for them.
GLAAD has produced a similar breakdown of queer representation on television since 1996. Its latest report found that 10.6 percent of primetime scripted series regulars identified as LGBTQ, which researchers said helped put their study of video games into perspective.
Tristan Marra, head of research and reporting at GLAAD, said there were nearly 1,500 participants in the video game survey and researchers used public information to meticulously search for inclusive content in games. games available on PlayStation, Xbox and Switch digital libraries.
“I’m deeply passionate about video games and I still have trouble naming” LGBTQ characters, said Raffy Regulus, founder of NYC Gaymers, which hosts game nights in the city. Regulus cited Ellie from The Last of Us and Venture from Overwatch 2 as recent examples.
GLAAD said it contacted major companies, including Sony and Nintendo, for its investigation but received no response.
“It helped validate what we know about the crucial role play plays,” Marra said. “We wanted to talk about the moral and economic arguments.”
The report cites data indicating that global gaming revenues exceed those of film and music combined, with younger generations spending almost as much time playing games as watching TV. This also indicates that many queer gamers want to see themselves represented in games.
“The findings of this report send a powerful message to the industry that it is time to move beyond the idea that LGBTQ-inclusive gaming is a separate niche category,” Durkee said. “All games should strive to reflect the people who play them.”
In recent years, GLAAD has consulted on efforts to improve queer representation in games like The Sims 4 and Tell Me Why, which the organization said included the first playable transgender character in a major studio game.
Some gamers have observed incremental improvements in the video game industry’s diversity, although they say progress can happen at a snail’s pace.
“I would like to see the gaming industry hire more gay people and give them the tools to better reflect our lived experiences,” Regulus said.
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