According to GLAAD's first industry study, 17% of gamers are gay, yet less than 2% of console video games include LGBTQ characters or storylines.
The survey results were released on Tuesday, with the majority of respondents saying they had experienced some form of harassment while playing online. But it also found that in states where recent laws have targeted LGBTQ people, many queer gamers are looking to virtual worlds as an escape. Seventy-five percent of gay respondents in these states said games allow them to express themselves in ways that are difficult to do in real life.
That's a statistic that resonates with everyone, said Blair Durkee, who led the advocacy group's research with partners at data marketing firm Nielsen. This statistic is primarily driven by young gamers. Games are their lifeline.
GLAAD has produced a similar breakdown of gay representation on television since 1996. Its latest report found that 10.6 percent of regulars on prime-time scripted shows identify as LGBTQ, which researchers said helped put video game research into perspective.
Tristan Mara, head of research and reporting at GLAAD, said the video game study had nearly 1,500 participants and researchers used publicly available information available on PlayStation, Xbox and Switch digital libraries. He said he has carefully searched for comprehensive content of the game.
“I'm deeply into gaming, but I still have a hard time naming LGBTQ characters,” said Raffy Regulus, founder of New York Gamers, 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 asked major companies including Sony and Nintendo to investigate, but received no responses.
This helped validate what we know about the very important role games play, Mara said. We wanted to talk about moral issues and business issues.
The report cites data showing that global gaming revenue exceeds that of movies and music combined, and that younger generations spend almost as much time playing games as watching TV. It also shows that many queer players want to express themselves in-game.
Durkee said the report's findings send a strong message to the industry and that it's time to move beyond the idea that LGBTQ-inclusive games are a separate, niche category. All games should strive to reflect the people playing them.
GLAAD has discussed efforts in recent years to improve gay representation in games such as The Sims 4 and Tell Me Why, and the organization says it will be playing for the first time in games from major studios. A transgender character is said to have appeared.
Some players have observed that diversity in the gaming industry is gradually improving, but say it can sometimes feel like progress is happening at a snail's pace. .
Regulus said he wants the gaming industry to employ more gay people and give them the tools to better reflect our lived experiences.
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