Let’s assume that “enough” means parity or at least somewhat close to parity with the number of games featuring male playable lead protagonists.
It would be arduous — though not impossible — to catalog every video game publicly released since 1958’s Tennis For Two (considered to be the first video game created for entertainment) and determine whether the playable lead protagonist is female, male, or unspecified/player-selectable/gender-neutral. Some studies have attempted to do this but only with a subset of games.
Perhaps a simpler and more useful approach would be to qualify the scope. What if we looked at, say, just the Top 100 Games of All Time? Is there such a list that we could all agree on? Ever since video game journalists started compiling “Best of All Time” lists, gamers have endlessly argued over the rankings.
It turns out that Wikipedia editors have attempted to come up with One List to rule them all by surveying more than seventy “Best of All Time” lists across English-speaking publications from 1985 to the present and then ranked the games according the number of times they appeared in the surveyed lists. The concept is similar to a meta-analysis that statistically combines the results of many independent studies.
So how many of these Top 100 Games of All Time feature a female playable lead protagonist?
The answer: 8.
That’s right, only 8 out of the Top 100 Games of All Time feature a female playable lead protagonist.
Since there are so few to remember, it’s no surprise that most male gamers are quick to point out these time-honored examples of great games with female playable lead protagonists: Metroid, Super Metroid, Metroid Prime, Tomb Raider, Ms. Pac-Man, Portal, Portal 2 and Okami.
Even if we lump in the 19 games that feature a lead playable protagonist whose gender is unspecified/player-selectable/gender-neutral, that still leaves a whopping 73 of the Top 100 Games of All Time with a male lead playable protagonist. Clearly, this is far from parity and a long ways away from an “even playing field” that allows for female gamers to feel included and fairly represented in video games.
Go ahead, pick any Top 100 Games of All Time list, run the same analysis and post your findings in the comments section. I’m betting that the splits won’t look that much different, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.
Here’s the raw data from my analysis. For games featuring more than one playable lead protagonist, the gender determination was categorized as either female, male, or neutral depending on the composition. For example, games like Street Fighter II got counted as male due to having only one female out of eight selectable fighters, and Resident Evil counted as neutral because players can choose between Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine. Let me know in the comments if you find any errors.