Google today launched a new initiative to bring more inclusivity into mobile gaming. “Change the Game” conducted interesting research into how women play and the real-world effects that a gender gap has on games. In turn, Google is planning diversity programs, partnerships, and research throughout 2018, starting by highlighting games on the Play Store.

Google Play commissioned a study due to the lack of existing research on how women play and perceive mobile games. Surveying over 3,000 people between the age of 10-65 in the US, it found that 49% of mobile gamers are women.

Women are more likely than men (64% to 38%) to prefer mobile over other gaming platforms, with the rise of women playing mobile games tracking smartphone penetration. In general, 43% of women surveyed play five times per week or more, compared 38% of men. Entertainment, stress relief, and restful moments are cited as reasons for doing so.

Despite these statistics, Google found that on the Play Store, “more male-identified characters are featured in store icons than female-identified ones.” This leads to players having the impression that women have a reduced role in games.

  • Of the top 100 grossing games on Google Play, 44% more of the app icons feature male characters than female characters.
  • The majority (60%) of women who play mobile games think that 30% or fewer of mobile games are made for women.

Meanwhile, women are underrepresented in the gaming industry (only 24.8% identify as women or transgender), with Google arguing that “the industry’s lack of diversity limits its ability to build games that resonate with a wide and diverse audience.” This gender bias results in a negative impact on the women who play:

  • EXPLORE a variety of genres: The majority of women play just two or fewer genres, while the majority of men play three or more.
  • COMMUNICATE about play with friends: Men talk more frequently about mobile games than women do (44% Men vs. 27% Women).
  • INVEST in mobile gaming: More men than women pay for mobile games (52% Men; 33% Women).
  • VALUE their investment: More men than women feel good/excited/satisfied upon payment of a new game (70% Men; 58% Women) while more women than men feel guilt/regret upon payment (23% Women; 16% Men).
  • IDENTIFY: More men than women self-identify as gamers (57% Men; 29% Women).

Google has neatly summarized this data with an interactive website that explores the relationship between women and mobile games in the U.S.

In light of this research, Google is launching initiatives in three areas. To address how “male themes and characters monopolize the spotlight,” the Play Store’s Indie Corner will highlight strong female characters. Over 2018, Google plans to highlight women players and the diversity of games.

Meanwhile, Google is going to support the development of more inclusive game and stories with Infinite Deviation: Games. Additionally, Google’s Made With Code program will continue to encourage girls to enter computer science, while they are partnering with Girls Make Games to create more opportunities for game development.

Google also has a checklist for developers to make sure their games are inclusive:

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com