How women are changing the gaming and animation industries
It’s long been known that video gaming and animation has been a bit of a boys' club. Despite an almost equal proportion of gamers being women, there is a significant lack of female representation within the industry itself. Similar figures show in the animation business, with a high percentage of female animation students not reflected in the feature film directors that follow. It might seem a bit doom and gloom, however, times are changing, as women are beginning to make their mark on these billion dollar industries.
Living through a global pandemic has only accelerated the profitability of video games with video gaming overtaking both film and US sport combined in 2020, totalling a revenue of £170 billion. To give that context, the global film industry only reached $100 billion (£70 billion) in revenue for the first time in 2019, while North American sports brought in more than $75 billion (£50 billion) in 2020.
During 2020, we saw audiences change too. Growth in play time has been up across the board, and although still outnumbered, 46% of all gaming consumers are women. With this percentage predicted to increase, there is an opportunity for the industry to change its mindset to accommodate this increasingly female audience. Unfortunately, this number falls dramatically when addressing the considerable disparity between those who play games and those who make their careers in the industry. Figures show in 2019, only 24% of game developers were women.
Back in October, we caught up with one of the 24%, BA (Hons) Game Arts graduate Liliana Pita, who interned with King Games, the video game development company responsible for smash hit mobile games such as Candy Crush Saga. Liliana, originally from Madeira, came to Plymouth College of Art after struggling to find a game arts course in Portugal, graduating in 2019 with a First Class Honours degree.
Liliana said, “I was unsure as to what I wanted to study exactly until my aunt told me about the college. I didn’t know whether to do illustration, animation or game arts so thought it was best to do the Extended BA degree. This gave me the opportunity to explore different subjects and I decided on Game Arts. I felt this covered my need to create art within illustration and animation and felt the Game Arts course would give me the biggest set of skills to help me fulfill my dream of working in the industry.”
“My advice to anyone trying to get into the industry themselves would be never stop creating art. It’s easy to see your casual part time job as a career path, but think of it as a Plan B for when you’re not successful with applications or interviews. It’s easy to get comfortable and think of it as temporary, but never give up!”
With more video games featuring female characters than ever in 2020, it feels like perhaps this change could be turning into more widespread female representation behind the scenes of game development too. As Liliana said herself, never give up!
Animation has had a similar increase in activity thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. With rigid restrictions in place for film crews and shooting locations, animators and illustrators were unlike their live action counterparts, giving them a sure advantage in a post-pandemic world. With streaming services exploding onto lockdown dwellers screens, this has become the fastest-growing distribution channel for animation, with an exponential growth of online video viewers across the globe. Disney+ has already proven this trend by breaking their own five year goal to reach 60 to 90 million subscribers by 2024, in just 11 months after launch.
In 2019, 60% of students studying animation courses in education institutes globally were women. However, this figure drops to 12% when it comes to feature film directors, despite the fact that as many as 90% of women in the early stages of their careers express clear aspirations to undertake leadership roles. This is not to say there isn’t hope for budding female animators trying to carve their way in a male dominated industry.
Back in February 2020, Jim Parkyn, Senior Model Maker and Aardman Ambassador, visited the college to give an exclusive clay modelling and character articulation workshop to the BA (Hons) Animation & Games students. He claims to see that beginnings of that trend change, with even more women present in positions of management.
He said, “Previously, it was seen as a stinky boys bedroom. Now, it’s all about tenacity and resilience, learning it’s alright to fail and keep failing. Animation and gaming can take you into so many different areas. Within Aardman, a lot of the main roles from heads of model making to marketing are female-led now. There’s a 60/40 split female bias now, which as someone who’s been in the industry for a long time, is really encouraging! There’s a lot of female students making waves, so it’s no longer a stinky boys party - which has only got to be a good thing.”
Despite some of the statistics, there really isn’t a better time to be a woman in the gaming and animation industries. Women have and are making an impact on these male dominated industries, and the challenges women face are being acknowledged and actioned upon. Women in Animation, a non-profit organization with chapters all over the world began their 50/50 by 2025 program in 2015 to focus on introducing a more gender balanced playing field. In 2018, social media giant Facebook launched its Women in Gaming initiative, with an aim to build a community of women within the gaming industry.
Part of breaking the cycle is not only to recognise the unique difficulties women face, but to also be vocal about it. Change is slow, but persistence and visibility is paramount, and the signs are beginning to show of women making their presence known.
At Plymouth College of Art, we recognise the significant impact that women have on these industries and why that passion should be nurtured. From our immersive working animation and games studio, fit with industry standard 2D, 3D and stop motion software and equipment to our extensive industry network and visiting experts, we enable you to make that transition from student to professional. Our new BA (Hons) Animation & Games course, launching in September 2021, combines the relevant transferable skills needed for these industries into one course.