LGBTQ+ representation in video games lags behind film and TV, report finds

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In its first report on the state of LGBTQ+ inclusion in video games, US advocacy organisation Glaad (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has said that games are yet to catch up with TV and film when it comes to queer representation. The study of US-based players found that 17% of gamers identify as LGBTQ+ a significant increase on the 10% reported in a 2020 Nielsen Games study, and 10% more than the proportion of the US general population thought to be LGBT+.

By contrast, only 2% of games feature an openly LGBTQ+ character. That compares with 28% of films released in 2022, and 11% of primetime TV characters in 2022 and 2023, per other Glaad reports.

In partnership with Nielsen, Glaad surveyed 1,452 gamers in the US, from within and outside the LGBTQ+ community. It found that both groups appreciated the way in which gaming allows them to experience perspectives of people different from themselves (80% and 67% respectively).

Experiences of harassment while playing online are common among LGBTQ+ players, the report found, with 52% having experienced it and 27% having quit a game as a result.

The report also provides some insight into the importance of games and gaming communities to LGBTQ+ people for self-expression and social support, especially in states where anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has been proposed or enacted. In those states, 55% of players said they felt more accepted in gaming communities than in the actual places where they live. And 65% also said gaming has helped them to cope during tough times, while 75% agreed they can express themselves in games in a way that they don’t feel able to do in the real world.

“What we found in our report is that three out of four LGBTQ+ gamers say they can be their true selves while gaming,” says Tristan Marra, head of research and reports at Glaad. “Seeing ourselves represented well in games helps us feel better about ourselves as LGBTQ+ people as well: 72% of LGBTQ+ gamers say seeing characters with their sexual orientation or gender identity represented well in games makes them feel better about themselves.

“Gaming is such an important platform for youth in particular. We know that one in five gen Z adults are LGBTQ+ according to Gallup, and other sources show this number is even higher.”

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Glaad’s report includes recommendations for developers, publishers and marketers in video games, including taking responsibility for making gaming communities less toxic for LGBTQ+ players, and consulting with media experts on how to best represent queer characters.

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