Down with the Patriarchy! A look at today’s gender roles in games

While it has been a frustratingly slow process, the world of gaming is shifting away from being a male-dominated hobby. That change is being driven both by developers and players. Some developers have begun to correct their mistakes by giving female characters better representation in their games, while there are several successful female gamers that have rallied against the misguided notion that gaming is a predominantly male pursuit.

The character of Lara Croft demonstrates the battles that females have had to fight in the world of gaming. Early depictions of Croft were geared towards an audience of straight male players, something that is analyzed in a fascinating editorial by Aja Romano for Vox. The most recent iterations of Croft are still blessed with a remarkable skill-set, but they are also presented in a much more nuanced manner that moves away from some of the more typical gender stereotypes. 

There are other characters emerging in Croft’s wake that also indicate that change is afoot. Alyx Vance is a beloved NPC in Half-Life 2, but she will be the main character in the upcoming virtual reality release Half-Life: Alyx. The Last of Us II will feature Ellie, a secondary character from the previous game, as its protagonist, while newer Pokemon games allow players to start as either male or female. 

You could argue that these female protagonists should have been available on the original versions of their respective games, and you would be right to do so. Yet modern game developers can only seek to redress the imbalance put in place by their predecessors so that their games better reflect the playing population. After all, almost 70% of the players in certain gaming genres are women. 

Given that they comprise such a high proportion of players, it is no surprise that women are among the most celebrated players in several areas of gaming.


Classic movie depictions of poker show a group of men sitting around the table, but both the table and the men are now inaccurate. The table has disappeared, with players able to access poker games on their desktop, mobile or tablet instead. Also, the success of the likes of Annette Obrestad, the Norwegian star with around $4 million in career earnings, shows that poker is not just for men. While Obrestad has strutted her stuff on the European Poker Tour, she made her name as an online poker superstar in the mid-2000s, providing inspiration for female iGamers across the world. 


Sasha Hostyn, aka Scarlett, is a Canadian gamer who is testament to the fact that eSports should be a level playing field for all gamers. Just like Obrestad in poker tournaments, Scarlett has thrived in a competitive environment. Scarlett is one of the highest-paid female gamers of all time, having earned over $362,000 through her skills on StarCraft II. Scarlett emerged on the eSports scene as an unsponsored amateur in 2012 and has become a familiar name on the StarCraft circuit since.


Many gamers’ main platform for engagement with other players is Twitch, the streaming service. Twitch has turned gamers into celebrities, with Imane ‘Pokimane’ Anys one example. Pokimane has accumulated over 3.8 million followers on Twitch, gaining this audience through her exploits on games like League of Legends and Fortnite. With a net worth estimated to be around $2 million, Pokimane is evidence of how female gamers can prosper in the crowded market of online streaming.

While it is always important to put down technology and go outdoors, these successful female gamers demonstrate that putting in practice can help you to carve out a career in what you love. These women of poker, eSports, and Twitch show that, when given the same platform, they can match or outperform their male counterparts. It is up to developers to ensure that women in games are given fairer representation, to inspire and guide female and male gamers alike.


  • heather

    I haven’t played games in years they are fun. It is good to know that things are starting to change there are some great female gamers out there.

  • Kate Sarsfield

    I only play games on FB or Microsoft free ones. Much less aggravation but just as competitive playing against myself!

  • Dana Rodriguez

    I enjoy gaming sometimes and always loved the ones with Lara Croft. My fiance’ is totally addicted to Assassins Creed and preorders every time a new one is coming out.

  • Tamra Phelps

    Connie, my nephews play Minecraft all the time. They also love Fortnite. And they try to explain them to me, lol.

    • Connie Gruning

      Tamra, I’ve never seen Alice get MORE frustrated than when she watches me trying to play. It makes it even funnier. Then of course she takes the game away from me and I go play solitare

  • Diane K. Brimmer

    Never been into that kinda sport! So I don’t really understand it all. When we play board games or card games it gets quite loud as we have a tendency to be very competitive. So Big games might not be for me at least.

    • Connie Gruning

      Diane, our house gets REALLY loud with board games. Our favorite is Aggravation. OH my gosh! As far as video games, The Husband is a HUGE gamer. He could spend days playing and I sit and watch and think….. HUH??

  • Tamra Phelps

    When ‘video’ games first became big in the early 80’s, I worked in a store that had those big game consoles. It was usually young boys standing for hours over those things. These days, when you mostly play at home at your computer, my niece is as likely to be playing as my nephews. And, she’s just as good as they are.

    • Connie Gruning

      Tamra, The Husband loves his video games, Alice loves one called MineCraft. That kid would play for hours if you let her. Sooooo when Alice comes up here for summer vacation there will be a fight for the controller.

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