We recently published a cover story on the origin and evolution of Summer Game Fest. Some in the industry, especially after seeing the ESA announce E3 would not happen in 2022 at all, are dubbing it ‘the new E3’ — something that showrunner Geoff Keighley has told Fanbyte he has complicated feelings about. While E3’s future is understandably up in the air given its waning relevance over the years, there’s a good amount of it that will be missed if it ever goes away.
One of those things is not the perpetual absence of women on the E3 stage. The last showcase, E3 2019, had the lowest percentage of female protagonists since Feminist Frequency began collecting data in 2015; other years did not face much better. At the time, five percent of the games shown on stage featured exclusively female protagonists.
“Of the 126 games we tallied from the E3 events held by Microsoft, Nintendo, Bethesda, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and EA, as well as the annual PC Gaming Show, a paltry six centered exclusively female protagonists, while almost five times as many, 28, centered male characters,” wrote Anita Sarkeesian and Carolyn Petit in a co-authored WIRED article. This lack of representation certainly wasn’t limited to the women in the games shown on screens. In terms of the gender makeup of E3’s presenters, in 2019 only 21 percent were women while 79 percent were men.
If Summer Game Fest is meant to be an evolution of E3, then that’s worth evaluating on a variety of scales. We wanted to see how the 2022 presentation would take up this mantle from E3, hopefully improving on the statistics. So we did our own little test. We kept an eye out for the women shown on-screen and on stage — though, as you’ll go on to see, there weren’t many.
A list of the women presenters on the Summer Game Fest 2022 stage:
- Johanna Faries, General Manager of the Call of Duty franchise, presenting Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
- Maja Moldenhauer, Studio Director and Executive Producer at Studio MDHR
- Megan Everett, Senior Community Manager at Digital Extremes
- Fleur Marty, Executive Producer at WB Games Montreal
- Ashley Johnson, voice actor for Ellie in The Last of Us Part I and The Last of Us II
This makes for a total of five women who stepped on the stage or led a developer video — at least the named ones; we’re not counting the several women in the Fall Guys trailer promoting its recent shift to free-to-play, for example. By comparison, there were nine men — including Keighley and, to my dismay, The Rock — on stage or in videos presented on stage.
It’s clear that while on-screen representation has been moving forward, conference organizers have plenty of room to improve when it comes to putting real-life women front and center. Keighley told Fanbyte that inclusivity and diversity do factor into the games that Summer Game Fest promotes to millions of people, so here’s hoping we see more women on stage next year.
Things fare a little better in the fictional women department. Notable women characters (and then some) throughout the many trailers shown at Summer Game Fest 2022 were:
- Chun-Li in the promotional image of Street Fighter 6
- A woman in Aliens: Dark Descent
- The villain in the promotional image of Outriders Worldslayer
- Five characters in the world’s quickest Nintendo montage
- The central figure in the trailer for Stormgate
- Two women in American Arcadia who largely narrate the trailer
- The custom player character in the center of the Midnight Suns promotional image; Scarlet Witch in a new version of this promotional image; and Lilith, who seems to be the game’s the central villain
- Ms. Chalice in Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
- Two characters in the promotional image of Neon White
- Protea in Warframe: The Duviri Paradox
- Nine women, as well as the player character in the promotional image, in Honkai: Star Rail
- Eight characters in Zenless Zone Zero
- April in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
- Two characters in Super People
- Random women in the art for the Cultures of Latin America DLC for Humankind
- Nico Robin, Nami, and a new character in One Piece Odyssey
- Three women, including the main protagonist, in Soul Hackers 2
- Princess Peach and Rosalina in Mario Strikers: Battle League
- Six women in The Quarry
- The character on the promotional image of Nightingale
- An NPC and several versions of the player character in the Saints Row: Boss Factory trailer
- A woman on the Warhammer 40,000: Darktide promotional image
- Barbara Gordon in Gotham Knights
- A woman in the promotional image for the standalone The Last of Us multiplayer game
- Ellie, Tess, Riley, and Marlene in The Last of Us Part I
That makes for at least 62 notable fictional women throughout the many images and pieces of game footage you saw. It’s not a bad number! But it’s a charitable one considering many of these examples, such as the sole woman among several men in a marketing asset like Chun-Li, hardly count as progressive indicators. I’m not swayed by seeing Barbara or Ms. Chalice, knowing they’re the only women in their respective games’ main casts.
But as the gaming industry so often encourages, let’s look at the positives. Some titles — like Nightingale, Midnight Suns, and Honkai: Star Rail — signify that we’re seeing more companies take the “risk” of using women to represent their game’s customizable protagonist. This move promotes the idea that the experience of playing as a woman is just as universal and valid as, say, seeing John Shepard on the cover of Mass Effect. Other games — such as the former two, The Quarry, and Zenless Zone Zero — deserve commendations for having many women among their extensive crews. However, the only game with an exclusive woman protagonist at Summer Game Fest was Soul Hackers 2.
We’ll see how the rest of the conferences taking part in the general Summer Game Fest event pan out. If you’re in need of the full schedule, you’ll find it here!
Summer Game Fest is part of Fanbyte’s Hot Game Summer coverage, where we’re bringing you recaps and commentary on this summer’s game presentations like Xbox’s showcase, the PC Gaming Show, and the all-encompassing Summer Game Fest hosted by Geoff Keighley. If you’re interested in seeing all of Fanbyte’s coverage, check out our Hot Game Summer 2022 hub.