Less than 2 percent of console video games include L.G.B.T.Q. characters or story lines even though 17 percent of gamers are queer, according to GLAAD’s first survey on the industry.
The survey, whose results were released on Tuesday, said a majority of respondents had experienced some form of harassment when playing online. But it also found that many queer gamers saw virtual worlds as an escape in states where recent legislation has targeted L.G.B.T.Q. people. Seventy-five percent of queer respondents from those states said they could express themselves in games in a way they did not feel comfortable doing in reality.
“That is a statistic that should pull on everyone’s heartstrings,” said Blair Durkee, who led the advocacy group’s survey alongside partners from Nielsen, the data and marketing firm. “The statistic is driven largely by young gamers. Gaming is a lifeline for them.”
GLAAD has produced a similar breakdown of queer representation in television since 1996. Its latest report found that 10.6 percent of series regulars in prime-time scripted shows identified as L.G.B.T.Q., which researchers said helped put their video game study in perspective.
Tristan Marra, GLAAD’s head of research and reports, said that there were nearly 1,500 participants in the video game survey and that researchers used public information to meticulously search for inclusive content in games that are available on the PlayStation, Xbox and Switch digital libraries.
“I am deep into gaming and still have a hard time naming” L.G.B.T.Q. characters, said Raffy Regulus, a founder of NYC Gaymers, which hosts game nights in the city. Regulus pointed to Ellie from The Last of Us and Venture from Overwatch 2 as some recent examples.
GLAAD said it reached out to major companies, including Sony and Nintendo, for its survey but did not receive a response.
“It helped validate what we know about the critically important role that gaming plays,” Marra said. “We wanted to talk about the moral case and the business case.”
The report cites data indicating that global revenue for gaming surpasses that of film and music combined, with younger generations spending nearly as much time playing games as watching television. It also indicates that many queer players want to see themselves represented in games.
”The findings of this report send a powerful message to the industry: It is time to move past the idea that L.G.B.T.Q.-inclusive games are a separate, niche category,” Durkee said. “All games should strive to reflect the people who play them.”
In recent years, GLAAD has consulted on efforts to improve queer representation in games like The Sims 4 and Tell Me Why, which the organization said included the first playable transgender character in a major studio game.
Some players have observed gradual improvements in the diversity of the gaming industry, though they say it can feel like progress happens at a snail’s pace.
“I would like to see the gaming industry hire more gay people and give them the tools in order to better reflect our lived experiences,” Regulus said.