Bioware didn’t shy away from a very public agenda on the representation of gender and sexuality in the development and marketing of the Dragon Age series, in particular, the final installment – Dragon Age: Inquisition. By this point there was an expectation that the series would be written with player characters, companions and other characters that represented the established narrative setting of Thedas as a world with diverse ethnicities, genders and sexualities. The series, along with sci-fi cousin Mass Effect, has cemented Bioware’s position as industry leaders in terms of narrative and character driven RPGs.
So, does the production environment mirror these kinds of explicitly stated values of inclusivity? Yes, and no.
Excluding the cast of voice actors women accounted for about 19% of people working on the game. While still low, it is more significant than what the results of the 100 game sample would anticipate. Given that Bioware is primarily a producer of role playing games, which as a genre had higher rates of women as producers and writers, it is not unexpected to see that they have higher numbers of women working on their games than the industry overall. However, it is clear that Bioware is itself responsible for much of that increase, so much so that even among role playing games Inquisition stands out in terms of the number of women working as producers and writers. Across the 100 game sample women accounted for 16% of writers and producers. In Dragon Age: Inquisition they accounted for 44% of producers and 62% of writers. Unlike the larger sample I was able to look at the entire development team, so was able to get some data on other roles in the production process. For example, women were 39% of the QA testers and 25% of the QA team overall, and were well represented as audio producers and directors but less so as audio designers.
If Dragon Age: Inquisition is representative of the production environment in Bioware then the studio is an industry leader across most of the roles I’ve looked at but is in line with industry in roles such as programer. This suggests that an inclusive corporate / development culture can only go part of the way towards higher rates of female representation. There are still likely constraints on how many women a company like Bioware can hire as programmers, even if they wanted to hire more. This is likely a deeper issue with women working in programming more generally. However, the success of the game, and of Bioware, indicates that the idea that women are not interested in working in games, and can’t do it as well as men, is an unsupported myth. This means that the studio sets a new benchmark that other employers, particularly studios that produce role playing games, ought to be able to meet.
That said, women were still under-represented in leadership roles in the Dragon Age: Inquisition team. It will be interesting to see whether the women working with Bioware as QA testers, writers and producers translates are able to transition into leadership roles, either in Bioware or elsewhere, in the next few years.
The table below summarises the results for the game, organised by the teams identified within the credits.
(as per credits)
|Percentage women||Number Female, Male|
|Total||15.81%||77 / 410|
|Art and Animation||3.70%||3 / 78|
|Audio, Localisation and External Resources||30.43%||7 / 16|
|Cast (PC and Companions)||56.00%||14 / 11|
|Design||21.11%||19 / 71|
|Leads||18.18%||2 / 9|
|Online Development||17.50%||7 / 33|
|Programming||1.90%||2 / 103|
|QA||20.54%||23 / 89|