LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD has released its first annual report on LGBTQ representation in video games, finding that the games industry is lagging compared to the average gamer’s opinions on representation.

In a study conducted with partner Nielsen Gaming, GLAAD polled gamers to find out how many identified as LGBTQ, as well as asking their opinions on representation. The survey revealed that around one in five, or 17% of active gamers are part of the LGBTQ community. This is an increase of 70% on a Nielsen Gaming report from 2020, which reported 10% of gamers were LGBTQ.

Despite the increasing numbers of LGBTQ gamers, only 2% of games include LGBTQ characters. “It is time to move past the idea that LGBTQ-inclusive games are a separate, niche category,” GLAAD associate director of gaming, Blair Durkee said on the findings. “All games should strive to reflect the people who play them. And when 1 in 5 gamers are LGBTQ, any game with five or more characters has no excuse for lacking LGBTQ inclusion.”

The report also revealed that 7 out of 10 non-LGBTQ gamers would either be more inclined to buy a game with an LGBTQ main character, or that it would not influence their decision to buy. LGBTQ gamers are even more likely to be positively influenced, with 3 out of 4 LGBTQ respondents saying that seeing a character in a game who matches their identity makes them feel better about themselves.

“This report presents a clear business case for the industry to take action and address the needs of a rapidly growing portion of gamers,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “The message is clear: gamers want more inclusive LGBTQ representation in their games and the industry must become more inclusive.”

The report also touches on some of the real-life issues facing LGBTQ people in the United States, with specific questions fo queer gamers in states that have recently passed anti-LGBTQ legislation. A number of respondents indicated that they felt more accepted in gaming communities than in their local communities or that video games helped them get through tough times. 75% of respondents in these states said they use gaming as an outlet to express themselves in ways they can’t in real life.

As well as representation, the GLAAD report identifies safety as another issue for LGBTQ gamers, with 52% reporting being harassed in online games, and 42% reporting they had avoided playing a game for fear of harassment.

“For brands looking to engage LGBTQ gamers, creating a safe and inclusive environment must extend beyond the game itself,” added Nielsen senior vice president Stacie deArmas on the toping of safety. “Nearly 70% of respondents are less likely to buy from studios with a history of mistreating LGBTQ workers.”

You can read the full report from GLAAD here.

Since 2019, GLAAD has presented an award for LBGTQ representation in AAA games as part of the GLAAD Media Awards. Previous winners include The Last Of Us Part 2, Apex Legends, and The Outer Worlds.

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