One in Five Gamers Are LGBTQ+, But Less Than 2% of Video Games Have LGBTQ+ Characters

The good news? More and more gamers identify as queer. The bad news? Less than 2% of video games feature LGBTQ+ content.

On February 13, the media advocacy organization GLAAD released its inaugural State of LGBTQ Inclusivity in Gaming Report, which was created “to educate the game industry on the current state of LGBTQ representation that exists, make a fact-based business case for LGBTQ inclusion, and provide a playbook for more authentic representation,” per an official press release.

Working with Nielsen Games, GLAAD surveyed a sample of 1,452 LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ gamers about representation, harassment, and overall attitudes within the gaming world.

The report found that nearly 1 in 5 (17%) of active gamers are LGBTQ+, which marks a 70% increase from the 10% of active LGBTQ+ gamers counted in Nielsen’s 2020 Games 360 Survey. This percentage is even higher among younger age groups: almost a third (28%) of 13-to-17-year-old gamers are LGBTQ+, compared to about a quarter (24%) of 18-to-24-year-olds and 23% of 25-to-35-year-olds.

For many LGBTQ+ players, the gaming community isn’t just a hobby, but a vital source of support at a time when a record amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is being introduced across the United States. (According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 417 such bills are active in states across the country as of this writing.) According to GLAAD, half (50%) of LGBTQ+ gamers feel more accepted by the gaming community than they do where they live, a percentage that increases to 55% for residents of states that have proposed and/or passed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. In these states, 65% of LGBTQ+ gamers said that they depend on video games to help them get through hard times, and 75% say that games allow them to express themselves in ways they don’t feel comfortable doing in real life.

Yet despite these important queer ties to gaming, LGBTQ+ representation in the gaming world is sorely lacking. GLAAD counted the number of games that were tagged as having LGBTQ+ content on Steam as well as in Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo stores. They found that as of November 2023, less than 2% include LGBTQ+ characters. The Nintendo Switch Store has the lowest percentage of available games with LGBTQ+ characters and storylines, despite GLAAD data showing that Nintendo Switch consoles are particularly popular among LGBTQ+ gamers (39% of LGBTQ gamers use the consoles compared to 32% of non-LGBTQ gamers). The report notes that one potential explanation for the popularity of the Nintendo Switch among queer gamers “might be the lower cost of entry, compared to other platforms, and the fact that LGBTQ gamers in our study have relatively lower incomes than non-LGBTQ gamers.”

Moving forward, GLAAD is calling on the game industry to consult LGBTQ+ media content experts, hire more LGBTQ workers in positions of authority, and take more responsibility in ensuring that their communities are more inclusive.

“It is past time for LGBTQ gamers to see our community represented in games that they play and to be safe while they connect with other gamers and express themselves,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “[…] The message is clear: gamers want more inclusive LGBTQ representation in their games and the industry must become more inclusive.”

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