A new collaboration between Dove, Women in Games, Epic Games’ education team and Toya has seen the launch of a series of actions to increase diversity and representation of female characters in games – and to support girls’ self-esteem.

Some 1.3 billion women and girls make up half of the global games community, with 60% playing video games before the age of 13. Yet new research from Dove – endorsed by Women in Games and the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) – reveals that 60% of girl gamers feel misrepresented and recognise a lack of diversity as a key issue in video games. The research also revealed that 35% of young girls state their self-esteem is negatively impacted after seeing a lack of diversity in characters and avatars.

To help combat this, Dove has launched ‘Real Virtual Beauty’, a series of initiaties to shatter beauty stereotypes and equip the next generation of young creators and players with the tools to build self-esteem and body confidence. These include:

Real Beauty in Games Training – an education course in partnership with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, which invites game creators to help reflect the diversity we see in everyday life, and to avoid contributing to stereotypes and biases in design

Real Virtual Beauty Avatar Library – an online character art collection hosted on Epic Games’ Art Station platform that will help raise the standard for the authentic, diverse, and inclusive representation of women and girls across the stages of avatar development

SuperU Story – the world’s first Roblox games experience designed to deliver self-esteem education, enabling young girls to customise their own avatars allowing them to experience more representative versions of beauty

Leandro Barreto, Dove Global Vice President, said: At Dove we believe that beauty should be a source of confidence, not anxiety, in every aspect of life, both real and virtual. As part of Dove’s social mission in confidence and self-esteem, we are taking steps to tackle negative stereotypes in the rapidly growing games industry. Through our work with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine education team, Women in Games, and alongside the launch of SuperU Story on Roblox – we hope to make a real impact on the millions of women and girls who are spending their free time playing games.”

“The representation of women in gaming platforms, products and services has long been an issue,” added Marie-Claire Isaaman, CEO, Women in Games. “As activists, Women in Games has a key objective to support women and young girls in the games industry, and those who play games, so we are delighted to see Dove and allies in the games industry tackle this with the introduction of the Real Virtual Beauty Library and the Real Beauty in Games Training Program, as well as the launch of SuperU Story. What’s so important here is that the innovative tools, and training reach the target audience, where there is the opportunity to make a real impact. Women in Games are resolutely behind supporting that to happen.”    

“We’re honoured to work with Dove and leading experts to create the Real Beauty in Games Training course, and we hope that together as a community, we can make real beauty a reality in digital worlds,” offered Julie Lottering, Director, Unreal Engine Education. “Our goal with the training course is to educate game developers on the research that’s available so artists understand why representation in game design matters, and also to teach artists how to use the tools and techniques available to create more authentic characters so all players feel empowered to have fun with friends.”

For over 60 years, Dove has been committed to creating a positive experience of beauty for women and girls – working to shatter the harmful beauty ideals that impact the body confidence and self-esteem of women and girls daily. The Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached more than 82m young people across 150 countries through its academically accredited programmes. Now, with a growing number of women and girls playing video games than ever before, Dove is bringing this commitment to create a more inclusive virtual world.