First of all I would like to thank Crymson Pleasure, and the Real Women of Gaming for the opportunity to give a male perspective on female gamers and females in gaming. I know, that sounds strange, a male perspective. I’ve seen arguments and debates end with a line similar to – you’re a man, what right do you have to comment on women’s issues. I know that reaction is the extreme, but it does leave many of us standing outside the issue, not even wanting to engage, and I imagine some women feel the same way. When you don’t agree, 100%, with the most vocal in any issue it’s easy to feel ostracized by their reaction. However, out of respect for those same women gamers we support and love, I want to give my honest views, without the fears or PC coating. With respect comes the realization that patronizing or condescending statements, or weak statements that commit to nothing at all, are neither honest nor respectful.
How are female stereotypes in gaming having a positive or negative impact? That’s tough because we first have to identify which are good or bad, but it’s unfair to do that without asking why they are there in the first place. Stereotypes exist because someone, more likely many someones, existed that are just like that. To tell a true and engaging story in a game you need to include ‘real’ people. Is the trashy bimbo in the game because the story requires a trashy bimbo or because the creator wanted eye-candy? Is she a negative stereotype, or an integral part of telling a realistic story because trashy bimbos really do exist. Is it the creator’s responsibility to only present empowering images or is it also our responsibility as adults, parents, and gamers to teach each other and the younger generation to recognize the difference? To me it’s a little bit of both. You can’t have the positive without the negative. You can’t explain why the strong, intelligent heroine is positive without the trashy, flaky eye-candy. Hells, reverse the genders in that statement and how is it any different? That’s part of story telling – the good and the bad, the dark and light, righteous and evil, right? But, if the trashy bimbo is there because the marketing team wants more digitized breasts in the game then the image is completely unnecessary and we’ve delved into the realm of a harmful as well as negative stereotype that has no place in the art.
How does the imagery affect the players and how does it impact the community? There are impossible to achieve images of men and women throughout gaming. Honestly, I don’t have rippling muscles and a granite six-pack, and I never will, no matter how many barbarians I see on the cover of an RPG. Remember though, before Red Sonja’s chainmail bikini saw the light of day, Conan was gracing book covers in nothing but a fur diaper. We are animals and we have instincts, and we all, male and female, are drawn to images of the gender we find attractive. Just like men are often depicted as strong, protective, virile, and macho, women are often shown as sexy, fertile, and maternal. It is those base instincts that draw us to those images and characters. Is it always wrong? No, but it’s not always right either. Of course this imagery is going to affect players, but I don’t think it’s completely fair to blame a game for body image issues anymore than it is to blame a violent game for violence in real life. To me, it could be toned down, but I think education is far more important. Parents letting young kids play rated M games, not supporting positive mindset about body image, real life bullies and negative people, and letting game life meld into real life contribute far more than a picture on a game box I think.
Now that I have you thinking (hopefully), and asking if I’m just saying the status quo is good enough (probably), I have to say of course we can do better! Why don’t military shooters like BF4 have female soldiers as playable characters? Is it because the designers don’t want women characters? Maybe in some cases, but I think mostly it comes down to the extra work on design, motion capture, interface, etc, but I still think that extra step should be taken. Why don’t RPGs offer a better range of body types? They are getting better, Guild Wars 2 allows you to create quite a range of body types, from muscled, to soft, thin to husky, flat and busty, but more games could do that. Push more stories with women as the hero. Make them smart, strong, and independent. I’d buy them, if they look good. Hell’s, I play three female characters in GW2, but that’s another thing! Do you know how much crap guys get for playing female characters in RPGs? From female gamers?! If you want us to support and buy more games with female protagonists maybe less comments about our age, maturity, and sexuality because we choose to RP a female character. Isn’t RP about playing a role different than our real lives? Sometimes I think we let the emotion of the debate get the better of us and forget that we generation of gamers are still so new. I played on the first of the consoles. My parents didn’t have video games. Already in one generation we have done more for our genre of entertainment, in terms of equality, than any other community out there I believe.
Finally, I want say to the awesome lady gamers out there – keep doing what you are doing, most of us like having you around as much as any other gamers. I’ve played FPS, and RPGs with women and have seen zero correlation between gender and skill. We have a lady in our FPS clan and she’s great, fun to play with, and gives as much crap as she gets. She fits in just like, not one of the guys, but one of the gamers. Let your voice be heard and remember a lot of us, most of us, don’t care what ‘kit’ you spawned into life with. When we tell you to get your big-girl panties, quit crying, and get in the fight, we aren’t saying that because you’re a woman, we say that to all the guys too. There are jerks out there, bullies, pigs and idiots, but most of us just want you to game, and when the smack-talk flies we want you to throw it right back.
In the end it’s not as simple as just making more female heroines, or put more clothes on the female barbarian. Anyone that says that will fix it, or thinks that imagery will disappear completely, is just wrong. Sadly in a lot of communities they are a vocal minority, but a loud one. I think most women are like me and know we can do better without swinging the pendulum completely the other way. So with all these words (I talk a lot) it’s up to you to decide if you think I’m right or wrong. Either way I will keep debunking the myth that women don’t game. I will keep supporting new gamers regardless of gender, and I will continue to fight bullying. I will keep pushing for more realistic stories, characters, and games, because all of that is how I think we will make this community better. We still have a ways to go but we’ll get there if we can ignore the voices shouting on both sides of the road.