So, I was following a rather misogynistic comment on a friends Facebook page when a mutual friend commented about her daughter being very excited about an awesome looking weapon she got in a game and her son was more worried about raiding. I responded back that I am always excited about the awesome looking gear I get AND the prospect of raiding, which I never have.
However, this lead to a bit more and I was asked something interesting: As girl gamers, other than the oddly represented female characters, what would you change about games? Or is it more a marketing problem? Or the attitude of male gamers towards female gamers?
I told her that I dedicated a group and a website to those very questions, but as I thought about it more, I realized: I, myself, have never answered those questions directly. I am sure they have been asked of me a million times over and I know that I answer them, but not directly. I will tell people I created RWoG (Real Women of Gaming) for that reason, but isn’t that dodging the question? Yes, yes it is. It’s a non-answer and if I’m going to be the Captain of this particular ship, I had better answer some questions and these are the biggest.
Let’s start from the beginning. This may shock you, but I wouldn’t change very much about games. The changes I would ask for might not even be noticed by other gamers. I don’t have an issue with a male protagonist and have happily played many a male protagonist (for one I LOVE Ezio in Assassin’s Creed), but I would like some female protagonist games also. The amount of female protagonist games are on the rise, with titles like Lara Croft, Life is Strange and Final Fantasy in your AAA title games and The Ritual on Weylyn Island, The Park and Fran Bow as some of the indie games, also you have your options in Fable 3, Mass Effect, Fallout and Destiny.
However, games are a vast majority of male protagonists and when there is a female protagonist (even the female characters, from party members to NPC), they are treated like crap. Let’s go back to Lara Croft, one of the most well known females in gaming history. She started out with the shortest shorts possible and unreasonably large breasts because that’s what archeologist look like? It was obvious that she wasn’t built to attract the female gamer, even if the marketing department said otherwise. Speaking of popular female gaming icons, Princess Peach and Zelda were constantly getting kidnapped and hauled off to be rescued. Yes, Zelda recently got a badass makeover, but it only took 20+ years? People had a fit when it was revealed that Samus of Metroid was a girl! Our 8-bit badass Goddess was rewarded for that hard work with an absurd costume change in Metroid: Other M with the Zero Suit to show girls that you, too, can save the galaxy with a skin tight suit on so that we still know you’re a female. That’s what is most important here. I’m not even going to mention the heels. Lastly I’ll pull out Quiet from Metal Gear Solid. Are you kidding me? I’m honestly shocked she isn’t in heels. She is a feared assassin in fishnets. What makes this worse is they actually tried to explain her lack of clothing. She can only breathe through her skin following a parasite treatment needed after serious injuries. I’ve heard 1st graders make more sense.
That little rant was just about clothes and appearance. I’m not talking about the fact that their back stories suffer drastically for lack of substance and are filled with trite nonsense (like a deep desire to be a supermodel or an actress). Worse, when they aren’t filled with meaningless crap, they put in abuse or rape (even multiple ones) to spice up a backstory when the comparable male character is revered as hero and a man’s man. Cause little girls grow up with a burning desire to play rape victims in video games, you know cause that shit isn’t real.
I want women and men to be treated equally. I wouldn’t notice as much if I encountered a male with a backstory of wanting to be an actor or supermodel as much as I do women or even a male who suffers abuse and rape in their backstory as much as they do so with women. Equal.
Also, if you are going to do multiplayer, make sure you have some female options *clears throat*AC:Unity*cough cough* It isn’t hard. You want four options, two of them can be female. HELL, ONE COULD BE FEMALE! That is an improvement. In watching my husband play Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 I can’t tell you how shocked I was to see two females, not exaggerated. Like legit women. This is me, floored and with much respect.
That was a long answer for one question, but I could go on and on about it. It isn’t asking a lot.
Now, the other two questions are a bit more simple.
Is it a marketing problem? YES! It is a huge perpetuation of gender bias. When video games were starting to be marketed they had to pick a section to go in. The boys toys or the girls toys because this was a toy meant for kids. They picked boys and marketed for boys and that never stopped. Tastes changed so they changed with the taste and we all know that sex sells.
Marketing to males, they made the women as sexy as possible and, at the time, you didn’t market for both genders. Yes, there were ‘girl games,’ but they were very few and very far between and plus, only boys played.
Now with the gaming population being around 50% of each sex, they are stuck in old ways and are too stubborn to change (to quickly) and don’t want to risk pissing off who they think are their core market (males). Specifically, with reactions to GamerGate and Girl Gamers. They pay attention.
Recently, I had a long time fan post a picture on our Facebook wall. It was of two twitch feeds. The top one was featuring a full screen of a game, then a small block was of the webcam pointing at the guy playing. The second half was of a full screen of a webcam pointed at a female and a smaller block was the game she was playing. The fact that it confuses anyone why that angers me only angers me more. His followers are watching the game, her followers are WATCHING HER! She is the entertainment, not the game! Yes, as streamers/YouTubers, we have to be entertaining, but that isn’t what’s going on here. Of course, it only happens because we have a society where women are objects for entertainment, BUT we as women need to collectively put our foot down to stop that. Fear of harassment online can lead women to do a lot of different things, including objectifying themselves for the sake of their male viewers or not show themselves on screen at all. We, as women, need to put that fear aside and do what it is we want to do. We have to understand that there will always be trolls/harassers/perverts, but we can’t feed them by giving them what they want.
That leads into the last question. Is the attitude of male gamers towards female gamer a problem? Sometimes.
I say sometimes because it isn’t ALWAYS bad. It isn’t always great either. I’d like to say that I am treated with respect, and I am, but I realized something important. I’ve closed myself off to the open world. I can see you are confused, so let me explain.
I play online often and I love it. I play with people. I play with a specific group of people and I don’t open myself up to talk to people. When I do talk, I don’t do so verbally most of the time. I type. If I play online multiplayer, say Halo, I play in a party chat with W1k3d_0n3. No one else in that battleground knows with 100% certainty that I am female. I don’t make it hard to figure out, but I don’t have to hear it when they do. Why do I hide? Because I’ve heard it all already and I don’t want to hear it again. I’m afraid if I let that wall drop for even a second, it will start. Now, when I do get brave and do so, I’m usually ready for a fight or trash talk and I will mute someone and even report them. I do so often; it is why we have the report feature. It can be hell to go through. I’ve been harassed online to the point of wondering if I should call the cops because I was afraid. That is a horrific feeling. The person who harassed me was male and was timid when other men challenged him, but I was a female so he would attack me and continued to do so for a long time.
Online harassment and bullying are, unfortunately, much bigger than we are willing to acknowledge. There needs to be a better solution than hiding.
This conversation ended with a startling thought: she is more a casual gamer that happens to be a woman than a woman gamer, after looking at the site. It made me a bit sad and I sat here and thought about it.
A gamer is a gamer. There are different types. Some will call themselves hardcore; there are professional gamers and casual is one I hear often. Woman gamer… I don’t want anyone to think that you have to identify by your gender. I’m a gamer. I’m not a gamer girl (oh, hells no); I’m a gamer that happens to be a woman, so what? Being a woman gamer doesn’t mean you have to be on some crusade to fix everything wrong with gaming. Be who you want, what you want, why you want. Don’t let other people define something you are. Hell, don’t define yourself if you don’t want to. You want to casually game, then go for it. I will crusade (so to speak) and we can both be gamers, simple as that.