By this point in time there have been an almost endless slew of articles that deal with sexism in video games, and many of these articles have decided to largely focus on the over-sexualization of female characters in almost every game out there. From Lara Croft’s enormous “endowments” to Ivy’s glaring interest in the BDSM scene, it’s obvious that the males on a development team tend to get pretty out of hand with the idea that sex sells. With this in mind, one has to consider: is this just being a tad perverted, or is it actual misogyny?
There are countless amounts of Women’s Rights organizations, bloggers, and just women in general really, that aren’t too happy with the treatment that many female characters are receiving in video games. The claim is that the character design of women in many games is an objectification of women, which if you didn’t already know, means that these female characters are insinuating that women are portrayed in a manner simply for a male to view in simpler and more limited terms.
In some way this is true. There are a plethora of female characters that are dressed solely to be sexually appealing to a crowd of hetereosexual males or pansexual females. There are gaggles of female video game protagonists that are dressed scantily, and even more with generous bust sizes (look to your left), but should these female game icons immediately be considered as sexist representations of women?
Yes and No.
While yes it may be true that these characters are practically naked, and yes it’s also true that there are games which put female leads in some very provocative positions, it does not mean that these characters are sexist representations of women. Sexy perhaps, but not sexist. Although it can still be argued that these women being so scantily clad makes them an objectification of women, this is something that we can’t actually ascertain without confronting the artists and developers of these pro-nudist damsels.
For the half-naked female protagonists to be considered actually sexist, their portrayal has to make a negative statement about women within their actual character. As an example, lets pretend that there is a team of 3 people in [Insert Generic Video Game Title Here]. Two of them are men while the third is a woman. Now, the identification of a sexist representation of the female sex should be grounded on logic and rationality–any assumption taken to far is simply out of context. This particular female character would be a sexist representation of women if, for instance, she was displayed with negative or belittling character attributes that are clearly in contrast with her male character peers. Some of these may take shape as an age-old stereotype incorporated into the gameplay elements. To forcibly insert a female character into a situation where the gender roles show disparity would be the true definition of sexism within video games.
On a side note I’d like to say that I find the overwhelming amount of practically naked female protagonists annoying. My reasons aren’t the sort of selfless feminist kind that you’ll often find in many of the articles written about misogyny in the video game industry. I just would like to see more female leads in realistic clothing that fits their role in the game. A great example of a female lead dressed in a practical and role fitting way is Faith from Mirrors Edge, but back to the matter at hand.
The continual reproduction of stereotyped imagery in video games is the same run-of-the-mill marketing that we see from virtually every corporate entity. From women taking the center-stage in cleaning product commercials, to laundry detergent advertisements that portray men as another child that a woman has to take care of, gender based stereotypes seem to help push product from a financial and marketing perspective. While this may seem like objectification from a business standpoint, popular response would indicate that if it sells well among both sexes, it is not in fact sexist.
On the players side of the medium, there is a presence of misogyny in a place where other terrible things such as racism, homophobia, and those horrible memes dwell, the internet. Such things are abundant in cyberspace and as an extension have a very strong presence in online multiplayer games, such as Call of Duty or Halo.
Everyone expects to be insulted at one point or another while playing in multiplayer matches, with some of the most common insults questioning our sexuality, intellect, ability, weight, and more often for girls than guys, gender. With the anonymity that the internet and usernames can offer us it is often very tempting to be an absolute prick to anyone that you meet, we can make fun of a person that we hate in our personal lives without them knowing who they are being insulted by, or we can choose random victims for our verbal attacks.
While many gamers/internet users have encountered these verbal attacks at one point or another, it is often women who get some of the worst and most distasteful insults that just make you cringe.
From being called whores to receiving threats about their ovaries being torn out the women over at Fat, Ugly, or Slutty have seen it all.
There have been times where they have been insulted by males after a round of Halo Reach, and other times where they have had threats hurled at them just for being women. It’s these childish (many of which may actually be children) males that not only ruin the fun of a game, but also do their absolute best to discourage women from playing online games by saying the absolute worst things.
I have to say that I really don’t get insulting people when losing at a game, and if I’m losing in a game then it’s obviously my lacking skill level, not that my possibly female opponent is some sort variant of whore, slut, or ugly. I don’t really have a problem with losing online games like these sexist young men do, I’ve had my ass handed to me by ex-girlfriends in Halo 3 and Soul Calibur IV and at no point did I blame them or think any less of them for it, I instead decided that I should try to get better at the game so that I could at least offer them some competition.
Within the past ten or so years developers and publishers are better aware of what lines may and may not be crossed than they have been in the past when it comes to portraying women. Many understand what is acceptable and what is just out-of-line, and I’m betting that none of them want to be slapped with a gender discrimination lawsuit. Unfortunately, some male gamers out there can still be bigoted and ignorant towards the female half of the gaming fan club.