Gaming: What is sexism anyway?

no-womenI’ve never blogged before. But seeing as I constantly rant on forums I figured hey, might as well shout my thoughts out here too.

So I thought I’d dedicate my first blog to my views on sexism in games. It’s a hot topic right now and it’s probably for the best that it’s in the spotlight because frankly, things need to change.

Let me start with a bit of history. I’ve been playing games since I was 8 years old, right back to the old Atari 2600 days. I can tell you for sure that sexism was never much of a problem before games grew into what they are today.. or rather, the industry evolved into what it is now.

I’ve seen the “tropes vs. women in videogames” series so far and find myself unconvinced. Yes, games started out with the old “rescue the princess” clichés but you know what? That doesn’t bother me. Even now, I could care less if the objective is to rescue the girl. All it shows is a clear lack of imagination in the game script – it isn’t intentional sexism. Yes, it could be taken to mean that women are weak and need rescuing but I can’t help but feel that’s a case of over analysing.

The bigger, and far more obvious problem to me is this: Exclusion. Intentional avoidance of an entire gender as playable a character. Some examples:

  • COD (any)
  • Battlefield (any)
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Brink

Some of these are pretty big titles, right? Well yeah, which makes them the “stage setter” for games to come.

So why exactly do we simply not exist in these games? These are some of the reasons I’ve heard.

  • People would have issue shooting a woman in the face!
    Sure, because this was a problem all the time in the older FPS’s.
    Also, are we saying it’s ok to shoot men? I disagree.
    Lastly ; it’s a game. You know it is. Bad excuse. Move on.
  • It would take away from the realism / immersion.
    First of all.. how do you know?
    Secondly: games aren’t realistic. They never will be. Not unless you want to train for months beforehand and pass several fitness tests before you can even “fight”.
    Lastly: In a war game, in baggy combats and combat helm, a woman isn’t going to be looking that much different to a man.
    If it really bothered you, it would be very easy to have a male only avatar option. Though I’d question why on earth you’d ever tick that.
  • The hitbox is smaller! Unfair!
    Actually, in quake2 this was a valid point, but was soon fixed in other games..
    So how did it work in all the older games? How does planetside 2 pull it off? It’s simple, the female is same height and her width hitbox is exaggerated.
    Also, it’s acceptable to have a wider woman, we’re not all skinny.
  • More development time! More costs!
    Hey, if you don’t want to tap into a gigantic potential market that’s your call. But if you think we don’t like shooting some guy in the face, especially when rocking on PMT, then wow.. you just couldn’t be more wrong about this gender.
  • The class recognition would be harder!
    Several deviant artists have already proven that the TF2 silhouettes can more or less be identical for male and female versions.
    A very poor excuse indeed. I sigh every time I read it, especially when it’s from a reputable company like Valve.
  • If we include females we’d have to include (insert race here)
    Gender is not race. Gender is not sexuality. Gender is not ability level. Gender is roughly a 50/50 split of the entire human race.
    Do you really think it’s okay to exclude half of the planet from your game?
    If you think a black man feels excluded playing a white male, how do you think a black woman feels?

The fact that more and more games completely exclude female avatars is so short-sighted that it actually hurts my brain. To tap into the female market one only needs to include us, and promote accordingly.

Picture this: We include females in Battlefield 4, we add a female sniper.. NOT sexy, just a proper soldier, alongside the male in the ads and splash screen, and all of a sudden you have a massive new market starting to pay attention. Have you ever thought that the reason women don’t play games is because you’ve never shown them that they can?

Also to ponder: why is it that the older generation of games.. quake 2, UT, etc. ALL had female avatars. This was years before gaming had really taken off, so you can bet that there were even less female gamers back then. But still, female avatars were an option.

Back to today, we see (quite depressingly) that fewer and fewer games include females in any playable form at all. This exclusion is happening all of the time, and at the same time we’re seeing women portrayed in gaming events as nothing more than dancers and eye candy.

I’m sorry guys, but this has to change. Gaming is the one, the ONLY place where our genders are complete equals in every regard. We should embrace this, it’s a wonderful thing. We should do everything in our power to get more and more people into gaming and we should never, EVER do anything to alienate or discourage someone.

And yet.. exclusion is alienation. Booth babes are alienation. Sexy chicks dancing at the GDC party: alienation.

So for goodness sakes, if you are reading this and in any position at all to change things, heed my words. Don’t waste time trying to work out what might captivate a female audience because the answer is simple: the same as what works for men! Give us the same love and attention and the rest will come naturally. Some women will prefer FPS. Some RPG. Some RTS. It’s no different at all. Include us. Show us that we’re there, in a game, as a playable character. It will motivate, it will impress. It worked on men, it’ll work on us too.

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4 Responses to Gaming: What is sexism anyway?

  1. Artanis says:

    I agree with you that there is a lack of female avatars in a lot of AAA games. Although your inclusion of TF2 in this blog entry is faulty, considering we don’t know the gender of the Pyro class, the player has to assume a gender for the race, and you’ve obviously chosen to assume the Pyro is male, so i think you might just see what you want to see.
    Anyways, yes CoD or BF could and should definately include female avatars. We all know they have the budget for the extra motion cap and design. There are no excuses there. But, with that being said, i also think a developer should make what he wants, and not what he is being forced to do. Personally i’m all for freedom of a developer, i hate it when a client tells me exactly what they want, and how they want it. I’m sure a game developer feels the same way. Secondly it is also important to note that not all games would work with a female avatar. For example, StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty wouldn’t make any sense if you were playing as a female, since the whole story revolves around the Rainor/Kerrigan love story. Who would you play as? A random crew member on the hyperion? And if so, how in the world would a random crew member be allowed to command all of Rainors forces? Or what about Leisure Suit Larry? I’m pretty sure if you played a female character instead of Larry, then there would be even more hate surrounding that franchise.

    • silkwp says:

      I’m not much bothered about which characters we play in single player campaigns. It’s a set world, a set storyline, and I’m fine with pretty much anything. I don’t think anything needs to change there, just that when we talk multiplayer, we should consider both sexes – or we should if we ever hope to evolve online gaming anyhow.

  2. Artanis says:

    If speaking strictly multiplayer, then yes. There is definately a lot of room for more female avatars ;)

  3. Fool's Chaos says:

    Hey Silk :)

    I agree with what you said here, but I can see why female characters on the realistic shooters haven’t been featured. As you mentioned, all the older games, and today’s fantasy/Sci-fi shooters have female avatars, only the realistic modern day shooters don’t.
    I think this will happen eventually, but as the fighting infantry is still mostly men, it will be slow progress if they are trying to keep it realistic. Like you said, even the most realistic game isn’t really realistic, but that is still the mindset the developers are coming from.
    I don’t see why they cannot include a female avatar in multiplayer at least though, multiplayer is never that realistic.

    What I think would be cool is a realistic shooter based on a female character that got separated from her group, fighting through to get back to base, uncovering a conspiracy or something along the way.

    On non realistic games, I have to admit i was really surprised that only 18% percent of players that finished mass Effect 3 played as femshep. That really surprised me. I wonder how many women played the maleshep vs femshep.

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