Archive for the Sexism Category

The inevitable sexism rant.

Posted in Rants, Sexism with tags , , , on December 4, 2007 by Kit

I’ve been holding back this post for some time, because I didn’t want to start things off with a big feminist harangue. I guess the time has come.

Women Like to Play Games, Too

A lot of hay is made about the so-called difficulties of courting women gamers. And I think that’s mostly bullshit. It isn’t hard to get women interested in games, it’s just that the big game publishers are addicted to the kinds of games that appeal to their traditional market: men in their 20s and 30s.

They’ve been targeting that demographic since the first Playstation came out, and they really know how to do it. Making a serious effort to include more potential players is a risk they aren’t willing to take, even if it means sacrificing some potential theoretical profit.

I think that’s a mistake, because there isn’t any trick to getting women interested in so-called hardcore video gaming. Women want to play games as much as men do, but gaming has been so trenchantly sexist for so long that it’s hard for some people to imagine a world in which it isn’t. The Wii has proven that lots of people outside the traditional demographic are interested in playing games. But far more needs to be done.

Side note to game designers: Reaching out to women does not mean putting pink butterflies on the package.

I’m not even an expert on my own tastes, let alone anyone else’s. But I have some ideas, not that anybody is interested.

We Have Several Different Kinds of Sexy Bitch In Our Games

Women in games today are depicted as:

  • Almond-eyed Fucktoys with Attitude.
  • Ugly Bitches.
  • Sexy Bitches.
  • Brainless Sexy Bitches.
  • Brainless Ugly Bitches.

Regardless, they are all in the game to be had, either metaphorically or literally. Yes, yes, I know that there are exceptions and that you can go through your game library and glean a measly few semi-evenhanded treatments of women. But it’s hard to deny that this is an enormous trend.

When a designer decides to make a female protagonist sexier… they aren’t doing it for women. They aren’t doing it because women are interested in being Almond-Eyed Fucktoys with Attitude. They are doing it because men want them to be.

The Myth of the Powerful Lady

Occasionally gamers will trot this one out. They’ll offer up one of the various Almond-Eyed Fucktoys with Attitude as an example of a “Powerful Woman” who somehow breaks gender barriers with her sheer bitchy ass-kicking boobalishousness. But, ladies and gentleman, Lara Croft isn’t really breaking any gender barriers and we all know it. She’s there for the boys, and she represents a gender-role fantasy that has been carefully calculated to appeal to us.

Editorial Addition: In fact, this particular phenomenon is even worse for the potential female gamer. The message these so called “Powerful Women” send is: “No matter how bad ass you are, no matter many guns you have, no matter how strong, intelligent, or independent you are — you will still be measured by the size of your tits and ass. So you better bring the Double-D cup and the booty if you want to participate in our make-believe world.”

Men Are Sexy Too

“But, games usually depict the male protagonist as having an ideal physique.” So goes another common argument. And you know, I’m not so sure that’s true. I can toss out counterexamples all day (and it’s telling that most of the games with ugly protagonists still feature sexed-up ladies), but there’s more to it than that:

When you are a man, being leered at is never a threat.

When you are male, the situations where being slobbered over might represent a threat are statistically irrelevant. You’re a man! You’ve got the power, baby! The obvious corollary here is:

When you are a woman, being leered at is often a threat.

Look, fellow males. How many times have you walked into a darkened bar, caught the eyes of several people wandering over your chest and ass, and thought to yourself… “Maybe I should have a drink someplace more well-lit.” How many times have you thought that it might be a good idea to call up a friend to escort you to your car from a late night class?

When you are an adult male, the possibility of rape in the everyday world is basically nonexistent. When you are a woman, it’s a fact of life. Statistics vary widely, but most estimates put the number of women who have been victims of a sexual assault at around 15-20%. Some put it as high as 30%.

Chew on that statistic for a second, and think about how much gaming culture must look exactly like a creepy bar where the lights are just a little too dark. I think a lot of women take one look inside and choose to entertain themselves elsewhere.

I Like The Sexy Ladies, Really!

Let it not be said that I’m against sex in games. I’m not. I’m not even against pornography in games. I’m okay with a gaming world in which there are both seedy bars and places that are clean and well-lit.

But right now, the gaming world looks like one giant red-light district. And I’m tired of listening to people in the game industry act as if there is some mysterious trick to writing games that women will like — all while painting the nipple cups onto the latest Sexy Bitch With Attitude.