Now Loading…Sexism in Video Games
In this new recurring feature called “Now Loading…” the staff of PlayStation LifeStyle tackles some of the most controversial (and sometimes not-so-controversial) topics in gaming and weighs in unchained. It goes without saying that not everyone will agree with each other, and every comment should be attributed to the individual and not to PSLS as a whole.
In this first reactionary piece from PSLS, the staff discusses sexism in the video game industry and how we feel about it.
Zarmena: As a female gamer who has had the privilege of living in Asia as well as the West, I fully understand the need for this discussion, but I also think we’ve gone overboard. Although I don’t conform to a certain culture, I belong to one in which women playing video games is almost a taboo, let alone us demanding inclusion. For me, the fact that we’ve come this far deserves appreciation.
My problem is not with people raising this issue, rather the way it’s being done. I don’t understand why it’s mainly developers who get slandered. Why do we assume that the video games industry only comprises of people making games? Every single one of us, including those writing about games, is a part of the industry. I see large publications and media outlets bashing developers, but can they honestly stand up and give me a count of how many females they have employed in their respective companies? Do their employers ensure an accurate representation of females? Perhaps, if we had more women working in games media or in any field within the industry, we’d be able to raise this issue collectively and efficiently. I prefer sitting at a table with developers and industry professionals rather than firing insults at them from a distance. When you have an overwhelming majority of males working in the industry, you cannot expect developers to be able to understand different viewpoints.
Yes, I am disappointed when I see women being misrepresented or not being included at all. But I think this trend has been changing, and change doesn’t come overnight. I’d also like to point out that had it not been for a male member of PlayStation LifeStyle’s team (our very own Editor-in-Chief, Alex) encouraging me and showing me the ropes, I wouldn’t even be writing about games right now. Give the men a break and stop assuming that only developers work in the industry.
D’yani: 50% of the world’s population is female. That’s half of all humans, yet that isn’t represented in games. Now, the modern world also doesn’t represent this ratio, so I don’t expect video games to do so. I just expect a little realism. And don’t get me wrong, the video game industry has progressed vastly with realistic gender representation (in realistic games, not those who take artistic liberties to create their game’s experience). However, I think that in 2014, the industry isn’t quite doing enough.
Let me more clearly define what I mean by “realistic”. In any story or scenario in a video game, consider if that same scene would have just males, or if, by this day and age, females could also be found in the same roles. If not, then that game isn’t realistic enough yet. If the game is set in medieval times or something, then sure, women didn’t have too many roles. That’s realistic. Many modern games, and futuristic games, don’t seem quite right, though. Are developers scared that their game won’t make enough sales if they have anything but mostly male characters? That seems silly to me.
I don’t really think anyone would be upset if there was a more realistic of balance of genders in a game. I feel like movies and books are totally up to speed and provide works of art all over the spectrum for anyone to enjoy, yet video games are still leaning heavily to one side when they could easily be more leveled out with how females are represented. There needs to be more focus on creating varied casts in games so that all kinds of stories are possible. Maybe I just want more games developed with women in them, and not necessarily any games from the past, or currently in development, to “change”. Maybe I want writers and developers to never rule out the possibility of adding in real female characters when it’s obviously appropriate, and not just as a damsel-in-distress or a serving wench.
Think about the females in your life. You can’t categorize them into only one part of your life; they take up many different aspects of it, as do men. Real life female gamers make up very close to 50% of all gamers, so the industry should probably wake up their creativity and add some great girl characters to their games now.
Alex: While I understand where some press and people are coming from, I admit all the chatter surrounding this fly over me. Yes, we want gender equality in games, but at the same time, not everything needs to be a big stink or a call to arms.
Right now, character designs, stereotyping has taken a huge step up and I’m happy for it. We don’t see as much over-sexualized female game characters, right? But at the same time, I don’t really like it when I see/read people bashing developers for not including enough females in a certain game they’re making. I’d honestly want the studio to develop the game that they want to, and to the best of their abilities rather than catering to the audience first, and working around it. This is just me, though. I’m not the most sensitive guy in the world, so what do I know, right? I think what annoys me the most sometimes is the witch hunt that happens to these things. An established franchise not having females in its list of protagonists could be a good argument point, but complaining that there aren’t enough women on stage to give a presser and such, does not. That’s just nit-picking in my opinion.
The helpless damsel-in-distress trope is all but gone now — give or take a few games, which in itself is a victory. But please don’t commandeer how game makers want to design their game’s universe. Do men complain that most of the male protagonists we see are muscle-bound dudebros? I’m a guy and I’m OK with that. It’s a video game — an escape from reality — and not your own personal soapbox for everything you want. Maybe I’m just a dense guy? Could be, but I have two beautiful daughters that I don’t think will be offended whenever the media is not catering or pandering to them. I honestly don’t think I’m the only one with this sentiment and find this stuff a bit bland whenever I see it come up. Yes, we get what everyone’s point is, our dogs know what your point is…now please, just stop.
Chandler: You took most of the words right out of my mouth, Alex. I get it, I really do. But between realism and creativity, I can’t say I have many complaints about the current state of the industry myself. On the creativity side of things, developers are free to make what they want. I want the game that came from that vision, not some forced game that came out of necessity to make the main character a female or to tiptoe through the tulips and avoid any kind of sexuality (overt or passive) that may offend someone. Guess what? You’re going to offend someone regardless.
On the realism side, have you lived in the world? There are buxom women who wear skimpy clothes, and there are women that don’t feel the need to flaunt, not to mention every bit of the spectrum in between — from women in leadership roles to those in distress. There are seven billion people on the planet, and you can’t tell me they all conform to one simple ideal. Men and women are different. Adults and children are different. In fact, even men differ from other men! Everyone is different. This argument won’t stop until every game character is a lifeless drone without gender or personality, and I don’t want to see that day.
Yes, I am a white male in his late 20’s. Yes, I am your most stereotypically average person, so why the hell should you listen to me? I honestly don’t care if you do or not, but on the simple level of equality that seems to be called for, shouldn’t my views have just as much weight as any of yours? If my point is null and void, then yours is likewise.
What are your thoughts about sexism in video games? Is it getting better or worse? Share your thoughts in the comments below.