Editorials & Opinion

Some Reasons Why We Need Women In Gaming

I was following this story yesterday as best I could while at work. A number of women in the gaming industry were tweeting many of their frustrations, negative experiences, and their general lack of equality within gaming. Not as a male but instead as a decent and rational human being, many of the stories were very disturbing. From tales of outright groping, to dismissing a woman’s promotion as a result of her body type, to ignoring that we have female gamers in the first place: the message is clear. We need to change the culture in gaming.

I am not going to pretend to be a woman, to know what it feels like to be a woman, or even to say that I’ve talked this issue over with a lot of women. I haven’t. I just have a basic understanding that, if the shoe were on the other foot, I’d want things changed immediately. I would never want to ignore trade shows because I’d be afraid of sexual harassment or have my ideas mocked or ignored on the basis of my gender and not their merit. I am of the (I wish it were prevailing) line of thought that we NEED women both as gamers and in the game industry itself, that in order for gaming to truly flourish and blossom, it doesn’t need to have prejudice deeply embedded in its core.

While I understand that there are female gamers and fans for every genre, I think it is also to say that female gamers, in general, might require a little more impactful narrative and better character development than the average male gamer (who for whatever reason keep Activision in business with the Call of Duty series). And as a lifelong RPG fan and a fan of good stories in any game, especially shooters, I would welcome a more balanced approach to making games with open arms.

I absolutely hate stock characters whose sole purpose in the story is to be “bad ass” and whose development arc is directly correlated to which weapons you’ve unlocked. If I can get more of and a bigger focus on the Master Chief/Cortana relationship arc like we did in Halo 4 with more games, those games would have a much bigger emotional impact and be even more worthy of veneration, broad appeal, and critical praise.

We don’t really need highly objectified views of women in gaming. It doesn’t bother me to see a semi-nude woman appear in my video game. I am used to it. However, many times games tend to go just beyond that into gross pixel land. I am not of the mind that every bare breast denigrates an entire set of human beings, but I am of the mind that if it isn’t absolutely important to the gameplay or story, why the hell have her tits hanging out? As a male gamer, if you need games to be your number one source of entertainment and your number one source of pornography at the same time, you don’t have the right priorities in life.

And finally, more acceptance of women as viable, intelligent, employable, creative powerhouses means that gaming will change for the better, and attract more female gamers. Now, before you dust off your cat calls, prepare your best pick up line that ends with the punchline ‘show me your tits’, or brush up on jokes about the proximity of things to kitchens, realize this: More female gamers means you’ll find more members of the opposite sex that share your favorite hobby and that would probably be even more willing to break open some Mountain Dew and play a little Guild Wars 2. You see, if we all grow up and accept that women are just as awesome as men is a natural rule rather than something limited on an industry by industry basis, male gamers might actually meet more than one female gamer at a time. That isn’t an excuse to put on your ass hat and be a complete dick, it’s actually quite the opposite. It’s a reason to stop being immature, and to start being accepting.

I believe it is a necessary change that male gamers and the male-dominated gaming industry have to make. Women are equal to men in every way, so why leave out or ignore or harass so much talent, creativity, and passion? Why disregard entirely new perspectives and approaches that could improve every single genre and series that we love? It is time that male gamers and gaming grow up. It is for the better, after all.

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20 thoughts on “Some Reasons Why We Need Women In Gaming

  1. I deliberately stay away on my blog from sexism and feminism with regards to gaming, but agree completely with this post. If we want the world to not treat gamers like teenage boys, we have to stop acting like teenage boys.

    Good post!

  2. Reading this brings back memories of when I was a teenager. As a female gamer, walking into a game store always brought about the odd stares, as if to say that I didn’t belong there. But hey, I didn’t care and was only there to browse/buy games. I remember a man who owned a game store came up to me and a female friend (who was also a gamer) and mentioned how it was nice to see girls into games come into the store. That brought a smile to my face seeing how respectful he was and not shunning me from the store just because of my sex. But to this day I still get that same feeling.

    It is certainly shocking to read how these talented woman are treated so disrespectfully. Although this happens in a lot of other industries also, it’s unbelievable to know how people, more so males, react in this day and age to something so small as this.

    I know not all males are against female gamers, but until this is fully highlighted and tackled the problem will unfortunately carry on. It’s just that proportion of males who are very immature think in that way, when probably in reality their favourite game may have been created by women. Makes me wonder what they think of that in general terms.

    • I completely understand that … from the other side of the coin. When I was a lot younger and was your typical awkward, lonely, bad at socializing (especially with the opposite sex) game-obsessed geek, seeing a girl in ‘my’ typical hang outs was always something out of the ordinary. I remember one girl that worked at a local GameStop when I was an up-and-comer who I had so much trouble buying games from because I thought she was so much more awesome and attractive and interesting just for that fact alone.

      However, that sort of immaturity, while annoying, is a far cry from the malicious sort that plagues the industry as a whole.

      I am glad you stuck with going though. As an average looking white male, I don’t know what I would’ve done in a situation like that.

  3. The Games Industry has been in a lot of hoopla over the past month for all the wrong reasons, and it is beyond clear that the industry needs to fix a shit ton of issues if it wants to continue to grow and develop.
    It has been evident that those in the industry have to deal with a lot of BS from everyday readers, with vulgar comments in articles to blatant attacks on Twitter, and its of course been evident that the female writers have it worse, but that’s from anonymous readers!
    The fact these issues and worse are infecting it from the inside is awful and absolutely disgusting. The industry needs all the help it can get to evolve and become more then an FPS machine. Your points about the “badass” protagonist and story are views I share; a solid story and great well-rounded character are far more important and engaging than just shoot everything as a dumb brick! We not only need more diversity in the work places of developers, we need more diverse and real characters to play as.
    I am glad the new Lara Croft actually looks like a more natural person, I love the fact that The Walking Dead had a non white lead that was perfectly written. The industry needs to pull its head out of its ass and learn to accept, be mature, and grow.

    • Yeah, I wasn’t even touching on the race issue, but that’s a good point too. I really do see video games as just another stage in the evolution of human culture that is exactly analogous to music, books, and movies. If games want to be as culturally critical however, they will need to evolve quickly.

  4. Thank you. It’s always great to have men try to understand our perspective! As a woman, I can’t begin to tell you about my many frustrations with video games, comic books, science-fiction and popular culture in general.

    About female gamers needing “more impactful narrative and better character development than the average male gamer”, i’d say: not necessarly. Some games simply don’t require that as much as others, and I’m really not certain that women need better character development than guys.

    What I do wish for, however, is for games to move away from stereotypes and direspectful representations of women. Men may not mind semi-nude women in their games. I guess I can understand why. But I do. I mind that women are treated as objects and highly sexualized. I mind that what representations men see of women in popular culture shapes their expectations of women, as well as their ideas about them. It’s simply not nice to feel that women characters are mainly exploited for their bodies, and that maybe society is telling you that’s all you’re good for.
    The same comment applies to the representations of ethnic group, however. Generally speaking, game developpers should strive to contest and go beyond these stereotypes. Some games prove there are major improvements where representations are concerned.

    About staying away from such issues: I know it’s the best way to attract trolls. But someone has to carry this discussion and make it evolve. Thanks for whatever steps you take to make it go further.

    • I’d love to see a wider variety of female characters in games. It’s too often either the damstrel, the fan service, or the brooding male action hero but with breasts. I would hate to have a world of feminist versions of games, but I’d love to see deeper female protagonists who manage to be awesome but not completely sacrifice their femininity (or, be awesome but not at the expensive of over-sexualizing their femininity).

      I just don’t want to be limited to rude, insensitive, and immature snapshots of a pretend image of women with no true real life analogue.

      • I really think people are too scared of feminism. It’s just the radical notion that women are people too. It simply proposes a critical examination of our society and identifies ways in which women are dominated, ill-represented, marginalized and such. It seeks to bring about equal relations between the genders, as well as question the gender categories. You could have video games that are based on a feminist stance and never notice it, frankly.

  5. Pingback: What is this? Madison Avenue in the 1960s? Women in game development speak up « The Geek Anthropologist

  6. AH, I love this entry and you just got a respect point from a total stranger 🙂
    . I was just talking about this with a friend (girl, also a gamer) the other day, she was telling me horrible stories about women getting name called if they played mmo’s and actually revealed they were female. I especially remember one setting in her story – a friend of hers playing in a random group with 4 guys, every time she tried to speak, they would just tell her to shut up and that she should get raped (!!!) etc.

    • Thanks for the support and sharing.

      I’ve never seen any instances as horrific as that in any of the MMOs I have played, but I definitely believe it possible. I have had a lot of good experiences with fellow guild members that were female, so it is possible to play a MMO and not be harassed in such a completely rude and immature way.

      More instances and specific examples like the one you bring up need to be brought into the light though. This isn’t acceptable behavior, even online, and is easily safe grounds for banning offenders from the game and public shaming.

      • I totally agree. I think the female gamer at fatuglyorslutty.com have some horrible examples from the gaming world as well. I am lucky that I have never gotten any personal e-mails from gamers, but its very common that females do, with some kind of sleazy comment. This is not acceptable, but since “internet is for everyone” people seem to leave their manners somewhere far from a console or pc

  7. Pingback: Some Reasons Why We Need Women In Gaming | Nyx Dreams

  8. This article gives me hope that the gaming world will become more balanced and accepting of women. It seems that companies are beginning to accept the fact that there are women who play games. For instance, 10+ years ago, in an RPG, if there were romance options, there would generally be more options for male protagonists. Now, it seems that companies are going out of their ways to acknowledge the wants of female gamers.

    I never had an issue with semi-nude women in video games either; it seems like just a part of the medium at this point. However, I definitely agree that it is jarring when in-game women are sexualized in a way that does not contribute to the overall story.

    I agree that it would be better for all of us if we let go of our gender-biases and embraced each other as creative and intelligent individuals who all have unique perspectives to contribute to games and the gaming industry.

    I hope your mentality and perspective become the norm in gaming!

    • Thanks for the comments!

      I’d love to see a Western RPG with a dedicated female lead. Sure, you do typically get the choice these days, but even when it is ‘balanced’ for both genders, it often can feel like women just get a mirror image of what was ultimately designed for males. I don’t really want to reinforce gender stereotypes, but I do believe there should be SOME differences in the genders (at least some of the time).

      • Oh definitely! I think it must be hard for writers/designers to figure out how to create characters for women because there aren’t any clear models out there already. If I were writing a such a character, I would be worried about offending female players by creating a character that was too similar to a pejorative stereotype or was unrealistically flawless. I agree that there does need to be a difference between how genders are characterized.

      • I just want to see motherhood in some way. You do get a few examples of fatherhood in games like Fable, but I have yet to see a story even try to broach the subject.

  9. Pingback: What is this? Madison Avenue in the 1960s? Women in game development speak up | The Geek Anthropologist

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