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.