This is something that is always a topic of conversation: is the gaming industry misogynistic? Now before we dive into the entire gaming industry in its entirety let us first ask ourselves this “are video games sexist?”
Now the answer to this question is certainly split to put it lightly, you have one-half saying “yes, but not in the way others will try to convince you,” then you have the other half that’ll say “no” because there are a good amount of female gamers, protagonists and male gamers who welcome female gamers with open arms. It’s not just the gaming community either if you have noticed within recent years game developers and publishers are making a subtle progression to add more female protagonists/adding the ability to have a customizable female character in their video games.
Alright now before we get into the nook and cranny this article we cannot continue any further on this controversial topic WITHOUT bringing up Anita Sarkeesian. For those of you who are unaware of who Anita Sarkeesian is, she is a Candian-American feminist and the founder of the Feminist Frequency. Additionally, she is the creator of the YouTube serious Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.
I’ll be honest with you, I have checked out Ms. Sarkeesian’s video series, and I am gonna be completely honest I do not recommend anyone watching her videos. Not to say that I do not like them because I do not like her as a content creator, the problem with her video series is she has been shown to get information wrong in her videos and from what I saw she put little to no effort in any of her videos.
Another criticism Anita is that the damsel in distress in video games are often viewed as a prize to be won, thus making the female character an object of lust. So let me set the records straight on this topic if you honestly believe the theory that a woman is some sort of trophy to win, well then you clearly do not have a very high opinion of women now do you? Additionally, she explains in the video how a woman who is in distress is depowered due to her gender, however, she kinda contradicts herself as she ends up saying that if a male character is in the same position he is not depowered because of his gender (wait, what?) Basically, she does not want equality for women, but rather special treatment you cannot be against violence towards women yet not bat an eye against violence towards men, that just makes you a walking contradiction.
Additionally, she explains in the video how a woman who is in distress is depowered due to her gender, however, she kinda contradicts herself as she ends up saying that if a male character is in the same position he is not depowered because of his gender (wait, what?) Basically, she does not want equality for women, but rather special treatment you cannot be against violence towards women yet not bat an eye against violence towards men, that just makes you a walking contradiction. Now Anita proposed an idea to just eliminate the damsel in distress entirely, but that will never happen is it’s an old custom, but why take the damsel in distress so offensively when the only person that would get offended is yourself? It’s a fictional character.
But to be fair, if Anita was making this argument 30 years ago, she would have a leg to stand on as women back then were portrayed as a victim and such and the gaming industry was male dominated and you know to be honest it still is male-dominated I won’t argue with you on that. But, you cannot deny the fact that there is progress being made to make more female characters, for example in the highly anticipated title Mass Effect Andromeda you can play as a male/female Ryder, with both genders being considered canon in the story’s continuity.
Now let’s take the focus off of Anita for a moment. A lot of extreme radical feminists often complain about gender identifies on video game characters, for instance, a non-human female character would wear a pink bow but then someone would cry “sexist” but the thing is they would probably also cry the same phrase if there was no female representation.
There are an equal amount of gender identifiers for men and women guys, wake up and open your eyes! Here’s an example, of a male stereotype Joel from The Last of Us is one. Why? Well it’s obvious he has a beard I mean don’t ALL MALES have beards/facial hair? What about Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2 with his pretty boy features? He too is a stereotype of how an attractive male should physically look like.
Or how about female characters who are dressed “controversially” (yeah, I am using that term loosely) like Bayonetta; there is a difference between being sexually objectified and being sexually empowered. Extreme radical feminists will cry and say Bayonetta is over sexualized. when in reality she is sexually empowered, she is confident and knows she is beautiful and she flaunts what she has exactly how is she being degraded as a female character? In my opinion, she is a strong female character, yeah she isn’t on par with someone who is more conservative as Samus Aran, but she is still a good representation of female characters in video games, and no before you cry the defense “well, Bayonetta wears tight clothing” I am about to stop you right there, because if you have ever played a game from the Bayonetta series you’ll notice she is a very acrobatic character, obviously she is gonna need something tight to be able to move the way she does, just like how gymnasts wear tight clothing (but everyone doesn’t consider that sexist?)
Bringing it back to video games, I do not believe that there is a crazy conspiracy that video games turn people into misogynists. Let’s be honest, have you ever heard any stories of people picking up a controller, playing a game where they slapped a woman and then turned around and was brainwashed into hating women? I don’t think so. Another criticism that extreme radical feminists will make is the fact that there is a “lack of female representation” with that being said here is a list of female characters in video games. But ok, female’s are TOTALLY not represented alright.
Another critique Anita has made about video games is that it is a male power fantasy. Granted most games are directed towards a male audience, however, female’s have more media to satisfy their power fantasies, like books, and movies, there aren’t that many video games for female power fantasies ties but you have to think about it like this: most video games attract men more than women, the developers and publishers are in the business to make money; studying the demographic to cater to a certain group is the key to making a profit in anything that’s common sense. You cannot expect these triple-a developers to wake up one morning and just start catering to a more female demographic when the profits they make are from males more than women. If you want the industry to change it will come in due time, but changing it abruptly will hurt the industry.
On a side note if you are a female who says they would only play video games if there were more video games catering to a female demographic then are you really a gamer? Think about it, basically what those people are implying is that the quality of a video game is an after thought that plays second-fiddle because if it does not have a female protagonist then well nope they do not wanna play it. Well then, they clearly did not have an interest in video games in the first place, as it should not matter what gender fictional character you are playing in my opinion.
Here’s my question to Anita, extreme radical feminists, social justice warriors, and everyone else who thinks there is sexism in gaming. Why are you so upset with how fictional characters are portrayed in video games? Especially where there are real-world issues you should be worrying about, especially women living in other countries? If you are for the equality of women then go out on the streets and protest, go to these countries where it is a patriarchy to be a female and be the change. If you are still that upset about female representation in video games then make a development studio with only female employees and make games, but whining on the internet is not fixing anything.