Lately, I’ve found myself paying more attention to the women in video games. How do they act? What do they look like? How are they treated? For the most part, it isn’t good.
Usually, games feature male characters in the lead and women on the side providing support. They’re often not portrayed as smart or useful as other parts of the cast. Many of them are stereotypes, there for comedic relief or to satisfy male gamers by looking good.
Even female main characters aren’t safe from this treatment, although they fare a bit better.
When Japanese game developers boast they’re making the main character’s breasts bigger in the next Final Fantasy game, that’s a problem. When he proudly adds that certain outfits will allow that character’s assets to jiggle, there’s an even bigger problem.
In many online role-playing games like World of Warcraft, female characters wear armour that barely covers anything. Generally, wearing a metal bikini into battle is not a good idea. It’s a good way to get stabbed in the stomach.
I’m told I should “suspend my disbelief” in cases like this. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work. It’s a shoddy excuse to look at a female character’s cleavage. I don’t care if the bikini is “magical” or whatever.
Violence is another big problem. Female characters are often shown as being weak and vulnerable.
Anyone who has played a Grand Theft Auto game is guilty of picking up a prostitute and killing her to get your money back. The game doesn’t make a big deal of it.
Again, being a main character doesn’t guarantee anything. The Tomb Raider game released this year has many possible death scenes for the heroine, Lara Croft. Many of these scenes are brutal and shocking.
There’s an early scene in the game where Lara can die and has some obvious sexual undertones. It feels like you might be watching a potential sexual assault.
The creative director said we were supposed to be drawn in and more emotionally invested in the character because of that scene. I think there are better ways to do that in a game.
This is a game that has sold millions of copies worldwide. Critics loved it and it brought the Tomb Raider series back in a big way. Of course, a lot of male gamers and game journalists glazed over it. After all, it isn’t like Lara actually gets raped in the scene.
As long as men are at the forefront for making video games, it’s doubtful these problems will go away. Our society still contributes to the school of thought that says women are less important than men.
Not every video game is guilty of this kind of sexism. Not every game is guilty to the same degree. But games that treat women well shouldn’t be so rare. They should be the standard.
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