Women in Games

We take a look at the changing role of women in video game development and the rise of female gaming audiences.

by

One of the biggest points of contention in the discussion surrounding women in video games is the phrase "women in video games." This implies that women are special in a way that requires them to be singled out; it implies they cannot be lumped into more general descriptors such as "video game developers," "video game characters," or "gamers," but require more-specific female-gender descriptors. The reason for this distinction between men and women in the games industry is no secret: video games are, and have always been, a male-dominated medium. Men make games, men play games, men are in games. Yet despite this being nothing if not obvious, talking openly about the lack of women in the games industry is still an uncommon practice.

It has been argued that the industry should stop making a distinction between games that are made specifically for women and games that are simply just made and that the term "female gamers" is outdated, because the gaming audience has grown significantly in both gender camps. However, these distinctions are important. While the gaming audience is expanding, it is bringing with it an increased demand for new experiences that move away from the traditional formula that has dominated the development of mainstream AAA titles. This means stronger female characters, games for women that steer clear of fashion, material goods, or small animals, and, most importantly, a viable career path for both genders within a rapidly expanding and profitable industry at the centre of a bold new art form.

The female prefix in the games industry shouldn't be shunned--it should be embraced as a new direction for the industry, one that has the potential to shift gender imbalances and create bigger, better, and more original games that will help drive the industry forward.

In this GameSpot AU feature, we look at women who are changing the industry from within, from industry luminaries to the new players, and analyse the role women have played in video games while seeking to address the reasons behind the lack of strong female characters.

Women play secondary roles in most Greek myths.

The Role of Women in Storytelling

When it comes to storytelling, history has taught us that a story's outcome usually depends on who is telling it. Video game stories are about men because they are told by men: men have been writing stories about other men since the time of ancient Greece. There is an undeniable trace of misogynistic tradition in Greek literature, supported by the representation of women in the Greek myths. While the literary sources of the Greek myths are varied, all of the sources currently on record are male, from Homer and Hesiod to Sophocles and Euripides. The subjects of Greek myths are almost always male, and the stories almost always involve the role of the hero and his journey in overcoming obstacles (sound familiar?). Women, on the other hand, seem to play only a supporting role in the Greek myths, painted in one of four roles: the object of desire, the goddess, the demon hindering the hero's progress, or the harbinger of doom.

Stories told from the point of view of women differ greatly: fairy tales, for example, evolved from a predominately female tradition, which explains why a large portion of fairy tales feature female protagonists and themes that relate to family, child rearing, education, and morality. Widespread female education did not begin in the Western world until the Enlightenment of the 18th century and was not common until the 19th century. Until then, the role of women in literature was not as masters of the craft but as muses. Even when women found the courage to begin writing in the 1800s, they did so with a male pseudonym. Jane Austen, one of the most widely read and respected writers in English literature, published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym "A. Lady," and although her works are regarded as classics now, they brought her little fame during her own lifetime--her subject matter dealing with the necessity of marriage to secure social standing among women of the day earned her little praise among her male peers. It wasn't until the 1940s that Austen became widely read.

Literature wasn't the only medium where women had to prove themselves: the history of visual arts, film, politics, and the sciences is dominated by a strong male presence, combated only in later stages by a rising female influence. We no longer find reason to debate the number of female artists, filmmakers, authors, or scientists because it is widely accepted that women are now just as influential and active as men are in these once male-dominated fields. Video games, on the other hand, are a nascent medium. The fact that women play a diminutive role in the games industry shouldn't be ignored: it should be addressed, debated, and rectified. Why? Just look at the current formula that most AAA games follow. Are we still surprised that we always seem to be playing a beefed-up bro who never has any trouble operating weaponry or delivering constant loops of delightfully caustic repartees?

Cultural Dynamics

Things weren't always this dire. Video games in their earliest form were family games. They were social games, first in arcades and then on the first home console systems. They were games for everyone, regardless of gender, age, or social status. Things were different in the computing industry too: according to recent studies, fewer women are entering the industry today than at any time in the past 25 years. In research conducted by Thomas J. Misa in his 2010 book Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing, the number of women entering undergraduate computer science education and the information technology workforce in the United States is shown to have peaked in the 1980s. Since then, the number of women in computing has gradually dropped, falling from nearly 40 percent to around 12 percent now, according to figures from the Computing Research Association's Taulbee Survey.

The reasons for this drop have been studied again and again over the years, but the results always seem to point to the same cause. At some point between the 1980s and now, women in Western countries became self-conscious. They became aware of an experience gap between themselves and their male peers (an imaginary gap, one might argue) and thus began to question their place in an industry that popular culture told them was not the right place for a woman to be. This is ironic when you consider that the world's first computer programmer was a woman. Ada Lovelace was a British mathematician and writer who, in 1842, helped inventor, philosopher, and mechanical engineer Charles Babbage design the concept for the first programmable computer. (The Ada programming language was named after Lovelace and continues to be used today.)

Unfortunately, the cultural shift responsible for driving women away from the computing industry after the 1980s was never reversed. Women continue to associate themselves with careers that comply with societal gender roles. In his book about the psychology of men and women, The Essential Difference, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen expresses the idea that the female brain is "hardwired" for empathy, while the male brain is better suited to understanding and building systems. This, Baron-Cohen argues, is why females make the best counselors, teachers, nurses, therapists, social workers, and personnel staff. Some psychologists go against this idea: in her 2010 book Delusions of Gender, Australian psychologist Cordelia Fine argues that men and women learn associations about their sex in the environment, without awareness or control; so, for example, while a woman might be physically and mentally capable of becoming a computer programmer, environmental associations picked up throughout her life lead her to believe that she's probably not well suited to that career.

Ada Lovelace.

This phenomenon is familiar to most women who have, at one stage or another, tried to enter a male-dominated industry. Jacqueline Urick is the cofounder and CEO of SieEnt, a new game development studio in Minnesota that develops games for women. Urick says she has been a gamer for as long as she can remember but never really considered it a career until a few years ago. After spending over a decade as a Web developer and online and interactive marketer, Urick knew it was time to combine her skill set with her hobby and do something meaningful. She teamed up with Liz Tupper, fellow gamer and business associate, and together the two women formed SieEnt. It wasn't an easy decision--particularly knowing the kinds of stereotypes they would have to endure both within the industry and outside of it.

"There are a lot of really negative stereotypes associated with being a gamer. First, there are the 'fat, ugly, live in your mom's basement' types of stereotypes. Then there are the 'no life; can't hack real life' stereotypes. Then finally women gamers start getting some credit and the industry turns them into sexy images. Women see their husbands, brothers, sons, and fathers "waste" time playing games and it looks irresponsible. Games become the 'bad guy,' and who wants to associate with that? So the industry has a lot to overcome in the minds of these consumers."

But it's not like the games industry set out to exclude women by making games that don't appeal to them. The drive to make money is a big one, which, in a broad way, can be blamed for the lack of creative risk-taking and originality in the industry: no publisher is going to want to take a chance on a game (or in this case, an entire market) that is not going to wield a guaranteed profit. Shira Chess, a game designer, researcher, and assistant professor in communications at Miami University, says that while game publishers have begun to actively woo women audiences through a variety of platforms in recent years, it's hard to turn around an industry that has been set in its ways since the 1980s. Because there is so little risk-taking happening in the AAA space, the breakthroughs that do become successful tend to accentuate the female stereotypes already in place.

"There is now this weird rift that has occurred between 'casual' and 'hardcore' gaming, which, to a large extent, is false: everyone has their own play style and everyone enjoys different kinds of game," Chess says. "Often this 'casual' game moniker gets somehow conflated with feminine and women gamers, and so thinly veiled insults about women gamers can be achieved through critiques of casual gaming. You hear traditional industry people say things all of the time about how the Wii is making gaming too 'easy' or how stupid they think Farmville is. In some ways, this becomes a systematic rejection of alternative gaming styles--feminine or otherwise. While on one hand the video game industry is trying to woo this newer, feminine audience they simultaneously seem to mock this idea of the mom-gamer, like that is the most absurd thing in the world. And these are the kinds of questions we should be asking: Why is it so funny that mothers (or grandmothers!) should play video games?"

Throughout her research studying how video games use themes of productivity in their attempts to garner women audiences, Chess arrived at the conclusion that the industry doesn't just need to make more games for women--it needs more diversity in general, catering to all play styles and more inclusive of ethnicity, class, and gender.

"I see so many missed opportunities. For example, why is there not more co-op multiplayer console gaming? Why are games like DC Universe Online designed so that I can't stand next to my husband or a friend and play next to them? If the gaming industry only produces one possible experience then we all lose. The future of gaming needs to be designed by people who aren't currently gamers."

Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch and Kirsten Forbes have been asking themselves the same questions. The founders of Silicon Sisters Interactive, the first female owned and run game studio in Canada, Gershkovitch and Forbes have more than 20 years of combined experience in the games industry working for Deep Fried Entertainment and Radical Entertainment in Vancouver, respectively. After noticing the lack of women in the industry, the pair teamed up to create higher-quality games for the female demographic.

"The predominant man-boy culture that [co-author of Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution] Heather Chaplin ranted about at GDC 2010 is alive and well, and it's not inviting to outsiders," Gershkovitch says. "I've had studio heads come and talk to me and say, 'We've tried to hire female coders, and every time we hire one, they quit within three months.' This is a cultural issue--something about the space is creating this ongoing departure. Cultural change is tough to do, but worth it."

Jacqueline Urick from SieEnt says BioWare's Dragon Age presents realistic roles for female players.

So is it publishers, not developers, who should be doing more to right the gender imbalance in the industry, starting with the creation of stronger, more realistic female characters that aren't limited to barely clad, semi-moronic sidekicks?

“"I was listening to Bill Mooney from Zynga speak at GDC Canada last year," Gershkovitch says. "He said: 'We've done an amazing job building our fantasies. Games are really just us playing our fantasies.' And I thought, yeah, but we've built male fantasies. What are female fantasies, and how do we want to play them? Do we not make games for girls because girls don't care about video games, or do girls not care about video games because we don't make games for girls? It's not just about offering women cool female characters that we can relate to and that don't make us feel badly about ourselves but also gameplay that works for us."

When it comes to beating the stereotype of females in games themselves, Urick from SieEnt believes the industry needs more women at the top of the chain--it's not enough to simply have a few women on the development team. The reason that game formulas aren't changing is that men are still the ones making all the important decisions.

"Why wouldn't men want to make games with strong male characters? Wouldn't that also attract a largely male gaming audience? Obviously, as long as they make enough money to keep shareholders happy, that formula isn't going to change. Men make games for other men. It's time that women start making games for other women. Females need to both speak out but vote with their money too. We need more females writing and designing. We need more female-run business funded and supported."

Changing the Industry

The growth of digital distribution and platforms such as XBLA, PSN, Steam, iPhone, iPad, and mobile devices has created diversity in the games industry. Independent game development is on the rise. Social gaming on Facebook is growing more popular by the day. New technologies such as Microsoft's Kinect are bringing new demographics to the gaming market. All of this translates into potential: potential for growth, potential for new experiences, and potential for new audiences. And it hasn't gone unnoticed.

During a GDC 2011 panel on social game development, industry veteran and game developer Brenda Brathwaite reacted against the idea that social gaming is somehow harmful to the gaming industry by pointing to the frequent number of times the industry has been at war with itself during the past 30 years or so that she has been working in games: when graphics replaced text-based games, when cutscenes were first introduced, the advent of consoles, and so on. "We want to make great games, even for the 43-year-old Facebook mother, because she deserves a great f***ing game too," Brathwaite shouted.

Brenda Brathwaite helped develop Playboy: The Mansion.

She got a standing ovation. The woman knows her stuff: she has been developing games since 1981, working on the Wizardry series, the Jagged Alliance and Realms of Arkania series, and the Dungeons & Dragons series. In November last year, she and her partner, legendary game designer John Romero, left their respective jobs to form a new social game development studio called Loot Drop. The move, Brathwaite says, surprised many of her male peers in the industry. Yet it's easy to see why Brathwaite feels so strongly about social gaming and why she wants to join the new wave of social game developers striving to create more immersive and intelligent experiences. The impact of the social gaming phenomenon on the wider industry has not gone unnoticed by companies like Silicon Sisters Interactive, who see it as an incentive to draw more women to gaming.

"The social gaming boom has been a huge catalyst," Forbes says. "Even 10 years ago we used to hear stories that games like Slingo would peak at 9:30 a.m. when all the moms got home from dropping their kids at school. For 7,000 years humans in all cultures played games against each other, then for a couple of decades in console games we couldn't figure out how to do that so we gave them fantastic AI instead, but phew, now we're all back playing against our friends. Social gaming feels like a relief to me.

"From the behaviours I have observed, lots of female characteristics are in tune with what social games provide. For instance, women like to slice their time up into short, productive play sessions over the course of the day, women seek a challenge but one that doesn't require a binary win/lose outcome, women are wired to raise the future generation so may be more naturally adept at games that focus on social relationships and social skills. These kinds of things taken together make the social gaming space ripe for female players. There is lots of room to make deeper and more immersive games in that realm, and there are lots of very smart people who know that and are doing it now."

Silicon Sisters' first title, School 26, is an iPhone and iPad game for teenage girls. On the surface, it's what you'd expect from a typical teenage-girl-orientated game. However, its formula and gameplay were developed after exhaustive research into the target demographic. Gershkovitch and Forbes looked into every facet of social engineering, from examining how Asperger's syndrome presents differently in girls than boys, to the social psychology behind reciprocity in societies, to observational studies of teenage social networks. These studies helped Gershkovitch and Forbes to understand how humans read social cues, build affiliations, and develop communication skills.

"That's essentially School 26--listening, observing, practicing empathy, and building relationships," Forbes says. "And how cool is it that you level up the other characters in the game to win, not yourself. Matt Ridley, the social anthropologist who has a lot to say about altruism, would surely applaud that.

“We now see a female market that is computationally savvy, has easy access to computers and mobile devices, has money to spend and wants to play. We're in the middle of probably the biggest disruptive shift this industry has ever seen. It's an extremely exciting time to be part of it."

The games SieEnt wants to make, on the other hand, aren’t casual games, Facebook games, or games that have anything to do with fashion, material goods, or small animals. They are RPGs, released in episodic content form, that ask players to tackle problems in much the same way they might do so in real life.

"Women have to stop hoping and take action," Urick says. "Men aren't going to change this industry for us. At least not in the way we'd like. The change needs to come from us. With SieEnt, we are building the games we want to play. We figured we can't wait around and hope someone else does."

Discussion

294 comments
djimenez0628
djimenez0628

How did she know I was fat, ugly, and can't hack real life...weird.

djimenez0628
djimenez0628

Uncharted is written by a woman, Jane Austen is overrated, and men throughout history are just better writers.

edmaccan
edmaccan

In order to cement the position or role of women in video games they should not just play games. Instead, they should also make games. There has to be a brilliant female computer genius out there who knows how to make video games for women in general. What she should do is put up her own game development company compose of mostly female computer programmers and just make games.

Neyska
Neyska

Okay, last comment on this. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it has no logical end. Where does it stop? For example, I write stories. If I want a sexist male (or female) lead character, then someone is going to complain about it. However, if I make all my characters polite and politically correct, then there is no conflict and the story is suddenly boring. No readers for that one. Games, like books, are an artistic medium. It is like playing a book. If you get too wrapped up in pleasing all the people who might want to play a game, your games are going to appeal to no one. Political correctness has its place, but I honestly don't believe it is in the realm of art (games, movies, books, visual art, etc.). In all art, there will be people offended by it and there will be people who love it and there will be people who don't care. So be it. You can't please everyone so long as you are in the public eye.

parksits
parksits

Ladies rule. I think if all aspects of the world worked more co-operatively life would be slick.

Lucas_BRAM
Lucas_BRAM

I was going to post my final opinion here, but it got kinda big, so if you guys really want to read (if you don't, I will not be surprised) you can check in my gamespot's blog ( my blog debut Yeah! just click in my nickname). Now it's getting really late and i'm going to bed. Bye and thanks.

ramileous
ramileous

The political climate of America for the past forty some years has been "women are oppressed by men, lets find ways to reverse this, give women more options, better options" all the while society shames and blames men for what women dont get (ignoring what women get thanks to men) what we are left with is a massive culture war that isnt getting any better. confusion among the sexes, complete changes in social norms that are more greedy and hypocritical than they are productive and responsible. You have an entire class of men who think they owe their lives to women and women who think men owe them their lives just because of whats between their legs or what politics says. These articles about women and the gaming industry are no different. You have some women out there that will use every trick, gimmic or law to get a free ride while nothing of the sort is offered to boys. Most women just want to spend some time to play a game they don't care about this misandry surrounding the gaming and social climate. So please do your studies but please stop blaming men for what women have not accomplished. Stop trying to get an industry to change based on what "you" think is good for women or men and let honesty and democracy take its course.

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

@ deviant74 The point I was making was that if I were a woman I would be offended by just the first few sentences in your comment about adult only ratings, which has apparently been removed,due to what it said.Women need not be degraded or stereotyped like that. I know because I happen to have met quite a few and have many who are friends.I'm sure they'd enjoy squeezing candy out of your spleen if you said that to them. And just look through these comments,none of the women here even care about all of this.They just want to game like the rest of us,and have all this drama and politically correct garbage get out of the way.I agree. And if what you said had absolutely nothing to do with what it certainly appears to have said,try to be more careful about your wording.

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

@wbezuidenhout - Special treatment is boring, it would just be nice to see an understanding come from male gamers and male developers and to see that the industry is in dire need of change. Without change the cycle will repeat time and time again with many refusing any change that's needed while demanding that things say the same. What good is having everything stay the same when change is important in everything?

wbezuidenhout
wbezuidenhout

@Smokescreened84, read your blog and commented. Though I stand by my point. Equality is a term often thrown around when people should be saying "special treatment". You are unfortunately in a minority of the market, and demanding that you be catered to as much as for the majority means that you want your voice to matter more than the rest. That is not equality. You are in a very sad situation, and I sympathize, but as I said in my comment on your blog, you play games for a vastly different reason than most.

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

@wbezuidenhout - If you want to know why it's a big deal for me, then feel free to read my blog on this site, it's in my profile page, the first blog that appears. Though I recommend an open mind when reading it, it explains my feelings towards male leads. For equal measures in all things, both sides have to be willing to work towards those equal measures and both have to be open to one another's ideas and suggestions on improvements. If one side isn't open to another's ideas, then what change will there ever be when one side refuses to listen?

wbezuidenhout
wbezuidenhout

@Smokescreened84, that's exactly what I mean - stop yelling for someone else to do it, you're not going to be heard with the market the way it is. Change isn't going to happen as long as there is a large majority of male gamers, end of story. It has nothing to do with "growing up" or "perceived sexism", it's a pure result of capitalism: publishers want to make money, and they only bet on a sure thing. Do you honestly think that Mirror's Edge having a female lead had ANYTHING to do with its success or failure? Even if it had a male lead, or if it allowed you to choose, I will bet you it would have had the exact same result. None of the reviews I read ever said anything like "If only it had a male lead". My biggest question: Why on earth do you care whether you can pick your gender or not?! I don't give two shakes whether a game allows me to choose the gender of the lead character. I play a game because of the experience or adventure I feel like having, if I want to race I grab Motorstorm, if I want to shoot someone in the face I go for Bad Company 2, if I want strategy I'll play Shogun 2. In Borderlands I play as Lilith because I like her stealth abilities and high damage. It has nothing to do with whether I play a male/female character. Who's fault is it that there's about 50 more types of shoes for women than there are for men? Is that sexist? Should we write up articles about how women should change the fashion industry to include men in equal amounts?

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

@wbezuidenhout - It's all well and good to say that female gamers should work towards making changes happen, but the thing is, and as has been seen in various reponses not just to this article but in many threads and more in regards to female leads in games and female developers, is that they aren't heard. Many male gamers refuses to accept change, it's why so many games are the same thing time and time again, many male gamers have a hatred towards change, they always have. So as badly as change is needed in the industry and female gamers need to be heard, it isn't likely to happen as long as there is a large majority of male gamers who are against change of any kind that takes them away from their comfort zone. And many developers end up catering to those who hate change by giving them the same thing time and time again, while those who do try something different more often than not get ignored. Take Mirror's Edge for example, it tried a new take on the First Person aspect. It was largely ignored because it wasn't COD/Halo, it had a female lead. Yet it was a great game, it was different. But sadly it didn't do as well as a yearly shooter rehash like COD, it was too different for the majority who hate change and hate anything different. Change needs to come from the male gamers just as much as it does from female gamers.

Neyska
Neyska

As a girl gamer, I am perfectly happy to have steriotypically attractive men and women in games. When I have the option, I play male or female characters depending on my mood or goal with the play through. I don't see a need to change things. I like the violence when I need an outlet for my frustrations. In other words, I don't think there is anything wrong with the games as they are. If you like to game, you like to game. End of story. The biggest problem with this article is that it encourages those people who have some bias against female gamers to speak out against them. How does that help exactly? If you want girly games. Make them. I want to weild a big ass gun and shoot with the big boys. Thank you very much.

wbezuidenhout
wbezuidenhout

@Smokescreened84, the problem is that any female gamer who doesn't buy it because of that lack of choice just does not put enough of a dent in the bottom-line to warrant spending extra time to allow for a female choice (Think extra voice-acting, script and joke adaptations, custom look and outfits, additional testing). Sorry, but the only way the gaming industry is going to adapt to a more equal setup is if women actively try to change it. As the article says, the AAA section is already so damn risk-averse they won't take a single step into the 'unproven', so you'll have to. All-in-all I think it's pointless to complain about the current situation if you're just sitting around waiting for "someone else" to fix it for you. Stop trying to separate games from other entertainment forms, I've yet to hear a single complaint about Stephen King using mostly male leads, or how there's a clear stereotype about action movies and "chick flicks". And keep the story and setting in mind as well, as it will be the determining factor in whether there will be choice or not. I still remember nearly falling off my chair laughing because a woman was complaining that The Witcher didn't allow her the choice of a female lead (In case you didn't know, the game is based on a book).

Agent3sephiroth
Agent3sephiroth

@Lucas_BRAM I disagree about the importance you place on ada lovelace. She made a valuable contribution but it wasn't integral to modern society as you suggest. Charles Babbage on the other hand was undeniably integral to modern society. @ramileous The problem is that there are cases where women experience oppression due to their gender rather than their ability to work. Not all women are valued for their ability to contribute something.

deviant74
deviant74

Wormkid_64 One day when you meet a woman you will know that I have that almost perfect. Instead of your no feed back comment why don't you say something I can talk about. What I wrote is female over the age of 25 game addiction. Add a casino, and have the kid or husband give her nasty looks is she does bad or he takes her out and tells her how wonderful she is if she does good.

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

@ Lucas_BRAM O man that's funny.I couldn't resist pressing the thumb up button....fun fun fun....

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

@ deviant74 It'd be great to hang you in a tree and give some women some sticks.I'd come back later and see if any candy came out.

Raven_1981
Raven_1981

mmmmmm, I'm a female gamer and when I choose a particular game I really don't pay attention to if its female or male oriented, what I look for in a game is a good story and that it's fun to play, I love it when a game hooks me so much I can't put it down, I play different types of games, rpg's are my favorite, but I also enjoy action games like ninja gaiden (Love that it's difficult), gears of war (chainsaw is so cool), bayonetta, devil may cry, Dantes inferno, I could go on and on. If it sounds interesting and fun I will for sure try it out

deviant74
deviant74

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

One more thing.Women often don't realize how good they've got it. If you saw two men hugging each other,or walking around holding hands at the mall,what's the first thing that comes to your mind?Yeah.Women don't have to worry about being labeled from that.If they do it,they're just good friends. So enjoy your more diverse freedoms in displays of friendship.Use guys will have to stick to subtle nods of the head.

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

Are we still having this debate?Seriously women in this day and age have just as many rights as men,they can do anything they want.She wants to develop games?Go give it a try.Want a female game character?Try Samus,GLaDOS(female oriented machine,and one of my favorite female characters ever)Laura Croft,whoever that woman in Mirror's Edge was.(Didn't play much of the game.Can't remember details.)What about games with customizable characters?Many games allow you to play as male or female.It isn't that no one accepts "women in games".I'm always pleased when I hear about a female gamer who plays more than those cooking and babysitting games. I'm sorry if more games feature men saving women than the other way around,but that's the way human society has functioned for a very long time.I don't mean women can't defend themselves,as I said,they can do anything they want,but men have always been the ones societies through the ages put into battle,charge with provision for their family,and charge with protection of them.It's to be expected that things would have the imbalance they did.But it isn't hard for developers to get over that at all. All we as gamers can do is respect others' decisions.If a woman plays one game or another,whoop-de-do,it's no different than a man.And if there is a female protaganist,well.You play as her for lack of choice.Really it's the devs who need to be sure they include "women in games."

snap-dragon
snap-dragon

By the way, I would hope that when the author mentions that video games should contain more themes related to motherhood and such, I would hope she's talking about something along the lines of Uma Thurman's character in kill bill. She's a mother out for revenge and I don't think anyone would deny that she's badass... otherwise, I can't really think of many instances where motherhood would be a good theme to integrate into a video game.

TurambarGS
TurambarGS

I just don't really care. Let me explain: one of my parents is Caucasian Australian, the other is Indian Malaysian. I'm sure if you add up all the Caucasian characters in games compared to all the 'ethnic' (non-white) or Eurasian ones, you're going to find that the latter demographic is under-represented. But ... I don't care! I'm not about to jump up and down and say that non-white ethnicities are rarely protagonists, over-represented as villains, etc. You know what I really want? Good gameplay and a decent story. I don't want to see characters jammed where they don't fit. So if there's a context, a game universe, a story set up where it makes sense that a woman is in a lead role, then awesome, I'm all for it. See e.g. Sarah Kerrigan/the Queen of Blades - makes sense in the context. BUT I hate political correct, demographic pleasing characters where they shouldn't be. Example: there's no women in most warfare games, because there actually are none in the combat roles that are being depicted (SAS, front line military, etc.). That makes sense to me. Whereas Bastila Shan - great female character - massively powerful Jedi, wielder of the force. Makes sense to me because it fits with what's been created. Story first, please.

Lucas_BRAM
Lucas_BRAM

Anyone that isn't just frikking dense knows that a woman can rock just as men when it comes to intellectual or artistic work. History has proven that. Just look: if it wasn't for the Ada Lovelace we probably wouldn't be communicating with ourselves as we are doing today. And video game industry is sexist? I don't think so. What I think is sexist? Look at Jenna Rose's new music video. It's all about "WOW! OMFG! THAT SUPERSTAR IS USING MY JEANS!" Altough she's "just" a child, why we are encouraging her to pay more attention to look good and appealing to men instead of encouraging her to think and be more aware of the world surround her? Why is she singing about jeans and not about an super cool adventure she read and what she learnt from it? Which is the truly sexist media, huh? And if we, men, are so worried about this thing about women in video game it is because... Man we have to admit: we want more girls in the cybernetic gamer space. Girls, we would love to see you proving that you can use high heels and still kick ass in Crysis or Starcraft (altough i don't recommend the use of high heels in the battlefield), we like your presence and love to have you around! Now I gonna use the brilliant Rebecca Black's ultimate hipnotyzing technique for you to press the thumb up button: this comment is fun, fun, fun fun fun fun FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN FUF NFU NFU FNF UFN FUF NFU FUN!!!

ramileous
ramileous

Just like feminism charged for the past 40 some years, screaming oppression and subtle and slowly demanding more rights blaming men for what they dont have....i am noticing video gaming taking a similar evolution. Every forum has something about how women are not addressed enough in games, not enough women involved in games, men harassing women in games, men responsible for women not happy with games etc etc. I really hope that women can ignore the notion that boys somehow are stopping them from getting just as much out of gaming as boys. Women are free to create, explore and play games just as well as boys, and i hope we see more of their wonderful creativity and skillz and less of the finger pointing victim-hood poor me male oppressor fiction that filters into game forums trying to shame boys into letting girls get privileges and head starts. You want to win in gaming, then work for it like every honest person did that made the gaming industry so much fun and exciting for over thirty years! Please stop the 'poor girls give them freebies and headstart' crap and get on with the games.

FoxeoGames
FoxeoGames

We all know that when we try to force something into the media, it ends up sucking... a lot. Look at the early NES games that tried to force "anti-drug" messages... they were horrible, campy, and ineffective. Don't force anything. Let the gaming industry develop naturally. Purposefully sitting around and thinking, "how can we better represent women in gaming?" is ridiculously counter-productive -- you have already failed by even asking that question. When women protagonists develop naturally in the order of gaming, then they are represented how they should be. Men don't sit around and think, "how can we make this game especially attractive to men?" They don't, really. Instead, they just talk about how to make the good good and attractive to gamers. They don't specifically think about men, it just comes naturally. Let it be so for women, and if it doesn't happen naturally, may it not happen at all.

PC4Me
PC4Me

Me & all other female gamers I know have usually spent most our gaming between rpg/rts's & fps's. Other games too, but mostly those. Almost half my shooters are military shooters, also very fond of Left4Dead/2 & Killing Floor. I've been gaming since the 80's & have 3 gaming PC's and want to order a wheel for my PC for my racing games. None of us go to social gaming sites & up until last year I didn't even know what farmville was! Then I couldn't believe people above age 5-6 actually play that. No offense to those who may like it, something like that just 1) doesn't appeal to me, 2) couldn't hold my interest. The first rpg I played was Morrowind GOTY & recently I've watched the gs review & the reviewer is talking about how it's 'overwhelming'- I'm thinking- "is he serious?"- it's an open world rpg/single player- you have your orders, do that or explore, it's simple. Doom was all the rage while I was in college, spent a lot of quality time on that series & to this day enjoy playing it (I have an older PC for old school gaming & a beast for modern gaming- & an old XP that's kind of in the middle). A couple of my female gaming friends can build their own PC's. We aren't 'anti-male'- far from it! We game together sometimes & we all respect each other & they're secure enough in their manhood to not be offended when they get owned by women. It's too bad the rest of the gaming community doesn't respect each other as much as we do.

JTR_IceBerg
JTR_IceBerg

Don't care if it's not PC, this cracked me up. ReaversRevenge "women and technology go well together.... the microwave, cooker, oven. all great examples."

MBling3
MBling3

An article about women without a video of hot video-game chicks walking around in skimpy clothing while their boob-physics (or lack there-off) are bouncing all over the place? What has the world come to?!

Lucas_BRAM
Lucas_BRAM

Phew, i like when things were simpler. No one cared about this identification with the character thing a while ago. I have a grandmother that plays Donkey Kong Country ( the old one of SNES) and rocks at it. She has the best eye when it comes to finding those little damn-too-hard-to-find secrets. Yet she doesn't identifies with the main characters in the game. And if she starts indentifying, that would be anwkward, to say the least. What i'm trying to point out is that, the lack of realistic, strong female characters in video games history is a pity but not that dramatic. In real life it is just as hard to find a strong, brave man as to find a strong, brave woman, right? And why i seem to be the only one that remember that April Ryan, Jade (from beyond G&E), Sheva, Ada Wong, Jill Valentine, Wynne, Zoe Castillo, Yuna, lightning, SAMUS ARAN and CATE ARCHER (for god's sake), and other strong female characters do exist in video game industry. Why they are less important than their male counterparts? It's just natural that in a storytelling media that has been more appealing to men have this male character predominance in their stories. It's not a signal of a sexist society, it only is what it is. (Duh!) Just for the record: my grandma isn't poor, she just thinks that new generation consoles are too complex to her. Who can argue against that?

dshgfgfv
dshgfgfv

im basing this off of nothing but the reason why there is a lack of women leads in games results from two factors one: video games are about the content. most games that people talk about are multiplayer probably because it's easier to relate. even so, most people would probably tell others how they beat that other guy rather than saying that is sucks cuz there's no choice of character gender. two: games have a target audience. of course women are not a minority but what if there was a game with some deformed cripple (no offense) as the lead? would a deformed cripple actually buy it? i wouldnt think so. same concept. XD

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

Consider this: Brink, yet another shooter, promises character creation. However there is no gender choice at all, it's male only, so how can it be 'character' creation when the only character you make is a male? Where's the gender choice? And then there's LA Noire, once again Rockstar only has their ever generic male lead, no gender choice. And there's Enslaved where the female character is reduced to a support role while you're lumped with playing as only the male. And Bulletstorm, male only lead, no gender choice. And the Red Faction games, male only lead, no gender choice, females limited to NPC support roles. And one DLC allowing you to actually play as female, but it's a short DLC. And that's a few games. None of those games interest me, they don't offer me any choice, so why should I buy them and play for hours with a character I didn't choose, and have no say on? Why should a male lead be forced on players when a game might last for hours, what about letting the player decide for themselves? Is this the future of gaming, for it to forever be stuck in a rut of uncreative, unimagnative male only leads with no choice of gender for the player? It's been this way for far too long and it's clearly showing how much developers have run out of ideas when they do the same tired male only leads over and over again. Will the video gaming industry ever grow up and show it can be more than what it's haters think it is? I doubt it at this point.

House86
House86

All these walls of text....

Smokey2003
Smokey2003

"While I enjoy playing Crysis or Battlefield 2 Bad Company, they are not real and I am so glad they're not. It would be just a little traumatic, I would think. Is this because I am a female or is that just my personality?" I don't know, but if you think censorship is the answer, you're fighting a losing battle. When you're in a war game, realism matters - cursing fits into the realism, and most war games are actually becoming very much like war films, AMP up the realism, and use that simulated trauma to say something significant about the nature of actual war. Taking out the blood and the swearing adds to a disconnection with a very very dark reality. Basically why the hell are you playing War games at all if you're all anal about cursing and violence? You did basicall just say "If you want women to be more into games, make them all nicer and like, friendly and stuff!!!" You're not helping.

Smokey2003
Smokey2003

hush404 said it pretty well too - The key argument isn't WOMEN IN GAMES - that's a red herring. Nah, it's the "are video games art" argument that matters. And like hush said, if you get that down everything else falls into place. Games that are art transcend the "let's market this to this kind of gamer" and become "let's create something timeless and significant" Your Mass Effects and Metal Gears are proof of that possibility, and it's been happening very naturally as our generation has matured within the industry and within life. It's the most important defense for the gaming community to build.

mission76
mission76

What! There are plenty of female characters for women players to latch onto. There's the super hot impossibly toned and stacked "nerdy" girl, who wears outfits that teeters on good taste that helps the male character accomplish the mission with hints, advice, and useful infomation from her command post Then there's the smoking hot T&A machine "tough" girl who wears an outfit that looks like it was painted on and will need to be cut off, that accompines the male character and pitches in to help him save the day Next up there's the super model with the body from heaven "Bad" girl who wears what can only be an outfit straight out of a porno bondage film, who is a side villian that the male character will eventually turn and persuad her to become a good girl. See ladies, plenty of women characters out there, all unique and fresh

Smokey2003
Smokey2003

Whenever there is a lack of women it turns into an injustice, nobody ever considers that maybe most women just don't care for the industry. Is this a societal cage women are trapped in? No. I work in a data center for a web hosting company. Females work for this company, where? Customer service, sales, human resources (emphasis on human, basically)and the like in the main office. We are the techies. We are all...literally ALL men. How would we feel if a woman got a job here? Would we be annoyed or upset and get into a oppression mode? Ok, I won't pretend a few people here might not go into sexual harassment mode, but most of us would simply happy to have her. There's literally no reason for us not to want females in this industry. But what we do is highly technical, and like or not - there is a huge lack of females who are even slightly interested in the highly technical. We pretend it's some massive societal oppression, but those walls broke down years ago. Women and men are still different. And most of them don't want to do this kind of work.

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

Good points VintAge68 - especially about "Imho that women should however refuse being put in the box of casual games only (though SIMS players are said to be 60% female"). Those who have been following this thread are familiar with my post below, so I won't repeat, but I play military shooters, have a lot of racing games (PC racing wheel), I played Quake, the original Unreal & Doom back in the day, I watched the original Transformers/GI Joe cartoons with my older brother & now I play War for Cybertron- also StarCraft1&2. What I 'haven't' done is ever played farmville, I have No memberships to any social networking/gaming site- I've never been to one, have never played the Sims, (the only one I kept track of was the recent Medieval, but only because the time period interests me, but what I hear it's just decorating & running errands according to the gs review (or too close to it), & that's all it took for me to loose complete interest- now Stronghold (Medieval time period)- I love Stronghold! Can't wait for Stronghold3 this year- I'll be all over that!). Just my 2cents on something JodyR touched on- I personally wouldn't mind shooting female characters (I do it frequently in UT3 Black edition) & I don't think a man disrespectful for shooting female characters either. I look at it this way- A) It's just a game, they're characters, get over it or don't play such games if you're too sensitve. B) It's us against them- whoever they are- a woman- a man- you're going down. :)

JodyR
JodyR moderator

@snap-dragon: You are right. We don't always have to play a female character to enjoy a game. I loved playing as John Marston in Red Dead Redemption, and he was a manly man. I also liked how he treated the ladies, though, so in some way I think his gentleman manner caused me to feel good about playing as him in the game. I imagine that some of the problems with women characters or women in the industry can often be a double edged sword. If there are female focused games, regular gamers feel left out. Ladies like to be treated as ladies, but we also want to be able to play games with others (regardless of gender). I have found that once we are given any opportunities to play as a female character in a storyline or multiplayer mode, I've noticed how some women dislike not being treated appropriately. For an example, kicking or shooting a female character in a game kind of feels wrong to some men who respect women. Then we have women (non-gamers or gamers) who might find this behavior as disrespectful. If we want games to be diverse for every kind of gamer, regardless of gender, I kind of think any changes will not satisfy every gamer (including the hardcore or casual gamers). That's why I like just focusing on seeing better games that attract all kinds of gamers.

hush404
hush404

I agree with a lot of the comments... but not the one continually iterated over the entire article that "female gamers need female games". The article even tries to say the opposite of this and yet keeps going back to it. Both male and female gamers like differing kinds of games for different reasons. Not every person playing farmville is a 43yo mother. Not everyone playing Dragon Age is a 19 year old single male. When a game is built with heart and the core story is genuine, then most other things fall in line (look at the Uncharted series). If you go out, looking to create a game for a group of people, it usually just blows up in your face, because you A) Don't actually know what you think you know about this particular group or B) It's obvious and lame and regardless of group, they'll not buy your bad game.

JodyR
JodyR moderator

@VintAge68: I've been enjoying games that give me a choice these days, too! Mass Effect 2 was one of my favorite games last year, and if I played as a male Shepard from start to finish instead of the female Shepard, I honestly don't think I would have been so in love with everything about the game. Back in the Quake 1 days, the rare female gamers changed the Ranger dude to wear pink outfits. Boy did we get laughed at when we ran around in Pink armor. lol :)

Korax597
Korax597

Cybil Bennet is one of my favorite characters... they should make a remake of the first silent hill and have her point of veiw on what happened that would be cool!! XD (yes, i realize that there was a play novel on the GBA but... i think an actual SH game would be cool..)

zombehman
zombehman

Samus Aran=badass, she is probably one of the most powerful game characters in gaming history, also Zelda kicks ass when she is Sheik

russian_takeout
russian_takeout

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VintAge68
VintAge68

Lady gamer myself I appreciate that nowadays there are more video games on the market letting one choose the sex of the protagonist to go on with (Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age II...); this being basically a technical question --"making every character bisexual is the least resource-intensive way of handling the issue", Kevin-V in his comment to a recent HotSpot podcast-- I decline but the issue's tasteless political instrumentalization: making the story's hero *optionally* a women has nothing to do with bisexuality, but means just a little more equality as to the female condition, also societally spoken. Happy that here in Spain the relation of men-women as users of video games is 2:1, which has a lot to do with the country's own emancipational tradition, Imho that women should however refuse being put in the box of casual games only (though SIMS players are said to be 60% female), as well as (m)any sexist facets that may vary as much as between female submissive behavior (Duke Nukem) or ostentatious clothing (e.g., nail'd). Personally preferring action-type games rather I don't think that video games (woman-)made for a "typically female" public would really help making things better, though, neither within the gaming sector nor in society in general. Yet Laura Parker's essay, and the fact of GameSpot's web-publishing it, does surely contribute to putting them straight by raising a wider consciousness that this is *really* an issue no to be disregarded anymore.

ReaversRevenge
ReaversRevenge

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