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Sexism and Gender Stereo Types in Gaming

Here is a research paper I wrote for school on Sexism in Video Games:

     Over the last few decades, the human species have done some incredible things. We reached the moon, we created the modern computer, and one of the most prominent forms of entertainment today: the video game. We have evolved over the years and created such a glorious entertainment. As well as evolve technologically, we have evolved away from horrid gender stereotypes. Women used to be viewed as the housekeeper, while the men were the breadwinners. Likewise in video games, gender stereotypes and roles in the industry such as protagonists and even jobs or appealing games have changed. Women are becoming accepted to be in higher job roles and even taking on more masculine characteristics. With video games, women are usually found being the damsel in distress, the voice-over sidekick, or the sex object. Throughout the past four decades, gender stereotypes as well as the cultural norms have changed through video games, and there is also a parallel trend from how our culture has come to accept the overall different types of people, in which as time goes by, we have culturally gone away from gender stereotypes and sexism.

      Women in video games overall were uncommon in any strong position pre-21st century. One of the first time the lead character of a video game was a woman, but the catch was that it was revealed upon completing, and that was only if the game was completed in under five hours. That game was called Metroid. In the game, the playable character was a space bounty hunter named Samus Aron who fought against the Mother Brain and a bunch of space pirates, her weapon was, and still is, a gun. Back when this was made, in 1986, there wasnt another female protagonist, and if there was, they certainly wouldnt be shooting anyone. But at the end of the game, Samus took of her suit and revealed her true sex. The response to this revelation was complete shock in the audience. But the audience came to accept her through the entire game, thinking that she was a guy, even though she wasnt. There are mixed conclusions one could make, as the developing team didnt even think to include this until after the game was finished, but the series creator Sakamoto, even stated in 2004 that they didnt want the bounty hunter to become nothing more than a sexual object. (Sorice) Back then, women were only viewed as sex objects, and intentional or not, Samus was wearing a bikini. So as the start of women in video games were emerging, there were still problems, but at least Samus was not intended to be a sex object. Most other women who were in video games, were damsels in distress. One of the first and most famous video games was Donkey Kong. The hero is jump-man which we know today as Mario. Mario traverses the traps that Donkey Kong set up to try and save the damsel in distress, which in this case, is Princess Peach. She is completely helpless as she waves her arms around like a fish out of water, and outbursts cries of help because she needs a man to save her. Once you complete the third level, Donkey Kong falls to his dismay and there is a heart that appears between the two. Later on in the industry, when they began to star females in games, one female lead stood out from the rest: Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. She was in countless games where she is a treasure hunter. She gets dirty and kills anyone that stands in her way. The one problem with having a female doing this, was that she was highly sexualized. The industry still wasnt used to having a strong female lead, and many men wouldnt want to play this game unless they could look at her butt the entire game. Most images that you see of her from her first games, are her abnormally large breasts, her tight tank-tops, and her extremely short shorts. A writer at IGN says about the men who played Tomb Raider, But for others, as the series declined prior to Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara Croft became symbolic of the video games prevailing failure to offer up real characters rather than cardboard cut-outs with huge guns/muscles/breasts. (MacDonald). The women she says viewed her as an iconic heroine, but the factor of how she was sexualized outweighs the factor of that she is a woman. So with the sexualization of women, and the damsel in distress helplessly flailing her arms away, women didnt have an easy time in the industry. Men in videogames had a lot easier time in the industry, with no one even questioning their position.

     Men had much more of a common and easier time in the industry, such as being the lead role without any big fuss, but also were described as the one in power, with hyper masculine traits. The male in general was typically the guy who provided for the women and got dirty when he had to. Margaret Fuller describes in her essay The Great Lawsuit, The wife praises her husband as good provider, the husband in return compliments her as a capital housekeeper, (Fuller 22). The women in our society accept the men in charge. In games such as Max Payne, Halo: Combat Evolved, and the original Resident Evil, the male protagonists each had a female sidekick. The job of the female would be not to kill the people that stand in their way, but to give them information behind a desk, or just run around helplessly. In a game like Mario, it would be the males job to save the princess, similar to that in the Legend of Zelda. In most games pre 21st century, the male would save the female. The men in video games were typically described as muscular and overly strong. If you look at a game like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, the men in that game have their shirts off to the point where you can see the over-the-top muscles. Take Ryu for example, the most well-known street fighter. Every picture of him is him with a tough looking face, with a karate suit on, and either flexing or in a fighting stance. Every guy in that game on the character select screen has a tough looking face. Similar to what expert and educator Jackson Katz says in the documentary, Tough Guise. Jackson Katz says in his argument The front that many men put up thats based on an extreme notion of masculinity that emphasizes toughness and physical strength and gaining the respect and admiration of others through violence or the implicit threat of it, (Katz). That accurately represents how all of the male Street Fighters and Kombat warriors are portrayed. Although the street fighters are still disguised as this masculine pose, and women are still sometimes the sidekick, there has been several positive changes since the new millenium hit.

    When the 21st century hit, there have been numerous changes to the bias that video games had in regards to gender and sex. Females are more common to be the lead characters and getting more dirty. Games like Uncharted, Final Fantasy, Gravity Rush, Assassins Creed: Liberation, all star females who arent afraid to get dirty and do things that are described as masculine, except the opposite sex is taking on these roles. Take Gravity Rush for example, the main character, Kat, has to defend the city from the Nevi, an unknown terror that rose up from the ground. Typically you would see a man saving the world from an alien attack, but in this case, its a women taking on the attack. She uses her gravity shifting powers to kill the Nevi. She kills, fights, and saves people. Countless times, she saves the rookie cop from trouble. Another lead female is one I have already talked about, that is Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Square Enix is rebooting the series with a whole new look at Lara Croft, she is no longer a sex object that has men drooling over her when people cosplay. The first images released of the new Lara Croft were of a dirty female in jeans and a shirt. Ron Rosenberg, the executive producer was in an interview talking about the changes, where he said, Gone are her ridiculous proportions and skimpy clothing. This Lara feels more human, more real, thats intentional, (Schreier). This is a sign that people are changing. If some company who intentionally made Lara Croft into a sexy protagonist, into an actual and realistic human, there is so much other companies and we as a society can accomplish, and we can change. The change in who plays video games is a surprise. Typically the ones who would play the NES, or Genesis, would be the brother in the family. But starting in the mid 1990s, games were having more appeal. The Sims was a huge success among women and men. Kristina Benson says, even studies from the early and mid 1990s suggest that a large percentage of females play computer games for approximately 1-2 hours a week, (Benson). The console that were released in 1995 was the original Gameboy. Due to the complete lack of solid graphics, the blood and gore were merely pixel dust. Nintendo was releasing games that could attract both genders, like the Game and Watch Gallery. Today, women are seeing a lot more play time than 1-2 hours a week. The Electronic Software Association explores the growth of women gaming, as they say based on studies and statistics, Forty-seven percent of all players are women, and women over the age of 18 are the industrys fastest growing demographics, (ESA). While this might not have to do with the roles of women being the lead character, it does have to do with the variety of games. Mario has shifted away from just saving the damsel in distress, to games like Mario Party, Super Paper Mario, the sports games, and Mario Kart, all are games that you can play as Princess Peach and are genres that attract everyone. Not only are those games fun and violence free, but they are also games that encourage you to find a partner to join in. The guy in the relationship can now play a nice, friendly game with his partner. The changes in the industry have had a positive influence, as there is less controversy like in Custers Revenge, where the goal is to rape a Native American girl, and we are shifting more towards a less offensive and family game. Culturally, we are making huge steps in the right direction.

         Gender problems through video games and through culture are growing out of pathetic stereotypes. Our culture has been shifting around a little bit, and there is a parallel trend from how video games are changing and how gender stereotypes are changing. For video games, when the games go from women being the helpless, screaming hostage, to a female described masculine hero, it provides hope that stereotypes dont need to exist anymore. When women are becoming the dominant sex in education, as more women are graduating, we can stop viewing them as just a sex object who lives under the stove. The industry is making games also more appealing to feminine characteristics, which leads for more opportunities for them to play, similar to how in the job world there are opportunities for both sexes. If we would take these trends and put them on a graph, the x-axis would be time, and the y-axis would be progress towards eliminating gender stereotypes, both lines would have the same slope going positive. For the future, this could mean a lot of things. We may see new series with female protagonists, we could see men being the sidekick, we could even see more women saving men as they are in the damsel in distress position. There is a vast open-world that we can take anywhere, and in a few years, the changes may even double.

Works Cited

Benson, Kristina. "Five Myths about Female Gamers Debunked." LA Weekly. LA Weekly, n.d. Web. 1 Feb.


"Game Player Data." The ESA. Electronic Software Association, n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.

MacDonald, Keza. "Rewriting Lara Croft." IGN. IGN Entertainment, n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.

Shrieier, Jason. "You'll Want to Protect the New, Less Curvy Lara Croft." Kotaku. Kotaku, n.d. Web.

   1 Feb. 2013.

Sorice, Adam. "Samus Aaron, the Woman Within." Nintendo Dojo. Nintendo Dojo, n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.

Tough Guise. Screenplay by Jackson Katz. Media Education Foundation. Film.







Getting the Full Experience- With Multiplayer

When I buy a game, and it has multiplayer on it, I am sure as hell gonna want to play that multiplayer (there are a few exceptions). But recently, I'm not going to shout out names, but companies have been shutting down their servers for multiplayer. I don't want to always drop $60 on a game if I am not so excited about. I sometimes like to wait for the price to drop. Or sometimes I don't hear about a game , but then I browse the internet and I find a game that looks cool and I buy it for $20 or less. I look to see on the internet and find out that the servers have been shut down.

Secondly, this is not much of a complaint to the community or players as much as it is me being dissapointed for myself, I look to try out a game that came out 2 years ago's multiplayer, to find that there aren't many people playing. I know this is something I can't control, but I wish that there would be people that would always be playing. I tried out Transformers WFC over the summer to see how it was (I heard some good things about the multiplayer) to find out that I could only find a full game every 20 minutes. And I was playing it only a year after it came out. I thought that more people would be playing it.

Thirdly, online passes. I do believe that we should support the developers by buying the game new, and this is one method of enforcing that. But, games that come out 2 years ago that have online passes, it could be hard to find a new copy at your local Gamestop. Over the summer, I heard about a game called Dark Sector. I went to Gamestop and I couldn't find a new copy of it, so I picked up a used copy. I don't believe it had an online pass but if it did, I would have no way of accessing the multiplayer unless I payed 10 extra dollars.

This rant is made to show my opinion on the topic and subtopics. I understand that I have no control over most of these things, but I am sharing what I think about them. Do you think that multiplayer gaming is becoming less accessable, or am I just an ungrateful gamer?


Few games really let you do whatever you want. That's where sandbox comes in. A game like Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, Just Cause, Bully, Red Dead Redemption, Infamous, Elder Scrolls and many more are all great games that let you play the way you want to play. If you want to do a mission, you can do a mission. If you want to kill a civilian, you can kill a civilian. If you want to drive a motorcycle off of a sky scraper, you can. But there seems to be a lack of attention to how much detail and effort that are put into these games. I'm no programmer so I don't know what they do exactly but I do know for sure, that if a game let's you order a jet and have it be destroyed as you fly down peacefully or kill someone and have every last person in the game recognize you as the killer, that must be a hell of a lot of work put into it. Personally, I like to play the games that make me explore the beautiful worlds in a variety of ways. The Elder Scrolls (I am a huge fan though) doesn't let you explore it in many ways. Although I love Oblivion and Skyrim as much as the next guy, I'm talking about swinging on webs like spiderman, flying through the air like in Infamous and Prototype, and flying in jets and helicopters like Saints Row and Just Cause. Some of these games have their own way of being unique, and that is way the open world/sandbox genre stands out for me. In Elderscrolls if you kill someone, that could effect you later on. In Grand Theft Auto, the city makes me feel like I actually live there. In Saints Row, it's so outrageous and not repetitive I sometimes wish I lived there. In Infamous, your powers change based on your decisions. And even in Toy Story 3 (a gamemode is actually called sandbox) you can edit the world and make it the way you want. I love the variety in all of them, that there is so much to do I can find my self playing hours on end. The games I never get bored with are sandbox games. They have no end. In Skyrim, there are no credits after the main quest is complete. Develepers spend so much time creating a world just waiting to be explored, but there is only so much to do in the world that only some games can truly be explored freely.

Getting The Full Experience With Content

When I buy a game, I want every penny I spend to represent an hour in which I can enjoy playing that game. You see games that release with 6 hour campaigns. A few years ago, the Elder Scrolls Oblivion released and promised over 200 hours of gameplay. Which do you think I would like to buy? I personally like to buy open world games, because once you beat the game, you can screw around and have fun. Open world games for me means infinite replayability. Sure in the game with the 6 hour campaign, theres an amazing multiplayer experience, what if I don't have xbox live or a right internet to play online? People thought about 6 years ago, a game lasting 15 hours was short, I see games today lasting only 9-10 hours.

After I beat a game, there has to be something that makes me want to pick up the case on the shelf and put it in the console. Replayability is something I always want. If there is a challenge mode, I will most likely play it. If there is more than one ending, I will probably check the different conclusions out. I am talking about making me constantly finding new things to do in the game. For example, the Lego games. They are not complex, they aren't challenging, but they make me want to play. They have over 100 characters to play as, they have trophies, they have new areas, and they also have free play which is a lot of fun with a buddy. A game such as Vanquish (I'm not saying I don't like it, I thought it was great) you play the campaign and there isn't much making you want to go back for more. But could that be my short attention span, or has games become shorter more recently?

Getting The Full Experience With Difficulty

When I buy a game, I expect to gain access to every bit of content it comes with. I want to be able to try all the quests, get all the items or gadgets, or play all the levels. I don't mean to be greedy, but there are things that get in the way of that. The difficulty. The difficulty can make you want to either throw the controller out the window, or play with your feet and get all the achievements. I hope I don't end up with one of those, but mostly the throwing the controller out of the window. I hate it when I get stuck on a level and it prevents me from getting to the next quest. A game like Dark Souls or Devil May Cry are really hard, people say they are fair, and I have to agree with them, but I want to be able to enventually proceed to the next level. People who love gaming but are bad at games, they deserve to play all the quests if they pay for their experience. If you go to a movie, you deserve to see the whole movie, they can't prevent you from that. I'm not saying games shouldn't be hard, but there should be a cheat code, or a way to access all the levels. Say I bought a game like God Of War, (I'm not saying I hate it or it's too hard) and I hear about an incredible boss fight later on, I could be stuck on a level and dying to play that boss. What I want is a way to skip to it if I have been stuck on that level for a week. But the difference between games and movies, games makes you challenge yourself, you have to earn it to play that boss or get that special item. Games such as minecraft have inventory editors and GTA has a cheat code to get all the guns, thats what I want in games, the option to get all of the sweet stuff. But is it the people who made the games fault, the greed of me, or your ability to beat the game?