Women in Games

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I don’t usually wade into the drama of the Video Game Industry. One more voice amongst the cacophony of crazy isn’t going to make any difference in whatever rage inducing topic has the gaming community in fits this week.

However, this time I feel like the rage topic has hit very close to home and I can’t let it pass me by. I am a woman and I work in the video games industry as a technical developer. I’ve been doing it for 6 years now.

[At this point I might as well state the opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of my company]

I’m not going to rant about how sexist the industry is towards women. Having never worked in any other industry, I have no point of comparison, but you do need a thick skin to survive here and by god you better be ready to fight. But that’s equally true for the men, so far as I have experienced. That’s not to say I haven’t met and worked with any sexist men, but hell, where don’t you?

At any rate, that’s not what got my “knickers in a twist” as the English would so eloquently put it. You may or may not be aware that E3 happened recently. Much of the commentary has been on how violent the games were (that’s a whole ‘nother beast for ‘nother day). The one that disturbed me was the Lara Croft one.


(the “incorrectly referred to” rape scene happens at about 2:18

The drama-llama was that the company referred to a specific point in the trailer as an attempted rape. Then they tried to move away from this statement. It was something said offhand, and they’ve since distanced themselves but the fact remains that they want people to feel ‘protective’ of her. Aaaaaand that seemed like a good way to distance yourself? Because that’s a real positive message to be sending about rape (or incorrectly referred to rape). Women should be “protected”.

Then, there was brouhaha about a kickstarter project Women Vs Tropes in Video Games. Anita Sarkeesian was looking for funding to do some short videos examining female tropes in games. This apparently poked the gaming troll and boy were their fangs out. There are a LOT of nasty comments on her youtube video, but one of them said this:
“The existence of romantic comedies doesn’t stop movie studios from making action flicks…”

This is my core problem with the representation of women in games. The video game industry does not have romantic comedies, or any where near the variety of stereotypes of women that books, movies or other media does. Because, let’s face it, they are all basically stereotypes. The variety has vastly increased in the past 20-30 years, but it isn’t an equal comparison. We are making progress and there are some amazing games out there with some great characters, male and female.

But what worries me is this prevailing attitude. That they realised ‘rape’ was a trigger, but didn’t see that ‘protective’ was also damaging. That a woman wants to examine tropes in games and that justifies writing horrible things ABOUT her, not even about the topic. That when I talk to people in the industry and express my anger and despair about this I get laughed at or eye rolls. Or worse, sympathetic sighs and no action, not even speaking out. Not all of them, but one is more than enough. I spoke to another developer about this and he actually avoids putting female characters into things he writes because he’s afraid of all the backlash he’ll get one way or another.

I do not advocate the removal of the big boobs or scantily clad costumes. You want to play a game with soft porn, go right ahead. But I want to be able to play something of equal production value that appeals to me. If that means some Fabio character with a nice ass, fine. Or if it means a dorky girl or a gay guy or cat or panda or WHATEVER, let’s do it. Let’s make that game.

But what I am tired of is being made to look and feel ridiculous. I’m tired of being called a “feminist” like it’s an insult because I have an opinion on how MY SEX should be portrayed. I am more than happy for female avatars to run around in practically nothing as long as the men do it too.

I am for equality.

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  • Andrea

    Totally agree!  During my brief stint on WOW, part of what frustrated me was the sexism inherent in the game to the extent that it wasn’t even noticed.  I feel like this is a prevailing theme in a lot of “nerd” areas: comics, anime, movies.  Despite that fact that nerd girls are rapidly catching up with nerd boys in numbers, the girls seem to be playing the game the way the boys did, and I’m not sure why.  That’s why things like this blog are awesome, though!

    • Pilbeam

      We have definitely come a long way in catching up and “coming out”. Even in the last 10 years, the number of female geeks I’ve bet has probably quadrupled.

      I’ve heard a lot of girl friends say that about WoW, and it’s really sad.

      Lady Geeks will take over the world, some day! Then we’ll show them :)