Gender and Video Games


Note: This is a guest post

There has been a stirring in force. Across the internet, people are debating, arguing and even making lewd and inappropriate comments following one woman’s video campaign, titled Tropes vs Women in Video Games.

The project was the brainchild of Anita Sarkeesian and was funded through Kickstarter, the funding platform for creative projects. The projects aims to examine the plot devices and tropes that appear in video games with female characters. The project received so much extra funding that instead of the original plan to make one or two videos, the project has turned into a whole series, looking at a variety of roles that women play in the world of video games.

The first video was released in March 2013, and created an outrage. Anita focuses in this first short piece on the Damsel in Distress, a trope seen over and over again in video games, from Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser repeatedly (Thank You Mario, but our princess is in another castle), to Zelda in the legends of Zelda, there is a tradition of a male character saving the day.

But, you say, it’s just a computer game! No one thinks that it’s real! However, It’s a sad fact that some people still cling to the belief that women are somehow a naturally weaker gender. This notion is a myth, but one that is perpetuated when women, even in video games, are portrayed as frail, vulnerable creatures.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The Tomb Raider games, when they first appeared in the late nineties, featured an Indiana Jones type character who made their living raiding tombs (unsurprisingly). But instead of a be-hatted, whip bearing Jones, it was Lara Croft – who interestingly now also appears in a plethora of other entertainment iterations – the latest being an online Tomb Raider slots game.

Lara in the original game had proportions that made even Barbie blush. However, game makers have started to cotton on to the fact that the demographic of gamers is changing. 47 per cent of gamers are now women, and the latest Tomb Raider game is perhaps showing a change in the once sexist attitudes in the industry. Lara’s shorts have become trousers, her boobs are now somewhat normal sized and as game writer Rhianna Pratchett says, ‘She’s beautiful, but ultimately she looks like a young lady who has dressed herself.’

There is still a way to go, but games like Mass Effect and Tomb Raider at least show the industry is getting there.

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