The paradigm of gaming has long been a man’s world with both game and console marketing being distinctly directed at young males. And yes, from a business perspective, I suppose this does make good business sense but the feminist in me has to question – What about the girls?
It doesn’t take long to answer ‘Where are the girls?’ – The answer is that they’re being wrongly represented at every turn. The vast majority of video games depict females as hyper-sexualised beings that wear very little clothing, have perfect size 2 bodies or are portrayed as helpless little girls that need saving by the male character. In contrast, men are represented in any which way; they can be overweight, muscular, wear lots or little clothes and can undertake any role they wish. Infuriating, right?
Misogyny in gaming is rife throughout all platforms and like with all media, imprints are easily made in their consumers. A quick review of Google scholar using the words ‘misogyny’ and ‘games’ brings me 12, 100 search results – not a new concept, eh?
The majority of the research discusses misogyny in gaming culture as an abstract concept and very few seem to focus on the effects of portrayal of women in gaming has on the consumers.
I’ll just run some of the most important findings by you real quick;
- 1 female was represented in video game cover art for every 5.3 males represented.
- In video game reviews, only 42% mentioned females with an astounding 12% of these only mentioning females to make remarks on the characters sex appeal.
- Men who play video games such as Grand Theft Auto where there is a high incident of sexual assault and harassment during game play were rated as more tolerant of sexual harassment.
- Men who engage in a sexually charged video game for 25 minutes or more scored more highly on a ‘Likelihood to Sexually Harass’ Scale.
- Women who engaged with hyper-sexualized gaming characters have lower self esteem ratings after game play compared to pre-game ratings.
These facts shouldn’t be something we ignore, they should worry every one, male or female that there is this industry out there that is cashing in on our benevolent attitude towards female discrimination and abuse.
Misogyny isn’t just something to be addressed by the developers themselves, the public needs to address it. If I sweep the science aside for a second and focus on YouTube, searches inevitably bring up results mocking females in games and females that even play games. Take this video for example, that painstakingly rates the ‘Top 5 hottest gamer girls’ – why is not recognising these girls and creating the ‘Top 5 best female gamers’ based on their problem solving and co-ordination skills?
The idea of a female gamer has become a complete joke, even becoming a popular meme.
From personal experience I can tell you that when I used to engage in online co-ops of popular games such as Call of Duty or Left 4 Dead, if I dared use my microphone and make it known there was a women behind my deliberately androgynous username, I would be greeted with a wave of insults ranging from young males telling me to get back to my kitchen or asking me if I would put their extremities in my mouth (NO thanks!). And I think the most shocking part of this was that these insults were coming from pre-pubescent mouths, I would hazard a guess that boys as young as 8 or 9 were yelling these things at me, for simply daring to engage in a game dominated by males.
Video games are presenting disrespectful and unrealistic expectations of women. Expectations which are being passed down to the consumers. We are trying to teach the younger generation to be respectful and not make the same mistakes we made, so why are we starting them off by exposing them to such hateful things? Sexual harassment and assault is a huge issue in modern society, this shouldn’t be news to you. Gaming is a tremendous industry that can only grow – which is great, I love video games and believe they can teach essential cognitive skills but I cannot ignore the internalised misogyny any longer and neither should you.
Women are progressing fast, we’re starting to hang up our aprons and neutralise every aspect of life. We are beginning to refuse to be the supporting characters for men, so why are we still the supporting characters for virtual men?