In the early ages of video gaming, males were predominantly targeted by game companies, which resulted in games that were designed for mostly heterosexual males (indie games were created and variations of mainstream games, but they were not profound and didn’t become well known). Within the past decade, this stereotypical idea has diminished, and females currently represent almost half of the gaming demographic, about 46% to be exact. Gaming holds a greater significance than we thought, which is why it is important to pay attention to what is represented and acted-out within games.
Ultimately, feminist have been taking a closer look on the female representation within video games, and have caused a lot of attention relating towards the issue. Unfortunately, during these studies, video game developers have been shamed and deemed as ‘sexist for the lack of strong female representation or any representation at all in their games, which has been resulting into more ‘sexist out-lashes towards female gamers. The sole purpose of this text is to analyze the feminist approach, and the female representation within video games and how the issue is depicted today within games.
Feminism Today and its Meaning Feminism today is a wide spread concept that men and women fight for everyday in order to sustain an equal opportunity for both sexes. Since feminism was established, the idea of equality received loads of backlash, such as calling feminist ‘feminazis’ or ‘man haters’. Feminism has been around for nearly fifty years and our society is still greatly uneducated on the motives for the “-ism’, and declare the whole concept as offensive and incompetent.
Feminist today, are working together to spread awareness on the true morals of feminism and how they can create safer environments for working women, and women and men as a whole. Recently feminist are associated as ‘scholars’ and ‘feminist scholars’, who analytically look at media mediums and the representations of women within the chosen content. Since video gaming is creating a strong domain for itself, feminist scholars have greatly taken the motive to analyze the meanings and messages within specific characters, character traits, plots and many more aspects in video games.
What initially meant to be a harmless act of observation (for a greater outcome), formulated into hate and backlash on both feminist and video: games/developers and other sorts of video game affiliations. Why Do Feminist Care About Video Games? The moral of a feminist is to create an equal voice, opportunity, safety, etc. for women and men around the world (in a broader sense). Some feminists may wish to create equality within specified areas, cultures, work places, or even forms of media we consume, such as the motive of this essay: video games.
Video gaming is a broad and popular medium within the media we consume; according to the Entertain Software Association, 155 million Americans play videogames, which is slightly more than half of the American population. What is more astounding, is that nearly half of our American gamers, are female. Essentially, feminist who are concerned with video games that are sold today, fear for female gamers, who must sensualize discriminating depictions against themselves as they play games, and that gamers will repeat what is demonizing towards women, in real life.
Women and even men, face brutal situations that are not strongly punished within our justice system, such as rape, and abuse. Sexual violence is a severe issue we face today and is wrongly distinguished as a ‘laughable’ subject that can be illustrated within video games today; of course not all video games are discriminating against the issues women face, but there is a profound amount of games that depict this subject in a laughable manner such as the game series (I know and love) Grand Theft Auto.
There is a scene at he end of Grand Theft Auto three, where the main character shoots his girlfriend to death while she is talking about breaking her nail; essentially killing her because she was ‘talking his ear off about her ‘girly’ miss-happenings. The gruesome scene symbolizes very real-life situations that occur almost every day, which may be triggering for some gamers to experience. The goal of feminists, is not to destroy current games that are being created today, but perhaps creating games that would stray away from triggering concepts and ideas or creating an alternative on video games that would cancel out gruesome or un-settling situations.
Not all video games would have to be perfectly friendly in ‘feminist eyes’, but a fair amount of games should be made in the essence of the booming female demographic within video gaming. Feminist Who Care about Video Games and in-game Representations A widely known feminist, Anita Sarkeesian, analyzes media content and the representation of females in the media. Sarkeesian started a video campaign in 2009, which delineates female representation in video games and the ‘sexism’ that has been redundantly repeated throughout history to today.
Her famously known videos, are focusing on the concept of a ‘damsel in distress’ which refers to a person, predominantly female, to be in a situation of distress and must rely on a hero (a male) to save her from her troubles. A’damsel in distress’ is a plot motivator in a story, essentially the whole motive for the story’s existence. The on-going story motivator is not as innocent as game developers may want you to think, they simply portray these women as dainty, and dependent on male assistance.
Simply, of course storylines and stories in general are a figment of imagination and pure fantasy, but history has shown that the repetitive portrayal of a specific idea, or a situation (that is exaggerated to enough extent), will soon appear ‘reenacted in societal terms. Sarkeesian fears of the amount of sexual violence and abuse that occurs to women each year and seems suspicious of the games that consist of violent actions towards women. Aside from Sarkeesian’s main points, she represents a number of other issues that correlate to female violence and abuse that is depicted in video games such as the objectification of women.
A very interesting point that Sarkeesian covered was called “Strategic Butt Coverings”, which expands on a figment of the over sexualized women in video games. Sarkeesian begins to compare and contrast numerous video games that can play male and females in first person, and how their butts are shown on the screen. What she found was that male butts in video games are mostly covered by a cape or ‘baggy’ clothing, or are never shown during game play at all. Female protagonists typically have their butts fully shown during game play and are fixated in a way where they will be the most enticing ‘thing’ to look at on the screen.
Anita refutes that game designers should equally cover butts in games to defeat the over sexualization of women in games and ultimately end the normalization of objectifying women. Another feminist from the American Enterprise Institute: Christina Hoff Sommers created several videos in response to the sexist accusations that had been made toward games and gamers. Sommers, refers to herself as a ‘factual feminist, for the reason that she will speak up for both parties (men and women) and mostly, that she is driven by facts and honesty, rather than biased, ‘one-sided opinions.
After a couple years Anita Sarkeesian released her initial videos on ‘damsel[s] in distress’; Sommers responded to Sarkeesian in her own videos that “yes”, women are becoming a huge demographic within gaming, but there are other ‘technicalities’ we must look at; “But a distinction is in order. There are casual game players—and there are hard-core gamers for whom highly complex, competitive video games are a primary life passion. Adult women are not a key demographic here. Consider just one typical data sample: Researchers at UCLA have been studying the pastimes of college freshmen for more than 40 years.
For incoming freshmen, 65 percent of girls but fewer than 19 percent of boys said they played no video games at all in a typical week. Among hardcore gamers who play more than 20 hours a week, the ratio of boys to girls is 7 to 1″. What Sommers is trying to get across is that yes, girls are starting to become more and more involved in video gaming, but there is a true distinction between a ‘plain old gamer’ and someone who devotes (almost) their entire life into video gaming.
Mostly, for any concept, there are ‘fans’ and then ‘true fans’, such as ‘true fans’ of video games enjoy all of the ‘horrors’ of video games and want games to fit into their preference… since they are a ‘true’ video game investor or player; and there are ‘plain old fans’ who will take what they can get from a video game without minding what they are receiving (I guess). Although Anita Sarkeesian and Christina Hoff Sommers consider themselves ‘feminist they posses conflicting views on the female representation in video gaming.
Anita Sarkeesian argues: video games represent females in a negative connotation; women are displayed as dainty, ‘damsel[s] in distress’ who need men to save them from their woe or conflict. Sarkeesian, who may not be a ‘heavy gamer’ (as Christina Hoff Sommers describes in her “Factual Feminist” videos) recognizes how women are portrayed with ‘demonizing’ characteristics within popular video games people play today and games played throughout history. Christina Sommers simply thinks that video games are essentially ‘owned by males for the reason that a higher percentage of ‘heavy gamers’ are males.
In Sommers defense, there are plenty of female oriented jobs and activities that give sensations of a ‘girls-only’ environment such as Victoria Secret or a make up store like Sephora. To conclude, both feminist have solid stances on the portrayal of women in video games such as one feminist looks at the situation with women in mind and the other feminist with men in mind. I believe that there is a conflict between opinions, but both are equally supporting men and women in their ‘feminist defense.