Sexism in Video Games
March 8, 2017
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
A study conducted by Entertainment Software Association showed that 48% of gamers are women, but only 4% of the main characters in the 25 best-selling list were female.
“The research is pretty consistent that there are two types of female characters: the ‘damsel in distress’ or the ‘ultimate warrior,'” said professor of communications at University of Minnesota, Edward Downs. He also noted that the ‘ultimate warrior’ type is usually hypersexualized.
However, some people think there is other reasons why sexism is common in video games.
“Sexism in video games is common, but sometimes it needs to be there to accurately portray the culture of a video game’s setting,” said freshman Allison Hickman.
In the past ten years, the amount of sexualized female characters has gone down with a particularly large decrease in the past eight years. In the 90s, 3D graphics weren’t advanced enough to properly represent a realistic women and gave characters overexaggerated features. Characters like Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series is an example of this due to her more recent representations being much more realistic. But many secondary female characters haven’t improved, staying regulated to their role of love interest or side kick without much development.
“When we found [women] were secondary to a male protagonist, they were more often sexualized,” said Teresa Lynch, the lead author of the study that analyzed the decrease in sexualized main female characters. “This is essentially pointing to the objectification of the character, that the female characters who were secondary don’t have as many important artifacts built into their character, like personality, a backstory or meaningful interaction with other characters.”
Some companies are making the progress to support women in the video gaming industry. In the January of 2015, the company Intel pledged 300 million dollars to make itself more diverse by hiring more female employees in its games division, in June of 2015 Intel established a 125 million dollar fund to help technology startups run by women and minorities. The company also supports an initiative to double the amount of women working as game developers by 2025.
A survey of 1400 American teenagers, conducted by games writer Ashly Burch and education consultant Rosalind Wiseman, showed that 47% of middle school boys and 61% of high school boys agree with the idea that female video game characters are too often sexualized. Also 70% of girls and 78% of boys don’t care about a video game character’s gender.
“The video game industry seems to base much of its game and character designs on a few assumptions, among them that girls don’t play big action games, boys won’t play games with strong female characters, and male players like the sexual objectification of female characters,” said Wiseman.
Since female players make up nearly 50% of video game players, and young boys are tired of the sexualization of female characters, it seems obvious to make games with female protagonists instead of adding on to large franchises that are populated with male main characters. That worked with the third person shooter Mass Effect 3 which received much praise for letting the player choose whether to play as a man or a woman.
“It’s not right for females to do one thing or for males to do one thing,” said freshman Holly Payne. “Video games should switch it up by swapping the character’s gender.”
The video games industry needs to be able to keep up with its audience’s shifting viewpoints in order to stay ahead of the curve so their popularity won’t be forgotten in favor of indie developers who include more gender diversity in their games.