Hey ladies! Where do women fit in the man’s world of video games?Posted 2:52 pm on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 by John 'Spartan' Nguyen
As the great James Brown once said, “This is a Man’s World… But it Wouldn’t Be Nothing Without A Woman or Girl.”
Who knew the words of the late James Brown would be applicable to the virtual world of video gaming. With female influence in industry dynamic growing larger than ever before it makes sense that the roles of female characters in games have paralleled the change in this once solely male dominant cultural blueprint.
First represented as the victims of arcade villains in games like Mario, then as overly stated sex objects in games like Command Conquer and Tomb Raider, woman have had long-running controversial roles in gaming. Can they help it? Men are fascinated with lady lumps regardless of the amount of clothing covered. While super models like Brooklyn Decker pics and videos continue to stand-out as the spokeswoman of the ideal female character, it’s hard to think the female gender role will ever be completely desexualized in the gaming industry. Although woman characters haven’t always held an equal role to their male counterparts- what would video games be without women? Changes continue to revolutionize women from support characters to heroines arguably mirroring the social changes in equality real women have been fighting for.
Woman roles in video games have slowly changed since their early inception. The evolution of role-playing games (RPG’s) like Skyrim, Fallout and Dragon’s Dogma allow players to create their own character, giving the player the choice of how they want to be represented–female or male, heavily or limited clothed. Metroid and Heavenly Sword extend the gender role change, casting leading heroines as the protagonist, straying from the “support role” typically associated with female characters.
Despite its advancements, a new feature nicknamed “Girlfriend Mode” has caused a stir and has some questioning the video game industry’s movement towards gender equality. The “Best-Friends-Forever” skill tree-set for the fifth-class Mechromancer DLC character in Gearbox’s Borderlands 2 is an ‘easy-mode’ for more non-skilled players. Lead designer on the game John Hemingway explains in an OXM article the thought process behind the tree skill-set, saying they wanted to male it possible for people who ‘love’ Borderlands to be able to share it with people who ‘suck.’ That the skill tree allows an otherwise uneducated person on the game to learn through first-hand experience.
This all sounds fair so what’s the controversy, right? Despite being referred to as ‘Girlfriend Mode,’ the role is given to a female character and is described as “the cutest we’ve ever had” by Hemingway in the same OXM article. Although Gearbox says the mode is made to help integrate any ‘noob’ into the game it’s hard to believe that any guy will take a ‘cutesy’ player seriously.
Hope for Women in Video Games
All isn’t lost for women in games, sports video games are integrating female roles for the first time, according to The Huffington Post, Canadian women’s hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser and veteran American defense Angela Ruggiero become playable characters in EA Sports NHL 13. While according to Yahoo! Sports an online petition has been in the works for women’s soccer players to be represented in EA Sports soccer video games.
Women aren’t backing down, the controversial Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is a video series project that sheds light on sexism in the gaming industry launched on Kickstarter that already boasts 6, 968 supporters as shown on its Kickstarter page.
As the gaming industry continues to morph into new changes it’s interesting to attempt to predict what the future holds for the gaming industry. In a world where women dominate the male-female ratio in public universities 43.6–56.4 percent, according to a February article on Forbes.com, it’s reasonable to question that in the future we may not live in a man’s world at all. But quite possibly, Princess- Peaches everywhere will be teaming-up and rescuing their Mario and Luigi from life-perils as ladies go out and take on once all-male adventure for themselves.
Guest post by Darcy Leutkemeyer
Darcy has a degree in journalism with an emphasis on digital technology. She also is an avid gamer, much to the dismay of her mother, who was hoping for a pageant queen.
John “Spartan” Nguyen is the editor-in-chief at Nerd Reactor and is based in Orange County, CA. He is a graphic designer and illustrator.