I recently read Gordon Van Dyke's explanation for not including female avatars in their war game and of course a lot of comments regarding the article. To me not only Van Dyke's reasoning, the interviewers conclusion to the article, but also the attached comments showed me again how ignorant all sides in regard to the problem really are.
And yep, it is a problem. It is a problem for the industry, since they miss out on a lot of potential customers. Its a problem for game designers, who sometimes feel restricted in the ways they can work women into their game, since it needs to sell well. It is a problem for female gamers, who don't feel respected and equally valued as customers and as part of the community. It's a problem for male gamers, who's hobby is viewed as if it is some sort of half-assed porn. And everybody is passing the blame around, like it is up to only one party to make it right.
No, it's not their fault! Whoever you are here, designer, gamer, parent, son, daughter, journalist, businessman, feminist, male or female, it is yours! You have to make it right yourself. As long as you don't invest, risk, work and learn your part, nobody else is to blame.
Okay, let's bring the pain.
Before I start brainwashing all the different factions in the gaming community, let me start at the root of this mess: ...
Dear parents, STOP BUYING THAT PINK JUNK FOR YOUR DAUGHTER!!!!! Toys and games for girls are designed to make your daughter a beauty queen or a house keeper, nothing else. Kids learn from what they experience and from what they are told. You give your daughter a doll, she experiences caring for babies, dressing up, dressing hair and is told that being a mother and being in style is something her parents want for her. Nothing wrong with that, but is that really all? You buy her baby dolls, fashion dolls, plush animals to care for, styling toys, plastic vacuum cleaners and stoves and tea sets and all that bull. You tell her that toy car is for boys, the police man play set is for boys, that wooden tool box is for boys and so is that space hero action figure.
Hm, I wonder what she learns by playing with that.
You are relentlessly bombarding your daughter with girls stuff over and over again, that solely deliver learning experiences for future trophy wives. When a clean house, a well growing garden, somebody liking your food, a fresh diaper, a new bag or pair of shoes or painted nails are the examples of success you teach your young daughter, what do you expect her to become?
Gardening, shopping groceries, cooking, lipstick and ponies? Are you serious?
How about giving her some tools to experience the success of skill? How about having her dream and play about being an astronaut, a race car driver, a crime fighter, a fire fighter or even a soldier if she chooses to? And stop pumping your money into companies that profit from keeping girls smaller than they need to be. All the good stuff is available. It may take some research to find it, it may be more expensive, but it is there. It also takes you and some your precious time to help your daughter experience how cool it can be to save lives, save cities, save galaxies and save on or two handsome princes, but it is so totally worth it.
Hey girls, there is so much cool and important stuff to explore, to learn, to achieve and to be. Don't go with the flow and fall for the pink fairy. Just because your classmates can't see themselves being the hero, that doesn't mean the knight in shining armor can't be you.
This can be you, little lady.
Dear studios and publishers, please stop defending your poor treatment of female game characters with low numbers of female buyers. Maybe the low number of female buyers stays that low, exactly because of your poor treatment of female game characters. Ever thought about that? You write "no girls allowed" on the doors of your tree house, because there are not enough girls coming anyway? You sell games mostly to men, because you produce and market them exclusively for boys.
Does somebody know a bad pun with "target audience" here?
Even if you want to argue with sales numbers: Games with kick ass female characters do sell well, when they deliver an overall enjoyable package and are marketed well. Just keep some kick ass male characters in there and give your male audience some eye candy too and still have one or two kick ass respectable female characs in your title also. Those things are not mutually exclusive. Hollywood does know that already. You can make it sell. So cut that cleavage-and-tummy-showing-armor bulljunk and that high-heels-in-combat bull and get real. Make your females serious threats in combat and when you wanna show 'em sexy create sexy moments with intimacy and tasty display of skin, where hotness is not a laughing matter.
Strong female characters, why? Who wants to have profits like James Cameron anyway?
Hey, pal. I only have one explanation for your behavior: You don't want girls around anyway.
You want this to be a boys club. You want to drool about pixilated boobs and asses, with your buddies. You want to share your collection of nude patches and bang virtual hookers in GTA. You want stories in which the girls just serve as MacGuffins or eye candy and you want to throw homophobic slurs around whenever something bothers you. Yeah, having girls around wouldn't be much fun, would it? They would tell you how silly you are for wasting your time with that junk and how you sound like an asshole when playing multiplayer. And god forbid your girlfriend, assuming you have one, would start getting into the games you like and possibly become a better player than you. What would you do without your precious head shot superiority?
Back in the old days a man needed to be the villages greatest hunter, a warrior, wrestler, football player, lumberjack, millionaire or at least needed to have a mustache and a sweet car to do pull off the macho routine. You guys are just wiggling your thumbs around and think you are the alpha dog of the year, pissing all over the place to mark your territory. No really, fellas. Cut that out.
Be brave and include women, and gays for that matter, in your community. It makes gaming a richer place.
Stop ranting about women being overtly hot and sexual in games. Complain about women characters being stupid, one-dimensional, being just plot devices, running around in weirdly revealing clothing. All that is valid, but don't try to take out the sexy bits. Video games are an entertainment product and when you take out the sexy girls it becomes less entertaining. How can you expect any game company to do that?
And why is "sexy" a problem for you anyway? What happened? There was a time when women like Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren or Audrey Hepburn were not only stars, they were icons, Role models for women all over the world and men all over the world had heavy crushes on them. They weren't considered slutty, stupid, superficial or unconfident. Back in those days being desirable was some sort of super power. When Sophia entered a room, you knew this room now belongs to her, all men there instantly lost their brain functions and all women in the room wanted to be like her.
Nowadays, being aggressively sexy is considered some sort of replacement for talent, skill or intelligence. When back in the days hotness was a way to dominate men, but making them desire you is now viewed as a cheap and desperate trick to get men's recognition. Being a hot women and being a capable women are not mutually exclusive.
Is this the necessary look to be taken seriously?
Just because a lady has a nice butt and likes to show that butt around in sexy clothing, that does not mean she has nothing else to offer. Granted, in today's games female characters really have not much more to offer. But if you wanna smack game designers around in order to change things, don't smack them for the sexy bits. Smack them for the lack of imagination or care when it comes to delivering in-game women and girls that offer more than breasts and buttocks.
MGS series: kick ass and eye candy.
MGS series: female bosses and enemy types, no problem.
MGS series: Having characters in there, just for their "entertainment value".
Hey friends, especially those friends, who write reviews. Your reviews are important, they have an impact. You are the media. A lot of the gaming audience listens to you when you tell them what's cool and what's not. So tell them, that sexist character designs, stupid naked-ass armor, no female avatars in multiplayer games and all that bull is not cool and keeps gaming from flourishing like it could. Tell the again and again. Call game companies out on that. Rate games lower when they screw that up. You give multiplayer games a lower rating when they don't support gamers with low bandwidth, you rate sequels lower when they confuse gamers, who haven't played part one, why not rate games lower, when they completely exclude female gamers? How about having some women read your magazines? That would be awesome, wouldn't it?
My girlfriend Svenja actually studies game design and wants to make it her profession and she really does not play that much games. She would be the perfect customer for AAA titles, but there is just so little stuff truly appealing to her. The games are either way to macho or way to girlish. With a few exceptions (Mass Effect, Bayonetta, Mirrors Edge for example), AAA games offer her almost no protagonists to relate to and with even fewer exceptions (Assassins Creed, Mass Effect for example), AAA games offer her little to no eye candy. Yep, girls wanna have something to look at in games also and characters to relate to of course. It has been done already, and sometimes even with considerable success or at least it didn't stop the game from selling well. There is really no excuse for not pushing for games to be for girls and women, without being pink.