Being a gamer located in the Middle East means that some of the stereotypes that I have to endure are somewhat different than what the global community has to face, including the insane focus this region seems to have on Call of Duty instead of a variety of other excellent FPSs available on just about every console. However, there are some stereotypes that remain the same pretty much internationally and that is the rather unrealistic objectifying of women in terms of every possible aspect including game character development, cosplay, booth babes (totally despise that term) and so on. While the degree of where the industry chooses to draw the line in the Middle East may vary (booth costumes consist of somewhat revealing tanks tops rather than straight out half naked costumes) the intent is still there.
This brings us to another issue, which primarily consists of female video game characters usually having to abide to a specific genre, usually comprised of being a certain body shape, in a certain costume, within a certain distressed situation (or at least rendered completely useless in a secondary role). While some games of course have some badass female leads, with some of personal current favorites being Borderlands (The sirens, all of them) and Tomb Raider (Lara Croft, she’s been pretty much iconic all through my growing up), there is no denying that there is still a degree of objectification happening.
While some games of course have some badass female leads, there is no denying that there is still a degree of objectification happening
I mean if we consider the direction in which Crystal Dynamics claims they wanted to go by decreasing the size of Lara’s ever so popular cleavage and getting her to instead dress in a more realistic attire and ditching the fanboy favorite, we’d think “Hey they’re actually trying to build a solid female main without the itty bitty sexist bit”, but then they go in a put in the weirdly exaggerated groans and moans (admit it, you found them at least slightly uncomfortable) as well as a sexual assault scene (not to mention the voice actress’s only role I can remember is that of her on Californication).
Now you can argue that these aspects brought life to the character, even contributed to a solid storyline and game production but really don’t you think she would’ve had enough character growth after she’s watched half her team die without the need of throwing in that bit of attempted rape? It’s all driven by the need to get the male population playing the game to want to save Lara or protect her, because hey, that’s the only way they can get them to connect to her.
With that in mind, you’re forgetting the larger than ever female gamer population, now becoming a solid 50% of the total count. You’re isolating them and forcing them to relate with the ridiculously longer list of male leads and reducing the alternatives to something less than satisfying. That problem aside, you also have the very dedicated (to the point that it’s scary sometimes) cosplay community to consider. When the female cosplayers, whether of the gaming industry or the comic industry (that’s an entirely different rant of its own) have to choose costumes (that are accurate) they basically tend to look like they’re walking out of an adult film, or filling in the gaps of one lonely nerd’s geeky fantasy.
That would mean that by objectifying women in the games being developed you are limiting them to feeling isolated and out of place or just pushing them to be realized versions of unrealistic female standards (that’s not saying women don’t do that on purpose sometimes). Either way the industry is forgetting to account for the development and inclusion of the female gamer community whether it’s in the Middle East or on a global scale and that’s not only limited to the development of characters but the whole outlook presented in the community that’s not really moving forward in terms of equality.
Now realistically speaking, I’m not saying this represents a 100% of the cases, there is Claire Redfield of Resident Evil for example but then there are significant differences in face time in relative to someone like Ada Wong. I don’t expect things to change overnight, and I know that there is dozens of articles out there with similar complaints, but I do believe that there is room to educate people in charge, and the people who can bring that change forward. It would be nice to see leads in the future that are not dressed in outfits that defy the laws of gravity and common practicality as well characters that can handle their own and hold a solid story line without the added bits that make you feel like you’re limiting the target audience to one gender. So yes, maybe the next female lead can be in a baggy shirt? We are looking forward to some titles that could actually be redefining the current vision such as Beyond: Two Souls, so the tunnel is not all that dark right now.
This issue also reflects on how the community chooses to operate and communicate. The isolation instilled by how the industry chooses to majorly portray the female image and the role it has in pushing guys to only consider them as some sort of “eye candy” of sorts is probably what I consider the most problematic consequence. It’s been one of the major causes of why female gamers are not taken seriously as “Hey, how can you possibly know anything about games if all the characters are guys.”.
I’ve seen it reflected on my local community to the extent once I walk in to a Network Cafe, people would automatically assume I’m there to see a boyfriend rather than play myself, therefore taking forever to establish myself in a new realm if I choose to visit one. It has also pushed me to religiously choose female characters in all games that offer them as a choice (mainly fighting games) as otherwise I would be playing a man in most scenarios.
The industry is forgetting to account for the development and inclusion of the female gamer community
This tick has of course cost me the chance to play numerous well developed male characters that I would’ve probably enjoyed, but can you blame me if positions were to be reversed? But while I might get the occasional lame comment about how I am girl and therefore probably suck gaming wise, there are a lot of women who’ve had it a lot worse than I have. Feeling like outsiders in their work place, being the subject of cyanide hurtful remarks or even sexual harassment and you only need to look at the stream of recently published articles about events like the E3 Expo this year, and some of the horrors that some really influential names had to go through entirely based on their gender to accurately begin to assess the degree of this issue.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that some of this stuff actually commonly occurs in a number of work environments in different industries but does that mean we just have to stay quiet about it? I don’t think so. Not to mention that the level of which this behavior has been tolerated and accepted as a norm is absolutely disgraceful in many cases. I mean, I wouldn’t personally opt to wear a skirt to any of the convention I attend because that’s going to cause trouble for me; though probably shouldn’t be the case if we’re looking to be fair.
So looking at all of this, something should be done if this industry is ever in hopes of having any sort of coexistence between both the males and females who are so dedicated to the life. Talking about it obviously isn’t enough, so what is? What sort of radical change can possibly save this industry from the sexist path it has fallen in or is it completely doomed?