Women in Games

July 24, 2006

Right off the bat, I’ll say that the role women play in modern games is absolutely deplorable. We want to get more female players, and yet we have such terrible female role-models in game. When was the last time we saw a strong female lead character? Now when was the last time you could play as her? In my mind, we have two specific problems: body image and character role.

Let’s consider body image. We’ll begin with a test. I’ve popped over to IGN’s computer game preview section; I’ll show you the first game I see with a woman on-screen.

Anyone see something wrong with this picture? Often, Too often, Almost all computer games with women characters present these women as perfect barbies with whorish revealing clothing. Consider the latest Tomb Raider game’s website, http://www.tombraider.com/ . There’s actually an area of the website devoted to Laura’s clothes. This has been one of the heaviest critiques given to video games, and I have to admit, it is an extremely well-founded argument.

Now let’s consider female character roles. I’m aware of less than four first-person shooters where the player is a woman. More often than not, if a game includes a girl, she is a nurse, mother, or other member of the “supporting cast”. Luckily, a few games do include strong female leads, such as Half Life 2 and Max Payne 2. At the same time, in most of these games, the women quickly become damsels in distress. If I hear that the Bowser has captured Peach one more time… Anyway, women rarely appear as strong as their male counterparts in video games; one of the easiest ways to fix this is to provide more central female leads. Perfect Dark is actually a good example of what we should strive for more often.

Of course there is much more to discuss, so… leave some comments!


One Response to “Women in Games”

  1. Ian Y Says:

    I’m a little late on this one, but hey, I only discovered your plan a couple weeks ago, so I sure didn’t know you had a blog before that.

    Anyways, to provide one counterexample, Alyx in Half Life 2 actually defies most of the common stereotypes (not white, realistic body shape, quite capable of taking care of herself), and yet has still been, ahem, well-received by the male gamers.

    Sure, it’s about the only positive example I know of, and sure, there’s still a certain amount of objectification involved, but I think it’s still a very positive step. Hopefully the popularity of her character will show other companies that it is in fact feasible to make decent female characters.

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