How do you think gender has influenced the way games are developed and used?
The main demographic for video games are heterosexual men. As such video games in general are largely tailor fit for these men. This is where the sexism comes in. We are either depicted as bimbos that need rescuing or bad ass sex kittens that need awesome looking armor…just not on the breasts, crotch and ass. Breasts are almost always exaggerated to be huge and they have bodies any super model would be envious of. Their faces are perfect and you can see frequent ‘crotch shots’ of girls in video games but because they are wearing something that looks like underwear or a thong. Many men see “nothing wrong with it.” Some of the most famous female video game characters of all time are over-sexualized: Lara Croft, Every woman from the Dead or Alive series, Tifa Lockhart, Poison from Street Fighter 4 and pretty much all the women from King of Fighters among many, many others. I don’t have enough word space to list them all. In MMOs most of the armor, while looking normal on male toons look like something a stripper might wear. Games that are made to appear strictly for girls have goals such as like cooking, anything to do with horses and anything cutesy. It’s almost laughable how people DON’T think that’s sexist.
Have you experienced or observed harassment or sexism in the gaming world? What have you seen?
I’ve gamed since I was old enough to hold a controller. I play both on the PC and on consoles. It’s always been a very vital part of my life and I can’t see myself NOT gaming to be honest. Once I entered my teen years I realized how truly rampant sexual harassment, bullying and general discrimination was against my sex in video games. Ask any woman who has gamed long enough and she will have a few stories about the sexism she has experienced in video games. The sad thing is…most online games do little to curb sexual harassment. Most of the time they just tell you to block them. As if that makes things better.
I’ve played World of Warcraft since the year it started and since then I’ve had several men approach me and ask me to role-play sex with them in exchange for in-game currency. One even offered more if I would masturbate on Ventrilo or Skype for him. A lot of girl gamers have had this same experience. The image of the “girl gamer” has been overly sexualized as well. Google image “Girl Gamer” and the images will speak for themselves.
Usually the sexism is limited to name calling, belittling and exclusion. I’ve been kicked from guilds because they realized I was a girl, I’ve been called fat, and amazingly, hot despite them never seeing one of my photos. The photos that I and other women have shown are judged just as harshly as when a celebrity gets fat, starts to age or forgets to shave her legs that day.
Men can show their pictures without fear of judgement but women cannot. I’m always afraid that an in-game friendship may change if I link my Facebook to them. Even in a video game we cannot escape being judged by our looks. Men don’t realize that this can effect many of us on a personal level and therefore impacts our “real lives.” It is also important to say that many men are not sexist and have been wonderful friends to me. I don’t want to paint a picture that all male gamers are sexist, because I don’t think they all are or that most even care. However, there are still a lot of sexist ones and it makes some aspects of gaming consistently unpleasant.
The three main stereotypes for women seem to be the following:
1. They are amazingly attractive because they play video games
2. They are all bad players.
3.) Most are ugly and play video games because they can’t get a boyfriend.
The complaints of women largely fall on deaf ears because it’s excused as “feminist bitching” and so they are able to take any validity of of our complaints away with those two words.
If so, how has that altered your experience with gaming?
s a result I try for more gender-neutral usernames such as Player/User/Gamer followed by my area code or three random numbers. The female toons I play on older games such as World of Warcraft still have their original female names because most people on that server know I’m a girl anyway so it’s pointless to pay the money for a name change. I must say though…with the gender-neutral names the aggression I’ve received has severely diminished. I rarely receive insults on characters with gender-neutral names. Aggressive behavior has always been prevalent in video games but it has seriously escalated with online games. There is no actual person to see so bullying becomes easier. There is little that can be done and they exploit that fully. It’s easier to become more severe when the person doesn’t seem real to you.
I don’t WANT to hide my gender. I don’t WANT to hide behind neutrality. I’m not ashamed of being a woman so why should I be forced to hide? For the better part of two decades I’ve been refusing to hide my sex but lately I’ve just been so tired…it’s an uphill battle. It seems like every time we try to venture beyond the home we’re threatened and sexist men attempt to shove us back into our kitchens and laundry rooms. We’ve had to fight for every step forward and even though things are a lot better for women in a lot of countries, we’re still thought of as lesser beings sometimes and that tendency is prevalent in video games. It’s pathetic that we have to fight for a choice in hobbies too.
If anyone else is interested in relating their experiences you can write your own response here: