Blog post 3- rejecting women’s societal roles in video games

T.L. Taylor’s chapter ‘Where the Women Are’ really opened my mind up to the traditional thought about women and video game play. From elementary through high school, I had never really heard girls talking about video games or playing video games, whereas I had many experiences talking about and playing video games with my male friends.

To even think that there were games geared toward girls was something that I had not really seen or read before. I was aware of some ‘Barbie’ games, but I had never seen what their gameplay is like. So I decided to check out the games T.L. Taylor names as having been launched with the goal of serving a specifically ‘girl centered’ market segment. Here are some examples of the games Taylor mentions-

Barbie Fashion Designer-

Rockett’s New School-

Let’s Play: Secret Paths in the Forrest

Now faced with the realization that every time I visit YouTube, it is going to start suggesting videos of computer games geared toward adolescent girls, I also discovered that these games seem INCREDIBLY boring. It is hard for me to believe that the companies that produced these games even put in a serious effort at making a game that not only a girl would like, but at the very least something a thinking, intelligent human being that wants some level of challenge and intrigue could find interesting. And in the case of Purple Moon, the games were entirely unsuccessful and the company was absorbed into Mattel Inc.

I think it would be simple for game producers to make a game geared toward women that recognizes and values what women enjoy about gaming, yet the examples above show that producers have clearly avoided that. I think Taylor’s best point is that “It is as if suddenly the entire experiences of women who right now do play…are hidden off in a corner lest they overly complicate our notions about what “real” women and men take pleasure in.” (113)

Why can’t producers make a game like Tomb Raider without an over sexualized female character? Or a game like Call of Duty with female warriors as well (especially considering the U.S. military just opened up combat jobs to women). There are real life women who serve on the front lines, expose themselves to danger, and lose their lives in combat situations. And yet it seems that war FPS games like Call of Duty will never recognize that in one of their games. That is, unless the female soldier gets to wear a bikini (sarcasm).

My high school friends and I still would have played well produced combat games even if they had featured women, and I’m sure more of our female peers would have joined us in playing those games. By not taking this seriously, and producing games that seem to be made for simpletons or entirely reject women’s roles in society (like female police officers, soldiers, or athletes), gaming will continue to be perceived as a ‘guy’s thing’ as my friends and I thought in high school.

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8 Responses to Blog post 3- rejecting women’s societal roles in video games

  1. kjjohnson52 says:

    I completely agree with your points about “pink” games – they seem vapid and sexist. But I think there are many points about the absence of girls – in video games and out – that you should consider in addition to your argument.

    First, something that I think you are (understandably) assuming is that the video game industry has an accurate idea/generalization of what women like in video games. Even saying that sentence in any form is sort of defeating the purpose of making a more equal game, because it’s stating that men and women inherently will like different kinds of video games. This is where the problems start, making games that target one or the other – not both. And on top of that, the video game industry has this really skewed view – this sort of ‘pink’ mentality – that still exists in some ways today because there has been little progression in this area of gender equality. The huge lack of women video game developers also contributes to this problem.

    Another issue to remember is that, until very recently, women weren’t allowed on the front lines (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/24/us-usa-military-women-idUSBRE90M1FI20130124). And I appreciate very much that you and your friends seem like decent, respectful people, but as we’ve gone over in class, many men and boys who choose to play female characters in games often don’t want to admit it, or give a bogus reason why they chose it. So I beg to differ, if Call of Duty started offering female warriors, I don’t think that the majority of the game’s player base would be interested at all, and if they were their outward reasons would further exacerbate the problem anyway (i.e. “Chicks are hot, dude! I want to look at her ass!”)

    The last point I want to address about your post is the idea that your female peers would join in because of non-sexualized female characters, and that guys would be just as willing to play. Again, you and your friends seem to be sane and understanding of the silliness associated with being so uptight about female characters, but I have a hard time imagining a group of guys from the typical gamer base of a game like Call of Duty playing together and choosing female warrior characters (barring that all other aspects of the game were the same).

    The other part of this is the idea that more women and girls would be more inclined to play these types of games. While sure, that might contribute to it, and it might be nice to play a game like Call of Duty with a strong female leading the way, that doesn’t negate the hostile environments we’ve been talking about in class. Call of Duty as it is now will not be a safe place for women and girls to play because of all the sexist, sexual, and sometimes hateful language that occurs. That’s another issue entirely, but I would encourage you to look into the ‘conditions’ (for lack of a better word) that female players play in. Here’s a blog that collects messages from other players to female gamers, appropriately titled the most common insults: http://fatuglyorslutty.com/

    • kjjohnson52 says:

      This is my 1st Blog Post Response

    • gmills2013 says:

      I think I have clarifying issues with the 500 word limit. My point is in exact agreement with you, that video game developers should be marketing toward both men and women by representing women’s actual roles in society within the world of the game. Game developers have rejected the ideas of women who play games (as my Taylor quotes notes) as well as rejected many of women’s roles in society (and I completely agree with you that a lack of women game developers certainly does not help).

      Also, the ‘ban on women in combat’ that was recently lifted, was lifted because women were already basically in combat situations http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/women-have-always-served-in-combat-roles/

      I also don’t think men would be any more or less inclined to play Call of Duty if it featured depictions of what women are actually doing in war zones. Just because I am not inclined to pick the realistic looking female warrior, does not mean game developers should not be including them. Outcry against such realistic depictions would simply be sexist and wrong anyway. And I would certainly bet that women would be more likely to play Call of Duty if more female characters are included in games. According to wikipedia 85% of game characters are male. And we all know that small 15% is a bunch of over sexualized nonsense.

      Considering that people are more likely to play a game when they can feel a connection to their character, would it not make sense to have more women characters?

      And I’m not sure if your last point is saying realistic depictions of women would encourage hostile gaming environments? Because I don’t think it would. If anything, stances that support inclusion of women in video game spaces should help slowly reduce the ‘male club’ nature of that hostile environment. And certainly hostile environments should not be an excuse for not recognizing women’s roles in society within video games. There might be backlash, but I believe my argument has the financial, and at bare minimum moral, upper hand.

      • gmills2013 says:

        Also, would this count as another ‘response’ post?

      • kjjohnson52 says:

        My last point was not saying that realistic depictions of women would encourage the hostile gaming environments – I was saying that the hostile environments would still exist despite the realistic female characters, and that that’s a separate problem that would need to be addressed.

        I don’t think we were in disagreement – hopefully my post wasn’t too harsh! 500 word limits are hard for summarizing such huge issues. It was a really good post!

  2. coleg2013 says:

    First!

  3. Thanks for providing the excruciating examples, G. Those games are terrible. And yes to G’s question and “Huh?” to C’s comment.

    I’d like to steer a middle course between G and KJ. I understand KJ’s frustration, but I don’t see why players wouldn’t play female warriors on COD, especially given the fact that so many of them play female toons on MMOs. I’m not naive enough to believe that this would change game play overnight, but it may well be that since women are now engaging in combat IRL there are a lot of things that will have to change.

    I also think that both of you are right on in suggesting that game producers and developers condescend to female players of all ages, but that — at the same time — they condescend to male players, as I’ve suggested throughout this course, by pitching content to the lowest common denominator. We haven’t talked at all about Tomb Raider (the original). Tons of men (gay and straight) loved that game and — I would argue — would have loved it even if Lara hadn’t been so sexualized. It was a great game — Lara had moxie and power. And they didn’t turn her into a victim in the ways that the latest iteration of the game does.

    At any rate, changing climates (whether in IRL work places like the financial sector or in the video game industry) takes time, creativity, optimism (of the kind McGonigal suggests gamers are good at), and energy. We need more experiments and more research — and we aren’t going to know in advance what’s going to work until we have a chance to try it out.

  4. coleg2013 says:

    Greg, I agree with some of what you say, namely your acknowledgement of the failure of the video game industry to produce a high quality game for girls. While I am not a woman, I do know several women, I have read books with female characters, and often converse with women, so I feel that this qualifies me to make the following statement about why women don’t play ‘girl’ games and yet will play games that are not free of sexism. Simply put many (if not all) girl games are terrible, while games that are thought to be more masculine are much better. This is not because masculine things are fun, and feminine things are not fun, but more a reflection of the fact that fun things are fun.
    I believe that if you dump enough time and energy into creating something and it will be high quality (not always true but generally speaking). I also believe that this is why so many women end up playing the halo and WOW and whatnot. They may come with a less than nurturing environment and may have sexism woven into the characters and story, but when the alternative is to play a game that is not fun at all (and likely a little sexist in its own way in that it assumes that women enjoy boring things and will accept sub-par products). But the big budget games or the high quality indie games have had real though and effort put into them to make them enjoyable. Video games can be enjoyed silently, and they can be disliked rather silently as well (which is likely why I’ve never heard of most ‘pink’ games).
    I believe that the anonymity afforded by the medium of the internet/video games is allowing people to indulge in fun that traditionally may exist across gender divide. For example, say your friends dislike WOW and think that MMORPGs are silly. Thanks to the Internet, the fact that you play WOW is just between you and the Blizzard Corporation. However, video games have come more into the mainstream and are being discussed, the industry and everyone involved are feeling some of the growing pains as it tries to grapple with the modern realities of gender. The same is true for any major change, such as women being allowed in combat roles in the military as was previously discussed. Society and industry can be timid and have a tremendous amount of inertia, and this manifests itself in the continued production of media and such that are sexist. This is quite frustrating to those of us who do not enjoy the perpetuation of such unpleasantness. I do think though that the video game industry continues to produce such materials because they know that they will move product. It works pretty much every time and has worked for all of recent memory so they seem to refuse to gamble even though there are instances where honest, non-sexist/misogynistic games or movies were quite successful.
    Final note, it seems that calling “First!” in the comments is no longer an Internet trend and I should stop…
    Blog response Three

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