Women in shiny black lingerie-like leather, with light reflecting off breasts that seem to have been drawn with compasses, are a common fixture in the parallel gaming universe. They mostly seem to just exist, form part of an animated background – as if they were an accessory. It drives you to ponder over what the makers and designers of the games take their audiences for- a large homogeneous mass of testosterone-activated boys who live to chance upon the sight of temptresses with their “twins”- and seek that eyeful in everything they do?
Author and professor Rosalind Wiseman spearheaded a recent study that was reported by TIME, that ripped apart the notion of a typical gaming audience and their needs and “desires”, if you may. Turns out, the section towards which these highly sexualized symbols of women are targeted, that is- teenage boys- doesn’t think very highly of the gimmick.
Female Characters Could be Shown with more Dignity:
Out of the 1500 students interviewed, 47% of middle-school boys and 61% of high school boys agreed or strongly agreed – that women are depicted as sex objects way too often for comfort.“If women are objectified like this it defeats the entire purpose of fighting,” said Theo, an eighth-grader to Wiseman’s team. “I would respect the [female] character more for having some dignity.”
In fact, 47 percent of the attendees at this year’s annual comic-con are expected to be girls and women, but the gaming world is far from being gender-agnostic, and still fails to cater to that rather dominant female section of its audience. (Female Games Pic by Gaming Girl)
Anshu Lal, a feminist journalist who moonlights as a computer-game junkie and takes his daily gaming routine rather seriously, says that sexualization is not only irksome, but also largely redundant. “Most gamers don’t really care about the story in games- it’s all about the gameplay. So, they never really pay any attention to whether women are being sexualized in games. Since the core gameplay won’t even be affected, this sexualization should stop,” he tells Shethepeople.tv.
Male and Female Gamers have become gender-neutral, than why isn’t that reflecting in the games?
70% of girls and 78% of boys confessed that they don’t need the protagonist of a game to be an ass-kicking alpha male. Their choice of game is independent of the gender of the lead. In fact, it surfaced that as boy gamers mature, they care lesser and lesser about necessarily playing as a male character. And girls, as they grow up, start questioning the laws of the land in this boys club, and care more about playing as a female one. (Pic by Gameskinny)
In fact, 55% of boys who identify as gamers even think there should be more female heroes in games.
Lal feels that the number of women protagonists has definitely gone up, but the main focus area should also be to improve the quality and girth of these characters. “From a time when the only prominent female protagonist was Lara Croft from Tomb Raider – we now have Portal 2 and Final Fantasy coming out with female protagonists or playable women characters. Catwoman was also a playable character in Batman: Arkham City. But a lot of these female protagonists are still shown to be racy and bawdy – hence efforts should also be made to eradicate sexualization itself,” he feels.
“A good example of a well-portrayed character would be Elizabeth from Bioshock 3. Though not the central figure, she was a very smart and important character,” he opines.
Girl Gamers Experiment in As Many Genres as the Boys:
Games which are typically considered to be played by boys, have a surprisingly large number of female users too. 26% of the girls interviewed played shooter first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and HALO, 36% played role-playing games like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto, and 17% played sports games like FIFA and Madden.
Image Credits: Gamesradar.com