Community is a very loaded word. While it lets us gamers come together under a shared passion, it also allows us to exclude those we do not feel meet our standards of membership. For some every game is too easy, they laugh their way through games like Dark Souls. Insanity, Nightmare, Very Hard, that is what gaming is and everyone else needs to get on their level. Others need complexity and depth. If any streamlining or handholding is present in a game then they scream about casualization, and that the “mouth breathing” CoD players ruin everything spouting their words of sexism.
Then there are the FPSs fans who scoff at the rpg gamer and the nerds that can’t appreciate their 1337 multiplayer skill. All of these groups can bicker amongst themselves about what truly constitutes a “gamer”, but one group is conspicuously left out of the conversation: the female gamer. While a female gamer could be part of some or none of these schools of thought, they are both minimized and criticized when voicing opinions. Whatever a gamer may be, one thing most can agree on is that being a girl isn’t part of it.
The existence of sexism in both the gaming community and the industry has been explored in many ways and through many platforms. If you are looking for better look of how the stereotypical “Gamer Girl” is treated and the problem these female gamers face, check out this wonderfully written article from a female gamer herself. Instead of going the Metroid route and backtracking through areas that have been thoroughly explored, this article will instead try to focus not on how or why sexism is prevalent in the community, but rather how is harms gaming as a whole.
This is a man’s world could be used to describe the type of setting most games find themselves in. It is a strange, eerily awesome world where obesity is saved for the humorous and evil, every girl has a rocking body with tig ole’ bitties regardless of their age (looking at you Skyrim), the skinniest man is solid muscle, and nearly every girl can’t wait to rip your clothes off. Most of our male readers will think I have described heaven (some girls as well), but this pandering to the masculine ideal is getting a bit old. When I was young I was enraptured by every bob and sway of the digital bounties female characters possessed, and their willingness to hit the sheets at a moment's notice.
It made sense in those days, it let the nerdy kid gamer be a manly man and win the type of girl he dreamed of in math class everyday. The problem is that is not the case anymore, no longer are games for the nerds, and more importantly no longer are games for just boys. Females now make up a large portion of the gaming population and older men are playing more than the boys of old. Logically this would lead us to believe that as the audience has grown, so would the narrative behind games; however, this could not be further from the truth.
Over thirty years later and we are still rescuing the damsel, plowing our way through quests (wink wink), and trying to satisfy the same horny nerd from yesteryear. This has lead to a stagnation of interesting stories and something I like to call "talking breast syndrome". When you are trying to satisfy a certain audience you put them on a pedestal. This leads you to sculpt a story around putting them into a position of power and giving them access to their desires. This means currently that men are given what they want when it comes to gaming. Some like a princess to save like Peach, or Zelda, some like fiery action women like Lightning or Lara Croft, and some even like strong sensitive men like Carth or Cortez.
What do women like? Maybe some of the same things, but how do we know? The industry standard seems to be the same “Imma punch em in da face with my manly fist of manliness" (see GoW). This raw testosterone does not seem to fit what a female gamer would be able to identify with and by now has become so cliche’ it is tiring. This hurts the diversity of game narratives and robs us male gamers of something we ourselves might not know we would love. Some games try to answer this problem by making the women in games sexy men. Not sexy men like myself but females with male personas so that they can be part of the action.
The stereotypical woman, in all media not just gaming, is a creature of inaction. They are there to stop the action for moral, ethical or safety reasons. This makes them not as endearing when seen on the center stage. People hate Lori in The Walking Dead, Sklyer in Breaking Bad, and Delphine in Skryim. This is because they all exist to make the male lead, or assumed male lead, answer for his actions and consider something other than his wants and goals. I WILL NEVER KILL PAARTHANAX YOU HEARTLESS SHREW....sorry, gets me every time. The answer is to make women manly, to rob them of their gender identity and substitute a male one so that they can be "realistically" portrayed by male writers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love epic manly moments in games, after all I am a beer loving, boob loving bro at heart. In my heaven, three things would be never ending: scantily clad women; buffalo wings, and cold ones delivered in the talons of eagles while I sit on a throne of the skulls of my enemies. I am not however every gamer, and I understand that for the good of gaming we have to embrace gender inclusive narratives.
The easiest way to make gaming a boy’s club is to write off female developers and make them feel like they can not make it in the industry. Game developers have put up a large sign saying ‘no girls allowed” written in sexual harassment and community discouragement. Female developers are told from the start that the industry is sexist and they won’t make it leading to potentially awesome people being denied a chance to help gaming grow. Worse still is that several female developers are groped or otherwise harassed making them uncomfortable and making it impossible for them to work like their male counterparts.
By not letting an entire section of talented game designers who have a fresh perspective and a drive to make games for people like them we are only hurting the media we love so dearly. A plethora of potential games have been relegated to the trash heap or never given a chance because of the sexism that exist in management and fellow developers. No one who loves gaming can argue that limiting the amount of games being released and envisioned could ever help the industry.
Until we stop viewing these people as girl developers and as just developers who can breath life into gaming, we will never know how amazing the industry could truly be. While so much more should be said, I as an author am not equipped with the space or the willingness to put the humor I love to infuse in my writing, to go into such a deep seeded and disgusting part of our gaming culture. When people can’t keep their hands to themselves, and can’t see how much the industry could grow with more female gamers, my humor dries up.
Now that I have gone through a soul destroying, morose rant on how terribad men are, it is time to cast light and find my way out of that maze of seriousness. Nothing hurts gaming more than how terrible we suck as people. We are all sexist pigs who want to rape churches and burn women (who should be in the kitchen), at least that is what has started to become the stereotype of the male gamer. Shooters have had the worst influence in this, with men allowed to talk trash to any girl they find anonymously.
The demonization of the gamer has far reaching effects. It makes every gamer stigmatized, most of the time unfairly, so much so we can be seen as a social force for sexism as a whole. This may not seem like a big deal but that drives away a growing part of community and robs the industry of the vital cash it needs to bring the games we love to our consoles. I wouldn't want to be seen as a racist, so why would I want to be seen as a sexist? Either way, it ends with society laughing at you for your archaic beliefs.
It also makes gaming seem like a childish diversion. I am long of beard and haven’t wet my bed in several months, don’t tell me my favorite hobby is for children. I want games with mature storylines, nudity, and swearing; things I will dearly miss if games are seen as for kids. Parents would riot, “What about my babies!” they would scream, robbing me of the one thing I do to forget my dead end job and less than chiseled features. This will undoubtedly happen though if we can’t move past the horny sexist teen stereotype. If we don’t want developers to treat us like children, then we have to stop acting like children.
Stop giving gamers talking boobs, would you kindly? Stop making the same cliche testosterone driven stories, would you kindly? Stop denying talented developers opportunities because they have ovaries, would you kindly? Treat everyone with respect, would you kindly? Grow up, would you kindly? Even if you are Grey Warden of Sexism, Commander Getbackintothekitchen or the Mysogikiin; you have to realize that acting like this is hurting the gaming community.
We are at a crossroads where we can become inclusive and grow, or stay xenophobic and stale. For me the choice seems an easy one. I am not a paragon of feminism, in truth I love a lot of things that are sexist. I love attractive characters, I love when they love me, I want to believe for brief moments I am some bronzed barbarian conquering lands and women with muscles and steel. I am not willing, however, to put that enjoyment over the betterment of the medium as a whole, and I am not willing to sacrifice good story, or characterization so that I may feed my ego. I like my characters to be sexy, but I also like them to be real.