New or old-school, hero or side-kick, female video game characters like Princess Peach are too often designed as stereotypically feminine. We most often see female video game characters featured in dresses, skirts or skimpy clothing, wearing bows and make-up, and maintaining dainty, delicate, or over-sexualized dispositions. These features make any character disadvantaged in race or combat. Such stereotypical signifiers, which were specifically drawn into the design of the characters, are then mechanized as disadvantages. These characters not only stereotype women, but also send the message that qualities specific to females are limitations to a character’s ability. The lack of strong female characters present in video games is due to the fact that there’s a sense in the industry that games with female heroes won’t sell. However, it seems that this is only true because of the manner in which female video game characters are designed. It is less the female character that wouldn’t sell, but what is currently designed as the female character. The predominantly male community of game developers designs their female characters as weak, distracted, and as having vices. Male or female, it is obvious that such a hero would never sell. By ignoring the ‘damsel in distress’ connotation from female video game characters and designing female characters that are as capable and badass does work. Women could easily take the role of the hero and could absolutely sell video games in new uncharted territory. My favorite recent example of a strong female protagonist comes from the Sep 4th 2014 release, Velocity 2X starring Lt. Kai Tana.
GamerGate has opened the debate for gamers and developers everywhere to speak their opinions on the matter. There has been some negative and positive results from this and game makers continue to try and open up the market to more users globally. The connotation of women in the video game industry is a polarizing issue that perpetuates itself. With more awareness on the issue than ever it seems like there will be some dramatic shifts in the industry to address the prominent issue. Myself as a developer take all of these allegations very seriously and hope to bring more maturity and acceptane in the workplace. While women in the workforce is an issue in itself, creating exciting and innovative female protagonists should be the first goal. If developers can create dynamic characters for people to latch onto, this will inturn create an environment where women want to work and support the corporate vision. Video games can be anything so it is important that some big companies begin to support this stance and speak out on the manner actively and aggresivly. Gamers will never be the same after the implications of GamerGate but perhaps that is for the best. Like Anita Sarkeesian says in each of here videos “remember that it is both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy medi while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernacious aspects. Video games must be treated in the manner going forward in all regards and I applaud Anita Sarkessian for her bravery and dedication to stand up and lead the charge on this issue.
Author: Gavin Johnston
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