By Arnel Querido
With the majority of game developers being men, it’s no surprise that many video games directed toward female audiences carry shallow depictions of what a real female is. Much like advertising, female characters especially are being over sexualized and given the ‘Barbie’ treatment where, had these characters been made in real life most of their proportions would be too extreme to stand or even walk sometimes. Themes of these games also come packed with superficial beliefs of how even little girls should act, teaching them if they aren’t pretty and popular they won’t succeed. Alongside all of these problems, many games offer linear game play which limits a player’s ability to make their own choices and choose an identity for their character of their own.
Over sexualized models of what the media wishes females looked like become even more distorted when they’re in video games. Women have bigger breasts, smaller waists, longer legs, fuller lips and anything else the mind can imagine. In video games there are no limits to the sex appeal of a female character even in children’s games. They often reinforce gender stereotypes making the impossible task of keeping up with model standards in advertising even worse as women are now competing with the hyper-unrealistic digital female. There are very few games with realistic portrayals of females but one I have played is called ‘Mirror’s Edge’ where you play as a young athletic woman named Faith who supports a revolution by delivering messages through free-running in a city. This game’s success proved that sales can come from a well developed plot and solid game mechanics, not a half naked sex object running and gunning.
Unrealistic characters are not the only issue in these video games however; ideals forced onto players often offer a limited depiction of females suggesting and reinforcing various gender roles. Games geared toward younger girls often place the player in a care-giving role or focus on developing character popularity, fashion, and outer beauty. The repetition of these roles is almost universal when it comes to children and tween games training girls at an early age that these are the qualities they must focus on. Another popular theme the majority of video games focus on, not just games geared toward females is the idea of heterosexuality. Rarely is a player given the ability to choose for themselves what sort of relationship they want their character to be in even in boy games. With the creation of more open ended games like Second Life and Fable III players are able to control the growth and decisions of their characters giving players a better sense of connection than they have with linear models and often creates a more enjoyable experience.
With the percentage of female gamers making up almost a third of all games, game developers need to take a better look at what kind of games they are pushing out and for what purpose. Not all female gamers want to play as ‘Carrie the Caregiver’ or ‘Cooking Mama’ and as games evolve more options need to become available. Games should become more aware of what gamers really want regardless of their sex and start producing games that will be entertaining and not just a regurgitation of gender stereotypes and roles. I personally think the limited selection of games for girls does little to invite female gamers to try other genres and games which leads to an uneven industry.