In this final post looking at video games and gender, we’ll examine the portrayal of women in gamer culture.
I gave Princess Peach a hard time in the first post in this series, but the truth is that she has it easier than most other women characters in the gaming world. If men are portrayed unfairly on TV, then women are portrayed especially bad through video games. Like Princess Peach, many female characters are just used as a romantic interest, a plot device, or as eye candy rather than as an interesting or important part of the story. Let’s look at some negative examples of women portrayed in video games.
1. Dead or Alive, specifically the Beach Volleyball version.
2. Duke Nukem “babes” that have to be rescued and are often naked or scantily clad.
3. Most female NPC’s in Grand Theft Auto games.
There are probably many more examples, but that gives you an idea. Women being degraded and objectified has been a problem for probably as long as there have been both women and men in existence. Unfortunately, this trend has made its way into games as well. But what does God say about how women should be viewed and treated?
When God created Eve, he did so to provide for him a helper. People immediately equate this situation with slavery or servitude, but that is not the case. The word for “helper” in the original language is also used in other places when God is called our “helper.” So therefore, being a helper does not imply inferiority. It should also be noted that Eve is the pinnacle of creation, the last thing that came directly from God’s hands before he declared creation to be “very good.”
So if sex and eye candy are the only factors that influence your view of women (you male gamers) then you are missing out. God created women to be more than just sex objects, but to be valued as treasures for every aspect of their being. Unfortunately, some game designers do not seem to understand this concept. There seem to be two ways in which games distort a proper view of women:
Distortion 1. Men and women are not equal and women are simply objects for the men to rescue. Princess Peach is a great example of this. In the early games, what did she even do? We’re given no idea as to what her value was to Mario other than a convenient plot device. This also shows that strong women and men cannot coexist and one has to be saving the other. Luckily, this distortion seems to be getting more rare as male and female characters are given equal importance and depth. One positive example is Mass Effect 1 and 2. Commander Shephard’s recruits are men and women to work together on a team and they all have skills to contribute. They may not all get along, but at least they have equal ground. This is a good picture of how men and women can compliment each other and work together, not to have one rule completely over the other. The women in the subplots are given special significance and depth that many other female characters are not given. However, the women in Mass Effect still tend to be scantily clad, which brings me to…
Distortion 2. Women have to be overly sexual in appearance and/or behavior in order to be interesting (particularly to male gamers). I ask you Bioware, and any other developers guilty of this, is it really necessary to make an alien female character with human female characteristics? Much less to have them dress provocatively? Another example is Halo, who’s beloved Cortana is effectively “naked” as much as a hologram can be naked. If you want to make the A.I. a female, great, but can’t she wear holo-clothes? While Cortana’s image wasn’t quite as gratitous, the point remains that many female characters placed in the spotlight in a video game tend to automatically be sexualized in some way, presumably to appeal to male gamers.
Games tend to depict women unfairly and the messages we receive from entertainment will determine how we treat them in the real world. There’s still a general lack of respect for women in gamer culture and I feel that it is up to the men to not only be discerning about how women are portrayed, but to stand up and protect the dignity and value of women in the real world. Women were created by God as the last and best part of God’s creation and they should be treated as such.
1. What other positive or negative examples of women in games can you identify?
2. Who’s the most interesting female character in gaming?
3. Why do big, burly men get lots of thick armor, but the female characters in the same games have less armor and more exposed areas?
That’s it for this look at video games and manhood. Check back soon for a two-week series on Portal and Portal 2. At the end there will be cake.