Final Reflection

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

In the introduction of my blog I stated that I was going to focus on the exploitation of women in video games, those who play them and those in the gaming industry. At the midpoint of my blog assignment I decided to broaden my subject from exploitation to the issues of women and gaming in general. This encompasses the women who produce, consume and are portrayed in video games on a broader spectrum. I discussed the different portrayals of women within games, the representation of racial women, Lesbians, soldiers, options for young girls and sex symbols. The goal was to decipher what messages game creators are trying to convey to the audience without us realizing it.

The true is, video games are constructing meaning in our society. Whether it may be the definition of beauty, what different races are supposedly like, What games females are supposed to play, etc. One example of the constructed meaning was through the change of women in male-dominated games. My observation was of two female side-kicks in popular shooter games. The females first started as the intelligent helper of the main male protagonists. However, as

Kat from Halo Reach

soon as women take up guns to join the men, they look completely different. They’re rugged, stern and dangerous looking. The point developers are trying to make is that you can’t be both feminine and able to fight in wars because that’s not realistic.

An interesting contrast to these “masculinized” women would be Lara Croft and Miranda discussed in the Female Body post. They are both strong, independent women able to wield a gun and kill others. Yet, they still retain their

Tomb Raider

tight fitting clothing that accentuates their overly feminine bodies.  So, perhaps it is only on the lines of war where women need to lose their femininity when it comes to games.  Yet, another blog posts discusses how women who truly do take up arms in real life aren’t prominent in war games. This is a problem because game creators are saying that women in the service are not important enough to have a presence in war games.

Another epiphany I had about this blog is that the lines of reality and the virtual world have truly been blurred. People claim it’s harmless to have stereotypes of women in games. However, the posts of this blog thus far have proven that it’s not “just a game.” These are not simply “fake women” or a reality that does not exist.

Blurred Lines of Reality

The controversy of Metroid: Other M displays that people take video games and their characters very seriously. The case of Lara Croft ,Cosplay, and video game relationships proves that video games can step out of their reality, and into our own. Therefore, we cannot take the stereotype of women lightly and need to realize that, like in the case of Lara Croft, video game characters do have a presence in our society.

A few posts have discussed fetishism in the gaming world. Sheva Alomar is supposed to be an authentic African native in the game. She speaks an African dialect and says several phrases in that dialect throughout the game. She even has her own unlockable tribal outfit! One that looks like a torn skirt, bikini top and accessories thrown on to add that “native” touch. The game successfully fetishizes another race by creating Sheva the way they did. The case of fetishism can also be applied to gamer girls. To some men, gamer girls are seen as people who don’t belong. Unless you’re scantily clad and licking a PSP of course. The over sexualization of women in the industry take pride in being “gamer girls”. Yet, all they are really do is fulfilling a representation that men are looking for– the sexy gamer chick. This fetishism can even be seen in the analysis of lesbians in games. In the God of War series they are featured as easy women who happen to be topless  most of the time. The whole representation of them in the game is for titillation, not diversity.

Some differences that I found would be IGN’s male-exclusive market versus the games that have opened up to the female market. The fact that female characters are now an option is a change from the way thing used to be. In addition, the evolution of female characters not only shows how women have progressed in games but proves that games back then were generally limited to male playable characters.

Evolution of Games

My analysis on Disney Princesses and the Imagine series both show that games can have an impact on young girls.  Young girls are playing games that are telling them what is considered “feminine” or right for their gender. The Imagine series is supposed to help children find their passion or future career, yet all that is offered to them are games about babies, cheer leading and beauty related jobs. The Disney Princess are similar in the sense that the games revolve around dressing the Princesses in ornate gowns and accessories as well as decorating rooms for balls and parties. The message that is being sent is that this is what little girls are supposed to enjoy doing. This can also be seen in “She Got Game” where women are supposed to like games with similar concepts to the ones discussed above.

On the other hand the industry is also challenging tradition notions of femininity by attempting to include them in male-dominated games such as Gears of War, Halo, etc. through creating female playable characters. They are stepping away from that damsel in distress that was seen in earlier games and instead allowing them to take up guns and fight.

I also discovered that there are solutions to some of the issues discussed. Wooing Women Gamers is proof that women are wanted in the industry for the purpose of having a positive influence. It is the unfortunate truth that most male-dominated industries are going to come out with male-dominated games, so diversity will have a huge impact on this issue. I also looked at a few examples of characters and women who are proof that not all hope is lost and change is occurring. Alyx Vance is a character who is strong, has a diverse ethnic background and is still considered beautiful without being sexualized. Also, the role of Frag Dolls in the gaming tournaments displays women who are truly good at games but aren’t over sexualized either.

Frag Dolls

Through my blog I have proved that the video game industry is constructing meaning through the use of women and games. This meaning varies from what role lesbians supposedly should be playing in media to what types of games  little girls (or older woman) are supposed to enjoy. However, through analyzing varied roles that women play in and out of games, we can better understand the messages that are being sent and decide what to do about them.

On Our Way To Change

Posted: December 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

Video Games have a long way to go from liberating itself from being a male only hobby. Video games have come a long way as well. Some developers are doing a great job of creating well-rounded female protagonists.

Alyx Vance From Half-life

Take Alyx Vance for example. Although she’s the sidekick to the main character, Gordon Freeman, she’s still strong and independent. and unlike Lara Croft, Alyx is non-sexualized but still witty, strong and helps keep the main character alive. A review on Gamespot said

Battles can get crazy, but with Alyx covering your back, there’s nothing that you can’t do.

She was included in Game Informer’s list of Most Influential Characters of the Last Decade. Oh, and did I mention she’s half Asian half African American?

Another reason to hope for the world of gaming is actress Felicia Day. She’s the creator of the show The Guild which is about the real lives of MMO players.  Felicia is a woman who does a great job of representing gamer girls.

Felicia Day

Although male-dominated games have a long way to go, the fact is they are making a step by including women as playable characters. The game Fable you could only play as a male character, however, in the next two installments they added female playable characters. In Gears of War 3 and Halo Reach it’s the same story. The fact is that they are recognizing that the number of girl games are increasing, and catering to this change.

Fable II Female Character

Women in War

Posted: December 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

War games are among the most successful games available. Call of Duty, Metal of Honor, Bad Company ,to name a few. Most of the games depict realistic weapons, environments, situations and scenarios that are included in war. Yet, for being so realistic, there’s still an absence of female soldiers in the games.

Women have played a tremendous role in serving this country, so what is the reason for the absence of their presence in games? Kotaku asked the same question of Gordon Van Dyke, producer of the warfare game, Battlefield: Bad Company 2. To which his response was

“There’s no girls in our game…When you actually put in female characters, typically you have to put in an entire new skeleton model and that entire new skeleton model adds an entire new level of animation…You basically double the amount of data and memory for soldiers that would need to go into your game.

“So it turns into one of those things that’s like: How much will putting something like this in give us, whether the rewards of putting something like this in [are worth it]… it becomes more of a balancing act for implementing new things — how many vehicles you can have in a game or how many buildings with destruction…Every time you shoot a building or wall, they [need] to see it when it happens…

To that, Kotaku asks the important question

Do female characters need to be put in virtual combat? Or, more to the point, are they more important than crumbling walls?

My answer to that, is yes. Not to appease feminist requests of being included in male-dominated games, but for the purpose of paying homage to women who do sacrifice their lives for this country. To exclude women from war games because it’s extra work and not worth it is saying that their presence isn’t important enough.

People can argue the point that not a lot of women play war games, so it doesn’t really matter. However, the fact is that soldiers in the service are given video games as morale boosters as well as to kill time. If a woman in the service picks up a controller and doesn’t see any women in the games, what is that telling her?

The Stereotype of Gamer Girls

Posted: December 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

The stereotype of Gamer Girls can be summed up as this: Unattractive, socially awkward, frumpy women. However, when there is an attractive woman who plays video games it’s almost hard to believe. Gamer Girls are a huge deal in the realm of video games. They are either scrutinized by men or highly sexualized.

The treatment of Gamer Girls is not very different than “The Spectacle Of The ‘Other'” by Stuart Hall. Particularly, stereotyping. Hall says, “It [Stereotyping] then excludes or expels everything which does not fit, which is different…It symbolically fixes boundaries, and excludes everything which does not belong.”

In a male dominated hobby, women are not welcome unless they are attractive. Then, they are praised, such as the women in the gaming industry. Not only do they have to be considered “sexy” but they have to prove that they truly are good at video games in order to prove they are worthy. This can be seen with IGN’s Jessica Chobot and X-Play’s Morgan Webb.

An excerpt from Askmen says:

…the image of the video game whiz is no longer limited to that of some nerdy high school kid with rapid-moving digits. Jessica has helped change that stereotype once and for all, especially since her infamous tongue-licking picture caused a sensation. Not only is she every solitary, obsessive gamer’s dreamgirl come to life, she’s just about any guy’s fantasy female in the flesh…

Jessica Chobot Licking A PSP

Morgan Webb’s description on the G4 website reads, “Beauty, brains, and a killer pair of thumbs. Yes, she really plays games, and no, you can not beat her.”

Morgan Webb

The solution would be to create positive images of Gamer Girls, something that has already begun. Frag Dolls are a team of professional gamers who are supported by Ubisoft. The website explains that,

“The Frag Dolls are known not only for being skilled gamers in multiple games, but for their advocacy of female gamers. They have been vocal about their support of female gamers and game developers, and have grown an online community around the interests shared of a diverse segment of the gaming population…This is in response to the continuing perpetuation of video games as a male-dominated pursuit.”

Frag Dolls

Games & Homosexuality

Posted: November 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

The option of being a Homosexual in games is much more popular now than it was in the past. In game franchises such as Fable, The Sims and Dragon Age, game creators are making homosexual relationships more accessible to players. However, there is still a representation of homosexuality that still needs to be dealt with.

Goldberg & Kratos Comparison

The God of War franchise is revolves around the main character, Kratos. A tough, stereotypically masculine Spartan man who is out to kill the God of War. He is often compared to Pro wrestler, Bill Goldberg. It’s safe to say that Kratos’ bloodlust, strength, body and stone cold personality is seen as true masculinity in our society. Especially when compared to a man who partakes in a masculine sport (Goldberg). However, that plays a small role in the issue I am identifying.

In all three games there are sex mini-games that can be played. In the games there’s always more than one women involved in the mini-games. In the first game there are two nude maidens in bed, where you are able to start the mini-game with them. The act is not shown, although it is clear to figure out. In the second game there are two topless women in a bath-house, in the third game, in Aphrodite’s chambers the goddess is in bed with two other women who watch during the mini game. In one of the two other versions of the game, Chains of Olympus, Kratos happens upon two women together, one straddling the other. Here, you have the option to have a threesome with them.


Aphrodite With Two Other Women

The women in these games are clearly being shown as sex-craved, easy accessible women. The purpose of this sex-game is not to have equal-opportunity and portray lesbian relationships in games, but instead used to exploit with the function of  titillation. In addition, Kratos is a character in Greek mythology who encompasses “strength.” As the historically masculine figure he comes up to these women who gladly offer themselves to him. My concern is, what message is this conveying to men about lesbians and women in general?

The Female Body

Posted: November 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

Beauty can be defined as this

the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit

This definition does not specify what is beautiful. It does not say, “Tall, slender woman with big boobs and a shapely butt.” Yet, this is the standard that has been created to brings “pleasure to the senses.” This proves that this stereotyped form of beauty is constructed.

Stuart Hall’s “constructionist approach” in his theories of representations states

Things don’t mean: we construct meaning, using representational systems–concepts and signs

Miranda From Mass Effect 2

Video game producers use the constructivist approach to create  an overall definition and standard of beauty.

It’s common knowledge that women who play a main or side role in video games are deemed “attractive”. They are the unattainable women that can only achieve perfection through the virtual realm. This can be seen with Lara Croft or Miranda from Mass Effect 2, women who have  overemphasized hour-glass figures. At the same time, these women are able to wield guns and kick butt.

These stereotypes are carried throughout all types of media. Women who are beautiful have a certain body shape, look and capabilities. However, it’s important to realize that this surreal “beauty” that video game women possessed is simply constructed.

Disney Princesses

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

Stuart Hall talks about the concept of ideology and how, “…groups who own the means of production thereby control the means of producing and circulating a society’s ideas.” Which is exactly what the Disney Corporation does when it comes to their princesses. Disney Princesses portray a certain type of femininity that young girls grow up with. I wanted to specifically look at how this femininity is portrayed on the Disney Princess Website.


Main Menu For Belle

Christine Gledhill discusses high culture vs. mass culture and how mass culture is seen as inferior to the other. She defines mass culture as this:

  • Popular genre conventions
  • Romanticized stereotypes
  • Glamour
  • Emotions
  • Expressive performance
  • Talk about feelings
  • Fantasy
  • Escapism
  • Private domesticity
  • Pleasure
  • Soap Opera

All of these apply to the Disney Princess Website and activities within. The games involve dressing the Princesses up in ornate gowns and accessories for tea parties and balls. They also consist of decorating for parties. Some of the dialogue includes a princess saying:

I need to make sure to set a good example and dress my very best!


The "Games" Available

Through the Princesses, Disney has created a niche and is limiting it as a female genre. Disney is constructing as well as reaffirming cultural definitions of gender, and what a woman is like.

Race & Fetishism

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

Finding different races in video games can be difficult. Finding a woman of a different race in a video game is even tougher. There are women in video games that comes to mind who may or may not do justice.

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror third-person shooter game that took place in a town in Africa. Since the main protagonist of the game is unfamilar with the land, he is assigned a native partner, Sheva Alomar. Sheva is supposed to be an African native, yet to the unknowing spectator she looks like an African American Hollywood actress. That’s because her character was modeled off Austrian model, Michelle Van Der Water.

Despite this, the producers still attempted to do her African background justice by giving her a tribal tattoo and having her exclaim words such as “Kupendazaer!” In the game players can also unlock different

Sheva's Tribal Costume

costumes for Sheva. One of those include the “tribal” costume which is comprised of different tattoos, a leopard bikini top and a short tattered skirt.

This is where one of the  main issues lie. Sheva is a Westernized character that carries a gun and wears clothing that is different from traditional African attire. Yet, when a player has the choice to have her wear her “tribal” outfit, it is terribly stereotyped and becomes more of a spectacle of the “other,” and also turns into “fetishism.” According to Stuart Hall, “fetishism takes us into the realm where fantasy intervenes in representation…” This is exactly what is happening with Sheva. The image of the primitive, scantily-clad woman becomes more a fantasy than a true representation of what an African tribal outfit looks like.

Producers of Resident Evil 5 may be patting themselves on the back for not only having a strong female character in their game, but also one of a different ethnic background. However, Sheva failed to provide diversity. Not only did she have the appearance of a widely accepted portrayal of African Americans (light skin) but they also used her African background to make way for fetishism.





Posted: November 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

Cosplay is short for “costume play”, “a type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea.”


Night Elf Character & Cosplay

Cosplay isn’t just about putting a costume on, it is more like you become this character. You act like the character would, and even mimic things they would say. People refer to you by the name of the person you are cosplaying.  You embody the character. This embodiment is easy to look past, especially for women who cosplay. Through Cosplay, a woman is allowed to recreate that character and becomes a walking spectacle. They are no longer a themselves, they are a now a Night Elf or Rikku (see pictures). However, there is danger in this act. People in the industry who develop these female characters define women in a certain way. In turn, gamers who Cosplay these character embody this definition of women, and thus, reestablish it within the minds of spectators.


Rikku Cosplay

Both women and men are told what an attractive woman looks like in Video Games by the way the women are portrayed. Generally they are wearing exposing outfits and are slender with an hourglas figure. Cosplaying allows women to not only wear these costumes but also become the character. As Chris Rojek puts it, “The cultural differences between the sexes are not ‘natural’. On the contrary, they derive from the systems of cultural authority and representation in which in which individual babies are positioned as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.  In the case of Cosplay, these representations of women in games are conditioning men and women to believe this is what is attractive. By embodying these exploited female characters through Cosplay, women and men alike, are reaffirming these cultural representations of women.

“She Got Game”

Posted: November 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

If you would like a larger view of image  click here

Allure is a beauty magazine devoted to woman’s interests. The 2010 October Issue recently had an article titled,  She Got Game as seen in the image above.

Judging by the assumptions the author makes , there’s some important questions that need to be asked of this article.

1. Who does it assume I am?

The article is stereotyping “Romantic comedy” genres as purely feminine. It insinuates that these are the kinds of games that women enjoy playing, and men do not.

2. What does it assume my interests are?

It assumes I like shows such as The Bachelor or Project Runway, when in reality, I don’t. It also assumes that I’m interested in beauty shows or being catty with other women.

My observation is that the author of this article is using the constructivist approach in order to send certain messages to readers. Rather than reflecting on other genres that women might actually be interested in,  they are constructing their own assumptions about what women should like, which in this case is “romantic comedy” type games.

The article is telling something about women, this is what we are supposed to like if we’re girly girls. Furthermore, the use of the expression, “guilty pleasure” insinuates that we aren’t supposed to like video games, and when we do it’s games that deal with catching a guy, fashion, or beauty. Albeit, this is coming from a beauty magazine, yet, they are very much limiting my options and stereotyping readers.