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.

  1. Madhavi Murty says:

    Excellent work Savannah! I enjoyed reading your detailed and rich synthesis of the collection of media materials you have used and discussed in the blog. While you focused your work on games, the breadth of materials within the genre you looked at allowed you to arrive at strong conclusions. I also think this is an excellent media archive on the issue of gender and gaming.

  2. Madhavi Murty says:

    As I had mentioned at the mid-point, the blog is itself very entertaining in its look. I appreciate the effort.

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