This is a topic that I think is actually important with all of the bullshit going on in the gaming community recently. I’m going to try to be as inoffensive to as many people as possible with this, because I do concede that there is an imbalance in the depictions of men and women in games, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as bad as it once was.
That said, this is just my opinion, feel free to comment and discuss as much or as little as you like in the comment section. But if there are any deliberately inflammatory or offensive remarks, then they will be deleted.
Gaming as an entertainment medium has come a long way in the 4 decades since its inception. The average age of gamers now is 31 years old, with more gamers over the age of 36 than between the ages of 18-25. And the split between male to female gamers is nearly equal with 48% of them being women. So bearing those figures in mind, the question about why there are so few female characters in gaming is starkly relevant. But an even bigger question is (in my opinion) where the fuck are all of the capable and competent women in gaming worlds, even if they are NPC’s?
Now, before all the men out there get on their high horse I just ask you to stop, breathe, and think for a moment. Think about the games that get a lot of the Anita Sarkeesian treatment, because those are not the games I am looking at. I’m not going to pick on the over sexualisation of women in games because it’s been done to death, but I am going to ask one very important question, and I’m going to word it in a very particular way.
Why the fuck does Princess Peach need Mario to save her in the first place?
It made sense in the '80s (I guess, if you really need a hap hazard story-line to enjoy jumping on Goombahs and eating magic mushrooms…. What? it’s the '80s) but times have changed. Why in more recent titles doesn’t Peach become a competent character, with her own agenda, in anything other than Mario Kart or Smash Bros?
Couldn’t it be just as feasible that in modern games Peach could save herself?
I ask this because when you look at games from the past 20 years, yes there have been more and more competent women coming through in games, even as NPC’s, but they are still outnumbered by their male counterparts.
Think of the games from say…. the past 10 years. How many of them have a female protagonist? I can think of Beyond 2 Souls, Tomb Raider, Until Dawn, Life is Strange, The Walking Dead season 2, The Last of Us: Left Behind, Alien Isolation, Bayonetta, Borderlands… There aren’t many that stick in my mind. In fact there aren’t many at all, and when you look at it that way, it’s nowhere near good enough.
But how about we word the question a little differently. In the past 10 years how many games have there been where the female characters are competent, capable, and not there to merely be a damsel in distress?
When you pose the question that way, the list grows a lot. It includes, but is not limited to, Gears of War 3, The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, GTA IV, The Witcher (Trilogy as a whole), Dying Light, Assassin’s Creed Series, Mass Effect Trilogy (Not including Player Character), Dragon Age trilogy (Not including Player Character)… Look there are lists for female protagonists, and antagonists.
But as a whole, even when they’re written as being competent in their fields, it’s rarely shown in game.
One of the highlight games for me in this regard is The Witcher 3. Here you play as Geralt, a male, but unlike many other games most of the important supporting characters are powerful independent women who will fuck you up as soon as look at you.
There’s Ciri, Yennefer, Triss, Keira, Philippa… 4 of these women are powerful sorceresses who have and will kill to get what they want. And Ciri is a powerful woman with a blade and Witcher training. Yes, all of them are sexualised, but don’t be a prick. There’s even an eventuality in the game where if you try to romance 2 of them then you end up tied to a bed with neither for being greedy by Triss and Yennefer.
These are two immensely powerful women, who know the power of their sex appeal, who will not be fucked around. Rather than there being enmity between them, they realise it is the man (a.k.a. you the player) who is at fault and put you in your place.
Now one game does not equality make, but when you factor in the bounds that have been made in games like The Last of Us, with Ellie being captured by cannibals, freeing herself and killing their leader David (FUCK YOU NOLAN NORTH!). With Clem in The Walking Dead season 2 being forced to live through and witness unspeakable horrors just to survive. With Amanda Ripley being the main protagonist in a game that would normally have a male in the lead role just because, it shows that a lot of progress has been made in recent years.
And with games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Rise of the Tomb Raider, ReCore, NieR R 2, Beyond Eyes, Adr1ft, Tacoma, Hellblade, and more either recently released or releasing relatively soon, it shows that progress is continuing to be made.
Gone are the days when females are just set dressing in a game, now they are more and more becoming fully fleshed out characters with stories that you should give a damn about. Are games there yet? No, they aren’t… but neither are movies or books. Are they getting closer, each year, than a lot of people give them credit for? Yes.
Women’s stories are just as important as men’s. And female driven tales can be just as immersive, and profitable, as those driven by a male. We have examples of powerful female characters in gaming, all the way back to Samus Arran in Metroid, and we are getting more and more heroines entering the fray.
Good luck to them, good luck to their stories, their writers, their developers and their gamers.
Come on guys, don’t be dicks. Be inclusive and be cool.
It’s not that hard.