MMORPG Female Character Clichés: A Rebuttal (Part One)
By, M. Hauschel
(This article is a rebuttal to the article entitled MMORPG Female Character Clichés)
I don’t want to be misunderstood for blaming the gaming industry for creating all of the unrealistic images of women; instead I’m criticizing them for contributing. The expectations of how women have to look have been pushed onto the gender from television, movies, magazines, etc. Stereotyping women and only portraying them a certain way gives impressionable minds a warped view of how women are to behave and look. I’m not blaming the industry for creating the stereotypes, but they’re definitely not fighting them.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having attractive characters in games. There is something wrong with only having attractive characters in games. Imagine if the majority of films only have attractive characters. After a while those films would become stale and easy to predict. That’s generally how I feel about the majority of games that feature any female characters. More cases than not, that character will be attractive, fit, have a outfit that reveals the curves of the body, and possibly have exposing areas of the body that are meant to arouse someone. The same could not be said about male characters.
There’s a thought process of “because women portray men as brutes and objectify them in romance novels, that it’s okay to objectify women”. Let me be clear, I’m not going to defend behavior of objectification of either sex; I don’t condone sexist stereotypes of men. I’m as much bothered by the phrase, “Man up” as I am bothered by, “Don’t be such a girl”. Having that said, saying that because one industry makes cliché stereotype of a gender, doesn’t gives credence to another industry to make cliché stereotypes.
With women making up 40% of the gaming population (39% of PC game population); they are often overwhelmingly underrepresented in games. 85% of playable characters in videogames are male.1Seeing that marginable 15% often comes with disappointment, because it portrays as a stereotype. That 15% isn’t made for females on most cases; it’s made solely for the male audience. As the majority of women are repulsed to the idea of over-sexualized characters; you would think the market would create characters that would attract female players instead of repulsing them.2
There’s a huge polka dot elephant in the room that would explain why games often don’t cater to the female audience. Games are not created for women in most cases, because they’re not involved; this is evident when you view how many women work in the gaming industry. (Surprise! The majority of the industry is filled with men; women only make up 20% of the industry. With 3% of game programmers being women.)3 This results in games being created for the male audience. A female perspective is necessary for the growing market and companies that wish to succeed in the industry. Excluding women from the process will become more apparent as women are becoming more educated than the male population and starting to out-earn them as well.4
There will always be the women out there that proclaim that it’s okay for females to be portrayed as sexy, because they like playing sexy characters. Those girls are an exception; they don’t make up the majority of how women view character design. There’s a term for women who proclaim objecting yourself or other women as empowerment, they’re called female chauvinist pigs. These are the same women who say posing in Playboy and flashing Girls Gone Wild are empowering. Women should not have to demean themselves and others in order to fit into the gaming society. When we’re told to “get back in the kitchen” or “show tits or gtfo”, laughing along or using this language as a female pushes the image of women back 50 years. Objecting yourself doesn’t demand respect, and it doesn’t demand respect for females in the gaming industry. A female using the female bashing language in game doesn’t help the image of gamers who happen to be female. How do objectified women in games help women to be respected in the industry? It doesn’t. How will this create games that are more inclusive to the female gaming population? It won’t.
I don’t want sexy outfits taken away. I just don’t want sexy outfit to be the rule of the land. The more options we have to customize our characters and create different storylines, the better it would be for players. I wouldn’t want to stifle character creation in anyway. I just want to see more diversity of how women are being portrayed. You see men in all shapes and sizes, from very tall to very short; to very buff to very overweight, this variety creates interesting characters. I would love to see the same for women. Instead of only having them as fit, thin, beautiful characters, have some different looking characters for once.
“They’re just video games.” That’s always the fall back excuse. Because I’m disgusted at how women are seen in video games, the common retort is, “Well, don’t play them”. I like video games, and have, ever since my childhood. There are barriers in place to prevent me from enjoying games, as games are made for the male audience in mind. As much as I enjoy video games, it’s difficult for me to support an industry that has such a hostile view on women. I don’t really have an option, other than stop playing games entirely. For those of us females who enjoy gaming, we have two options- ignore the blatant sexism, or miss out on playing games.