Those ruddy feminists love to muck things up don’t they? They storm in with their man-hating ideals and feminine wiles muttering about how ‘every gender deserves to be equal’ and other nonsensical claims such as ‘women should be allowed the right to vote’. Oh, what’s that you say, women have been voting and wearing trousers and putting their children into daycare to swan off and get jobs for some time now? Well I’ll be damned.
But of course for as long as those feminists have come along to level the playing field (I, including myself in that category of equal rights hooligans, also known as the Daily Mail’s favourite bogeyman) people are still far too quick to chalk down the sudden surge of ‘women in games’ discussion as another en-Vogue response to the PC vitriol that those darned feminist hippies have been spouting. And, while I could invite naysayers to the kumbaya, feminist peace picnic, that’s not taking place until next week, so for those who’ve stumbled across this post before then, I present to you, 11 responses to the common ‘women in games’ arguments.
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1. “Women are weak.”
Ah, the cornerstone of the anti-women in games argument, the founding father, as it were, of reasoning for why women should be shunned from all virtual worlds for fear that they are too weak and feeble to hold a gun, or stealth around levels in cardboard boxes or whatever it is that male characters have been privy to all these years. But it’s up to the developers. Tweak the scales, adjust the stats (or just keep the defaults for each gender exactly the same) and your female character becomes just as powerful as the men and for those whooping and hollering that that’s unrealistic, the next point is for you…
2. “Women in games is unrealistic.”
A goalkeeper in FIFA rushes the pitch, dribbling around the defense before taking a shot at the ball which crashes with a satisfying ‘whoosh’ of net. ‘Lionel Messi in goalie gloves’ they call him. Realistic? Hardly, and that’s in a simulation. Games, by nature, are unrealistic, of course they riff off of real word elements because what else do we all know? But if a women playing in a game is ‘unrealistic’ then we’ll just be taking away all of that respawn power away from you, laddy.
3. “Women in games is PC nonsense.”
Statistically speaking, 51% of the world’s population are, in fact, female, meaning that really? Developers are actually ‘pandering’ to the minority by putting so many men at the helms of their games. But of course it’s not about being politically correct, women are around you, you might even have a few in your family so why keep us from leading titles when there’s a fair few of us around, wishing and waiting that for once we’d get a fair shot of being a main character outside of games with character creation modes.
4. “Women in games decreases sales.”
Critical hit Mirror’s Edge amassed a modest 2.5 million sales (according to EA Executive Vice President, Patrick Söderlund) which, for a brand new IP is relatively astonishing. In contrast, Assassin’s Creed Liberations, a PS Vita exclusive featuring female assassin Aveline as the lead, had sold around 740k copies as of September 2013, which is phenomenal for the console, given that it’s a handheld that most haven’t taken to and it’s even warranted a release on PS3 via PSN from Ubisoft, letting people play it on rather larger screens. Whether you want to consider the Mass Effect series as a ‘true’ example of having a female lead character (although the supporting cast is a wonderfully diverse mix), with 10 million sales across Xbox 360, PC and PS3, the boasting of a female lead is hardly putting anyone off.
5. “Women in games can only play limited roles.”
The three popular roles in games, you know the ones – Warrior, Rogue, Motherly Healer – at least, that’s what some would have you believe. Put a dagger or a staff in the hand of anyone and they’ll be capable of doing damage with it. If a playable character had trained as a doctor in the game, then, by the logic invested in you, you’d assign them with a healer role, not the female character just because she is that, a female. If the role was ‘male identified person fighter’ then I’d take it back, go forth men and popular the game, but until then? A female character is just as capable to do any other role, as long as the developer makes it so.
6. “Women in games stifles creativity.”
No one is playing uncle with the developers! There is admittedly far more pressure to consider putting women in games thanks to the debate surrounding the subject but if a developer’s homogeneous mindset is to completely exclude women in the first place then for all the lint and pennies lining my wallet you could not get me to buy one of their games. Few would want to play a title where a character is just shoehorned in anyway, so that would become a lose-lose. And, if a developer can’t even consider the prospect of a female lead, let alone implement it, then perhaps that’s not the reason their creative thinking is stifled (hint : it might have something to do with their closed mindedness!)
7. “Women in games is a risk.”
This one ties in with the age old adage of ‘women equal bad sales’ that somehow the men will get scared and run off. I’m not naïve, I’m well aware that the key demographic for all things gaming is the straight, white male whose age is between 18-35. However, I’m a firm believer in ‘build it and they will come’ – make the industry a boys club and it will stay that way, paint the walls pink and invite all the women in and, well, we still shan’t show up because pink, really? Make a real effort to bring on more women into your dev teams and add a few decent representations of us in games and by George, you just might key into our untapped bank accounts and see us fork up the cash to play more of your games.
8. “Women in games is difficult for developers to implement.”
Most people know a woman, you might even know 5 of them! Surprising right? So it’s rather difficult to see why developers have so much trouble designing character models. It’s not all butt padding and boob jiggle physics, sexist design shouldn’t be too hard to avoid and if Tomb Raider can succeed after decades of exploiting the character-for-titillation trope then so can most other titles. It’s arguably just a case of changing a name and some pronouns and perhaps giving the character some eyelashes. The hero doesn’t have to change much just for the sake of gender.
9. “Women in games is off-putting to men.”
Solution : put women in all of the games ever, weed out the bigoted chaff from the moderate masses and rejoice as we can all play through games equal to both genders. Problem solved.
10. “Women in games are too emotional.”
Yes, females in the very real world that we inhabit are entirely incapable of living normal lives without breaking down into tears. We are completely unable to manoeuvre through daily life without sobbing over babies, small animals and television soaps based in the East End of London. Except that’s not true and again, thanks to character design we can erase tear ducts for both genders altogether!
11. “Women in games are too vulnerable.”
When Tomb Raider was released, the big, critical debate was centred around whether or not main character Lara Croft was subject to unfair treatment on account of her ‘rebuilding’ story, in which she has a fall from grace only to come back stronger. But that’s a bad example on their part. Sometimes that’s what needs to happen and, if Lara was male, it could very well be used to punctuate her origins story but in the game it wasn’t used for vulnerability, it was used because it was an origins story. These things don’t happen to women in real life either, not all the time, they’re just blips in games used as plot points. Not every character has to be vulnerable, strong and ruthless are characteristics that could be possessed by anyone, male, female, any sexuality or race, it’s really just up to the developers to implement it.
All in all, the women in games argument isn’t going to die for the time-being, no matter how many times we pummel it in the face with good natured logic and reasoning. But, with time, developers will hopefully hop over to the right side of the progressive future and maybe one day, games will be a little bit more inclusive for all of us.