It’s a man’s world. At least, that is how the song goes. When it comes to the world of video gaming, it isn’t much different.
Gaming used to largely be thought of as “boys’ play.” These days, around one third of all gamers, however, are women. My wife and daughter are two such ladies. But when it comes to the gaming market, there aren’t a lot of tough girl role models in today’s games. Why is that?
The first time, we played it together. Several of the puzzles required some assistance to figure out, but hey, she is just coming out of kindergarten. Once we’d beat it together, she wanted to go back and try it solo.
After a few days, she’d mastered it and beat the game all on her own. Playing as Max, you are attempting to rescue his younger brother. After you caught him playing with “your toys,” you wish him away.
When an evil wizard takes him, Max immediately regrets his decision and knows he has to save his younger sibling. Even at age 6, she quickly mastered the necessary skills. When she was done, she only had one question for me.
“Why can’t I save the little brother,” she asked.
“You did,” I said. “You did a great job.”
“No, I mean why can’t a girl be the hero?” she pondered.
Her innocent question really got me thinking. Why aren’t there more games for girls? Why aren’t there at least more games in which a girl is the main character. I’d even settle for a girl being one of a choice of characters in which to play as.
As it stands, none of the major franchise games has a woman as the lead. From Halo to Call of Duty, Battlefield to even Grand Theft Auto, not one of the titles includes a woman as a choice to play as.
Then there is the Mario series. Of all the games under the title, starting with his 1981 appearance, only three games allow Princess Peach to be a real character, saving others. Of course, one of those is her own title, her only solo game, in which her only skill is to have extreme emotions. In every other title (non-inclusive of racing games without stories) she is the woman in need of saving.
You have games like Tomb Raider, starring a girl, Lara Croft, but let’s face it. She’s mostly been portrayed as a super, large-breasted bimbo. When Square-Enix finally redid the game, she is actually a semi-smart, intuitive woman with a more average body type. It isn’t perfect, but it is something.
There was Samus in “Metroid.” You played the full first game in the series not even knowing she was a girl, but at least in the grand reveal you find out you’ve been a woman all along. In later games, she ends up being (see “Metroid: Other M”) a whiny little girl only looking for approval of a former company commander that she is now in love with. Not a strong ending for such a cool girl. She goes from beating everyone up as the hero, to just needing a man.
Games such as Grand Theft Auto (don’t get me started on all the things wrong with that franchise), which not only do not include women to play as, but actually go well out of their way to degrade women. In the game, you can have sex with prostitutes, then beat the hooker to get your money back. It doesn’t stop there. You can also sexualize strippers and repeatedly abuse women.
Then you have “Assassin’s Creed: Unity,” which takes place during the French Revolution. You have a four-player co-op mode, and yet not a single player is a woman. Women played a large role historically in the actual events that lead up to and combat in the revolution, yet nada. No player can be a girl. An Internet petition even attempted to have that changed, but the game is scheduled to be released this fall with no women characters.
I’d have to guess that the long male-dominated world of gaming has had something to do with the lack of strong women role models in the games. I think the industry is still awaiting its Rosie the Riveter, its women’s lib movement. Until then, girls are stuck with silly titles like The Sims in which they can basically “play house” on the screen, being marketed to them. That, or much like my wife and daughter, just go for it, and wear the pants in the game.
James Treacy is the sales director for Treacy Media Holdings, L.L.C., the owners and operators of The Alternative Press of Lower Providence and The Alternative Press of North Penn. He has been a lifelong gamer across all platforms of the gaming community. His opinion is in no way the opinion of Tap Into L.L.C., Treacy Media Holdings, nor The Alternative Press sites, and is instead offered to give its readers more information on games and trends available in today's market. To contact him with any questions about the gaming world, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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