In today's news, a certain 100 humans are being celebrated thanks to a publication known as TIME, amongst them Anita Sarkeesian in TIME Magazine 's Most Influential People. And for very good reason. With help from a crowdfunding campaign, the Canadian American feminist public speaker released a series of videos "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games," which will soon be part of her video webseries, Feminist Frequency . The website of the same name tells readers that Feminist Frequency "explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives" and informs us that it's a non profit charity with videos ready to watch for free on YouTube.
TIME Magazine reported that the "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games" series would "explore five common and recurring stereotypes of female characters in video games." Some of the titles of the series include: the three-part "Damsel in Distress," which discusses how often in video games female characters are in need of rescuing and archaically have been shunned in favor of male protagonists, and the two-part "Women as Background Decoration," which discusses the "non-playable female." When I discovered these videos, I did a little jump for joy at my desk because, in my opinion, as an avid gamer since the age of about four, these kind of videos have been a (very) long time coming.
However, not everyone shares in my enthusiasm to raise awareness about the need for feminism in video games. TIME Magazine told readers that Sarkeesian "... became the target of vicious, misogynist harassment that included death and rape threats, pornographic vandalism of her Wikipedia page, and a coordinated effort to have her Kickstarter flagged as terrorism." I couldn't believe that this could happen to someone who was just trying to speak out about something that mattered to them (and probably millions of others) so I did a little digging. I was absolutely astounded to find this retweet on the Feminist Frequency Twitter page:
A little aside: If you were wondering what GamerGate is, The Mirror wrote an article about the "messy controversy" of #GamerGate. They described it as "an angry, messy online movement that is nominally a backlash against perceived breaches of journalistic integrity in video games journalism." However, they report that it has been "overshadowed by a group of misogynistic men who have threatened women with rape and death threats."
This obviously needs to stop, and fast! But I wonder, how on earth will this end when most gamers play games that offer alternative realities where women are not treated as equals to men? Sarkeesian's videos got me thinking about my experiences of playing video games and my mind flickered over my favorite female protagonists. My top three favorite ladies of the gaming world would have to be:
Aeris (Or Aerith) Of Final Fantasy VII
Lara Croft Of The Tomb Raider Series
Serah Of The Final Fantasy XIII Series
As you can see, all of these ladies are totally badass and are all capable of kicking some serious evil butt. That being said, they all have something else in common: Their scantily clad outfits. From Aeris' long split skirt, to Lara's skin hugging tee, to Serah's barely-there skirt, all of these characters are overly sexualized. I was even shocked to find this screenshot of Serah wearing this tiny bikini (I haven't got to this part in the game yet):
Now, it is no new idea that women are usually dressed in "skimpy" outfits in video games — I mean it's been going on since at least the '90s. But that was 25 years ago. How can an industry have evolved so much in terms of technology but not in modern feminism? You would think the gaming industry would have moved with the times (like the fashion industry), but it appears to be left in the dark ages.
Instead, why can't these female characters be wearing amazing outfits created by real life designers? Yes, I get that the gaming industry still has a larger percentage of men as players — TIME Magazine reported that in 2012, Sarkeesian discovered that women "represent about 40 percent of the gaming audience" — but it seems the female gamer population has increased since I was a kid.
I can't speak for all women gamers, but I personally am fed up of playing as a half naked women — it's just not realistic! How could anyone fight bad guys in that kind of getup?! Also, why do these characters only usually portray one body type: The petite figure with large breasts? Yes, I think these characters have amazing figures, but I'd love to see different kinds of women represented, such as a character designed on a plus-size model... And generally I'd like to see more clothes for all!
However it seems that all hope is not lost. GameSpot reported that, "Mortal Kombat X Female Characters Will Be More Realistically Proportioned." They informed readers that during a Mortal Kombat X Twitch stream on February 12, NetherRealm's Production Manager Spiro Anagnostakos said, "The mantra for this game has always been realism; heading towards a more realistic look." He added, "So the same thing applies to the proportions where we try to bring things back in per se to where they should be." GameSpot also commented that another NetherRealm developer told viewers that the women in the game will look "more like women do."
All we can do is hope that the rest of the gaming industry follows suit and dresses female characters in games like real women. The gaming industry also needs to think about the possible negative messages that certain games may be portraying against feminism and women. For instance, in Grand Theft Auto V, gamers can have sex with sex workers, which could possibly influence gamers' ideas about where women fit into society, possibly as throwaway individuals to be used as and when "required." But this is a whole other, albeit linked, issue.
The gaming industry needs more women like Anita Sarkeesian to get up out of their gaming chairs and make a stand for feminism in video games. Why don't you join in her quest? I know I will!
Images: Twitter/Feminist Frequency; YouTube; Square Enix (2); Core Design; Getty