Deanne Swaringen

For years, the idea was pushed that men were the only ones interested in playing video games.  Women and girls weren’t allowed, because they ‘wouldn’t like the game,’ ‘wouldn’t understand it,’ or ‘would never like it or be good at it anyways.’  And, for a while, this was true.  Women didn’t play videos games as often as men did, which is understandable because the community was never welcoming, games weren’t promoted towards women, and the games never portrayed women in a realistic light.  But over the years, women have decided: enough is enough.  They should be able to play video games and enjoy the community that comes with it, despite what men may think.  Studies and statistics report that almost half of all gamers are women, and this number continues to grow.

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It's easy to see why women stayed away from video games and the gaming community early on.  Men can be aggressive, rude, cruel, and less than friendly to female gamers in person.  Women face harassment in homes, conventions, or public areas like stores and arcades.  There are rude and derogatory comments being spewed forth in the chats, comments, or over headsets.  Women gamers hear that they’ll be killed, hurt, and raped all because they’re playing the game.  Men oftentimes make such comments because they don’t like losing to a woman, believe that women shouldn’t be playing the game in the first place, and feel that they must assert their dominance in the gaming community.  In a recent study, it was found that 63% of women face some form of sexual harassment while gaming.  

It’s hard to enjoy a game when the other players are making it difficult and just being plain rude.  Then there’s the gatekeeping that occurs quite frequently in the gaming community, where men limit who can be involved in groups and forums, or even interact with live communities.  Talk about discouraging and infuriating.

On top of the challenges posed by the gaming community and fellow gamers, there’s the games themselves.  Video games have a small (read: large) habit of sexualizing female characters within the games.  These characters tend to be drawn/animated with certain body parts accentuated to an unnecessary degree, and on top of that, there’s the costuming.  Males in video games are given accurate and logical costumes and clothing that's movable and can protect the character.  Female characters, on the other hand, have skin-tight outfits, low-cut tops, short pants and bottoms, or see-through clothing.  Not only is it entirely unfair, but also unrealistic and downright impractical.

A woman in a video game should not be used as eye candy and given sexualized clothing that make no sense to the game itself.  Why do the male characters get actual clothing, while females are left basically with lingerie?  No wonder women didn’t want to play games where that was their only choice of characters.

Then there are games that don’t even offer a female protagonist of any sort.  Why would women want to play a game where they are forced to be a male character?  Perhaps even worse than that is when a game does have a female protagonist who's not important to the storyline.  The woman in the game is used as a ‘damsel in distress,’ ‘background character/decoration,’ or in some cases ‘someone to attack for the fun of it.’  No woman would want to play that sort of game.

With that, women are also forced to play as male characters, either because they don’t like the options of female characters, or so that they can avoid being harassed in the game by their fellow male gamers.  While more women are now playing games, they still face the aggressive nature of the gaming world.  It shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s what women have to do to protect themselves and be able to play the games more peacefully.

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63% of women face some form of sexual harassment while gaming.  

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While the community and games have never been in women’s favor, it hasn’t stopped them from playing more and more video games.  In studies, it's been shown that almost 41% of gamers are women, but that can vary as well.  When games offer more female protagonists, or customizable characters, women feel more inclined to play them.  Overwatch and Splatoon are two games that have attracted an almost equal ratio of female and male gamers.  No longer is the idea of a ‘gamer’ an acne-covered teenage boy, but rather a regular person who plays games for whatever reason.  With the definition of ‘gamer’ expanding and more women playing and buying games, the playing field is starting to level out.  Soon, gaming companies may realize that if they start to cater to their female audiences more, the community may be more dynamic and healthy.  

The gaming community isn’t an easy one to be involved in, even more so when the player is a woman.  But the more women decide that they actually like playing and buying games, the more they change the industry.  They changed the face of the typical ‘gamer’ and have helped change the way the game industry looks at its characters.  It’s when women have decided that they no longer want to be pushed out of a great community that they’ve changed statistics.  So, keep playing the games you love, and never let men scare or run you off.  The gaming community belongs to everyone.

 

Deanne Swaringen was born and raised in the quaint state of Missouri, in the small cornfield filled town of Winfield.  She is a senior at the University of Central Missouri where she is studying Digital Media Production (Digital Cinema) and Theatre.  She has a love for horror movies and hopes to direct one someday!

 

Comments (1)

  1. Meagan Hooper

Fascinating look into the world of gaming! I had no idea!

 

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