Sexism In Gaming – It Exists, It Thrives and It’s Hurting the Industry

Posted by

 

Bioshock: Infinite was one of last year’s stand out titles in which you take on the role of a man named Booker Dewitt. He’s a depressed gambler in an alcoholic haze who is dragged into a deal that will eliminate a serious debt. What’s the deal you ask? It’s simple really; Go to a city in the sky, rescue one girl, and bring her back to solid ground. The damsel in distress, Elizabeth, is a sweet, innocent but also intelligent young lady trying to figure out who she really is as she journeys with Booker, leaving her life-long prison in the process.

Not that you would get that impression from the front cover of course. What you DO see is a guy standing in frame with a gun over his shoulder. Something that’s been done a lot. One would think that a game which went through so much trouble to have a strong and memorable female protagonist wouldn’t have stuck her on the back of the cover.

Hell, why not have both characters on the cover even?

It was explained by the head of the now closed Irrational Games, Ken Levine, that the box art was focus tested and most people seemed to like the image of Booker standing alone with a gun. Being that he worked on the game with a team of more than a hundred people over a period of five years, he decided to go with that image, for the best chance at success.

Turns out – according to this test – that the best way to appeal to most male gamers is to not acknowledge the strong female lead character and make an ambitious and thought provoking game look like just another dude bro shooter.

Naughty Dog also released a game in 2013 called The Last of Us. It too features a strong, multi-dimensional female character named Ellie. Like Infinite, she plays a significant role in the game and The Last of Us is as much her story as it is the male lead character Joel. Yet, when coming up with the box art, the developer was repeatedly told to not include Ellie in the art or, failing that, put her on the back like with Elizabeth in Bioshock.

So this cover wouldn’t sell a game? REALLY!?

Creative Director, Neil Druckmann said in an interview with VG247 “I believe there’s a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less. I know I’ve been in discussions where we’ve been asked to push Ellie to the back and everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused.”

Around this same time, Capcom released Remember Me. It was an action adventure game, taking place in a cyberpunk Paris with hand to hand combat, platforming and action set-pieces. Months before launch however, creative director Jean-Max Morris said in an interview with Penny Arcade that they knew their game had to have a female protagonist.

However, publishers didn’t agree, stating that “We don’t want to publish it because that’s not going to succeed. You can’t have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that.” When it was said that the game was going to have a scene where the female lead would kiss a man, things only got worse. “You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.”

I swear, if this chick I’m playing ends up kissing a dude… I’M OUT!

Zoe Quinn is one of the developers of the much discussed game Depression Quest. It’s an interactive text based game wherein you make decisions as a character suffering from depression. As someone that dealt with depression during my early teenage years, I found it to be a brilliantly compelling and relatable experience.

However, since it’s a text based game available on browsers for free, there was some reluctance from the gaming community when it was submitted to Steam Greenlight. Reluctance for some became bitter hatred for others. On Twitter she got an onslaught of comments using every derogatory term in the book. Not only that she also had to change phone numbers after a bunch of jackasses managed to find it and post it on the Internet. This resulted in one of these trolls calling her up and masturbating on the phone.

Jennifer Hepler was a writer for Bioware and worked on projects such as Dragon Age Origins, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Dragon Age 2. One time she said some things about video games and people didn’t like it very much. As a result, when she created an account on Twitter, assholes on the Internet jumped on the hate train and went into overdrive. Is it just me or do other people (males) in the community say derogatory things all the time with little to no repercussions?

Labeled as “the cancer that is killing Bioware,” Jennifer kept talking instead of remaining silent like the trolls wanted. Once she said “I just figure they’re jealous that I get to have both a vagina AND a games industry job, and they can’t get either.” That really got the bastards upset.

Come on internet… you can be better than this!
Also, Kevin Winslow, you’re a big fat jerk.

Comments like “fat bitch” escalated to graphic forum posts about killing her children after leaving school to “show them that they should have been aborted at birth rather than have to have her as a mother.”

You can go ahead and say that you don’t think this harassment is such a big deal, you can say that these people should have a thicker skin, you can say that all of this should just be ignored. What you cannot say is that sexism doesn’t exist. Men, whether they develop or play video games are never subjected to this degree of scrutiny, EVER. If you’re the kind of person that just hides away and acts like this ugliness never happens, or that people have no right to get upset, you are part of the problem.

If Shawn’s ‘Gamer Girls Magazine’ story from a few weeks ago said anything, it’s that this is a big issue. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have been a story to begin with, let alone, one that received over 200x more shares than the previous article. Sexism is a human issue, prevalent in all industries and sadly, video games are no exception.

The question that remains is this; What are we going to do about it?

 

  • Mike Jones

    so trolls….troll people….breaking news!…..seriously just stop with these stupid articles that always end asking the same thing of ‘what are we going to do about it?’….heres what we will do…..absolutely nothing….. because the internet is a place where random people might say something not nice to you from time to time no matter your age,race,gender etc….either grow up and don’t let the insults of angry teenagers control your mental state,or keep dwelling on the irrelevant opinions of faceless strangers and go insane….whichever you think is more reasonable :)

  • Guest

    I love female leads, especially in a third person game. I mean why would I like playing a game such as DMC where I have to stare at a dude backside over the span of the game; I rather stare at a chick’s backside. But knowing the feminist mindset, that’s probably just as sexist as having no female leads in games…

  • Paul

    no you’re not dude dont lie

  • http://unicornuproar.com/ Moscato-Moe

    My favorite games have female leads

    Lately, I’ve been playing Millia’s story in tales of xillia.

  • Micah

    If Capcom puts Ada Wong front and central on a cover I know I’ll be throwing money at them. The Resident Evil franchise seems to be getting it right when it comes to female lead characters. As a matter of fact the last game, RE 6, had a great way of handling things. Having male/female co-op for most of the campaigns (Ada getting her own campaign should compensate for the Chris Piers duo) was great. Each character was as developed as the other. Even the newcomers. I even ended up choosing Sherry over Jake and just had to play with Ada first.

    So yes, people need to relax and add more female leads. They have great potential.