It may not be Thanksgiving yet, but gamers of the female variety have a lot to be thankful for. Lately, the media has been overrun with stories on the poor treatment of women in video games. With all of the negativity concerning women—whether it be stereotypes, overly sexualized characters or the treatment of women employed in the industry—I found it necessary to call attention to some of the positive aspects of women in gaming. Though we still have a long way to go, we’ve made significant progress towards making our presence known since the advent of gaming. So without further ado, here are a few things to be thankful for.
Customizing your own character is a lot like getting dressed in the morning. The clothing, hairstyle, and accessories that you choose speak volumes about the type of person that you are. The ability to not only choose to be a female character, but to decide if she will be good or evil; big or small; or a warrior or a mage allows us to become fully immersed in the world. We are given freedom of choice to create our own moral code—our own story—without being forced to fill a pre-determined role. Though we are all women who game, at the end of the day, we have different experiences and opinions that define us individually. Games like The Sims, Mass Effect, and Skyrim allow for those differences to shine. They also allow us to have a similar gaming experience to that of our male counterparts, but as women.
Diversity/Depth in Female Characters
It’s impossible to create a female character that every woman will love. That’s why it’s great to have diversity in the ways women are portrayed in games. The floodgates burst open with the introduction of Lara Croft and ever since there has been an increase in female characters. Yes, we do still have scantily clad bimbos such as Juliet Starling—though I still think her character has purpose and heart. However, we also have smart and cunning women like Elena Fisher, Lara Croft and The Boss who are anything but damsels in distress. There is Bayonetta who, though sexualized, is intelligent and uses her sexuality as a weapon. Nowadays, female characters are no longer expected to be the prize at the end of a quest. They are now able to go on their own quests and win their own prizes. Sorry Mario, the princess isn’t in this castle or any other.
Representation in the Media
The Internet is an amazing place. It allows me to connect with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to. It allows me to keep up with the latest gaming news and see what’s trending across the globe. It’s also allowed me to see that there are other women who game. Women like Felicia Day, who helped bring female gamers into the spotlight with her show The Guild and by being a genuinely likeable person. The coolest thing about her is that she advocates not only for female gamers, but also for the gaming community as a whole. I find her method to be more progressive than tactics used by others. She’s won the respect of gamers everywhere without having to show some skin and that’s something to be proud of.
In addition to this, if you tuned into the Ubisoft conference at E3 you were greeted with another strong female gamer in the form of Aisha Tyler. Aisha hosted the conference and showed that men aren’t the only ones to get wood over a new title. Ubisosft also proudly displayed a team of professional female gamers named The Frag Dolls. The team battled a team of gamer guys in Ubisoft’s FPS Shootmania. Though they lost the match, it was still a win for female gamers. With Ubisoft promoting women in gaming, it is only natural to assume that soon other developers will follow suit.
Increase in the Amount of Female Gamers
We’ve come a long way from the ‘80s to mid-‘90s, a time when female gamers were unheard of—though they did exist, just in smaller numbers. According to 2011 data gathered by the ESA (Entertainment Software Association), female gamers make up 42% of the gaming community. When I was growing up, my sister was the only other girl I knew who played games—and that was back in the early ‘90s! Nowadays, there are websites and clans dedicated to female gamers. There are articles that focus on the treatment of women in the gaming industry and others scrutinizing how female characters are portrayed. If these topics are newsworthy it can only mean that we do have a presence and that our opinions actually matter. The fact that we have the numbers to do this, to form a community, shows that we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So once again, women have a lot to be thankful for in today’s gaming world. Sometimes we get so caught up in the negative aspects of our plight that we forget how far we have actually come. Not to mention, it could actually turn-off potential female gamers. The day when we look at each other not as “guy gamers” or “girl gamers,” but simply as gamers is coming. Don’t get me wrong; we still have more strides to make. My aim isn’t to minimize the problem; it is only to point out how we are moving in the right direction. For instance, the attacks against women in gaming and the assumptions that female journalists can’t play FPS needs to change. The video game industry is a young one that continues to define itself with each passing day. We can’t expect change to happen overnight, but we can be happy that this isn’t the ‘90s anymore—well socially, anyway.