I’ve just taken a break from playing my recent Steam/GOG purchases and stopped clock watching for the new flash deals to write about sexism and gaming.
For starters it was stupid that I felt the need to add the above sentence, if I was a male gamer writing about the games industry would I feel the need to start by “proving” I was a gamer? Probably not. Nevertheless, even with the above sentence I’m sure I’ll be accused of faking it to be “cool”, or just being a casual gamer, or just lying for the hell of it, maybe I’m a feminist infiltrator? The chances of these accusations rise even further if I were to appear dressed up, especially in something revealing, because boobs obviously interfere in gaming.
For the record, I won’t be.
In case anyone has missed it, the games industry appears to have slight problems with writing female characters with a primary purpose that isn’t “be wank fodder”. No matter how unrealistic, ludicrous or unnecessary the female characters must be sexy. Even if the character is a tank* and their male counterpart has a full suit of heavy armour, the female character will likely be going into battle with boob plates and a nice bare stomach/legs/arms/chest/all of the above. For more in depth analysis of female “armour”, this article is good. Of course these things are always defended as it’s fiction and therefore can be as impractical as the designers like, however there’s a never any explanation as to why the male characters don’t also get wildly impractical armour too.
Many writers have written about the excessive sexualisation of female game characters, so I’m not going to add to that right now. I want to talk about the sexualisation of female gamers.
A large number of female gamers have reported being harassed in game by other players, it seems to be fairly normal for any female player to be hit on by other players if she actually makes them aware she is female, rather than hiding behind the assumption that male is the default. The same has been reported outside of games at gaming conventions. For some reason (can’t think why) it’s fairly standard for any women present in a gaming space to be considered as being there for the men.
As there is this idea that women are there solely for the male gaze you’d assume that the more aesthetically pleasing women would be more welcome than most? Well, yes and no.
Yes, they do like to look at these women, look at the popularity of cosplayers and live streams of attractive women playing games. There’s a lot of men (and boys) who enjoy the sight of a pretty woman, especially if there’s some gaming related reason to look at her. Maybe you’d think these women would have an easier ride of it? Be more welcomed into the “scene”? You’d be wrong.
You may have been lucky and missed the whole “fake gamer girl” meme.
There’s a common theme here. If you are pretty, like revealing clothes and aren’t constantly swearing you are a fake. That’s right, no matter how many hours you sink into gaming, even if you play games deemed not casual (I will note that the list of what constitutes “casual” is a hell of a lot longer for women, when a male gamer plays Skyrim it’s a proper game, when a female gamer does it’s a casual game, funny that), you will be a fake if you do so while conforming to female beauty standards. To be a true gamer you need to have been able to disconnect from all your conditioning, and denounced any traditionally feminine interests.
Not only that, but these female gamers will be blamed for why other female gamers are treated badly. Not the men who treat them badly, of course not, they can’t help themselves, it’s the fault of those nasty sneaky fake gamer girls.
I saw a discussion the other day about female gamers being accused of being attention seekers if they corrected other players who were calling them “bro”. One of the posters asked what the male gamers were so worried about that just mentioning gender was seen as such a sin? Turns out they think female gamers are out to trick them. “Trick them how?”, I hear you ask (in my head). Well it seems that because some female gamers on sites such as Twitch are getting donations from viewers then it’s obviously a scam. Never mind that in those cases no one is forcing the men to donate, nor are they promising anything in exchange – possibly a different version of events plays out in the generous mens fantasies. Some of these women even wear revealing clothes to play.
Some will obviously just be comfortable in thsoe clothes and like wearing them, but to this certain subset of viewers, everything women do is for their benefit, so of course if couldn’t be anything that simplistic.
Some will obviously be capitalising on the fact that so many of these men will shell out money if they see a scantily clad woman, hell they are happy to do so when the woman is provided by game developers. But when it’s the woman doing so under her own steam? Well that’s a whole other story. Scantily clad female character provided by men for their financial profit= totally ok. Scantily clad real woman doing so for her own profit = evil, how dare she!
Maybe some of these men are objecting to her needing to sell her body this way in order to get views? I find it a little hard to swallow that, but still, that is a fair point. It would be interesting to see some analysis on a site like Twitch comparing how many views supposedly “real” gamer girls get in comparison to supposedly “fake” ones. Even more interesting to compare the views of “real” gamer girls with gamer boys (who are apparently real just by virtue of owning a penis, anyone seen a “fake gamer boy” meme?). I suspect, going by a brief look at Twitch that the viewing goes something like “fake” gamer girl, gamer boy, “real” gamer girl. So if you are getting women trying to compete with men by offering what the men can’t, you’ve got to look at what has created this situation.
It’s funny how the same men who complain about “fake gamer girls” trying to trick them by dressing in skimpy outfits are usually the first to defend games with scantily clad female wank fodder characters as making economic sense. Sex sells dontcha know!
Here’s a solution boys, help us change things. You want less “fake gamer girls”? Then lets try and stop treating the female body as a commodity in the gaming community. You can’t have it both ways.
*One that is designed to take heavy damage, normally used to draw enemies away from more vulnerable characters)