Sexism in Video Games: Research, Reason and Rebellion
In our first video in our sexism in video games series, which we affectionately refer to as the #Messiah Trilogy, we made mention of a book titled “The Proteus Paradox” by Nick Yee. The Proteus Paradox is a collection of data collected in the Daedalus Project, a study of how politics, superstitions, and various social norms infiltrate the blank slate of online gaming. While the Proteus Paradox shows some amazing data in regards to online behavior, from MMO marriages to how avatar customization can be used to influence those around you, we focused on Chapter 6: The Locker Room Utopia for the data regarding how gaming is still a largely male-dominated past time. While there are instances of sexism in gaming, what is more startling is that it’s not the biggest hurdle in making gaming a socially acceptable past time for women. A few of the biggest detriments to women being equally accepted as gamers include the perceptions that most women are iPhone and Angry Bird “casual gamers”, which could lead to a general lack of respect for female gamers when they are in positions of decision making in MMORPGs. And even picking up a video game at the local game shop could be an adventure in social stigmas. Additionally, there are reports of general harassment towards female gamers in that -besides the usual “smack-talking” abuse suffered by both men and women alike- some female gamers feel as though they’re somehow ‘required’ to prove the legitimacy of their real life gender, through pictures or web cam video, to other gamers.
And of course, there’s the issues of female sexuality in video games. No doubt sex-appeal is a major marketing push for video game protagonists, but exactly how is sex-appeal in video games any different from other established mediums of entertainment? Is sex-appeal gender-exclusive, or are both male and female video game characters modeled and crafted to give the gamer a higher sense of empowerment? And what of the real-life women who, drawing inspiration from these sexualized female characters, cosplay as these very same video game characters? Are we meant to lose all reverence and respect for video game characters who show a little bit of skin? Additionally, the feminist vote appears to be split on the topic of the sexual nature of female game characters, with a female character being one feminist’s sexy and confident role-model, and another feminist’s oppressed fuck-toy.
However, according to Nick Yee’s book, there’s testimony from female gamers that suggest that they wouldn’t mind the sexy female characters if, say, male characters had a bit more ‘umph’ where it counts. Can we dare to speculate that people of both genders can actually enjoy sexuality? Le gasp!