What Women Want in Video Games: A Gamer Girl Roundtable Discussion

What Do Women Want in Video Games? We’re not talking about what the authoritarian feminists at Feminist Frequency, Jezebel, or The Mary Sue want. No. What do actual, average women want to see in video game female characters, and even in the male characters? What about the sexualization of female characters in video games, which are often compared to hyper-masculine male characters under the dichotomy of “object vs subject”, and “power fantasy vs objectification”?

Taking inspiration from the phenomenally entertaining and enlightening last segment of our most recent Wild Cards (“Indefinity Whores”), Nat is joined by several of our Patreon fans (most of which are females and gamer girls), to propose those very questions. Who do they believe are the best examples of female characters in video games, and why? What do they think of the feminist critiques of various classic female characters like Princess Zelda,  Laura Croft, Samus, and the female cast of the Resident Evil series? Do average women like some male eye-candy in their games as much as men like sexy female characters? Why can’t feminists agree on what they want in female characters in video games? Why have radical feminists and pop-culture critics made it taboo to write a female video game character with flaws, and instead seem to push developers and writers to only depict”strong, independent women that don’t need no man”?

And the most pressing question of all:
Where is LaughingMan?

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The loveable lunatic with the foul mouth and the iconic laugh, Laughingman is the founder of CCS. With more coffee than copper in his bloodstream, he's a full-time website developer by day, and a gamer, editor, and fiction writer by night.


British, cynical, well-read tea lover... basically a walking talking stereotype...

2 Comments on “What Women Want in Video Games: A Gamer Girl Roundtable Discussion

  1. I absolutely loathe the Zelda example every time someone brings it up to prove the “damsel in distress” nonsense…
    First, she’s royalty. There is no better target to kidnap than a princess to blackmail a King.
    And just look at the different incarnations:
    OoT: She escaped on her own, disguised herself as a Shiekah and guided Link throughout the game.
    TP: She refused to leave her people behind in the isolated castle town and instead contacted outside help.
    WW: She’s a pirate and and basically the only reason you stood a chance in your final battle…
    Or the most resent BotW? All heroes died, including Link. Zelda? She kept Ganon in check for 100 years so you (as Link) could get your sorry butt in shape to do the job you were supposed to 100 years ago.
    That woman held a fiend in a strangle hold who wiped out a specially trained team of heroes with their giant mechs.

  2. Here’s a rather obscure character, that, to my mind, is probably “it”(or, rather, her) – an epitome of female empowerment, but, incidentally, is the complete opposite of what comes to mind the moment folks like Anita start to speak. Enter Kate Archer, main and only protagonist in No One Lives Forever series.

    To begin with, the two games are totally hilarious, and even the setting is closer to Get Smart rather than Bond movies. And yes, she’s a superspy. Or, at least, that’s what she becomes… eventually.

    Things begin with UNITY, an international “good guy” organization, losing a lot of field agents to H.A.R.M. (some uber-criminal organization run by The Director and a token Russian manning the position of Chief of Executive Action – basically, second in command… and don’t even get me started on those pesky token Russian supervillains in games that take themselves too serious. Have they run our of Brits or something? :))

    But this is an old game, and a comedy to boot, so everything is possible, funny, and not at all offensive. Our Kate was once a cat burglar, and is now “paying her dues” working for UNITY. Her current set of duties involves archiving old dusty stuff and standing in as an occasional baby sitter. But, agents killed and all, she is pushed into active service, and things go very hairy. She botches mission after mission.

    Here’s the catch, though. First, there is a mole in UNITY (surprise, surprise), and the odds aren’t exactly into her favour. Still, she survives, and, at some point even begins to make progress.

    Next, despite those odds, “chauvinistic male society” (it’s superspy movie era, for crying out loud), a pack of truly badass supervillains and pure bad luck, she saves the day and earns everyone’s respect, while kicking serious butt in process. She also gains her confidence, although some snarky dialog options are available right from the start (though it’s not always preferable to choose them).

    So what’s so special about her, and the games themselves? The message, man, the message! First, nobody owes you a thing, and there’s some respect to be earned if you can, but it’s not as easy as stating you’re entitled to it.

    Second, the world doesn’t care if you are female, it wouldn’t care if you were male, or an attack helicopter, for that matter. If they say “sending female operatives is a high risk because nobody has done it before”, you can replace “female” with anything that comes to mind, the message won’t change, it’s “we don’t want you out there botching our missions, we don’t like you, we don’t trust you, and here’s our (lame) excuse why”. The excuse itself is sexist, but you can replace it with “sending rookie operatives”, “sending [insert something here] operatives”. You get the point.

    Then they stick you with a senior operative, who is an ever-grinning macho with an incredibly large square jaw. He’s also into salty jokes and spares no effort to soften the blow (you get to be the butt end of those jokes all the time). In the end it turns out he’s *spoiler alert*, and you get to kick his ass. Sweet retribution.

    The games are also littered with philosophical discussions bad guys have going behind corners, or during patrols, etc. Those are hilarious, and it is especially reassuring when you realize they are just as green and have at least as many problems in their own lives. It is almost sad to have to shoot them (though you can try to avoid some of them and leave them to their misery).

    But you do get the feeling that it’s not you being exceptionally plagued by troubles, and the whole world is out to get you because you are a woman. No, the bad guys are out to get you because you are a UNITY agent and a threat. Your boss is out to get you because you are green. Your partner is out to get you because he’s a jerk. And luck… luck doesn’t care about anyone, so when you end up falling from a plane without a parachute… well, you’re not the only one.

    They don’t like you – check. You fail constantly – check. You still have a job to do, and they still expect you to do it. And if you do, nobody will thank you in the end, cause it was your job in the first place. But you (the player, as Kate) are capable of doing the job just fine. And you don’t need other people to like you, approve, reassure, cuddle you, etc. You need a steel backbone inside, not feel good messages. And if you do have such backbone, you succeed.

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