Class Presentation: Gender Equality in Video Games

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Lara Croft excels at the kind of actions performed by Jack Bauer in 24, Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode 3, and Travis Grady in Silent Hill: Origins. Many video game main characters are males and the games do not represent females. Advanced Media Network columnist Aaron Roberts admits that “games are considered a highly male-centric form of entertainment" and suggests that men only play Tomb Raider because they want to look at a pretty girl, but a BBC news article suggests that girls can offer a lot to the video game world and conducted an experiment of adolescent boys and girls. Do you agree with Roberts? Or do you think that women are in video games because they represent the second-half of culture?

Most video games are focused toward being masculine and able to conquer everything whereas games like Barbie provide a more sensitive and caring side. When reviewing the book review called, “From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games” by Jackson one can see how important female video games can be. When “Barbie Fashion Designer” was released thousands of girls bought and played the game. Is this because it was a Barbie game or because girls like feminine games? It is interesting to think how the psychological make-up of girls and boys differs. Blumberg composed an article called, “Boys’ and Girls’ Use of Cognitive Strategy When Learning to Play Video Games” that used an experiment to determine which types of games females and males like. The study concluded that girls and boys used different internal and external responses.

When typing the keywords “female video game characters” into a Google search bar I received many sex related pictures. Some of them included using female breasts as a focus point or wearing limited clothing. This representation of female characters in video games is somewhat negative and gives an impression that females are “sex objects.” Would you agree or disagree that Lara Croft and other female characters are designed to be sexy and attractive? While researching my topic I came across this YouTube home video that presents a woman's opinion on the topic. (When the movie concludes pay special attention to her last statement about video gamers).

Now let’s focus on looking at video games through a female’s lens or viewpoint. It is important to consider values, role-model status, and having power as part of your observation. Before deciding on an answer lets take a look at Brenda Laurel, the author of “Utopian Entrepreneur,” who stated, “Stories, movies, videogames, and Websites don’t have to be about values to have a profound influence on values” (Laurel 62). Does the video game “Tomb Raider” incorporate values? Also, let’s use “Roger Ebert’s” opinion of video games not being an artistic form. Roger believes that video games cannot be compared to famous literature such as Shakespeare or Jonathan Swift. After reviewing different opinions about video games does your lens change?

On a closing note, you as a player must look beyond the stereotypes provided by society. Elisabeth Hayes uses her article called “Women, Video Gaming and Learning: Beyond Stereotypes” to describe how males and females have the same playing experience. Some may say that males put more effort into video games than females. Would you agree or disagree? The lack of female gender roles in video games have been attributed to stereotypes and video games being focused towards the male culture. I will leave you with this article by Helen Kennedy who offers “Lara Croft as a Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo" and challanges the many stereotypes that are used in today's society about females in video games.

2 Comments

This is an interesting presentation because it provides many different view points on gender in video games. The question you posed relating to why girls play Barbie games intrigued me. I feel that the reason girls play Barbie games is rooted in the toys and characters that girls look up to while growing up. Many girls play with Barbie dolls and then feel that Barbie games are an extension of playing with the dolls. Girls that play with Barbie want to play feminine games like Barbie games because it is something that the girls become familiar with at a young age. Also, to say that Lara Croft and other game characters are made to be depicted as sex objects is similar to saying that Barbie is meant to be a sex object. Both statements may be true, but blame cannot be put on the game designers for this portrayal because characters in the media are meant to be somewhat caricatures of reality. Games themselves are fantasy so the characters within them should also be unrealistic. I never looked at male characters in fighting games with ripped muscles as the ideal, unreachable body type that I should reach. The characters are simply a part of the fantasy world. Video games are an outlet for people to escape reality and that is obvious based on the depiction of landscapes, gameplay and the characters.

Hey Derek,
As Darrell stated I think this is a great topic. I like the way you compare Lara Croft to counterparts of the genre who are male. I for one never thought about the example you talked about typing "female video game characters" in google. It is certainly indicative to the type of games made with those types of characters. I also enjoyed the integration of art and values as well. I think thats a very strong basis for you're paper (which may or not be finished at this point) but I think that you're on to a very strong paper. I look forward to reading the finished product.

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This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on January 17, 2008 4:32 PM.

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