Thursday, October 27, 2005

Women and Video Games

Suzanne Freyjadis-Chuberka, director of the women's gaming conference, chastised the gaming industry publications for marketing primarily to men. She especially criticized their use of overt sexuality in marketing. I don't consider myself an avid gamer, but I have always enjoyed video games and there has been, historically, a male aura around them. From the days when I used to play Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, Galaga, and Defender (and beat the boys!) to playing Lara Croft, Sims, Civilization, and Quake, there has been this sense that games are not for girls. The boys got so mad at me for beating them. Once, I was on an all-female Quake team and beat the pants off of a group of 16-year-old boys. They couldn't believe it. Oh, and we'd modded our bodies to "look" female.

The gaming industry magazine editors responded. Most of their responses are along the lines of, "We're trying; give us a break." But one, from the editor of Play, really struck a negative chord with me. The thing is is he makes these assumptions about how to market to women. He assumes that marketing to women would involve the projection of sexy men onto their pages (as opposed to sexy women). Here's what he says about the variety of characters and what he thinks might appeal to women:
There are plenty of gaming genres and characters to meet every taste… Wallace and Gromit, Blinx, Chicken Little, Batman Begins—I could go on and on—have nothing to do with sexuality (save maybe female gamers ogling Christian Bale). Gaming has always been about variety… it has always been about fun—a past time for any and all to partake. Our female editor for instance came up playing Ghost’s ‘n’ Goblins, Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda etc…all great games with attractive and or heroic male leads. Does that make them “objects”? I think not.

Can we get this man some feminist theory, please? I can't speak for all women, but how about some female leads who aren't scantily clad sex kittens with swords? I mean, if I want to dress my character up that way, fine, but let me have the option.

He even suggests that "sexing-up" advertising is good.

There’s nothing wrong with the proliferation of the healthy physique in advertising. In fact, I believe most Americans are for it. This marketing doesn’t claim that being less then perfect is undesirable, it’s just simple logic: certain people are more pleasing to the eye and so they make for great marketing tools. We should market a game with a sexy female (or male) lead with chubby folks? I would infer that Mrs. Freyjadis-Chuberka is anti-sexuality, which puts her in a very small minority in this country.

Um, anti-sexuality? She's not saying use chubby folks. More realistic, less male-fantasy oriented. And female fantasy is not necessarily scantily-clad men. If you would ask the market about what they want, you might be surprised by what you find out. But you go on living in your fantasy world, where you're dominated by a sexy sword-wielding broad. Let's just hope she doesn't chop your balls off.