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We’re at a crossroads in the gaming community, and it’s a crossroads we’ve been at for a while now. Gaming is at a point where the status of women is uncertain. While some developers make clear efforts to create deep, interesting female characters, others seem perfectly content to create buxom, shallow stereotypes. The problem is with the industry and the lack of women in creative positions, and while some developers claim up to 50% female staff that number can be misleading. Game developers are just like every other business, there are Public Relations people, Community Managers, as well as other non-creative positions. Most of the women who do get a job at a developer have these jobs, and are left out of the creative discussion when they could help establish an authentic female personality for a game.
This is a cultural thing; men have traditionally had the creative say when creating games. Since men almost exclusively create games, they attract a male audience. That male audience becomes the next development talent pool. The cycle continues on and on. It isn’t the fact that men cannot create an interesting female character, especially with the Hollywood caliber scriptwriters large developers have at their disposal, it is more that in a male-centric culture, it is incredibly easy for developers to forgo women in games.
There are women involved in the game industry; in fact there are many of them who are more dedicated than the men in their field. The fact that they are so dedicated even though they are constantly insulted with large quantities of polygonal breast meat is a testament to how much they have to love the industry. I cannot name too many men who would play video games if they were always betrayed as large, bumbling idiots with an affinity for red meat and power tools. The reality is, women are deeper and deserve to be represented as complex individuals as opposed to just sex objects.
The game industry has certainly grown. Graphics, sound, and storytelling are just a few of the advancements of the modern game industry and In these advancements we have gotten some strong female characters like Alyx Vance, and Jade from Half-Life and Beyond Good and Evil respectively. In our zeal, we must be careful that the “strong female” type does not become a stereotype all its own. Not every woman is strong, and not every woman is shallow; just like men there are a wide range of characteristics and emotions that every person has, regardless of gender. A woman does not have to be just a pair of boobs, but nor does she always have to be Wonder Woman.
As a heterosexual male, I enjoy a nice female figure as much as anyone, but a character can be sexual without being overtly sexual. Subtleties will leave a much longer lasting impression on the character as well as allowing for much more robust development of their personality traits. A good example is Trip from Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, as she is an attractive girl, but that is not at the forefront of her being. She develops a deep connection with a man she enslaved in order to survive. She is a complex individual who has personality and that sticks with the player much longer than just a sexy model.
It seems to me that the way to alleviate the plague that is poorly designed women in video games, developers need to design characters from the ground up. If you design personality, intricacies, and quirks first, the model will have practically made itself. Maybe she has a large breast, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as she has something else going on upstairs. We, as a community, need to realize the need for evolution in this industry. Video games are an integral and reflective part of culture, and it’s time to once again, change.