Let's come straight out with it: 99% of big budget games are made for guys. Sure, certain games are gender neutral like Guitar Hero and The Sims, but developers usually don't cater exclusively to females. I'm not being sexist here, just realistic. The majority of people who manage to prestige 10 times in Modern Warfare 2 or giggle hysterically after curb stomping a Locust in Gears of War are men.
The games industry has never had a problem catering to the most ancient desires of men such as dominating other men in various forms of competition. They've never had problems indulging in brutal, borderline-offensive violence for us. So why is it that the portrayal of females in games seems to come under fire a lot more than gory headshots?
I'm not saying that nothing is wrong with it; portraying women as flirtatious sex-objects essentially objectifies women into the stereotype they've dealt with for a while. Based on principal, that is wrong. I'm just asking, if we are going to pick apart games for their effect on our behavior, is that really the thing we need to be worried about?
Look at all the cases of kids who commit acts of absurd violence who either themselves claim or have the media claim that violent games influenced their behavior. A teenager in Thailand allegedly stabbed a Taxi driver and stole his wallet in order to imitate GTA 4. Heck, even the Columbine shootings at one point were blamed on one of the kids playing too much Doom.
While none of these claims have solid proof, compare those sensationalized headlines to incidents involving portrayal of women in video games. I have yet to come across a headline reading, "Boy attempts to sleep with girl but gets rebuffed. Authorities claim the boy had been playing Alpha Protocol and was under the impression that bedding women is very easy." Or, "Man cancels engagement because his bride didn't have a stripper physique or the ability to summon demons out of her hair. Authorities believe the man played Bayonetta 20 hours a day."
Men have testosterone, MTV, Victoria's Secret catalogs, and a number of other sources which warp their perception of what an ideal woman is supposed to look and act like.
I personally know there's a lot more sources my life telling me to objectify women than telling me to beat a cop to death, yell at him in a Russian accent, and drive off.
It doesn't change the fact that over sexualizing women in gaming is wrong. I mean, point-blank refusing to reduce the size of Lara's immeasurable cleavage in order to sell more Tomb Raider games is flat-out sleazy. But playing Tomb Raider: Underworld didn't cause me to stop respecting women whose cup size was off the alphabet scale.
Isn't featuring gratuitous chainsaw deaths in the original Gears of War the same sort of exploitation?
Isn't highlighting the executions from God of War to help popularize the series just as bad?
I am not a misogynist or a chauvinist; I'm just asking why should games get away with one evil but be called out on another? Why are they allowed to cater to one of guys' basic instincts but not the other — especially when the one being criticized isn't even the biggest problem; over the top, realistic violence usually sells a game better than a busty female protagonist or attractive NPCs. If we really want to fix what games do wrong, we have to address gore before gender.
Let me put it this way:
I never wondered what it was like to headshot a cop through his windshield until playing GTA 4.
But I was dreaming about a leggy woman eager to take her clothes off long before I played Bayonetta.
Which game affected my psyche more?
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!