For a while now, I have been silent on gender issues in video games because it’s very controversial. But today, I’m going to share my thoughts about it and why the issue is overblown. At the same time, the video game industry needs to be addressed because more females are playing video games. (Image Source)
Before I get into the main argument, let’s focus on objectification. Objectification is basically treating a person like an object, thus giving no regard to personality or dignity. If you look at any type of media, both genders are objectified, thus it’s not just an issue that only applies to females. Men are objectified to look handsome and strong. Because of this reason, some people might view this as a bad thing as it can have consequences such as low self-esteem and depression.
On the other hand, I think the reason why developers and authors make the characters good-looking rather than create ugly ones because all types of media, especially video games are a fantasy. I doubt a person would want to play as a weak man or an ugly woman. That’s why the main characters look attractive and it shouldn’t be a problem since it’s very unlikely to see a character like this in real life.
Looking at the issue at heart, I feel that the Damsel in Distress trope isn’t automatically sexist because it doesn’t specify the gender for the damsel and the hero. While tropes cannot become clichéd, I feel that the handsome man saving pretty women is a fairly overused plot line. Either way you look at it, the person who gets captured doesn’t necessarily lose all their powers. Even if a knight saves a princess, the princess will still have more political power over her savior. Furthermore, I don’t think damsels are objects since they are usually people we care about such as family members, friends, husbands, wives, etc. In short, people are going to need help and it’s not necessarily a gender issue.
Furthermore, I felt that the violence and mercy killing could apply to either gender. Deaths are used to give an emotional feeling to the story. Let’s take mercy killing for example. What if your love one is turning into some kind of monster and asks you to end his/her life to end their suffering. While it’s heartbreaking, I don’t see any issue with this as it as people are going to get hurt or killed, regardless of the gender.
Still, I think the trend of video games are changing because more females are playing video games, thus deteriorating the male dominance in video games. The reason there are a lot of games with male protagonists is because it will sell more. Since video games are becoming popular with females, we are seeing games allowing people to play as a female protagonist, female only protagonists or have ability to make your own character. For instance, in Tales of Xillia, you can choose to play as a male or female protagonist (although, you can change your character to a female one in the character selection screen). I admit that I prefer playing as a female protagonist rather than a male one.
Even so, there has been a good amount of games from Japan that have capable female characters, but you don’t have to make them masculine to achieve this. Let’s take the Atelier series for example. Most of these games have female protagonists and the main character can basically create any item using alchemy such as bombs, weapons and food to name a few. In the more recent games as seen with Ayesha and Escha & Logy, the female protagonists can protect other characters in the party while being able to take more damage without getting KOed compared to previous games. In another instances, magical girl shows usually make girls more powerful compared to men as they can use special abilities without having to fight physically. Either way you look at it, female characters are basically on equal grounds with male characters and it doesn’t matter how they achieve this.
At the end of the day, gender stereotypes are going to exist for both male and female characters. If you don’t realize this with Anime, males are protrayed negatively as being indecisive and/or weak. However, we have to realize that people play video games to have fun and escape from reality. In addition, we can extinguish fantasy from reality. While it’s okay to not like something that you find offensive, it doesn’t have to ruin the gameplay experience. If you find it offensive, just vote with your wallet and don’t buy the game.
Regardless, it’s clear that we are going to see more games with female protagonists since 48% of females are now playing video games in 2012. Video game developers are going to take notice because they are in the business to sell video games! However, I don’t agree with the boundary pushing by feminists and using patriarchy as a reason to do this. While I believe in equality for both genders, this will only lead to more censorship and less creativity. I have already seen this when they tried to ban eroge back in 2009 and failed. If they had their way, the only games we will have is a Mary Sue character that can do no wrong. I think most people will give up gaming and do something else.
With that, what you think about the issue? Should the video game industry take notice of the changing trends and allow for the option to play as a female protagonist?
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2 Comments… read them or add your own.
I’m happy playing as female characters in general, both the stereotypical and inspirational. I just want to play as female characters because, like you, the “damsel in distress” plot had run its course YEARS ago. Give the guys other reasons to venture into dangerous terrain than saving the girl.
In all due respect, it’s probably a good thing that the Damsel and Distress trope is being used less frequently for the fact it’s lazy story writing. But still, the changing demographic in general is the reason we are seeing more female protagonists. Even in the next 3D Mario World game, you can play as Princess Peach again… so basically, I think the trope is being used less nowadays.
Still, I think there needs to be more females involved in video game development so that women will be betrayed better as Maddox suggests. It’s mostly because men knows how to portray male characters properly, but don’t have the knowledge to portray female characters without resorting to stereotypes and vice versa. If there is more females involved in game development in some shape or form, perhaps that both genders might get portrayed properly. Still, if there is more games that you can play as a female, more the merrier.