How Objectificiation Hurts Video Games

How Objectificiation Hurts Video Games

(Caution, main picture on the article is a little on the NSFW side)

Here’s an article that was posted on the NYTimes Live site. To be honest, it’s not the greatest article, but it brings about a good point and is worth questioning. The author’s main argument is that objectification in video games is hurting games and the industry. I this true? Is he wrong? Should we care? Are there any horse socks? Is anyone even listening?

The author contends that female characters are typically objectified to the point of them being nothing more than objects to save; the quest isn’t about saving an individual, it’s about retrieving an object.The article uses the example of Princess Peach to exemplify this objectification, not as a object of of sex appeal, but as a character who represents the nothingness of many created female characters. It’s true, what do we know about Peach besides the fact that she gets kidnapped a lot, likes to bake cakes, and is occasionally not in the castle she’s supposed to be in? Then again, Mario Characters (Or even Nintendo characters in general) probably aren’t the best example of fleshed out characters. But it’s true, a lot of female characters in video games tend to be fairly one dimensional (NOT 2D EVEN. HARDY HAR HAR) and stereotype based. You needn’t look further than most Japanese RPGs to prove this. Without  a doubt, these one-sided characters are hurting the representation of females in gaming, and not providing accurate role models and representations to gamers, but that’s not really the point the author is making.

The author is making the argument that this objectification of females in gaming is hurting developers where they care the most: the wallet.

We see a cover with a woman dressed in something that would give a stripper doubts, we automatically think “well that’s probably crap” and don’t buy it. This is a fairly big chunk of how women are portrayed on game covers, so publishers look at it and think the problem is women, not the portrayal of women.

HEY, THANKS FOR THAT QUOTE. Is this true of most gamers? I don’t I think it is. If we’ve learned anything from the media, it’s that sex sells. Would Dead Or Alive be as popular of a franchise without the complete objectification of women? Probably not. Hell, there’s even complete MMOs out there that were created on the idea “LET’S MAKE AN GAME WITH A BUNCH OF NAKED CHICKS”. Likewise, with a good portion of the gaming populace being teenage boys, it’s hard not to say that this gaming philosophy is working.

Speaking for myself, I agree with the author: games with large amount of “boob exposure” on the cover typically sway me away from looking further into them. Take Lollipop Chainsaw for example- a over the top, over-sexualized, ridiculous hack-in-slash that supposed to be decent

I will happily buy a game with such bad box art. I mean, sexiness aside, it’s still really ugly. Needless to say, not all games have women sexualized to this degree, and the game itself is a tad bit of a parody. However most gamers won’t know that, but will that sway them not buying the game? That wasn’t really the issue with this particular game, but it’s debatable.

So what should be done? Should sex appeal be removed from games all together? No. I wouldn’t say that. It has it’s place. Done correctly, a game that deals with themes of sexuality and objectification can actually be great.

Take for example Catherine on the PS3/360, a game where the cheating main character must make a decision between choosing his long term, less exciting girlfriend, or a very sexualized younger girl he has a one night stand with. Amongst many other themes, the game deals with subjects of infidelity, relationships, and objectification.It does it with great storytelling, consequences for your action, and interesting perspectives.

 

Unfortunately most games aren’t Catherine, and most developers are content with merely painting one dimensional characters with little remorse for the consequences. This isn’t an issue with female characters only, we should be asking more from our developers out of characters in general. Deeper characters = deeper experiences. That said, we should also be weary of games that are simply using sex to sell us a product.

So whether you agree with the author or not about whether objectification is hurting gaming developers, it certainly remains an issue in gaming and media in general.

 

Nintendo Patching Gay Marriage “Bug” in Popular Japanese Game

Nintendo Patching Gay Marriage “Bug” in Popular Japanese Game

Oh boy. This is a strange one. This week Nintendo released a patch for their popular life simulator 3DS title “Tomodachi Collection” that fixes  bug that allows for same-sex relationships. Tomodachi is a Japanese life simulator title for the 3DS in which players can use their Wii/3DS Created Miis to interact, fall in love, and socialize with other characters (Think Animal Crossing or the Sims). The patch supposedly fixes a bug in the game that allows for two male Miis to fall in love, get married, and even have kids. I use the word bug, because it seems that Nintendo did not initially intend for same-sex couples in this game at all ( In fact, the bug does not work for 2 female Miis). The bug only works when a Mii is transferred over using the 3DS’ Mii Transfer system.

It’s only strange if you haven’t seen the movie “Junior”

The patch, according to Nintendo, fixes “Human relations that become strange”. What Nintendo deems strange is unknown, as there’s plenty of relationships that become strange without having anything to do with same-sex coupling (It’s highly unlikely that the game will fix the hundreds of Hitler Miis out there hooking up with Miis of elderly women).

So we have to ask the question: Is patching the game to not allow same-sex relationships the right thing to do? It’s a tough one, especially for Nintendo. Tomodachi Collection wouldn’t be the first life simulator to allow for same-sex relationships, as games like “The Sims” have already allowed for Same-sex sims to fall in love, get married, and even do the nasty together. That said, Tomodachi Collection is a game primarily aimed at kids (Although it’s odd that a life simulator is aimed at a group of people whom, you know, just started life) and having two males conceive a baby together is less than natural (Granted, no more odd than consuming a leaf and turning into a raccoon that can fly). Although one could make the argument that they could simply fix the males getting pregnant aspect and not the relationship aspect. But should they? Nintendo never intended to take a stance on the issue to begin with, and patching the game does not necessarily mean that they are taking a stance. Nintendo isn’t exactly the company you expect to be shaking things up, so it’s only natural for them to be playing it safe with this. Then again, many fans of the game are already disappointed that the game has been patched, eliminating their ability to choose their relationships in the game.

Nintendo is certainly taking the cautious route with this one, but we have to ask: “should our game developers be promoting progressive social issues and social causes?”. Video games are a great tool of socialization, and in making games with progressive social issues is certainly one way of slowing inching towards social change. Perhaps games like Tomodachi Collection can be tools of change.

Then again, Nintendo hasn’t even developed a perfect system for me to play with my friends over the internet, do I really want to them taking the reigns on social issues that don’t have to do with Turtle/lizard creatures being second class citizens? Probably not.

Misogynism in Video Games: Struggles and Solutions

Misogynism in Video Games: Struggles and Solutions

This interesting article hit the web last week. It chronicles one female’s gamers struggle towards acceptance in both her online communities and her real world gaming community.

“A lot of ‘gamer’ guys just never respected my opinions,” she said. “I’ll be talking about games with my friends, and there would be this one guy who always thought my taste in games were too girly and childish […] He said I wasn’t a ‘real gamer.’” Even so close to home, female gamers are met with hostility for expressing their interest in video games.

This unfortunate story tells a truth about the gaming industry: it’s kinda sexist. Well, maybe not kinda, maybe REALLY sexist. Female gamers, whom make up a healthy population of the gaming world (coming in at 47%) are often still disregarded as casual on non-gamers. That’s not to mention that the majority of video game being developed are specifically aimed at young males, rather than their female counterparts.

Cooking Mama’s not part of the problem, right? OH NO!

Where’s this hostility coming from? Well, I don’t know if I need to say this, but: YOUNG MEN ARE STUPID, HORMONE DRIVEN, ASSHOLES. That is to say, place a young male gamer on the internet and let them loose with pure anonymity as their dark side comes out. You needn’t look further than a message board flame war for this (OH GOD, THE WARS I’VE SEEN!). With the veil of the internet, young male oppress and harass female gamers in ways they’d never do in person. However, as this article contends, the harassment and oppression doesn’t end online- female gamers are often disregarded and marginalized by their peers, dismissed as non-gamers or casual gamers. The picture of a “hardcore gamer” in the eyes of many males game is only one gender.

So what can we do? This isn’t a karate movie in which Hilary Swank is going to train and prove her worth to boys (No one makes The Next Karate Kid references, and for good reason..). We as gamers need to realize that we have to play nicely. Gaming is no longer the introverted activity it once was, and that your gaming world is all of our gaming world. We also need to examine what makes a gamer; is it the type of games we play, or the people we are? Likewise, developers need to keep in check the messages and images they conveying, and putting forth. Through acknowledgement and acceptance, marginalization in the gaming world will one day disappear.

Girl Scouts Giving out Game Design Badges

Girl Scouts Giving out Game Design Badges

Last week the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles introduced a game design merit badge for scouts to promote women in the field of game design and programming.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a STEM-aligned video game badge for the Girl Scouts of the United States of America,” Amy Allison, vice president of WIGI, told GirlGamer.com. “Creating this badge will get young girls excited in technology and science and let them know that they, too, can have a career in the video game industry.”

“If the girl scouts had a game design badge when I was a kid, I would have joined!” said me, on he street, to no one.

But why should we care about this cookie dealing militia getting game design badges (Especially when there’s no cookies involved)? Well, females are incredibly underrepresented in game design- the majority of programers and engineers are still men. Why is that? Well, we could go into a whole thing about the genderification of careers, but no one will read that. Long story short: Somewhere along the line in the education process, women are pushed out of the math of sciences. Such  programs, like this, that focus on early education in math and sciences for young girls will help to alleviate this problem. If we can get girls excited at a young age about math and science, then they’re much more likely to be excited later on in their educational career  for these fields

So Bravo girl scouts. Thanks for doing something, unlike those good for nothing boy scouts. “Oh, that’s a swell knot you tied. Can I eat it? Then I don’t give a damn”

GTFO: A Film About Women in Gaming

GTFO: A Film About Women in Gaming

Another interesting kickstarter has sprung up this week: GTFO: A Film about Women in Gaming.

What is it and why should you care? the GTFO campaign is a kickstarter to fund a documentary about women in gaming-

GTFO is a film exposing the harassment of women in video games. It features gamers, bloggers, scholars, developers, and other experts.

Neat. But is this importannttt? Despite making up a big portion of the gaming populace, women in gaming are still treated as second class gamers. Sexual harassment, under or misrepresentation, and backlash to their participation in the gaming world are amongst a few issues that female gamers encounter. A gaming world that is hostile to half the population of the world is quite an issue. Bringing this issue to the forefront is the first step in making our gaming world a more accepting and diverse place.

Kickstarter for Documentary about LBGT Community in Games

Kickstarter for Documentary about LBGT Community in Games

This interesting bit of news came out (no pun intended) last month. It’s a documentary focusing on the LBGT community in video games: Gaming in Color

In their own words:

Gaming In Color is a full length feature documentary on one of the fastest growing communities in the fastest growing entertainment sector in the world: Gaming. For too long gamers have been painted in a very specific light, and the mosaic of gamers have lacked the diversity of minorities, queers, women, and members of LGBT communities.

So, why should you fund this documentary…or even care for the matter? The gaming communities is one of the fastest growing communities out there, and while it’s typically painted as being dominated by pre-pubescent teenage boys calling each other “fags”, it’s a far more diverse community than just that. That said, there’s still a considerable amount of misrepresentation and under representation of the LBGT community in gaming (Tingle doesn’t count). Video games are a growing socialization tool for kids, and without proper (or any) representation of the LBGT community in video games they may be getting wrong or mixed messages.

Plus, it’s cool and it’ll be interesting to see.  Entertainment. Yay.

-I