I love a good video game. Who doesn't? being able to immerse yourself in a highly detailed environment where anything is possible is highly entertaining and a great way to waste time. Whether it's battling dragons in Skyrim, mowing down pedestrians with your car in GTA, or scouring an irradiated wasteland in Fallout, video games give us an opportunity to be someone else for a while or even create our own stories. Video games can also be a powerful medium in which to make a political statement. It is a rapidly changing medium in which to display ideas in a way that is interactive and fun. However, because of video games demographics, it is often hard to get that message across.
Now, what do I mean by demographics? I'm talking about males ages 18-30 who spend their time cursing out 13-year-olds on Xbox Live and using racial slurs when a person of color enters the game while chugging a Big Gulp full of Mountain Dew. Perhaps one of the most disturbing elements of the gaming community is their attitude towards women, especially those who play video games. I have had many a friend tell me that they've gotten rape threats over Xbox Live as well as derogatory statements such as "make me a sammich!" and "go back to the kitchen where you belong!". Even in the virtual world, women aren't safe from violent sexism.
This translates over to the games themselves. It is difficult to find a video game where the main character is a woman; especially a non-sexualized/objectified woman. And when she's not sexualized and is a fully actualized character, the male gaming community begins complaining that she isn't "sexy enough" and this leads to fan art, usually drawn by men, where the female protagonist is depicted having bulging breasts and an 18-inch waist. Take, for example, the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Now, I will admit that I am a fan of GTA; I can't help but go sidewalk surfing and see how many pedestrians I can mow down before the police arrest me. However, the game is blatantly sexist since many of the women depicted in the game are airheads who only care about sex, money, and/or becoming famous. Now, I understand that GTA is a game who's humor comes from satire, but at what point do people begin to internalize this satire and accept it as a universal truth rather than thinking critically about it? When Carolyn Petit, a reviewer for Gamespot, gave GTAV a positive review but called out its problematic depiction of women, fans of the game took up arms and called her a "moron" amongst other things. One commenter even said that a woman's input was useless anyways. Is this really still going on in the 21st century?
The world of gaming is still very much a man's world. I like to think of it as the He-Man Woman-Haters club from "The Little Rascals": a place where boys (not men) can come together and feed off of each others toxic masculinity while calling each other pussies and faggots. I think it's time we begin putting more women into video game design studios where they can share their stories. We need more games where women take the spotlight not as sexual objects for the leering male gaze, but as fully fleshed-out characters who react to the story and push it along.
The future is female, y'all: pretty soon, they'll run even the virtual world.