I love playing video games, but I’m regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented.Anita Sarkeesian
I am the only female in my friend group that plays video games. And, I’m not talking about cute cell phone games like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood or Alpha Bear (although both those games are great in their way). I’m talking about The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt – with their emotionless, monster-slayer Geralt. I’m talking about Persona 5 – with their dark but honest depiction of Japanese society. Both of these games have male protagonists – only male protagonists, only male viewpoints.
If you’ve played games for as long as I have (over 20 years), then you know the male perspective dominates the gaming sphere. It never used to bother me. I played many video games with a male perspective, but this got me thinking. I like games like Devil May Cry, Kingdom Hearts, The Witcher video game series, and Persona video game series because they have better, more exciting storylines. Each video game that I just listed all have male protagonists. There are, of course, many great games with female protagonists, but not all of them are great plot-wise.
Not to say we don’t have interesting female video game characters in general because we do. What we don’t have enough of are strong leading ladies represented in a non-sexist viewpoint.
I always wanted to play a female protagonist sans the suggestive outfit — a cool female main character. With more than 52 per cent of gamers being female, you’d think there would be more interesting female protagonists. Most games in the Final Fantasy franchise have male playable characters except for Final Fantasy X-2 (Yuna) and Final Fantasy XIII (Lighting). Many MMORPGs and fighting games have female characters to choose from their roster. Newer, AAA titles have very detailed character creation such as Guild Wars and World of WarCraft. You can now make a character in your likeness, a character creation so robust you can mimic your lip shape to your eyebrow raise.
So, what’s the fuss, right? Wrong. There is a fuss.
Female’s representation in video games doesn’t always jive with me. Some female characters are too feminine or nice or “easy” – none of these represent me or singular female experience. I wish there was less over-sexualization of women in video games. I wish female characters weren’t known or addressed as “weaker” than their male counterparts. At the very least, publishers shouldn’t deliberately give female characters weaker stats as “part of the storyline”.
For example, in Final Fantasy X, the female characters had the lowest stats out of the other characters. It meant that I couldn’t go into battle without a stronger, albeit male, character.
If video games today are still profitable with a mainly male perspective, then why bother changing the formula, right? At least that’s what I think some game developers are thinking.
I believe video games are stories. As much as they are an entertainment medium, video games are stories first, like novels. We don’t question nor bat an eyelash for male or female protagonists in actual novels, why do we care more for video game characters? When did the rules change?
Because video games are an experience, you pick up the controller to move the character you become the character. But just like a character in a novel, they have their own story to tell. Your job as a gamer is to get the protagonist from level to level, section to section until they meet their untimely end or not. We can personify the main characters all we want, but they’re only a vehicle to tell us, the gamer, a story. World history and other real-life events inspire video games. Unfortunately, sexism is part of our history.
Video games are just another storytelling medium – like movies, novels, and television shows. But sometimes, I wonder, what would the gaming industry look like if there were more stories told in the female perspective.
Why do you play video games? Do you think there should be more female protagonists in video games?
Share your opinions with me below!