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Sexism in the Games Industry

June 16, 2012

When it comes to sexism, people generally have fairly strong reactions. In the context of video games, a predominantly male industry, women are becoming more active in their roles, but the extent to which women aim to influence the industry is undefined. The example below sets the tone for today’s column:

Earlier this month (June 5, 2012), PC giant ASUS generated a Tweet storm when it posted a picture on Twitter of the backside of a woman, popularly perceived by gamers as a “booth babe,” showing off one of ASUS’s products at Computex Taipei. The image itself emphasized the woman’s looks drawing attention to the booth versus the characteristics of the product. ASUS soon pulled the tweet. You can read Yahoo’s coverage of the matter here.

If companies themselves weren’t being called out for sexist actions, then sexism would not be a problem in video games & hardware.

In this industry, women are seen in areas in which they provide some sort of entertainment or addition to entertainment. Go to a trade show like E3, Computex (PC hardware, but the same principle), and even the PAX shows, and what do you see? Attractive, sometimes scantily or elegantly dressed women clearly hired on to draw in audiences. Or take IGN.com or G4, which use attractive women for popular video segments “Daily Fix,” ‘Weekly Wood,” (film/TV news), and X-Play. Are there positives for hotties existing in the industry? One could argue so. The possibility of women in the industry creates an opportunity for models to find a work. Developers and publishers draw more traffic to their booths to show off a game people may previously be unaware of. Maybe it’s a relief for some gamers to take their eyes off the whole sausagefest that continues to pack dudes by the thousands in convention centers. Challenging social convention with women is an underlying positive in gaming and, with the direction of gaming extending to reach casual audiences, female audiences now have games they can enjoy for hours at a time.

But at this point, I, a male with some sensitivity for gender and other demographic stereotypes, challenge the industry and the fans by asking this: How seriously can we take female involvement? When you ask a communications class at a university how the students wish to fulfill their professional lives, you’ll hear back from a few women who voice they want to work in sports media or marketing — proof that some women want to have a part in a predominantly male field (for professional sports). Today, we see several examples of prominent female icons in sports media: Rachel Nicholls, Michelle Tafoya, Wendy Nicks, etc. But when you ask the same question to the comm class, how many women say they want to work in the video games industry? None.

To my belief, sexism is a boundary our nation needs to erase because it clearly affects how genders perceive each other. Not all gamers want booth babes at the shows, and not all women should be treated like eye candy — even at video game events; some of these ladies can talk your ear off about games more than I can! However, when you look at the modeling/entertainment side of games, you can argue that women help to continue the stereotype themselves by associating their looks with the quality of a video game. Not that it’s not hot; it’s just irrelevant.

Video games themselves couldn’t draw the gender boundary line any clearer. Just look at Lollipop Chainsaw, the Dead or Alive franchise, Duke Nukem, Grand Theft Auto, etc. Radical depictions of women in games clearly isn’t going anywhere, so why do we need to continue that stereotype in real life?

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