Gender in Games

Of the Twine games suggested in class, the one that held all of my attention was The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo. In my intrigue towards the narrative, I spent the entire class period only playing this game in attempts to decode every ending possible. With many trials and a little assistance from the internet, I managed to make it to the end and unlock all of the standard endings and an additional easter egg ending. Within my gameplay, I found myself drawn to playing the character as female because of my own female identification and because I found that the storyline for the character under a female name was easier to navigate with emotional vulnerability to get the results I was looking for. I am unsure that ease of gameplay as a female character was correlated to being female myself or if the portrayal of emotional vulnerability just so happened to create faster results.

As part of the female narrative, commentary about the involvement of women in the gaming community is offered from the female friend/antagonist. Notes of being bullied for being interested in gaming were present as a trigger for the friend which eventually led her to make a pact with an entity that consumes people for power. Although gaming for women was presented as a taboo idea and the player had the option to agree or disagree with that statement, the idea was still interwoven in a way that made the notion clear to the player that this was a concept worth thinking about.

The character in The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo is an adolescent. Even though (female) children are sometimes present in AAA gaming, from what I have seen, female characters are often adults and come with tropes of falling in love with the main protagonist, being sexualized, being saved, or not being relevant. There is no denying that the gaming industry is masculine catered and the purpose of women characters in this sphere are to appeal to men. Within the arcade games of the 1980s and 1990s, game mechanics were very limited. In order to create narrative, women characters were used as motivators for men to encourage gameplay. Although characters like Lara Croft have been considered as token female characters that show strength, many of the characteristics and gameplay mechanics are masculine based. For Lara, the only difference is in her appearance of short-shorts, leg holsters, and a tank top obviously meant to accentuate her cleavage. In recent years, there has been an influx of female protagonists in games. However, in the spheres of game franchises like Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, and Uncharted show women as capable of men but also remove qualities associated with women like empathy instead of killing on whims. Characteristics like empathy often are exploited as weaknesses or the gameplay does not move forward.

Women have been been present in the gaming industry from the very beginning. However, this fact is often ignored in the overall industry, especially now that the majority of “gamers” are now women. Since women spend more time interacting with puzzle games on phone applications, the gaming community does not take them seriously as “gamers.” To be considered a “gamer,” the qualifying games in question are more likely to be combat and strategy based. Other games do not hold the same kind of weight and competitiveness in the industry. By having a history of masculinity, the gaming industry has barely begun to shift to female characters of substance. Characters like Elena Frazer and Nadine Ross in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy proved that it is possible for female characters to be equally strong and vulnerable. If the industry keeps moving in this direction, women representation will positively develop tenfold.

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