Gender in Games:Ryan McGuirk

The female protagonists are portrayed primarily through their sexual value in both twine games and women in AAA titles. In twine games the sexuality is not as obvious or pervasive as the depiction in games like Leisure Suit Larry or Cum Guzzlers. Twine depiction on women is layered and not so in your face sexually. Their value is really determined by how they look and what they can offer sexually to the male protagonist or cater to the fantasies of the target male game player audience. There is a lot go irony in this given that women make up a large part of the gaming community and the commodification of sex is just tailored towards men and not women. This theme ties into the fact that the depiction of male protagonists in games is nowhere near as sexist as the depiction of women.
In both twine and AAA titles men are depicted as the strong, brave, and valiant leader. The man is constantly pursuing his next conquest, land, power, and in some cases women. The sexualization of male characters is a lot more subtle than women in these titles, the male sexualization is considered a natural occurrence and something that is expected rather than manufactured. The expectation is that men are gonna have sex and women will be attracted to them because of what they are doing rather than how they look. The women in these games are solely a manufactured fantasy of the “ideal,” woman.
The game players and creators feel these themes of masculinity are normal occurrences in male life, rather than examining the hypocrisy of the matter. On both sides, games create men and women as fantasies, women in Dead or Alive Xtreme, are portrayed as having tiny waists, big breasts and perfectly shaped bottoms. Men in games such as Call of Duty or the Fallout series are depicted as being in tip top shape, large men who are skilled in hand to hand combat, this is contrary to actual reality. Servicemen, or other members of law enforcement in large part do not fit into these categories, many are average build 5’9-5’11 180-220 LBS. While yes they are fit and skilled at their jobs, they aren’t these big men or in fire fights everyday. A friend of mine who was serving overseas in the middle east said it took him until his second tour to be involved in an actual firefight. Furthermore this feeds into the fact that these games are fantasy and a manufactured reality.
Women are often used as a foil/vehicle for sexual tension with the male protagonist. In many cases their role isn’t specifically defined, but they are used as mechanisms of trust and sign of stability for the male characters. In games like Call of Duty, there are missions which basically are sleigh the dragon and rescue the princess from the castle. Women aren’t given agency in games and their agency in large part is bestowed to them by their male counterparts. The power is bestowed upon men because of their superiority and how the “hero,” complex is depicted solely through them. The only outlier with this notion is Lara Croft and Tomb-Raider, had to be mentioned for the sake of the argument.
The era of the 80s-90s is reflective through the Arcade and PC games because of their pop culture backdrop. During this time Arnold Schwarzenegger was staring in the Terminator series, Jean Claude Van Damme was starring in the kick boxer series, Steven Seagal was in Under Siege, and Sylvester Stallone was starring in the Rocky series as well as the Rambo series. Here are 4 figures who provided young men from ages 12-25 their idea of the ideal man, someone who wasn’t afraid to put himself in danger, kick butt and walk away with the beautiful woman at the end of the movie. The development of these games provided these men the ability to pay homage to their fantasy and heroes growing up. Since the focus was on the male protagonists the female protagonists were underdeveloped and in many cases were depicted as the women in these movies. They were the attractive, damsel in distress who after getting rescued has sex with and rides off into the sunset with the hero.
For women in games it has gotten worse since their role is primarily sexual and there aren’t heroines with agency for change. The role of women has also stayed constant, it is expected that they are sexual beings rather than change agents. In large part this is up for interpretation, from my perspective this idea of women as sexual beings has translated into society today with the entitlement and ownership that men feel over women. They are expected to be sexualized and this fuels the ongoing struggle with rape culture today, a game like cum guzzlers depicts women as nymphomaniacs and some men get angry when women do not adhere to that ideal. If women were depicted as powerful beings, the societal interpretation of them would be different. They would be seen as having value greater than their sexual attributes, societally this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Scientifically games have shown to be effective tools in teaching, they should be tools that teach respect and valuing women, not degrading them.
– Ryan McGuirk

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