Gender in Video Games

Indie games and AAA games have many differences such as production costs, audience, and many more. They even differ in how they typically portray the different genders. Masculinity in AAA titles, for instance, tends to have an “in your face” approach where the protagonist tends to exert all forms of physical and emotional manliness. In AAA titles the men tend to be the strongest man in the world in all aspects. For example, Snake from Metal Gear Solidwhose big, strong, ripped, and has the overused gruff “manly” voice. In more indie titles, the creators are not as hesitant in going against traditional masculine values. For example, Unmanned, in which the main character who, although admittedly has the traditional masculine physique, battles with his own emotions and struggles with PTSD. In this game, the producers take a break from the idea that men must always be strong both mentally and physically and bring awareness to the fact that men are humans and have emotions. Women and femininity are also portrayed differently in AAA titles and indie titles.

In AAA titles women typically have their place as the “damsel in distress.” This can be seen early on in video games, like Super Mario Bros. where Mario, an Italian plumber, has to fight a big, masculine, turtle-dragon hybrid to save a princess and get her love. When women aren’t a “damsel in distress” in AAA games they are either hypersexualized or given typically masculine traits. A perfect example of this is Lara Croft from tomb raider who has all the traits of the classic male video game character but is instead a woman, this part of her character is highly emphasized through her exaggerated chest. In indie titles, production teams do not need to follow these typical qualities of women that AAA audiences expect, rather they can make their characters how they see fit. In The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo, for example, it’s hard to even tell the character is a girl until you reach dialogue where she feels weird about liking video games, which is usually viewed as something for boys. Some indie games make female characters actual people rather than a “damsel in distress” or a typical male character with a female skin.

Things are getting better for women in games. A good example is the Life is Strange where Maxine Caulfield, a female high school student, finds that she has powers to rewind time. Maxine’s character is believable as a female. Not that she is weak or feeble in anyway, the opposite in fact, rather she has characteristics and mannerisms often associated with female characters. This is not the only game that is showing progress for women. Going back to Lara Croft example, in more recent games, her exaggerated body has been altered into something more realistic. Lara Croft now is portrayed as a strong woman who does not have to be hypersexualized to be appreciated and respected by the player. One final example of women’s role in video games improving is in Grand Theft Auto Online. In Grand Theft Auto Online, the player can create a female character who is not hypersexualized and not constrained to typical masculine traits. Although the women characters still commit the millions of crimes that can be committed in Grand Theft Auto Online, crimes in which are often associated with men, there is no form of stress on the character’s gender. Although there are some improvements, the video game industry still has a long way to go in order to create good female characters who are both strong, but not given typical male traits.

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