Women have always tended to be unrecognized, unappreciated, and unaccepted in all types of media, with an exception, I would say, in movies and television. The world of video games is no exception to the truth. Women have been marginalized in all types of media, and I have especially seen this in the world of video games. Although I have seen a rise in gamers who are women, I have not seen a leap in women as dominant figures in the video games themselves. Video games, for the most part, have been a male dominated label and hobby. Why is this so? To broaden a wider range of audience, newer games should begin to incorporate dominant female leads in their games. Not only will that bring a fresh point of view in the gaming experience, but it will also challenge the stereotype that video games are solely for men.
There have been a few strides within the last couple years incorporating female leads in games, but I have found them to still fail at the prospect. For example, in Halo Reach, Kat-B320, second-in-command of Noble Team, played an important role in the story line. Although the player assumes the role as the newest addition of Noble Team, Noble Six, Kat has specific character traits and abilities that drive the story forward. Unfortunately, where Halo Reach fails to push the boundary between male and female leads in video games is when Bungie kills off Kat halfway through the story. Also, not to mention Kat’s physical appearance is clouded behind the Spartan armor. From a distance, you could not tell whether Kat is a male of female. For a moment, we saw such a successful franchise such as the Halo series attempt to bring female dominancy to the screen, but still was overshadowed by her male companions.
Probably one of the biggest issues I have seen with the portrayal of women in video games is how they are physically portrayed. As mentioned earlier, Kat’s appearance from Halo Reach is very manly because of the armor that she wears. Now let’s take a look at the other side of the spectrum. In Dead or Alive 5 we see skinny, young women with huge breasts and with any less clothing, they would become more than just eye-candy for men. If you have seen the most recent videos about Far Cry 3, you immediately notice the half-naked woman giving you a lap dance while your character reaches and coughs a feel. Where can we find a balance? When can we expect to see a female in a dominant role in video games where she isn’t overshadowed by male companions in a male driven story or practically flashing everyone and their mother who are solely there for getting men off?
This leads us to the new Tomb Raider game. Traditionally, Lara Croft has been portrayed as a very sexy woman with skimpy short shorts, and massive breasts. In the new Tomb Raider game, we see a younger Lara Croft wearing pants, and lacks the mountainous boobs that dons the traditional Lara. Finally, we see a balance between too sexy and too manly.
But again failure is right around the corner. If you’ve seen the “Crossroads Trailer” from E3, then you know what I’m talking about. Right after that video was shown, I could only have imagined the faces on the viewers because of the so-called “rape” scene that was shown. Executive Producer, Ron Rosenberg said in an interview that “Lara Croft will suffer. Her best friend will be kidnapped. She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers, and those scavengers will try to rape her.” Rape is a serious issue, and in an attempt to try to fix the representation of the video, Darrell Gallagher, Crystal Dynamic’s Studio Head said,
“One of the character defining moments for Lara in the game, which has incorrectly been referred to as an ‘attempted rape’ scene, is the content we showed at this year’s E3 and which over a million people have now seen in our recent trailer entitled ‘Crossroads’. This is where Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time.”
“In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game.”
Crystal Dynamics has said that sexual violence is not a theme covered in the game. However, whether the scene is or is not a rape scene, there is slight sexual undertones to it, and to an extent, viewers can see this as an attempted sexual assault. On top of all this, whenever Laura Croft gets hurt in the game, her pains sound more like sexual moans than anything else. It’s just another way to sexualize and marginalize women in video games.
Will there ever be a moment when females will be portrayed fairly in video games? One can be hopeful. I personally would love to see more female dominant roles in video games such as Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed (however, we are getting a taste of that in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for the PS Vita), and Call of Duty. There is an ever-growing fan base from women in the video game world, and I know it would be a fresh take and point of view if more females took leading dominant roles in video games.