I’m not sure how many “get into the kitchen and make me a sandwich!” stories I’ve seen passed around the Internet, but the fact that any such stories exist at all is slightly worrying. Who taught boys to treat women like that? Where in school is it said that objectifying others is even close to okay? Then the realization sets in: all these stories that get passed around have one similar origin — video gaming, where boys dominate the playing field.
Except, you know, they don’t. While more males do play video games — only 45% of gamers are female — more women over the age of eighteen play than males younger than seventeen, the age group where most of the storied slurs and insults towards females come from.
Now why is it this way? Surely, the boys would know that there are more women playing than people of their own age group. Again, they don’t, this time because every single piece of advertising for video games, when trying to appeal to guys, does one of two things. It either objectifies women into nothing more than sex symbols, or it only talks about the manly men that need to play the game. A normal woman must not draw enough attention to make her a worthwhile and marketable game protagonist.
That must be why so few games have female leads, because girls just aren’t interesting enough. But when so many members of the gaming community identify as female, wouldn’t there be a market for a woman protagonist? There is a market, but most gaming companies focus more on appeasing the vocal male gamers rather than pander to the female consumers who buy and play these games as well. Even though it’s their money, they have to pay for games everyone else wants.
Why else would so many games lacking plot exist, with heroic male playable characters that have as much development as rocks, if not for the fact that the males with the hero complexes have the voices that developers hear? What a guy wants, a guy gets. This means skimpy outfits for the female characters that do exist and impossible muscle builds on their male protagonists. Worst of all, it gives birth to the mentality that only guys should be playing these games and the women should be in the kitchen.
The lack of meaningful female roles isn’t a new thing in the age of Call of Duty and online gaming. The Legend of Zelda has a woman in the title, but very few women in the actual media. The original Donkey Kong has Pauline, who exists for no reason other than to be saved. Even the Mario series has women who play the role of plot-demanded damsel-in-distress — and they are only playable in the games where even the little bad guys are character options! The game designers of this generation grew up playing these games, and it shows when they fail to include women who have actual character to them. Few exceptions to this exist, such as skimpily dressed girls who headline their own games aimed at men, like the trio of protagonists of Final Fantasy x-2, all of whom have customizable outfits that get more and more risqué as they change. When so many women play games, why aren’t there games with customizable outfits for their men that go beyond armor and long sleeves, that don’t showcase the unrealistic muscles?
The answer is simple: the designers don’t expect women to play their games, and therefore aim their games at the men they know will play. So they bring on the objectified women, where they include them. Last time I checked, this is the 21st century, and women have moved beyond the role of housewife. They’re allowed to do everything a man does, and if that means play and star in video games, then so be it. They just don’t need to drop down to the sleazy level of the girls in their games, yet to gain acceptance from the guys who “dominate” gaming, they do; their posing and pretending makes men think girls don’t really play games, and the sandwich insults fly whenever someone claims to be female.
Female gamers are not as much of a minority as people think, so why should they continue to be belittled? Just because they’re girls doesn’t mean they don’t know how to game, because at the core all games are strategic button presses and stick movements, and everyone can do that. A controller, screen, and the pixels on it can’t see gender, so why do guys act like they do?