Wednesday, July 2, 2008

games and gender by diane carr

Games and Gender by Diane Carr

Throughout this article Diane touches on gender in video games through its representation, players and player culture, and aspects of the games industry. She starts by talking about gender and how it is represented in games. First she introduces some statistics on female gamers. In the UK the average age of women who game is between 30-35 years old. She points out that many theorists believe that women are turned off from video games because of the “look” of female avatars. Female bodies in video games are greatly exaggerated, and while males are exaggerated too they are not solely view for sexual interest.

She goes into how the whole industry of video games is male by default. Some games such as The Thing and Abe’s Oddysee where all the characters in the game are male. But she also urges us to remember that although representational factors are important they aren’t the only factor dealing with gender and video games, as we all know a player controls the avatar.
In the section on how the rules of the game are just as important as the representation Carr brings up the example of Baldur’s Gate where the characters, whether male or female, have the same characteristics. But then in the Sims the gender of the characters determine how the act etc. She argues for these and other reasons mentioned that the manner in which gender is inscribed in the game at a representational level might be over-ruled by the player. She also mentions then creation of “Jen” the main character in the game Primal. When the company attempted to export the game to Japan, the Japanese claimed that Jen wasn’t attractive enough and wanted a change.

From that she starts to talk about the culture of the gaming industry and how it is male heavy. The games are made by males and marketed for males, in fact she shows a stat where 90% of the makers of Anarchy Online where men. The majority of women working in the video game industry are those “booth babes” who take pictures with eager boys.

Next she goes into the “pink games” or attempts to make games for girls and the “grrl gamer” which relates back to From Barbie to Mortal Kombat. She also briefly talks about how sometimes gaming magazines try to lure girls in by having special girl issues, but most the time they are just filled with things guys want to see.

She ends by saying that with games becoming mainstream media the line between male and female players my become forgotten or at least reworked. Also she realizes that just by having female avatars doesn’t mean more females will start to play games because there are so many other factors dealing with gender in games.


Adrian said...

I very much enjoyed this article, probably because in various classes in various departments, I think I've read nearly every article she was citing.

The solution, touched on lightly by Carr, often does come from a more diverse set of creators. When there are more people making games, there will be more people interested in making games with more diverse representations of its characters.

Eric M said...

The role of gender just seems like a vicious circle. Men have been in the positions of creators in games forever it seems and they put the content in games that would appeal to them, therefore making games that have appeal to the male audience, but little appeal to the female audience. The male gamers buy the game, the game is successful, and the male creators create another game to start the circle again. Adrian brings up the point that women need to have the role in the creation of games as well because they know what other women look for in games. Only then will the industry get away from its failed attempts to appeal to women gamers (Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball, etc.) However, this is much easier than it sounds. Sadly, I don't see this changing much in the future and I think the industry will continue to be dominated by males.

Marlon Heimerl said...

In the wake of the issues raised within this article, I find the most interesting part to pertain to physical representations in video games and what they say about the game makers and society's views about the ideal man/woman. Men are strong and large, while women are slender, busty, curvaceous and scandalous in their attire. Will, perhaps, the games of the future offer so much in terms of interactivity and specialization that gamers will be able to purchase fat stomachs as well as six-packs? They already have in certain games, where fatness is generally equated with strength (the Sumo wrestler in Street Fighter or any token fat guy in numerous fighting games). Will this, perhaps, change in the future where possibly these character's embody more realistic Avatar's, who's strengths more realistically represent their physical attributes by the game makers account of ideal this or that? I think that one day, perhaps, this will be the case, we are, however, still a long way away, as a predominantly male market will most certainly demand characters crafted for male eyes.

Sarah. R. said...

The solution, touched on lightly by Carr, often does come from a more diverse set of creators. When there are more people making games, there will be more people interested in making games with more diverse representations of its characters.

I agree, but doesn't that solution show just how endemic and entrenched these issues are? The whole issue of underrepresented persons in technology, in general, has been at play for YEARS. Just a few years ago, in fact, in my (highly technical) job, I was asked by a faculty member at a university if I was the one who "processed the paperwork." What the hell, you know what I mean?

Jon72585 said...

The one quote that I keep thinking about from this article has to do with the way that while the unrealistic proportions of both male and female characters in games can be look at as sexual indicators (huge biceps, large chests, scant clothing), the physical attributes of the male characters can also be seen as signs of physical strength, while the proportions for the female's can not.

This isn't surprising to me at all, although it is an aspect of avatar physiques that I did not think of. Looking at a character like (and I hate to use her cause she's the classic example) Lora Croft, there isn't a lot to her except her chest. The arms are pretty skinny and don't show much muscle. At the same time I was happy that Carr pointed out that not just female characters are made into these absurd body types.

Jasun said...

During this article I kept thinking of various games and media which question the gender assumptions many of us bring to all our activities. Samus from the Metroid series (for those too young to remember, it was actually a big deal when the suit came off and she was revealed) came to mind immediately, as did the video for Prodigy's "Smack my bitch up" (only shown on MTV once, but still floating around the internet:, shot from a first person perspective until the very end when, "gasp", it was a woman!

And I think it's worth keeping in mind that videogames are still evolving quite rapidly and that (hopefully) the gendered assumptions outlined in this article will fade quickly.

Anonymous said...

While the video game industry may be predominantly male, it is hard to totally discredit any female character. For example, in the game Final Fantasy X their are woman with roles comparable to any males. Though their avatars may not be characterized as ugly, they were not made out to be overly sexualized. And the male characters are made out the same way. In general the characters have an average sort of feel that any can relate to in at least a minimal way. But as for the article Carr definitely makes some good arguments and that hopefully at some point some sort of middle ground can be reached