February 22, 2012

One of the reason nerdom can be male dominated.

Once again I have a thing I found on the internet that got me thinking.  This time it was a video discussing the horrible choices Lego has made in marketing with their new line of Lego Friends for girls.  There are two videos, but the first one is the one that I want to post here for you all to watch.

Here is a link to part 2, and both the videos are rather fantastic at analyzing how Lego, through their own choices, alienated young girls from their market only to try to bribe them back with weak offshoots.

This got me thinking about a lot of my hobbies and choices, and how a lot of the problem is how the producers of game, whether table top games or video games, or even a good amount of fantasy and sci-fi, assume that women are just not interested in the genre.

Now when it comes to the stuff on television, it's a 50/50 chance that your going to have something that doesn't address societal gender roles in a semi-thoughtful way.  For every great character that is a strong lead regardless of gender  there is one that obviously advertised as a hypersexualized fantasy for the "male audience" to gawk at and drool.  I use quotes because again, it's generalizations taken to an extreme in the hopes of making more money. Luckily shows like Buffy, Fringe, and Star Trek exist to help break those stereotypes that media first thought necessary for ratings.

Video games are entirely different story on that front.  Part of it may be that the medium is younger, but you would think that all the progress that has been made for television series to stop writing women in a specific corner, video games would be able to use that progress to their advantage.  Instead for over 50% of whats out there to play you have two reasons for women to be in a video game:  To be hot enough to look at or two be saved.  And why is that?  Because video games are part of a boys club that their a lot more blatant about than many other mediums and markets.

You have games totally devoid of women,  games that only have women in background as stereotypical supporting roles, or games that hypersexualize a female lead in hopes of enticing their target audience.  Some game series try to rectify the situation, but most don't and the ones that try rarely ever scratch the surface.  I feel a lot of this is done under the assumption that men wouldn't want to play a game where a woman is just as capable as he is, as if a woman who is strong or smart or has choices is a threat.  

Yes, for some men this is a threat, but that doesn't make it right to validate this idea to your market.  It's irresponsible for producers of any medium to perpetuate ideas that hinder or undermine anyone in society. That's what this representation of women in video games does: undermine the equality of women in our daily world.

I'm not saying this to totally rag on video games.  You know I play them, you can even friend me on Steam if you want to help me shoot zombies someday.  But I think there are a lot of things we have to think about when we support a game.  The gameplay may be good and the multiplayer may be bangin', but does it support ideas you're uncomfortable with?  Then don't play it.  There are plenty of other games out there that can suit your needs.  

And we have to do this for any hobby that we participate in. Not comfortable with the portrayal of women in the artwork of an RPG book?  You can probably find a game with what you like that's less offensive, possibly even for free.  Sci-fi series makes you cringe at it's representation of minorities?  There are so many more for you to watch, past and present.  If you want to see women, or anyone for that matter, better represented in your hobbies and interests, you have to work to make sure they get the support they need.  Just because people before decided things worked best a certain way doesn't mean they were right and doesn't mean we can't change it.

I just randomly thought about doing a let's play of games with great female leads or female characters that are not just caricatures and stereotypes.  Use that let's play to then fund a woman's group.  Like a lot of my ideas, it may just go to the wayside, but it definitely is something I wish to consider.  Now that I have whole days off of work on a consistent schedule, I would love to contribute to the greater good of video games (and nerdom) in the future.