April 20, 2012

Shedding light on women in video games

For a while I was thinking of doing a series of let's plays for video games to shed some light on games who have good representation of women, but I'm finding that most video games do NOT.  Not even the ones I love.

So instead, I'm planning on reviewing the gender equality in video games I played and play.  There are not a lot of games that get it awesome enough that I want to encourage people to look to it as a great example.  With the research I've done (not a lot but from good sources) I have come with a few tests to see what can be revealed about the gender equality in a video game title or series.

Gender Ratio:  What is the representation of males to females?  Is there a story or technical reason why it may shift one way or the other?  Or is it just poor planning?  This will be rated on the ratio found for the main characters--characters that are absolutely necessary for the gameplay and story.  Having an even balance of background characters will not make up for having only one female lead in the story.  There will be a nod if gender identity is discussed in an intellectual way.

Sexualization Ratio: How many men are overtly sexualized versus women?  This is comparing the representation of a person's sexual identity compared to how much one could expect to see on the street.  How a character is dressed (or more importantly isn't dressed) is not the soul factor of this ratio.  It's how it's portrayed, is that sexuality something inherent to understanding the character in the context of the game?  Is their heightened focus on their attractiveness or prowess in the bedroom?

Gender-Assumptive Dialogue:  How many times do you hear something akin to "She's tough enough to fight with the men." or "He's extremely sensitive, I expect him to have PMS with the ladies."?  Anything that assumes a personality or physical trait that is not sex but gender oriented is marked down.  This is marked by number of times I've noted it during my play.  Again, sex is a scientific classification, gender is a social construct.  Sex is the fact a woman has a uterus, gender is the idea that only women wear dresses.

The Bechdel Test:  How many times can you find two women talking to each other about a something other than a man?  It has to be dialogue that last at least 30 seconds or longer of talking time.  I like to thank Feminist Frequency for enlightening me for this test.

For all of these test, I'm going to account for at least 5 hours of gameplay.  within 5 hours of gameplay of any part of a game you should be able to get a good idea of what the dynamic will be for these characters.  I'll be honest with where I started and stopped, and I won't begin right at the first cut-scene.  I'll start after the tutorial (which tends to be the clumsiest part of most games).

After these four factors, I'll do a qualitative analysis of the overall experience.  No number will truly give a good idea of how gender-equal a game is, but they will help give an honest impression to do the overall analysis.

I'm going to start with a good amount of games I play and know, but then I'm going to branch out to other stuff.  There are some games I'm really interested to see how they play out (like the Half-Life series that I haven't played yet because I'm a horrible nerd) and this will also be an awesome way to replay some games I love.  I'll also need help with multiplayer games I have, so please feel free to message me on Steam or Origin (d20sapphire) and help me conduct my research.

Please leave some suggestions as to what games I should play!

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