Sexism In Video Games
Updated April 2005
I happen to be a female gamer. Aside from the fact that I find sexism in video games insulting, demeaning and unethical, I also find it stupid and immature.
I obviously don't have a problem with blood and guts in video games, since I enjoy survival horror games. In these games, though, one is blowing the heads of fictional beings, such as zombies and not fellow human beings (well, not usually).
I do have a problem with sexism in video games.
Tasteful Sexuality of Both Genders in Video Games is Okay - Sexism and Rape are Not
I should preface my following remarks by saying that I don't have a problem with game makers designing their characters (whether male or female) to be sexy or to look sexy. I'm all for sexiness if it's done with class, style, taste and is not done in a way to objectify a class of people.
Sexism and Rape Exists in Video Games
(and yes, rape does exist in Grand Theft Auto)
Perhaps the most objectionable form of sexism is the incredibly overt sexism present in some games, such as in the game that allows players to rape a woman (the game in question is Grand Theft Auto).
Some male visitors to this site have written me, insisting that no rape takes place in GTA (Grand Theft Auto).
They swear that while playing as a male character in Grand Theft Auto, one cannot "rape" a female. One will sometimes see players on gaming discussion board forums also denying that any rape takes place in the game.
Rape does in fact does take place, or is made possible, by the game makers in GTA. If one has sex with a prostitute in the game, one can then beat the prostitute up (some reports say that one can murder the prostitute) and take one's money back, and this, my friends, constitutes rape.
If you don't understand that, you have to be a 20 year old college frat guy who thinks it is morally acceptable to have sex with (that is, to rape) a woman who passes out at your frat house party.
"But she was drinking, so it was okay that I didn't have her consent, it wasn't rape! And, um, besides, women who drink are slutty, so what's the harm anyway?," is the line of perverted, twisted thinking and whiny rationalizations one usually finds from such scum-sucking maggots.
While the sex may at first be a consensual business transaction in GTA, when one beats the prostitute up and takes back the money one gave her for that service beforehand, this is in fact rape.
If you eat a meal at a restaurant, pay your dinner bill, but then walk up to the cashier, point a gun at him, and get him to hand you back your money, it is still robbery. The fact that you initially paid for the dinner and that the whole thing was consensual does not change the fact that you later stole from the place. You are a robber. A thief.
Rape in fact does take place in the Grand Theft Auto game, since players are allowed to steal the prostitute's fee, and they are permitted to, and enabled to, beat her up to get the money back. From an online gaming advice page, sponsored by Games+++; emphasis added by me in bold face type:
This trick works best in the Red Light District. Get any car, except for a police car, FBI car, Ambulance, Fire Truck or Taxi, and pull alongside the sidewalk next to a girl wearing a Brown or Pink outfit. She will walk over to the car and begin bending over, like she's talking to you. A few seconds later she will get in the car.
Drive to a secluded area (or your hideout) and stop the car. Be quick about it, because your money will drain for the amount of time she's in the car. Once the car is stopped, it will begin rocking. It'll rock slow, then it'll get faster. Your health is replenishing, but your money is depleting.
Using the prostitute, you can get your health up to a maximum of 125.
When you reach the maximum health, she'll get out of the car.
Now, if your feeling particularly cold-blooded, you can get out of the car, chase after the prostitute, beat her, and take your money back.
From an article in The Washington Post about GTA3:
"It's awesome," said James Parker, 27, a Washington computer network administrator. "You can carjack any car, go to the seedy part of town, beep the horn and pick up a prostitute. Then you take her to a dark street and the car starts shaking. When the prostitute jumps out, your money is down but your energy is full."
Players can get their money back by killing the woman.
Both print and online media have reported that rape does take place in the game:
In "Grand Theft Auto," players can commit cold-blooded murder on a mass scale with a variety of weapons and guns, beat up and rape prostitutes, and commit other despicable acts. [Source: CNET]
I am incredulous and amazed that males who play GTA do not realize that prostitution in and of itself is sexist, and that to merely include it in a game, and to furthermore allow a player to increase his health meter by having sex with a prostitute in the game, is also sexist. (See my observations above about frat boys and date-rape pond scum.)
In other words, even if there were no rape in GTA, the prostitution aspect is still sexist.
Grand Theft Auto (Vice City version) apparently incorporates other aspects of sexism into the game play itself:
"Vice City" allows Vercetti to enter buildings and even buy them if he should choose to. While most of the interiors are just eye candy, owning buildings like strip clubs, biker bars and adult movie studios is essential to establishing Vercetti as a crime boss. [Source: Scene]
Yes, sadly, owning a strip club and a pornography film store is some kind of a "goal" in this game. I understand that the character one is playing is in the mafia, and that real life mafia members participate in these things, but, it makes it no less disgusting to have a player do these things vicariously in a pixelated, virtual world.
Unfortunately, GTA started a trend.
Missing The Point Entirely
There's yet another game (a skate boarding one, if I'm not mistaken) that allows its players to unlock videos of female strippers. I believe one of the "Parasite Eve" games contained some sort of 'female in the shower' sequence, where the main character, a blonde woman, can be seen showing off some skin.
Some male readers have e-mailed me to quibble over this part, to point out that the woman in the shower sequence in Parasite Eve is not shown completely nude.
What these males are overlooking - incredibly - is that it is totally irrelevant how much skin is shown. It is the fact that a woman is being shown in a sexual manner at all - and that it is gratuitous sexuality, which is a large clue that it is sexist - that is the point of contention here.
Lesser Forms of Sexism are Present in Games Also
The Idiotic "Booby Shot" Phenemonen
On a lesser level, I also find myself subjected to nudity or "body part shots." Let's take "Blood Rayne" as one example. I happen to like this game, and it's one of my favorites.
However, the makers and developers of this product not only have close-ups of Rayne's rear end, but we're also subjected to a few closeups - or some kind of emphasis - upon her chest and that of another female character in the game.
Further, there is supposedly a code to type in on the "cheats" section that makes the female characters' breasts jiggle more than they already do (and don't bother e mailing me asking me for this code because I will not send it to anyone).
Then we have examples such as this one - from The Washington Post:
The ESRB [ratings group] gave a T (teen) rating, the equivalent of a movie rating of PG-13, to Hypnotix's game that allows players to choose among strippers, bikers and ex-cons for a round of "Outlaw Golf." Once on the green, if a shot is botched, players can beat up their caddies, bringing their score back to par. If a player is partnered with a female caddie, he can grab her breasts and yank her nipples while saying "tune in, Tokyo."
According to the reports I've read over the last year or two, the average age of gamers has gone up -- it's now somewhere in the late twenties or early thirties.
Take that into account with the fact that many of the games that have sexism in them are rated 'M' for mature (meaning nobody under 17 should be viewing them), and you're left wondering who exactly the game developers are trying to appeal to with this sexism?
As we all know, by the time they reach their late 20s, most men have grown out of their immature, adolescent-like fascination and obsession with breasts -- or they've at least learned not to behave like a boor in front of other people, and by young adulthood, they should have already mastered the practice of keeping any lewd thoughts and jokes that may cross their minds to themselves.
Therefore, I cannot buy the argument that the game makers inject sexism (in the form of breast close-ups and so forth) into their merchandise because they're trying to appeal to teen-aged boys.
A word to the video game production companies: close-up shots of Blood Rayne's boobs adds nothing to the game play, guys. And keep in mind that you are offending a segment of your customer base by including sexist material in your product.
Not a Good Idea to Insult Your Customer
I really do not want to spend $40 - $50 on a prodcut that tells me that I'm a brainless piece of trash and that any value I may have as a human being is to be based upon my sexuality. (Nor do I think companies should be profiting from such material and foisting it upon other adults.)
The Double Standard - or Inconsistencies
The same companies that don't think twice about putting out sexist material in their games would not even consider including shots (i.e., cut scenes) of whites killing blacks (especially if the white person is hurling racial epithets right beforehand, i.e., if it's a racially motivated murder; unless, perhaps, the overall message of the game itself is that racism is wrong) nor would these companies incorporate scenes of anyone killing Jews (again, unless the overall message of the game is to condemn anti-Semitic attitudes).
Yet, oddly, they have no problems demeaning an entire group of people based on gender.
At the very least, I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes during game play because of the juvenile, idiotic attempts to appeal to an imaginary 15 year old male demographic by way of "boobie" or "butt" shots.
Using the Blood Rayne game as an example again (though it's not the only game to suffer these problems, so I don't mean to single it out): it's hard for me to take a game's story (or its female protagonist) seriously when that lead female character is made out to be a one-dimensional "floozy" and bimbo in some scenes.
Not a False Dichotomy
Tough Smart Heroine or Vapid Plaything?
The game makers in Blood Rayne's case no doubt want their gaming audience to view Rayne as an intelligent, competent, bad-ass, tough- as- nails secret agent. Well, how exactly am I supposed to keep that illusion going when in another scene, there's a close-up of her chest jiggling all about?
These "jiggly" effects and scenes are the equivalent of the game designer yelling in my ear as I play the game, "That's right, in this part, Rayne is a giggly, jiggly airheaded Playboy Bunny! Forget all the previous scenes where she seemed to be smart and able to knock down men twice her size!"
Rewarded with Sexist Material
Then we have players being "rewarded" in some games for scoring a certain amount of points, or for beating the game, with being able to view female game characters in bathing suits or "sexy lingerie."
To see Cynthia in some sexy lingerie, you must complete the game four times. [Source: gamewinners.com]
I think I recall seeing a screen shot of the sisters from Fatal Frame 2 walking about in bikinis. I am assuming that these alternate "costumes" are unlocked once the player beats the game or reaches some other goal. What other purpose do any such "rewards" serve but to cater to sexual fantasies of male players?
To all the video game makers out there: it's time to re-think the "T & A" strategy.
...there still is the perception that video games are for teenage boys, and I'm going to blame this on the advertising for video games which seems to have a sixth grade mentality and makes non-gamers think that's the way we are. There's no excuse for selling a racing game with boob shots (I'm talking about Ridge Racer 4 here). At E3, despite the fact that half those in attendence were women, game companies hired scantily clad women to lure men to their booths. Next year I want to see some man booty.
Another take on the subject:
Prof. Edward Castranova, who did a study on this subject, says it is generally females of the much prettier races that are played. "There are very few female ogres and trolls," he says.
Castranova, by studying the prices people will pay for different avatars on such sites as PlayerAuctions.com, he has concluded that players spend more money on male avatars. Since it makes no difference which gender you play, he sees it as sexist that male avatars are more expensive than female ones of the same level.
As studies continue, you may expect more about sexism in video games in the future.