Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Pacman. These names are recognizable to many people. That’s because they are iconic video game characters. Even if you don’t game, you are likely to see them appear on TV, social media, or even on the small screen of someone you know who plays the game. In essence, video games are part of pop culture even when they aren’t in video game format! Since gaming has such a large audience, one would assume that they are designed to suit their general audience, right? Ha.
Although video games seem to have a better variation in comparison to other entertainment formats (i.e. movies, comics, etc.), there are still exceptions. Mario may be Italien. Sonic may be a hedgehog. But how many iconic video game characters are gay or bisexual? The LGBTQ community is rarely featured in video game characters. Manveer Heir, a gameplay designer, pointed out this flaw in a talk about the video game industry: [It’s] ‘very cynical’ to assume the audience isn’t capable of embracing a gay hero or heroine, or ‘more exclusive women protagonists in games that aren’t glorified sex objects and actually have personalities beyond supporting the men in the game'” (Purchese).
I find this observation very true. Many female video game characters in action games are depicted as strong, independent women but are also portrayed in revealing clothing used to stir the hearts of male gamers. It is worse for female side characters, because often times, they play the role of the damsel in distress. I cringe every time I hear the voice over of a woman crying “Save me!” Women do not need to have any sexual qualities in order to be in a video game stereotyped to be played by men.
In fact, in 2014, The Daily Dot published a piece shockingly revealing that adult women were the largest demographic in the gaming industry (Romano). This new trend really surprised me, because as everyone else most likely did, I assumed teenage males would be the largest group.
It also reminded me of when I was a child; I played a lot of video games back in the day. It was mainly because of my father, who was (and still is) obsessed with gaming. As I was an only child, I would play with my cousins who were my age. Almost all of them are male, so it comes to no surprise that we played “boy” video games. At first, I wasn’t interested but I warmed up to it. However, I was aware of video games being a “boy” thing, so I never talked about it in school. My father and cousin would often visit Game Stop with me to browse new games. On one of those days, I bumped into a male classmate. I was so afraid of how he would judge me, I pretended not to see him and bluffed that it wasn’t me when he confronted me the next day at school.
There are many video games designed to segregate groups, such as “girly” games, games for boys, games for “nerds,” etc. Fortunately, diversity has increased in lots of video games. Not only are we seeing more diversity, but we are also playing games made with better intentions. As discussed in class, there are now games that tackle social issues. Seeing how gaming has evolved within a decade, I imagine the future of video games will continue to spread positivity in society.
Purchese, Robert. “Misogyny, Racism and Homophobia: Where Do Video Games Stand?” Eurogamer.net. Eurogamer, 21 Mar. 2014. Web. 04 Nov. 2016. <http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-03-21-misogyny-racism-and-homophobia-where-do-video-games-stand>.
Romano, Aja. “Adult Women Are Now the Largest Demographic in Gaming.” The Daily Dot. The Daily Dot, 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Nov. 2016. <http://www.dailydot.com/parsec/adult-women-largest-gaming-demographic/?fb=ss&prtnr=nerdist>.