In case the title doesn't give it away, this video by Anita Sarkeesian, founder of the YouTube channel Feminist Frequency, explores the trend that sexualizes women in video games, from playable characters to side non-playable characters like any female character in the Grand Theft Auto series.
Sarkeesian talks about how women are not only dressed in completely impractical clothing, armour, or in the case of Halo’s Cortana AI — nothing at all. Even from the very beginning of the video, we see that it's not just impractical clothing that is the problem, but also that women are seen as either shallow enough to only care about clothing, are image-obsessed or simply narcissistic.
This kind of writing and character design sexualizes women based on what the game makers assume the player wants. The assumption is that they are the same — cisgender heterosexual males — despite the fact that a growing number of video game players are women. According to the website Statista around 41% of players in the US are women, and in 2014, The Guardian reported that 52% of gamers in the UK were women. While this fact is something mentioned by Sarkeesian, a little more exploration is needed of the truth that none of these games even consider the segment of their audience who are not cisgender heterosexual males.
Our generation spends more time playing video games than ever before. The Entertainment Software Association reports that in the US, 41% of gamers play for more than three hours a week. Our generation aren't reading books, watching television shows or even watching educational videos on YouTube, they're playing video games and learning from video games. Video games may be fantasy and fiction, but that fiction is influencing our generation. We need to be teaching something better than "women are hot" and "women are property."
Even if the fantasy/fiction argument held any sway, video game companies are only ever pandering to 50% of their audience, and that doesn't take into account the percentage of those men who are LGBT identified. What about our fantasies and fictional worlds? Who is writing for us?
Something needs to change, that much is clear, but while the big game developers are still churning out games like GTA, Bayonetta, and The Witcher, and those games continue to sell, we're stuck in a bit of a rut.
Watch the video and add your thoughts in the comments below.