At GDC 2013 David Gaider, a lead writer/designer for Bioware, spoke on Sexism and Sexuality in Games. The video clocks in at around 40 minutes but is full of a tremendous amount of insightful questions, insights – and even challenges the listeners in many ways. He talks some about the history of women in games, of the “typical” game players, how the industry is changing, and how we (as players) can change the industry.
One of the quotes I liked the most was “How do we invite women to gaming? How about we at least start with ‘How do we at least not offend them?'” David challenges us as those who participate in the games industry to think about things differently. As a developer he takes responsibility for his role in the industry that has created much of who we are as gamers today. The answer isn’t to create games specifically for women, which is about as offensive as making games specifically for gays, transgender, or minorities. Create games and look to tell the best stories possible.
It is my, your, our responsibility to begin thinking about these gender issues more seriously than we have in the past.
If you haven’t checked out Anita Sarkeesian and her Feminist Frequency initiative examining female tropes in video games – check it out! It can be heavy handed at times and it takes a little objectivity to be able to watch and not instantly get triggered by some of what she says. It helps me to know that, while a gamer, Anita is not someone who grew up doing lots of gaming. That the images she (and other non-gamers) experience in games may look far worse than they actually are to more dedicated gamers. Sadly, many of the things that we have come to accept as “game mechanics” or “story telling devices” are probably barely noticed by gamers. So while it is unfortunate that many gamers aren’t as triggered by these scenes as they should be, it also doesn’t mean that they are instantly interanlizing all the language and imagery as something that is right.
David makes another great point that should be considered. If games want to be considered “art” – we as consumers need to demand more seriousness from the industry and our fellow game players. We can make demands of our fine art, movies, books and television.
Why not expect the same treatment from our games and our game makers?