Maybe this isn’t even the real issue here.
“The number of women protagonists in E3 games still in single digits,” blared Polygon’s headline in the aftermath of E3 2018. The website was reporting on the perennial dearth of representation afforded to women in video games, as documented by Feminist Frequency, and you wouldn’t be wrong in coming away with the impression that this was a really big problem.
After all, the percentage of games at E3 that focus on women has been stuck in the 7 to 9 per cent range for the past few years, and this year shows scant improvement. In comparison, around 24 per cent of E3 games – out of 118 titles – had male protagonists.
That may seem like quite a lopsided state of affairs, especially if you think that games should be representative of real world demographics. Furthermore, it hardly seems fair that games are generally made for men, by men. There is a lack of women in video game development, just as there is a lack of female protagonists in games.
This means that games that are ostensibly designed for women are being created by men. There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but things become problematic when these games are based on a stereotypical feminine ideal. This is typically a white, straight, cis-gendered female with an aversion to violence and a preference for cute things, and the resulting games reflect this.
Similarly, this means that games are designed predominantly for their largest audience. For the longest time, the assumption was that this audience wants hyper violent, hyper sexualized material. The protagonists were often almost always male, which allowed male players to readily project themselves onto these characters.
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