Geek Revolt

Another Perspective on Sexism in Gaming

Recently, there has been something of an uproar over the presumed rape of Lara in the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot. Though Crystal Dynamics did post a statement on their site concerning the scene, it has brought to the forefront once again the question of sexism in video games. It’s no secret that women are always hyper-sexualized in almost any game they are in; be it the total lack of armor on Ivy in Soul Caliber games or the presentation of the protagonist in Grasshopper’s recent Lollipop Chainsaw. However, one thing that the gaming press never seems to address is the fact that, oftentimes, men are just as subject to sexism as females are in video games.

I could cite a ton of research done by Dr. such-and-such talking about the portrayal of men in the media, but let’s keep this short and to the point. Walk into any Abercrombie clothing store, watch a commercial for the most recent home gym, or any action flick and you will find a common theme: these dude’s are ripped. While drinking a protein shake with their right hand, they have some babe or a machine gun in the other. They are islands of all that is masculine.

Now, let’s check out how video games differ from that. I’ll take it you are probably going to see as many striking similarities as I am. Take the shirt off your male character in Skyrim and bear witness to the physical perfection of his abdominal region. Look at Ryu’s gargantuan arms in Street Fighter 4. Notice the male protagonist in many Japanese RPG’s: as leaders with female followers. Think about all of the cold-blooded killers devoid of emotion, whose boots you step into in just about any FPS title. Certainly, all of these things put males in an advantageous position over females; but that’s just it. Why are men so often expected to be strong, physically perfect, emotionally handicapped leaders who formulate the plan for victory – women in tow?

We rarely think of it, but it is clear that men are subject to just as much sexism and stereotyping as women are in video games. If anything, the press – who seem to be on an endless search for yet another headline that defames video games – should be more concerned about what these things are telling the children they are trying to protect how they have to be. Who are we trying to impress by focusing only on the fact that women are stereotyped? It is just as easy to see that men are as well.

Video games are a form of escapism for many, so it makes sense that the men depicted in them are unlike what many men would be like in reality. However, if we are going to point out every instance of a scantily clad chick in the most recent fighting title, we should also be cognizant of how often they are fighting right alongside a guy that is in no way, shape or form representational of any realistic expectation of what a man should be.

Do you think that men are just as subject to sexism as women are? What are some examples that stand out to you? Is any of this worth talking about? Let us know in the comments below!

Hi all, this is Daniel Hill speaking. I'm a 23-year-old Duquesne Print Journalism/Digital Media Arts graduate whose interest in games turned into something of a long-term career goal. Besides gaming, I love reading, working out (I currently work in personal training at a gym), and recording music every now and again.
  • Video games make everyone look bad, men, women, gays, and minorities. I feel bad for the female gamers, but they should be use to all the sexism and misogynistic undertones by now. This happens in every industry that is dominated by men. If this industry was dominated by women I’m sure we’d have more half naked men in games (and there would be nothing wrong with that).

    I feel like the best thing to do is educate the youth, show them that women aren’t objects, and also get more women into the gaming industry. That’s the only way things will change — but this can’t happen overnight. Basically, we should start discussing things like this with the young gamers (7-12).

    Also what people fail to realize is this — games aren’t supposed to be realistic. If they were everyone would complain, do we really want to play as an average Joe with a gut? Since a young age we’re trained to look up to attractive people, that’s why some of the most popular movie stars are also some of the best looking. It’s to embedded in our culture, and this generation is fucking hopeless. Like I said, we have to educate the kids.

    Now about the Lara rape thing, this shows us that video games still have a long ways to go. Rape is a serious topic, but why can’t video games touch on areas like sexual abuse? Movies do it all the time, but if a game does it, it would be all over the news.

    This shows that games are still essentially “for kids”, Rated M games should be like Rated R movies. Obviously no one wants an interactive rape scene — that’s something entirely different — but developers shouldn’t be afraid to cover things like sexual abuse in video games. It should never be shown, but it could be hinted at.

    And Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t that bad, Juliet dresses like most cheerleaders. Like all the up-skirts aren’t really up-skirts because she’s wearing shorts under her skirt. The game is actually tame compared to something like Bayonetta.

    • Kaizin514

      Bayonetta… lawl lawl lawl…. anyways, the “rape” in Lara Croft brings up the sheer fact… THE GAME IS RATED “M” FOR MATURE… RAPE IS A MATURE TOPIC. Sorry parents, you have an issue with it? THEN DON’T BUY IT FOR YOUR CHILD. It really is THAT simple.

      But yea, you are right. Our culture LOOKS towards certain examples such as how “hot” someone looks. Look at the typical JRPG vs. Western. JRPGs typically feature “girly men” whereas Western games are more prone to… I don’t know… Marcus Fenix? A prime example of this is Nier. In Japan, it followed a young teen who was looking to care after his sister. He was rather skinny and well, “girly” in appearance. The US version, while very much the same game, featured a burly father figure who was caring after his sickly daughter.

      I think Lara was blown out of proportions, because when I watched it, the first thing that came to mind was her predicament, not “rape”. Seriously, if you saw “omg rape”, and you EXPECTED it to follow through, then I am sorry for you. NO gaming company (aside from maybe Rockstar, lol) would allow that to follow through (interactive rape). Gaming nowadays has such a stigma on it that it cannot survive in any harshness due to interactivity.

      All in all, good article Daniel, and DeShaun…. well, good article/comment. I think the most that needs to be said is that, blame the parent, not the developer (9 times out of 10 in those instances).

      • Yeah, I feel like there’s an unspoken rule in gaming. Everyone knows that parents buy Mature games for their kids, so developers hold back and are afriad to make some games truly mature. Like Mass Effect 2 and 3. After the backlash from the first game, Bioware toned down the sex scenes.

        It’s dumb, most M games are just PG-13 movies with lots of violence and more swearing lol

  • I play video games a lot. So much that I also run a small gaming community and also developing gaming related apps. So I don’t want anything “bad” to happen to video games.

    But dismissing any negative arguments brought against the video gaming culture does more harm than good.

    Research at the UCLA virtual reality lab has already proven that long-term and short-term exposure inside games has an immediate impact on self perception. This doesn’t directly relate to the Blog post, but it’s in the building.

    Also consider the story produced by CNN that discussed the negative impact video games and porn have on young men. Males in modern society are being handicapped by these easily accessible instant gratifications.

    Now for the Tomb Raider rape scene. I don’t believe in censorship. Everyone has a right to chose their own entertainment. As a matter of opinion, what good comes from “rape” as entertainment.

    • I don’t think it would be entertaining, but something like that could enhance the story. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t think it should happen, but games shouldn’t be afraid to make people uncomfortable. Movies contain sexual abuse, and it’s not there for entertainment, but it can help explain a character’s struggles and motives.

  • what is a game, a sum of visual experiences or is it a sum of physical experiences? simply put, is a game about pushing a button and watching an animation -cutscene or what ever- or is it about interacting with that world and solving its challenges. The point I am trying to get to is, why should one care if the video game avatar is a half naked lady or some buff dude, shouldn’t the focus be on gameplay, the mechanics and the reward system for solving the puzzles/challenges?

  • I think you hit the nail right on the head. Video games are a form of escapism, a fantasy, so the women should be ideal in every sense, and the males should be ideal in every sense. As long as we don’t get the fantasy confused with reality, we should be fine.
    I wonder though, (and I might be stereotyping here) is this sexism issue mostly just because we (men and women) are generally more image conscious when it comes to women? As you said, men are just as idealised in games, yet we don’t bother to mention it much: because ultimately, we don’t generally care about the male outward appearance. We even laugh at males who DO care about their outward appearance too much. Meanwhile, both men and women care about the female outward appearance: women go through a great deal to get it right, mostly to compete with the image of other women (not to get a man’s attention, she can do that without having to dress up and look nice).
    is it not just that society as a whole notices the female outward appearance, but takes less notice of the male outward appearance?