February 9th, 2017
Gender Roles in Video Games
Video games created by large companies as well as smaller Indie titles created by independent developers have a tendency to mirror the ideologies of our world, and for the purpose of this paper, the ideologies around Gender Roles in our society.
Games that include any sort of intelligent life within the plot and/or game world often take from the ideologies of our modern society (with the exception of historical games which should be drawing from the ideologies of that time period) whether it be ever so large or small. Gender Roles have more of an influence than, I believe, most people realize in popular culture, which twists our way of thinking as we grow and make our way into adulthood. When the first question asked after a baby is born is if it is a boy or a girl, we are already placing a label on that child, saying that it has to be either one or the other and there’s no in between. In video games, we are often presented with characters who are trapped in their gender specific roles and not given the freedom of sexual orientation. This then reinforces these ideologies on the people who play the games, especially children, who at their young age soak up any and all information they are given. It could very well start with Pokémon (Nintendo), when the game asks you whether you are a boy or a girl.
Once we give and accept the label of male or female, it is easy to apply gender specific attributes that make them characteristically different from each other, which then leads to the idea that one gender is more suited for a situation than the other. In the video game Gods Will Be Watching (Deconstructeam, 2014), we are given the task of keeping a group of people alive and sane in the wilderness by controlling a very masculine looking male character called Sergeant Burden as the group attempts to slowly repair a radio. There are seven characters in this group and only one is a woman. Not only that but compared to the others she is quicker to become insane and run away if she is not taken care of regularly. Having a team consisting of: male soldiers, a male doctor, a male engineer, a masculine dressed robot, and a male dog, and then to have a female psychiatrist, it can not help but seem sexist. By designing a game this way, the message of the game seems to be that women can not do as much as men and are not suited for as many important jobs. All they can do is listen to your problems and look pretty. They can not be brave soldiers or smart engineers, and the dog who hunts for food could have easily been female. But there is this old-fashioned ideology that the men are the hunters and women stay home to cook the food and take care of the kids. Society has evolved a lot since those times but the opinions still linger and manage to slip into places where we least expect them.
Video games should be a welcoming interactive medium where gamer scan witness the destruction of gods and the saving of kingdoms from ruin without being exposed to the pressures of Gender Roles.
Gods Will Be Watching. Deconstructeam. 2014. Video game.
Pokémon. Nintendo. 1996-2017. Video game series.