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i think many games are for women. for instance, extreme beach volleyball has naked guys in it. so there.

Jessi B*

A very-well written article! As a girl gamer, I agree with you a lot.

However, I wished you had mentioned dating sims. As an experiment, I tried two different ones (the names will go unmentioned).

How were they?

Pure sexism. On BOTH sides.

You could only play as a male character. The final goal was to HAVE SEX WITH THE GIRL WITHIN 100 DAYS.

Ridiculous! Not all guys are itching to jump into bed with a girl, and not all girls will call you "creep" when you approach them! We're ALL victims here!

...not to mention that the stereotypical looks were applied as well. Tall, tanned, leggy blonde girls with wide-chested, well-endowed males.

Something needs to be done, and fast... ...because if this keeps up, what a sad society it will be.




good point, xocet... i meant the "laughably phallic" to be more of a joke than a serious criticism. i think though that other people have written about certain alienating aspects of the interfaces in videogames (Poole mentions it briefly in Trigger Happy).

Jessi B*

i think many games are for women. for instance, extreme beach volleyball has naked guys in it. so there.

Posted by: adam on April 17, 2003 02:25 PM

*I, as a woman, am straight, but I'm not interested in polygonal maked men. "Equal opportunity nudity" does NOT justify your statement.

So, whoopee, there's a naked guy in my video game. Is there any degrading talk about seeing penises bouncing as you "guide" the character to victory?

I don't think so.

Next time, think about what you're saying. I don't mind hearing other opinions, as long as they can back it up.

Score one point for equality. Adieu.


Let's say you have two choices...

Female choice: Average breasts, decent face, not skinny, not fat, completely normal. Very little make-up.

Male choice: Neck that can bend steel, huge biceps, thick brow, huge bulging crotch that bounces slightly while walking.

I'm assuming that's what alienation feels like.


I'm curious to know what your reaction to the Elder Scrolls game series is. Morrowind is a beautiful game, totally open-ended, and you have the choice of both the race and sex of your character. I've only played it as a male character, but have run into female wizards, fighters, thieves, priestesses, leaders, and gods. They run the gamut of personalities, and I was curious (if you've played) what you think.


This is a very interesting article. As a psychology and communication double major, and a girl gamer, i found it very accurate. I have been playing videogames for a long time, and there is a lot of alienation, genderbias and sexism. I dont understand y so many males are writing in and disagreeing... are you female? Well then...


stereotyping in games is harsh now a days. i just finished unlocking EVERYTHING in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Aliance, and much to my chargin i found that one of my favorite video game women had been digraded by a scantely clad swimsuit poster unlocked in the crypt. Sonya always seemed like the strong type to me but now i find that she is a lifegaurd when she is not on duty for the government. how convinient is that?

my favorite characters always tend to be the women. this is odd since i am a guy. it's not because of the pixilated breasts or unbelievably tiny outfits. it's the fact that in some story lines, the women have the best triumphic plot twists.

i remember playing Phantasy Star Online a few years ago. my first and most beloved character was a female warrior. i decided in creating her that i would test out a theory. i made her look as attractive as possible and decided that i would play her as a helpless damsel in distress type. sure, i got hit on alot. more often than not i would walk away from a night of gaming with about twenty phone numbers from all across the country. but the real gem is this. i would go into a game and say something like, "Some mean man just PK'd me and took my only weapon! i don't have any money! can someone help me out?" this would be followed by just about every male avatar rush to me with gifts of Lavis Cannons and God Arms. needless to say i soon had a 52 level hunter who hit with the power and ferocity of a 100 level. i kid you not, my bank was full of ultra rare weapons to the point that i was dealing the ones i couldn't use out for money which i would never EVER need. it was just the fact that i had become a sort of black market, in game, on the sole fact that i could pull off acting like a damsel in distress.

and you really shouldn't blame the people who make the games. it's mostly the fault of two groups. 1: the marketing geniouses who try and sell the games to as many people as possible, and 2: the sex deprived hardcore gamers that only know how to look at a strong female character as the best piece of ass they will ever get. and since they rule the majority of consumers in this market, supply and demand says, "Give them what they want."

hence DOA: Extreme Beach Volleyball. Hence BMX XXX. Hence the pinup girls of Def Jam Vendetta. need i go on?

personally my choice goes like this... Men? Women? give me a collosal death robot any day! Go Robotech Battlecry! WOOHOO!


gods gift to gaming.


too long article, make it shorter then ill think about reading it...

Negative Polarity

Yes, it was a well written and thoughtful article. I appreciate the balanced views toward this subject and none of the "Raging Feminist" nonsense that usually seems to accompany articles of this type. All of the points were well thought through... except one.

"The attitude seems to be, 'Maybe some women play our games, but we don't really know, and frankly, we don't care.'"

That's exactly what their attitude is. The simple fact of the matter is that, for the most part, men ARE the only people who play video games. Obviously there are exceptions to this, as this article was written by a member of our fairer sex. But we of the male persuasion are game companies' key demographic. And as their key demographic, it is their obligation to pander to us. Let's face it people, sex sells. And no article, Internet or no, blaming these companies for their male-oriented sexist attitude is going to change that... ever.


I have to agree with some ofthe comments here, especially thie first comment, it really is all up to demographics. But again, that will change over time, and again it is right now. I haven't asked many female players, since it is hard to find very many..., but i find that some of the new games coming out have kind of a bi-gender feel to them, allowing both to play the game. One of these is Morrowind, although it doesnt really affect the game that much, or at least I have seen, it also doesnt have the bouncing breasts in it either. I find that there has been a great improvement over the earlier games, which were completely made for males. And I am waiting for more women to get into games as it would be great for thm to finally understand why we like playing them so much.

And with the opposite sex thing going on in the MMORPGs, I'm with Justin. It's fun playing as the ladies in the game (I know my name sounds like a 'chick' name, but get over it). Actually for one reason why is because I seem to get really madat everyone and impatient when i am male, but my female characters always remain calm. I kno, i take roleplaying maybe a lil too far. But, yes, I hold the same hopes as many of you dohere.


Two things that caught my attention:

1) The whole Lara Croft business. Yes, Eidos' marketing scheme was less than brilliant on that one. More to the point though, they didn't really HAVE a scheme. If one takes a look at the whole range of the appearances of Croft, one sees a preponderance of "Look, boobs!", but there are also many other instances of grimaces and firing .45's. Perhaps they are more exapected, and thus overlooked in comparison to the sexual nature. It is important to note though, that this was an important step in the concept of characters your could recognize (subconsciously) as a being capable of sexuality. It is no surprise they had no problem going with that. I think however that if you had played the game a bit (I never finished it, but played a good chunk of the way through) you would say that there was very little of a sexual content in the game (other than the rather large *ahem* polygons.)

Secondly, the bit about
"You don't see female dwarves or trolls in Tolkien," he says. "All the trolls are genderless, which is to say, they are male."
is just appalling in an article of otherwise intelligent and objective discourse. The context of Tolkein's works do not contain female dwarves, mostly due to the fact that all the dwarves encountered ever were warriors/kings(unless Tolkein was a giant misogynist and no one happened to mention it.) It is important to remember that when Tolkein came up with the idea for the LotR Trilogy, he was in the frame of mind of creating a mythology for anchient (pre Roman conquest if I recall) Celtic cultures. Feminism and fantasy RPGs aside (considering they all took everything from Tolkein in the first place)women were not warriors or monarchs. It just wasn't done then, with very rare exception. Sure, some people can name 2 or 3 cultures that had women leaders, or women soldiers, but the Amazons were mythic, and I can name perhaps a hundred cultures that were paternaly led.
As to the orcs etc., Tolkein hardly bothered to describe them at all, much less go into details about gender. Further, what would it matter if that 4th orc from the left Legolas cut down was a female? Saying Genderless = Male is just a terrible contradiction, and no rational person should make that statement.

In conclusion, if you are looking for games that are more gender pleasant, I would suggest "Tenchu," "Oni" (rent it though, it has no replay value), and the Dynasty Warriors Series. All feature strong women in charge, and many dead mean are the result.


actually, Negative, i disagree; one of the reasons gender in games is a hot topic now is that there are a lot more women who are interested in games than there were twenty years ago. and i've had a fair number of inquiries from game designers very interested in making games for women, girls, and other traditionally non-gaming demographics. it's pretty clear that if the industry is to continue to grow, it will have to appeal to a broader audience, and half of them are female.

i think a lot of game designers, male *and* female, are very excited to attract a greater market. the bulk of them realize that pandering is a pretty limited and short-term solution. all the bouncing breasts in the world - while very pretty - will become boring if the gameplay sucks.


Ok, very good article. One thing it didn't touch on however was that video games are entertainment. They are an escape from reality. They are supposed to be fun, exotic, engaging, and mesmerizing. If the makers of a game need to put big hooters on their game to sell it, that's their prerogative. BG is a RPG, which is to say a certain type of game; DOAABVX (or whatever their calling it) is a hooters game. This kind of game is not new or terribly engaging, but it could be fun to the right group of people. Do you remember Lesuire suit Larry? Dear God. When that game came out it had some of the worst graphics, a worse plot, and a hooters game, but it was interesting. Back to the point > if you don't like the game, don't buy it, and please don't bitch, because someone else probably likes it.

For example: I personally don't care to much for Sports genre games, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start whining about how many dam NBA2XXX's there are. I just don't purchase or play them.

And to touch on the gender thing, our generation (I'm 23) is going to see some very hard but interesting times. As our society progress's gender differences will deteriorate and die off with all the old men in positions of power from 2 generations ago. You can see it in today's courts. Women battling over maternity leave and such. As our generation grows up and starts holding offices of power, in which the stereotypes are lessened, things will get better for everyone. But, I think we have a long way to go.


(jane posted while i was typing this and pretty much took the words out of my mouth) If we keep talking about the market, the issue is that the female market hasnt had a chance to grow yet - the research hasnt been conducted to get the numbers regarding girl gamers - has it?
It's unfair to talk about demographics when they're assumed, i think. It's an untapped, unexamined market. To assume it's not there is a big mistake. You are now dealing with the generation who got their nintendo at age 8 and are now 23, who want good games, many have been turned off beacause of the violence, time consumed by games and price. (i did a little of my on fast survey of my friends). An interesting point from a girl i know was that more females probably enjoy the creative and less restrictive aspects of tycoon/sim games. "If there is a problem you can solve it, and it doesnt involve a structured storyline in which you either have to fight to the death or shoot a pron film (vice city).

I do like fighting to the death in certain cases, the Night Elves in Warcraft 3 were what sold me on the game. I loved Starcraft, and was really into the asthetic presented by Blizzard.

As well, perhaps the naked men in the volleyball game werent put there for women... ;)


You hit the nail on the head with your comments on Tomb Raider. I played the game, (main reason one, it reminded me of Indiana Jones), and played thru it as rapidly as I could as I whole-heartedly enjoyed it. I do however, wish that they would have marketed this game in a gender neutral way. I believe you were correct in saying that this game could have revolutionized the marketplace in terms of girl-gaming.

Unfortunately, the majority of gamers are boy/young men/men and for companies to make the money justifying there cost, they will market the games to the majority demographic. (I am a 35 y/o addicted gamer who has had the bug since Pong, and I also happen to be male.) The other unfortunate happenstance is the absolute insult to gaming that most supposed girl games manufacturers produce in order to entice girls to play. Barbie this, Nancy Drew that. These games are, sexist in and of themselves. They stick to the generic sex roles that society almost always wants to pin on young girls/women. These games (if you can call them such), in a word, suck. They are boring, non-challenging, pieces of programming fluff that these companies can point to and then complain that girl-games don't sell. These games insult the intelligence of their own demographic; thus justifying the need to make games in which they can sell using Sex/Sex Appeal.

Is there a simple fix? No. What can be done? Creating games that are just fun to play regardless of societal norms and/or expectations as it relates to the game avatar.

Thank you for your article, very well written and well thought out.


yay jane!

thanks for writing such a practical article! there are already so many righteous and indignant demands for particular treatments of women in games, and also so many righteous declarations that it is women's own fault that games are no fun for women to play since women don't buy games (uh, see this comment thread).

very nice to see a straight-forward explanation of which features totally waste potential female markets and which features could attract new buyers. hooray!


I think we're failing to remember one of the first and foremost female heroines in video gaming.

Samus Aran.

Samus Aran, first introduced in 1986 in the hit game "Metroid", became an icon to women who could kick butt and take names (in my opinion, and in the minds of all my friends). We could think of not a single male hero (again, at the time) who could compete with Samus.

Granted, at the onset of Metroid, it was thought that Samus was merely a robot, but with the introduction of the "Just in Bailey" code (A Bailey was a swimsuit, IIRC), we learned that Samus was realy a human, and a FEMALE at that!

Outside of that one point, this was an excellent article.


I'm just sort of curious on where Kate Archer of No One Lives Forever fits in with all this. To me, at least, she seems like a strong female lead. Any thoughts from you?

Artemio Urbina

I am indeed pleased to read this article. I do believe that such a change is needed, and also that the actual tendency of creating a more cinematic ambient will help since the plot is more and more important these days. That might help by creating very interesting ambients that would only be more appropiate with a well thought female lead character.

On the other hand, you mention a point that I would love to see done: less goal oriented games. Both types of game could co-exist to give players the option of a well constructed, engaging and plot oriented game to a "just for fun" game that I can take for just some minutes, and I would love to see a ore varied scope of possibilities in the gender field.. without noticing it.


First I'll put my "Wow, what a great article" on top of the pile with everyone else's, then I'll say this:

I, personaly, think a juvenile attitude was to be expected in video game development simply because of it's relative youth. Compared to books, radio, board games, and even T.V., video games are a brand-new form of entertainment. More importantly, marketable entertainment. As so many have pointed out: Sex sells. And it sells primarily to men.

But here's the catch that some developers are realizing (and that some have known all along): Video games are not just for kids and adolecents.
At first, the marketing for video games was aimed almost exclusively at pre-teen to teenage boys. Maybe that was the only market at the time, I'm not old enough to know, but I know that those boys (theoreticly) grew up and if those designers wanted to keep their revenues flowing, their games had to grow up as well.

And that's where I think we are now. Software companies are coming to realize that there is a very large group of gamers out there who demand a mature product. And a hefty aspect of that mature product must be an elemination of the broad gender generalizations and stereotypes. DAOC is a perfect example in that regard. The only gender sterotypes that exist there are the ones that we bring with us. I'm optimistic that video games are now coming out of their juvenile growing pains and so will their content.


Companies put an enormous amount of money and effort into acquiring new customers. If you owned a company, which of the following would you like to hear from the head of your marketing department?

"Yeah, half of the potential customers don't buy our products. But we don't care, we don't need any more customers."

"OMG, half of the potential customers don't buy our products? We have to do something about that so we can make money from them too!"
Doubling your market is rarely a bad business decision.

Brandon W. Horton

Very good article. (Found it from Penny Arcade's link.) I'd like to add a good female to the list: American McGee's Alice .. I'll skip all the artistic value and authenticity-or-not to the books (which I do love) and just say the heroine, Alice, is a strong-willed, feminine, British 17-year-old girl with a revolutionary trait: she looks like a Victorian England 17-year-old girl! She's actually quite attractive but because the designers didn't try to force it -- pretty face (with anime eyes), slender figure (withOUT anime breasts), fully clothed (you read that right). The camera is even designed so you have to go to great lengths to close-up "examine her polygons." It's not just aesthetics (looks, voice, etc.), though; the ways she reacts to the NPCs in cutscenes of the game -- her friends, her enemies -- is utterly believable.

I don't just guide Alice, I am Alice.

...and now a response to Josh, who I believe is missing the whole point of these discussions:

"It's a nice article, though I did see a bit of a problem with it... Here, you're treating videogames like books, or film-festival projects. As long as I've been playing videogames, the only times I've tried relating to the characters or identifying with them is when venturing into the world of fanfic. Yes, there are a few exceptions--and yes, I'm not the best judge of quality on this issue--but for the most part, I play videogames for the issue of fun."

The primary reason for playing a videogame is the fun factor. It just so happens that what's "fun" is different for everybody. Some people could care less whether it has a quality plot like a good book or film, just as long as the button-mashing never wears thin. Some people are bored with button-mashing from the get-go, but fall immensely in love with the development of a game's story and characters, even if they the players have to flesh them out themselves. It all seems to depend on how one uses one's imagination. Note: maybe you wouldn't have to rely on fanfics for character development if the games themselves did it better.

"Yes, I can see your target audience point, but the average female isn't interested in videogames anyway, be they aimed at them or not."

Maybe the average female isn't all that interested in them because they're not aimed at them. My ex-girlfriend loves the Mario Kart series, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and a few others. Most (average) games seem to bore her, but if it's mindless fun with a good social element (Kart, Super Smash Bros.) or intriguing in character (BFD, Hangaroo), she loves it -- she also likes Tetris and SimCity3000 if that means anything. As long as it's not too difficult, she's willing to enjoy.

"I may be a tomboy, but I'm still female; but I still think that if there were more games made and marketed for females, they probably would be marketed toward the stereotypical bimbo female, and would be mindless and boring."

That's the whole point. If they're truly marketed for females (or even better, both genders,) they wouldn't be stereotypical unless the game called for it. BFD is full of stereotypes, but it's an M-rated British comedy, so it's inappropriateness is totally appropriate in context.

Alice, however, is a psychological thriller of sorts set in the time of Victorian England but the place of a young girl's own truamatized mind, so if anybody comes out in the game in a bikini, the entire game's value would be greatly deprecated. (I haven't finished the game yet, but I highly doubt any bimbos shall surface before it's finished.)

On that note, there's one obscure part in E-rated Banjo-Kazooie where a blonde in a red two-piece walks by on a beach. Well, it's on a beach, so it's kind of appropriate, but why? It has nothing else to do with the game! Every time I play to that point, I just shake my head and wonder how many middle-aged men with no signficant others work(ed) at Rareware, Ltd.

Think Cruis'n USA. It's a great concept -- take real roads from the US and turn them into a cross-country racetrack. So why the fully clothed men and bikini-clad women? And why so fake, too? (Play or watch it if you haven't already. The woman with plastic ..smiles.. popping out from under your hood and gyrating around when you finish the race is flabbergasting.)

It's a vicious cycle. Girls don't like games 'cause games don't cater to girls. Games don't cater to girls 'cause girls don't like games. If girls made games, girls might like games more; but more girls might make more games if more girls liked games more in the first place. Slowly but surely, these barriers are being broken down, but it'll take more articles like this (and their writers and like-minded gamers) to break down these barriers.

Wow, that was long. Sorry I wrote so much!

ParodyKnaveBob of the new upstart NOVA
New Order of Videogame Addicts/Advocates/longstory


While you present an interesting article, and I agree with most of the points. I have serious problems with the Lara Croft sidebar (and I am not even a big fan of the game)... In that little pink box you went from intelligent argument to winey militant feminest complainer. First you claim they are 4 seperate articles. This is clearly not the case as you cite the same quote "the chance to play a Lolita version of Lara, budding breasts and all." in 2 of them. You also say "you are always leading her, guiding her, while studying her form " You are putting words into thier mouth when you say 'while studying her form.' Second, as far as always alienating the player, and leading her.. 2 of the highlighted text items refer to putting you in her shorts, and having you play as her. And don't tell me that 'in her shorts', 'daisy dukes,' or whatever is sexist. It may be in presentation by the artists, but as far as a review stand point, that *is* what she is wearing. It is no different then a review of Splinter Cell 'putting you in the wet suit of Sam Fisher.' I could take those same quotes, highlite different parts and change the whole spin. I challange you to find ANY word to use in place of 'control' that would be appropriate description. Keep in mind these reviewers have to use a few different words. You can't even keep saying 'drive' in a racing game review. You have to mix it up a bit.
As for the Xbox controler, that isn't sexist design.. no one has hands big enough to hold that monster! ;)

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