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[Quote]...to the peripherals (the laughably phallic joystick, the original Xbox controllers which are too big for my hands, the color scheme of the Xbox) are male-friendly[/Quote]

The controllers for Xbox originally were too big for a pro basketball player. I know you said you didn't expect to see pink boxes, but how could you judge what colors are male friendly opposed to say, feminine ones? That's like saying Pink is for girls, and blue is for boys in all aspects of life. I got told off at my work for making a comment to a customer about his/her choice in colors for a birthday party, and well I realize that favorable colors depend on the individual, not necessarily a depicted "norm" for men and women.



I tend to agree with Josh about the stance of corporations when it comes to developing and producing games geared towards women. Simply put, the overwhelming majority of gamers consists of males like myself. However, I have found that most of the girls I know love video games as well. Animal Crossing comes to mind immediately because it was geared towards a compromise bewtween the sexes. It's clearly not geared towards any gender specifically. I can honestly say its a fun game to play, and quite varied. I think if the video game industry began a gradual shift away from male-oriented games and towards games that appeal to all, they could incoprorate a new demographic into their sales. Hell, look at how well The Sims did. That game is ridiculously addictive to everyone. Also I pose this question: would the creation of female-oriented games be an exercise in futility or is there a possibility that creating the genre would draw out female gamers who feel like they are not represented in the video games of today?


2 things. I agree with your article, but about a phallus joy stick- do you have a more fitting shape? I don't think a crevice of some design would work better.... Heheh...

Also, I *am* a guy, and maybe that's why I can't tell, but most of the games I play aren't too sexually stereotypical. In any online RPG I've played I had at least 1 female character. (Diablo's sorceress and Amazon, and Several in Phantasy Star Online are a few).

Yea, I can see it in other games, though. Sophitia has one move that is quite interesting. It's called "Heaven to hell" where she jumps on top of the person's head, (their head now immersed in her crotch) and then she twists their neck and flips them down.

Maybe I just don't play enough "mature" games that have much sex... If I need porn there's an internet full of it. When I need a game I like surreal fantasy, and it doesn't need sex. (Hell, one of my favorite games is Super Monkey Ball...)


Bah, you're using PSO as an example? If I were a male character and asked for duped weapons, I wouldn't have been any more or less accepted than you were. If I played a Rogue in Diablo and asked for items, and I get them, it's simply because I'm playing a female character? Could you people be a little bit less shallow?

Not to mention the arcade stick remark. I'm sure everything looks like a penis to you people. I generally works better than a D-pad, especially being usable while gripping only the stick (arcade cabinets don't have pads). Could you think of some 'genderless' stick?

Plus, I cannot believe that you would actually not play games simply because some girls have breasts. The webmistress decided to show her underwear on this website, while she was masturbating (or faking it, whatever). You obviously seem to understand your gender. Yet breasts offend you? I suppose you're nothing more than the sensitive male "OMG OMG PENIS PENIS PENIS!!1!" type, yet female. I guess I don't understand females enough to know why it hurts their confidence to see someone with bigger breasts than them, but that's another discussion.

Also, I don't believe that insulting men is really going to get your point across. What's the point of making enemies out of people, especially those with similar interests? Why you so interested in 'genderless' gaming? Hell, I don't even know what you mean by that. Plus, it doesn't even seem to make sense, since you seem to like having the ability to be a female character that sleeps with male characters, which isn't exactly the most 'genderless' goal I can think up.

Also, it does not upset me to play as a female character in EQ, or Perfect Dark, or Sakura Kasugano from Rival Schools. If your ego is so bruised by playing as male characters (or female, for that matter), then so be it. But you haven't sold me at all. I am certainly not Duke Nukem, but I am not offended by him or his goals.


Good work, that was a very interesting and insightful article. I especially enjoyed your comments on MMORPGs and MUDs. I used to be horribly addicted to Phantasy Star Online (probably still am, I'm just on hiatus), and I noticed the same thing. One person I met online was an actual girl (differentiating her from the men who pretend to be females), and I noticed that she always got a ton of handouts from people without even asking. Its bizarre to see a pseudo-sexual relationship like that take place, and somewhat disheartening in a sense. I like to think of things like games that take place in an online space as free of gender roles since theres no visual reference to base your expectations on. However, both on IRC (Internet Relay Chat, for the uninformed) and in games, I see women constantly getting hit on in a fashion that wouldn't even come close to being socially acceptable in person. A great, and disturbing, example of this is The Sims Online. Since it opened, I've heard a number of reports of prostitution in the game world, and of men randomly kissing female characters. In a world where women are already overly objectified, the anonymity of the internet seems to make things worse, rather than better as I would've hoped.


Why do you people insist on writing responses longer then the article? It's ridiculous.


I thought it was a great article, maybe I'm a one off - a male gamer who notices things - but I was well aware of the stereotyping.

However, male stereotyping DOES take place, even in roleplay games that should allow a user to have full customisation.

Neverwinter nights being one good example of this, the girls in Neverwinter do get a wide range of customisation, but the phenotype option allows them to choose between "anorexic model" and "somewhat chubby" - but notice how all the male characters have wide chest/shoulders, fair muscles and are built like a tree trunk. The phenotypes allow for either "heavy built male", or "totally grossly overweight male". This limits male roleplay to warriors and other toughy-types, at least visually (It doesn't make much sense a scholarly mage with arms like Arnold Swartznegger).

Neverwinter makes a good step in the right direction though, if it allowed for greater physical customisation I think it'd just about break the mould and give male and female gamers an equal platform to work from - and maybe give a brighter future for the gaming world.


I'm only a minimal gamer, but this article really made me think about things that I hadn't considered before. I've played games like Drakkan, liked some of it, but never gave it a second thought in terms of gender roles. I was mostly interested in how far away I could be with a bow and pick off baddies without engaging in the kinds of hand-to-hand combat scenes that have been added to other games to promote "strong female characters".

However, I remember downloading demos of games sold as having "strong" female characters, and in my mind only mocking the definition of "strength" that was applied. So she can carry a rediculously large weapon with her Kate Moss arms, so what! So she can run, jump, and fight "like a man" without falling out of her costume, so what! If you look at real women in real combat, they wear just as much armor as the men do, and not just kevlar bikinis. But I'm a 23-year-old degreed mechanical engineer, so I'm thinking in terms of real-world physical constraints all the time.

I agree that there is an imbalance, but I think it is hard change only one part of the entertainment industry. As someone pointed out earlier, video games are made for entertainment and as such represent a growing part of the entertainment industry. I would like to add that pornography is an increasingly large portion of the entertainment industry. To change one mis-guided or exploitive aspect of the industry is to necessitate changing that aspect industry-wide if it is hoped that society might take gender roles seriously as a factor in determining how it is to be entertained.

Matt K

Well, that was a really great article. I enjoyed it, and it brought up many wonderful points.

Now, I know some people are saying, "Well, what about Samus Aran?" Samus is a female. No big spoiler there. Not to mention, she kicks ass, and we never have any interactions with men to criticize.

What I think would be interesting to look at is the way Metroid Prime is structured, as a game. Unlike the other Metroid games, we're inside her visor. It really is the first game where you are Samus Aran. I think that this is great, especially since I, playing it, really felt like Samus (although it's so much fun to roll around... and around... and around... in third person view morph ball).

Now, I know people might point out Final Fantasies as a nice counterpoint. But really, most of those women, especially once we get onto the PlayStation platforms, aren't really good at being identified with. Rikku is very sexualized - remember her exit from her wetsuit? Lulu's practically falling out of her dress. Yuna's the only one with some kind of semblance to reality, and that'll disappear in X-2. We all remember the way Tifa was animated in FF7. Look to the Super Nintendo for strong women, specifically FF5 and FF6.

Outside of those choice examples, though, most games are, admittedly, pretty bad. I've ruminated on this many times. Especially outside of the RPG genre, where less and less attention is paid to plot.


th3k0w: you are gay.

Girls: go play with your barbies if you don't like soft pr0n in games :/


Am I the only one who thought that The Wind Waker was a breakthrough game in terms of female character development? We all know how much Zelda was a complete idiot in just about every other Zelda game.


Tetra was a breath of fresh air to me. It was great to see a Princess Zelda who actually had something to say about the story, who was engaged in the story to a higher level than just being kidnapped. I want to see more of this.


I think the people that keep harping on demographics are missing something fairly important. Gaming in North America has grown large enough to support experimentation and niche markets. There was no real market in North America for Ka (Mr. Mosquito), Disgaea, Zettai Zetsumei Toshi (Disaster Report), or Guilty Gear XX, but they were or will be released in the United States anyway. They do not have female characters with big breasts, they do not pander to a young male audience, and they do not come on the heels of a wildly successful game in the same genre. The market has grown large enough for companies to experiment like this, but no one has really bothered to experiment with games, Japanese or American, that are aimed toward women. There's no real reason for that when North American game companies are experimenting with even smaller markets and accepting the small returns that come with those markets. They've realized that you don't need to have the best-selling game in the entire country to make a very respectable profit anymore, but they haven't really exploited that beyond releasing a handful of quirky Japanese games.

Business isn't a simple matter of entering the market and doing the thing that has worked for the guys at the top. A lot of game companies in North America have recently realized that by doing something different than what Sony, Rockstar, and Sega are doing, they can carve out their own little niche in the market and make a modest amount of money. Unfortunately, it seems like almost all of them have decided to go for the exact same niche market and release quirky Japanese games that have gotten a lot of press in gaming magazines and on import sites. Eventually someone will realize that there's enough space for more than one niche market in North America and decide to do something else, like possibly appealing more to female gamers.


I am a male gammer, and I find this article to one of if not the best essay written on the subject of feminism in games. I think that is is important to note to all the post about games just being about money that this is also not universaly true. It seems to me games are gradualy becoming a true art form, or at least a form of media like movies and television. Game developers such as Myamoto are able to design games with the same freedom many well respected holywood directors have. This freedom allows these developers to create games that have more than economic value.

I think that there might also be another aspect of identification/alienation to consider, the nature of modern feminism. I think that it is easy to say that big-brested female charcters are uniformly intinded to be eye candy for male gammers. After all, I think most women and teenage girls would not play some similar game to tomb raider with a male protagonist sex-symbol. However, several girls I am friends with have a VERY high oppinion of Sepheroth from Final Fantasy VII. I think it speaks to a deeper poin about how girls relate to caracters of both sexes. The truth is most guys, if not all to at least some extent, are delusional about themselfs. I belive that all men and teen-age boys belive that they are, at least to some extent, the swave, atheletic, clever, or ortherwise gifted protagonist they play. Obviously the feminist ideal of the equality of women no matter their physical appearance does not carry over to the other side. In other words: while women want characters like how they ARE, men like caracters that are like what they WANT TO BE. th3c0w mentioned his preferance for the mech protagonist of Robotech: Battlecry; this is the same priciple, you don't identify with a giant warmachine, you want to be/pilot it. The conflict comes about because while society allegly has ideals that all women are supposed to stive to be, most women nowadays reject these notions. Thus, there are no general characteristics for a female character that most women can readly identify with.

So as I see it there is a different question to ask, not "What is wrong with female charcters in videogames?" but "What qualities should a good female character have?". I do think there are begining to be enough women in the game development and consumption community to answer this question. I am of course not qualifyed to star ansewring this question, due to my singular X chromosone. But I do know some of the questions that might help find the answer such as, "What female role models are there that many women DO wish to be or identify with?".

I do think there are some important female characters that have been overlooked in this, for example Cortana and the Pilot of the Dropship Fullhammer in Halo, your breifer in Mechassault, and the commander in Robotech: Battlecry. The similarity between these characters is fairly obvious, they tell you what you have to do, THEY ORDER YOU AROUND. In the context of feminism, this hardly seems like a minor point to me. If we operate under the assumption that the target audience for these games are male, then it would seem that for some reason the developers belive that being told what to do by a female character has some appeal to men. The motivation is not sexual because in all four instances I listed, the character is rarely seen. Admittedly the characters of Cortona and the Mechassalt breifer are very well proportioned when they are shown, however the pilot of the Fullhammer is never seen, and the face of the commander in Robotech is all that is seen. How do female gammers feel about these kind of charcters? I would like to hear their thoughts on this area.

Reverse Figure 4

You claim Eidos blew it with Lara Croft - from Eidos' standpoint, that simply isn't true. The Tomb Raider series has produced a ton of games, most of which have sold very well. You suggest they should have marketed it as "Hey, girls, an empowered woman to play in a game!" - yet you don't consider this sexist? Promoting a game as designed solely so girls can play as an empowered woman? From Eidos' stance, it's foolish. You could market the game on sex appeal, and sell to males, or market on empowerment of women, and sell to females. (Realistically, you'd have a tough time trying to get males to buy a game sold on the concept that they could play as an empowered woman.) Yet we already know the male gamer market is bigger than the female gamer market - so how did they blow it by choosing to sell to the larger audience?

You critise a selection of games on their female characters having exaggeratted breasts and attractiveness as their main character features. I don't disagree with this. In many games, the women are portrayed as overly attractive and ridiculously built. However, in the vast majority of these games, any men in them share the same characteristics. For the rippling 6 pack of abs, to being tall, dark, and handsome, to the blond haired and blue eyed all american male that appears in so many fighting games, DOA included, men are equally portrayed in a "perfect" body, making them as much sex objects as the women. Your article fails to cover this at all.

It is uneccessary for the women to appear as overly volumptous. It is equally unessecary for the men to appear as bronzed gods, with rippling muscles.

While your article is correct in many aspects, it falls into the same trap as so many other writings on gender - it is simply too one-sided. It speaks on how poorly women are portrayed in video games... yet it barely touches the surface of the same thing happening to men.


The color scheme of the X-Box is male-friendly? Wah? It's black and green. How's that appeal to men more than women? The only men I see 'black and green' appealing to are, I donno, members of the Green Lantern Corps? But there are female Green Lanterns, Writer! THERE ARE FEMALE GREEN LANTERNS AND THEY LOVE THE X-BOX FOR ITS GAMES, NOT ITS MALE-FRIENDLY COLORS!


A good read. I particularly got the 'archers and thieves' quip - so very very true, and so oddly wrong. There are few more 'strength' based weapons than the longbow, and yet it's perfectly acceptable to have a tiny waif of an elf shoot a 3 foot arrow from a bow as tall as she is. Meanwhile, even the biggest, broadest female fighters seem to be restricted to shield and (short) sword. For whatever reason, females with big bows are somehow more believable to game designers than cute axes*. And I guess, conversely, while it's quite believeable for male characters to wield swords and axes that at first glance seem to weigh as much as they do, it's just WRONG putting all that muscle behind a wussy, cowardly weapon like a bow.

I blame Blizzard. And Gary Gygax, for giving piercing weapons such low damage, thus colouring the thoughts of generations of game designers to come. Ah well.

As for Tomb Raider - I really enjoyed the first one, and as a game, too:D. Lara's form was an amusing sideline, but I wouldn't have spent nearly 5 days of holidays playing through from start to finish if that was all there was. The last level, which just seemed to go up and up and up forever, was a blast and one of my favourite bits of any game. It DID end up being sold more as softcore than feminism, for sure, but then like all modern foul ups, you can blame marketing for that:D. Tomb raider was, for it's time, a really fun, interesting 3D platformer, and the best of its type since Prince of Persia.

Meanwhile, DoA volleyball hasn't had a single good review because the volleyball game itself is pretty poor.

I suspect there's a notion in some circles that you can put a pair of big, well formed breasts on anything and it will sell. This might work for Maxim, but for a $50 game there had better be something else to justify the cost.

I guess in short, while I agree with the gist of the article, I take issue with the actual games involved. The original Tomb Raider was great, even if the marketing was a little tragic. And DoA Volleyball isn't acceptable at all - it's just another example of good graphics, bad game. Ala, guys don't stop being gamers just because there are breasts involved.

As a sideline, it would be interesting to compare female depictions in games with those in magazines, movies, and in general. If it's difficult to get Blizzard to admit that a woman can use a sword, imagine trying to convince Cosmopolitan that a woman should even have muscles. Overall, while you can say that the game industry is perhaps guilty of not taking a leadership role in the promotion of female toughness, it is FAR from being the only offender. Perhaps game designers are only victims of 'monkey see - monkey do' instead of any active, intentional discrimination.

* I didn't mean this sentence to sound that funny. On rereading, it just gets better and better though:D.


I find your opinion of Baulders Gate to be heavily exhagerated concerning the importance you gave to the barmaid's clevage. Espeically considering you neglected to mention the central antaganist of the game was a tragic hero turned villin who happened to be a woman. It's somewhat one sided to devote an entire paragraph to how BA objectifys woman with fake titties then turn around and ignore when they give females depth and quality beyond whats in their bra. Not to mention after about 30 min into the game you hardly visit the pub which she tends anyway.


Argh...Girls gotta stop being so sensitive. Sure. Lara Croft has huge breasts. Deal with it. This isn't a blow to your ego. This is just people making games. As a game developer, I can tell you that most people begin with a story and end with a game.

We're not thinking 'Hey ! I got this idea. If I make a game with a girl heroine and I give her ridiculously huge knockers, everyone will buy it and I'll be rich!'

They're most likely thinking something along the lines of 'a girl who can take care of herself - goes on adventures to recover treasures, but the story develops into something even more as the player progresses ! This game can really turn into something!'

You need to stop being so sensitive. When Ryu takes his shirt off, I don't see you complaining, and I don't see any males complaining about being depicted as sex objects.

You totally fail to keep things together in this article. To me, all I see is another 'angry oversensitive girl' article. Sorry.


Argh...Girls gotta stop being so sensitive. Sure. Lara Croft has huge breasts. Deal with it. This isn't a blow to your ego. This is just people making games. As a game developer, I can tell you that most people begin with a story and end with a game.

We're not thinking 'Hey ! I got this idea. If I make a game with a girl heroine and I give her ridiculously huge knockers, everyone will buy it and I'll be rich!'

They're most likely thinking something along the lines of 'a girl who can take care of herself - goes on adventures to recover treasures, but the story develops into something even more as the player progresses ! This game can really turn into something!'

You need to stop being so sensitive. When Ryu takes his shirt off, I don't see you complaining, and I don't see any males complaining about being depicted as sex objects.

You totally fail to keep things together in this article. To me, all I see is another 'angry oversensitive girl' article. Sorry.


Joe -
i am "dealing with it", and i have been dealing with it for twenty years. my article is meant to highlight some features of gendering in games i've noticed, as a female gamer, which might be of interest to character designers, depending on what effects they want to achieve, and what market they want to attract.

i believe i said i have nothing against bouncing boobs. i *like* them. they're fun, they're pretty. they should be in proper context. i *want* to play extreme beach volleyball. it looks fun. it's a new-ish style of game (social interaction, collecting presents, etc). it intrigues me. i *like* Lara Croft, i just don't like the way she was initially treated in reviews and previews.

not enough people think about the importance of good character design in games. gender theory is one way to approach it. there are many others.

i don't get those of you who thought i was a man-hater??? where do get that? what i hate is laziness in game design, short-sightedness in game marketing.

i should make a rule to have everyone read the whole article before feeling compelling to post a comment!


Oh my god. If Joe is indicative of the typical game developer, then god help us.

Robby D.

I think one of the major issues you need to deal with in discussing the "fluidity" of gender possible in the virtual world is this: people have a hard time wrapping their mind around the difference between a person's sex and their gender. Male and female are sex. Gender does not biologically exist. Gender is a word used in linguistics to talk about types of words. It has been appropriated by cultural discourse to indicate the sociological implications of various attitudes about what males and female should or should not do.

Gender is totally and completely constructed. This would lead one to think, rashly, that gender should always be fluid then. The problem is that the psychology of humans makes us very good at learning certain basic "facts" about the world from our parents. (Read Alice Miller's _Drama of the Gifted Child_ for a full description of how humans pass neuroses from one generation to the next.) We grow up in an environment designed to ingrain certain ideas about what boys and girls are supposed to do.

Videogames, as cultural phenomena, like you say, are, therefore, likely to be a part of this paradigm. Altering the attitudes prevalent about women and their roles, and about the taboo nature of gender-bending, will require as much effort as adjusting our culture to move away from the inherent violence against those who do not fit into what some sociologists call the "homosocial order".

I appreciate that a frank discussion about the "genderedness" of videogames is written during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. All manner of examples of the pervading patriachal attitudes about proper behavior and the implied violence against those who resist said behaviors need to be addressed and discussed.


I have just read your article and i really couldn't agree more with your statements. I am not generally outspoken in my opinions on gender issues in gaming (usually because it is to a room full of guys with BIIIG fists. That is not a stereotype, its a fact). I do question your statement that the X-Box colours are designed to be male friendly. I personally think it was designed to look sleek and futuristic, and that the black and green motif was quite suitable. But that's just my opinion. I also have a theory as to why most games are aimed at a male market. It was really a progressive thing:
Back in the 1950s when computers were being built and designed and most importantly; programmed, it was all done by men. This was because in the 1950s women were generally housewives (please don't kill me, its a fact, not an opinion). Women of the 50's were there to bring up children. Anyway, as we move on, and as the computer industry moves on, it was started by men, and was continued mostly by men. Male engineers and so on. So naturally, during the 70's when games started to hit the arcades, they were all built by men, and their target audience was obviously for men, because that was all they knew how to program for (granted, they were more unisex, but that was because of the technical abilities at the time. Just look at pong). It started aimed at men, and since it was successful, they continued to concentrate on that market. If they HAD chosen to make female orientated games, how would they do it? All the engineers were men, and lets face it, geeky men (not a stereotype, i use the term "geek" as a descriptive word, because it sums it up the best) with very little experience with women (you know its true). So they continued with this trend into the eighties and ninties. By then, making games for men was mainstream, and many women who would like to have played computer games couldn't because there was nothing for them, or they had to put up with what was there for the guys.

Lets shift a bit into the late ninties when character designs started to become important. It was still all done by men, for men. Thus Lara Croft's ludicrously large breasts. Even now you won't see many women in a game development building (at least women working on the game itself. Let's not forget the managers, businesspeople, the finance department etc etc which is more gender neutral)

I personally have grown tired of staring at (impossibly sized) pixellated bosoms. I have never bought a Tomb Raider game, and never will. This is not just because i think it is brutally sexist, but as a game; it sucks ass.

This assumption is also sexism.

We now have female characters in games, but you are right, they aren't given the same respect as the male ones.

An interesting point i realised as i was reading this; there are almost NO female characters or female appearances to choose from in first person shooter games. (The programmers don't want to associate women with violence perhaps?)
Some fps do have female characters to choose from: Raven Shield comes to mind, but they don't LOOK any different (the voices are different; and accurate in my opinion) to their male counterparts (due to being covered in gas masks and camo gear and whatever). One exception i have found is in a little known game; Tactical Ops. It is a mod for UT (the original, not 2k3) or standalone, depending on whether you want to pay for it or not.

TO (site here) has many (noticably ie. you can tell from a distance a female character is coming into your crosshairs) female appearances to choose from, and i think that is great. If you can't find a strong women in gaming you like: make your own. Play as a female and be real badass at it.



Bah, GGXX wasn't released here, atleast in arcades; which is what matters.

Anyway, I've been looking around and noticed an article with you claiming to basically masturbate to a game. So, are you claiming gaming should be MORE or LESS sexual? Perhaps only sexual enough where jokes can be easily created, but not enough where it's so obvious even my mom will understand? Should I assume you want less sexuality because this article is newer?

Oh, and is Lizardman less of a man because he's a Sophitia clone? What's wrong with a short sword? Not manly enough for some people?

Other people are right about males being sold as objects, too. I can't wait until you post an article objecting male sexuality, in order to repress us all, while simultaneously posting nude pictures of yourself masturbating to confuse me more than you already have. I can tell you that I'm quite open with my sexuality. I talk about sex every day, I tell people when I'm masturbating, I've modded hentai/pr0n forums before, etc. But that doesn't mean that I can't see something being 'shallow', too.

(Some of this may seem a bit weird, because it's replying to a locked article also, which basically implies that she has the opposite stance she has here)


Argh...Game designers gotta stop being so sensitive. Sure. Game Girl made a few good points about the puerile attitude of some video games. Deal with it. This isn't a blow to your coding or story-telling skills. This is just people saying they are tired of 10-year-old attitudes about women coming from people that should know better. As a game player, I can tell you that most people think big tits have nothing to do with being capable.

Sorry Joe, I'm not really picking on you, and I think you are telling the truth when you say that game designers aren't trying to be one-dimensional in their attitude towards the presentation of women in video games, but that's why it's important to bring this fact to game developers' attention, because if Tomb Raider (and the other games mentioned) really WERE trying to portray women in a great light, they failed miserably.

Great article, in my opinion.

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