Video games have been a huge part of my life, growing up with three older brothers I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t either watching them, or playing with them. Being the youngest my parents seemed to have given up when I came around. They used to place restrictions on what my older siblings could watch and play. By the time I was old enough to hold a controller that rule did not exist anymore.
I was playing a game called Gears of War at the age of 9. No child should be allowed to play a game where you can chainsaw people in half at that age. I did not think anything of it at the time. I just had fun and really enjoyed the game, without a thought about anything else.
Fast forward to 2019. Looking back at Gears of War; a game where you played a juiced-up male character running around with chainsaw guns. I have some questions. These men you play as and watch are far bigger than Dwayne Johnson. On top of the buff men, guns and killing, there were no women characters portrayed at all, besides a communications operator named Anya. Anya was portrayed as a slim woman who had a slim fitting military uniform and pretty face. Why were women in this game so different from the men? The way they looked, their roles within the game… the list goes on.
Juxtaposing Anya’s appearance to the main characters appearance Marcus, it shows how a male centered target audience with a male centered development team viewed men and women. Women were more delicate and beautiful while men were more buff and tough.
As the Gears of War series trudged on more female representation was seen. Anya, from the first game, made an appearance as a main supporting character and love interest to Marcus. Anya in Gears of War 3, took the same skinny and beautiful trope it represented in the first game and dialed it up to an 11. Anya had more curves and a more doll like face than ever before.
This shows that the primary demographic this game was targeting was young men. For the longest time that was the target audience for the game industry in general; an industry that was primarily run by men and focused on catering towards men. While it is believed that only men play games, that cannot be farther from the truth. Now more than ever it is closer to 46/54 split between men and women gamers.
Even with the growing number of female gamers, the representation in video games and the video game industry with female creators is still male centered and male focused. While the games industry is making strides to be more inclusive not only to men and women, but the wider LGBTQ+ community it still falls short in many ways. Great games have been released with amazing female lead characters. For example, Aloy from ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ was handled with love and care and did not rely on tropes to make compelling characters with a fascinating story. Even Gears of War has made strides, in their most recent game that came out a few days ago you take on a female lead character. Kait, who has a damn good story, and shows that even a woman in this macho man game franchise can successfully work and kick ass.
Although video games are taking the right steps towards inclusivity and representation; they still have a long way to go.