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PixlTalk Episode 61: Gender in Gaming

Where gaming goes too far and where it doesn't go far enough.

Gender in Gaming has been the controversial hot button topic as of late, garnering attention from big name media outlets like Forbes and Maxim. However, despite the ample attention directed toward this issue, few discussions manage to address the real problems at hand. Instead we often opt for reactionary attacks that continue to drive a wedge between our community, silencing intelligent discussion. 

This week we hope to stray away from the media’s click-bait perspective of gender issues in gaming, in favor of a more controlled discussion. We tackle issues with both female and male representation in the video game industry, along with the current state of gender relations in gaming communities.

There certainly are problems when it comes to gender representation in games, but it’s not always the cataclysmic travesty that some would have you believe. The industry is in need of change, but the current onslaught of belligerent hate-fueled rants is not the solution. So please sit down, relax, and join us for this informative edition of PixlTalk.

As always we look forward to hearing your input/outlook so please feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below. Thanks again to Chessa and Sam for coming on this week, we hope you can join us again soon.




04/09/2012 at 06:13 PM

Great discussion madams and sirs. I enjoyed hearing Chessa and Sam explain their experiences and opinions. I'm one of the newer people here, and I've only had the pleasure of hearing Chessa on one or two other episodes, and I think this is the first time I've heard from Sam. Lol I don't think it would've been as productive or well-rounded if Mike and Jesse went at it alone trying to talk about booby physics and tight butts. These issues are very important and I can deal with them like an adult, but I'm not going to lie, my sense of humor hasn't changed much since I was a child and I laugh when "dick wagging" shows up in conversations. My generation is the doomed one that has Beavis & Butthead and Southpark in our veins.

One time I was in an English class and my professor brought up a French novelist named Honore de Balzac and in the dead silence of all these stuffy half asleep kids I suddenly started dying laughing and choked on the gum I was quietly chewing lol. I immediately painted myself in a corner because the professor was so disappointed in me and all the kids didn't understand why I was laughing. His friggin' name sounds just like Ballsack, what the heck was I suppose to do? Not die laughing? No way dude, having a name like Balzac is comedy gold.

I agree with some of the sentiment at the beginning of the show in the sense that I don't think sexism in actual games aren't as bad as some people paint them to be. I think you all did a good job exploring the reasons why some character designs and character personalities are the way they are in gaming. Game design has always been male dominated and the males still hold the majority at the moment, although more and more women are becoming prominent  members of the development community. We might not be able to name them and they might not have the brand recognition that a name like Hideo Kojima has, but there are a lot of women in gaming, not only production jobs but in development jobs as level designers, artists, etc. Not only does the prominence of women in development seem to be increasing, but the number of women and girls who play games as consumers are greatly over looked. The breakdown of the male female gamer ratio is as close to dead even as it gets. Those particularly territorial and aggressive males who can't tolerate female participation are the ones that don't see gaming for what it really is. Too many people are holding onto that old-guard or that old stigma of games being something girls can't understand or be a part of. Plenty of males have always had their "no girls allowed" (girls have their own "no boys allowed" mentality as well so it's not just boys) clubs and I think for a long time all these males enjoyed this idea that girls were on the outside and not a part of the club, but it's not the reality. Girls are everywhere whether people like it or not, they DO exist lol. Girls are out there, they can be intelligent, passionate, have opinions, unique experiences, just like anybody else. They deserve respect and time of day. Gaming doesn't need to be an exclusive club. It isn't an exclusive club, just like being a mechanic isn't a male exclusive trade, or being in the military isn't a male exclusive trade, or playing sports isn't a male exclusive trade, or playing a rock instrument isn't a male exclusive trade.

The culture needs to evolve, but that will likely take quite a while. Putting this whole situation in context, it wasn't long ago that women were finally given the right to simply vote. In American culture and everyday life outside of gaming, women and men still have enough problems and fight with each other for dominance in many different ways whether it be political, domestic, or whatever. One of the ladies in this episode mentioned that here in the west we should know better than to pinch a girls ass or do something so offensive, but it wasn't long ago that women couldn't do anything about that. It was only a lifetime or so ago that women were forced to submit and not have a right to vote or have opinions culturally and legally here in our country. We shouldn't ever forget that we have a history and culture that hasn't been kind of females at all, and is still in the early stages of attempting to change that. In our culture at large sexism and inequaliy are still a problem, and I don't think gamer culture will lead the way and stay ahead of the curve in that evolution. Gamer culture is stuck back quite a ways and will likely be the thing to grow the slowest.

People still debate over wether this hobby/passion we have is even an art form of any kind. People still drool and dream about what tech might be coming next. The treatment of women doesn't seem to be high on the list of priorities for our culture at large. Our natural evolution over time doesn't seem to be progressing quickly in regards to sex issues. I want to see a day when this stigma is reduced and boys and girls don't put eachother down based on sex, but I can't even say it'll happen in my lifetime. Males and females are terrible to each other sometimes, it's part of our culture and part of our human condition, and gaming culture will suffer with it for quite a while if this male dominated stigma continues to be the norm.

I agree with the sentiment that the female voice needs to be heard more and females need to be more vocal about their gaming. Those males out there who are territorital about gaming, need to be challenged. They assume they are the alphas in this context, and I love seeing people's egos challenged. They need to be beaten by girls, they need to have girls in their media, they need to have intelligent girls giving opinions, they just need girls period. If there are more girls in gaming getting noticed, more girl developers getting noticed, and the huge female portion of the culture being fairly represented, the evolution might be a little quicker. Those territorial males need to realize they aren't the only ones out there playing games, and they aren't the only ones that can win games, have ideas, or be worth their salt. Over time if new younger generations of gamers grow up seeing more and more females in gaming communities, in development, production, marketing, anywhere they want to be, it should be easier for newer generations to get accustomed to it. Humans are still animals and we have to evolve over time, and even be socialized and taught similar to how you would a dog.

My best friend Justin use to hate black people and generalize them. He had several bad experiences with people who just happened to be black and he made illogical correlations like, "They steal my girlfriends, they take my money, etc." instead of holding the individual at fault he blamed the skin pigment. He didn't have enough experience with them, wasn't adequately socialized. I attempted to educated him and put him around more black people and let him see how diverse, interesting, and human they can be and he realized they weren't any different than human beings of any skin pigment. It was like common sense to me, but to him dark skinned humans were some kind of alien race that he couldn't relate with at all lol, and he hated their guts. There are plenty of other examples I have whether it be my Gay-hating Mom, my man-hating cousin, my religion hating friend Evy, etc. It's almost always due to illogical correlations, negative experiences, and inadequate socialization. It's absurd, and that's what you have to do if you if you want the sexes to be more accepting of each other. Expose them to eachother, give each a fair shake, and let them explore, learn, and understand one another. All the stigmas our gamer culture has can be ushered out if people were shown the facts and socialized to the kind of variety and diversity the real gaming world consists of. There's an enormous amount of problems our gaming culture has, and none of those can be solved by a mute button, banhammers, flame wars, teabagging, or capturing a flag. It's viewed as a "child's hobby" but this industry and culture has very real and very adult issues to deal with.

There's no way to wave a wand and magically have everybody dancing under the sun in peace, but there are reasonable ways to try and get the sexes to be more equally and fairly represented, and having those representations, over time, be able to aid the evolution of our culture in the long term over several generations. Can you tell I like to play strategy games and think about things in future tense and on a mass scale?

I'm not necessarily offended by portrayals of women in my games, I'm just disappointed in them, and sometimes jarred by them. Many people grow up in localized cultures or even just family cultures where women are submissive and a patriarchal system is the norm. My life has been similar but the gender roles are changed. My whole family is a giant Matriarchy, and the women call the shots. The alpha males (my grandfathers, my father) are submissive to the alpha females (my grandmothers, my mother). My mom even tells stories of her elders gathering for "tribunals" where the elite women would judge the younger generations, question them, chastize some, praise others, and tell stories. The power struggles between my grandmother and her sisters are fit for a war drama as much as they are for a soap opera. Since women are at the top of the pack in my life, I've always looked up to women. And even when I know they can be batshit crazy or even dangerous bitches I still show them respect and even submission. My mom and I are complete opposites. She's a gay-hating religious zealot and I can't stand her most of the time, but I always jump to her defense in a heartbeat and become furious when people say bad things about her. All the authority figures around me, both male and female, are all faulted and have layered personalities.

Because of all this I like to see women in games be very strong and have personalities layered like an onion. I don't want to be limited to seeing some Japanese school girl sucking on a lollipop, or get stuck in the opposite side of the scale and see some butch lady beast riding a motorcycle and chewing tobacco. Some of my favorite female characters in the gaming world have been Alyx from Half Life 2 and Dr. Catherine Halsey from Halo. In HL2 Alyx is very attractive but she is dressed for comfort and function. In the gloomy Half Life universe girls don't have the luxury of going on shopping sprees and always looking trendy, so Alyx wears jeans, boots, a t-shirt, and a jacket, gloves, and even a head band to keep her hair out of her eyes. Her personality is layered, she's complex, and sophisticated. She doesn't submit to anybody sexually, but she also doesn't dominate over anybody and become a bully. Alyx is a great character and she has been developed well be Valve.

As for Halo, most people probably have no idea who Dr. Cathering Halsey is. Her character was mentioned a lot in the lore of the early games, and she was finally fleshed out in the novels, and then she finally appeared in Halo Reach. Halsey is a doctor and scientist who invented and ran the entire Spartan II project that bred the Master Cheif. Cortana, Cheif's constant companion is an AI that was created when Halsey figured out a way to clone her own brain and nueral network. Halsey has a layered personality. She is one of the most brilliant humans alive, she is a champion of science, logic, reason, and duty, but she tends to break all the rules. She knows that engineering the Spartans, forcing them to suffer, and putting them in danger is logical and necessary to win the war, but Halsey also knows it's unethical. She tears herself intellectually and emotionally apart, and over the course of the novels she has to suffer guilt, and eventually choose between sending all the Spartans to their deaths or risking her own life, lying to them, and attempting to save them inside the Onyx dyson sphere. Aesthetically Halsey is attractive but she isn't sexualized the same way Cortana might be. The real Halsey usually dresses for function and for survival. In Reach you only ever see her in a winter coat because it's cold there. She's in a military setting so she's incredibly strong and demands submission from her subordinates, but she also has as intense maternal love for the Spartans. She calls them all by name, fixes their wounds, repairs their armor, and they all look up to her like a mother. In the novel Ghosts of Onyx, Halsey is stuck on a hostile Onyx with a platoon of Spartans, dressed like a civilian and vunerable in every way but she never shows fear. As they move from one objective to the next the Spartans form a circle around Halsey, they desperately protect her while she does her research, she's technically just a scientist and is not their commander at all but they respect her and do what she asks, and when she gets injured they carry her and never leave her behind. I really love the personality they created for Dr. Halsey and I love the dynamic she has with her Spartans.

I terms of simple aesthetics, I don't like it when girls are treated less logically and less "badass" than the males. I was glad I got a shoutout and one of the ladies mentioned my comment on that new Resident Evil game you guys reviewed. I was looking through the pictures and I saw a bunch of giant dudes covered head to toe like MW3 Juggernauts, and then I saw some girl with heels on and a deep plunging neckline showing her cleavage. It's suppose to just be eye-candy, but my first thought looking at it was simple logic and it's all because of the context. The boys have legitmate armor and their survival chances are increased, but the girl's armor keeps her vital organs (like her heart and lungs) exposed without any good reason why and her heels will just make her less stable and balanced. Girls don't wear heels to feel comfortable, ask them lol! I hear girl talk everyday, heels may be sexy but they are the bane of any girl's foot. I want my characters to be attractive and sexy, but heels and cleavage serve no purpose in war. Just like in real life, if you have a problem with slapping on heavy duty boots and chest armor, go home lol. It's not just a female issue either, it goes both ways. If some guy showed up to the front lines of a battle wearing sandles, board shorts, or took his shirt off to flex his abs, I'd tell him to get the fuck outta town or I'm going to shoot him my goddamn self so we don't wase time and possibly sacrifice efficiency compensating for his stupidity and waiting for the enemy to waste him themselves.

If you guys want to see some badass, "dressed for success", women in gaming look at the Sisters of Battle from the Warhammer 40k universe. In Warhammer 40k everything looks badass and the males and females are both ready to kill and die in savage battle against heretics, orks, tyranids, etc. It's not technically a video game, it's a table top game franchise, but it spans out into video games and lots of other media. The women Spartans in Halo are badass and sexy as well. The males and females all have armor built with the same purposes, increased strength, speed, survival, etc. Mjolnir armor is awesome and somehow even when you can't see many of the features of the women, they still retain femininity and plenty of appeal.

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