When video games burst onto the scene as a widely accepted cultural phenomenon, skeptics began to question whether they provided more benefit than consequence. Primarily enjoyed by younger players, many wondered what would happen when these gamers matured and entered the workforce, started business, formed relationships, etc. How would the influence of video games affect their future, or the world at large?
At the crux of the argument were many issues, such as the inherent violence in titles like Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto, to the dangers of addictions and simple time-wasting. One of these topics was the apparent gender bias, that saw video games primarily marketed to and targeted for high school boys or college guys. Would this result in the objectification of females?
Girls Are Eye Candy
In certain cases, specific titles unquestionably portrayed female characters as sexual objects of lust and desire, rather than true human beings. There are even series of games seemingly entirely dedicated to presenting girls as scantily clad as possible, as in the Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball title or similar. In the Grand Theft Auto franchise, some games permit the player to solicit a prostitute in order to regain health. For some fighting-type games, exaggeratingly enlarged breasts wobble and jiggle, for no reason other than to obviously attract male gamers.
Considering the proliferation of annual lists of Hottest Babes in Gaming or otherwise titled, there is an undeniable culture that does exist to serve the viewpoint that, on these disks, girls are just eye candy as far as electronic gaming is concerned.
Girls Are Role Models
However, other examples in the gaming environment seem to show females as role models that should be exemplified and respected, rather than drooled over. One of the more visible, popular examples is Samus Aran of the Metroid franchise for Nintendo: Usually clad completely in futuristic sci-fi armor, this butt-kicking bounty hunter has a plasma rifle for an arm and is unquestionably out for violence, not intimacy. Even Princess Peach from the Super Mario series can be seen as an example of a classy woman, unwilling to sacrifice her royal manners for a simple sexual overture.
The defining characteristic seems to be whether the female is a background character there for eyeball-attracting purposes, or if she truly is a fully realized being with a story and a role in the adventure; considering this, one must consider that there are definitely video games still being produced that have females in starring roles, and not just for their physical appeal.
The Truth Behind Gender Roles in Video Games
When all factors are looked at, the simple conclusion is that the matter must be judged on a case-by-case basis. Some video games definitely portray females offensively, and some certainly present them fairly. And in other cases, the decision is not as simple: Tifa in Final Fantasy VII and Lara Croft in Tomb Raider are both girls that can hold their own with the boys, but both are also obviously rendered to be attractive. Is this a compromise, or an ideal?
Just like as with most other issues in life, it must be objectively examined, and people should do their research before prematurely deciding on a “side” in the debate.