Women Gamers are Carving out New Roles

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

More women are playing games than ever before, but the industry is still in the Donkey Kong era for female protagonists, say many women gamers.

More women are playing games than ever before, but the industry is still in the Donkey Kong era for female protagonists, say many women gamers.

More women are playing games than ever before, but the industry is still in the Donkey Kong era for female protagonists, say many women gamers.

Women are beginning to make their presence known on screen, and behind the action.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, more than 48 percent of gamers are identified as female and 52 percent identified as male.

But many are still asking - why is gaming such a man's world?

While there were a few notable exceptions at this year's E3 - like thrill seeker Lara Croft in "Rise of the Tomb Raider" and sci-fi survivor Amanda Ripley in "Alien: Isolation" - male characters still far outnumber female protagonists in video games.

Everyone has a different answer as to why the issue persists.

Cara Ellison, video game journalist says it is refreshing to have a female protagonist in a game such as "Alien: Isolation".

"And she puts her hands on the airlock and they look like women's hands and that was like really shocking but really amazing to me. Because that's the first time that's ever happened in a video game. That was super - I don't know. I felt like it was a life-affirming moment. I was like, 'Look, they look like my hands!' They're not some big, beefy, hairy guy's hands."

Gary Napper explains the inspiration for the Amanda Ripley character:

"It takes place 15 years after the first film, and it's focused around Amanda Ripley, who is the daughter of Ellen Ripley, famously played by Sigourney Weaver."

He says they were looking for a strong, capable woman:

"Amanda Ripley's very used to space travel. She's an engineer, she's very technical. In some of the early scenes of the game, she's helping people out and telling people not to worry. She's a very capable strong character until she meets the alien and realises she's in real trouble."

Avid gamer, Lindsey Schall says she loves another games heroine Bayonetta because she is a sexy, strong role model.

"Bayonetta is actually one of my favourite games. I really love Bayonetta. The one thing I really love about Bayonetta is that she knows that she's sexy and she owns that. That's something that's really powerful. She's not ashamed of her sexuality."

The continued lack of female protagonists in games highlights an issue that continues to loom over the video game industry.

In addition to technical issues, the reasons given for gender imbalance in the game world can include psychology, financial justifications and perhaps sexism.

Yet such excuses don't seem to be holding up anymore when one considers the state of the industry: audiences for games are changing; the latest generation of consoles is more powerful than before; games have ballooned into a $21 billion business.

The editor of Kotaku UK, Keza MacDonald says there should be variety in video games to reflect society.

"Everybody wants to play varied characters in a video game. Sometimes you play a mad assassin, sometimes you play a lady spy, sometimes you play a little yellow electric mouse. That's video games. It should be imaginative, it should be varied. It's shouldn't always be white, straight, buzz cut looking guys."

Many in the industry believe the problem stems from the game makers themselves, who are mostly men.

12 to 18 percent of the industry is women and many game developers and publishers have problems finding and retaining female employees.

Martin Rae from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences says the industry is changing, and trying to identify with female characters.

"They want to identify with a female character and say She's my hero. She can get it done and this is really cool. And we haven't done as an industry probably as good a job as we could have in prior years. But I think we're really paying attention to that."


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