Author Topic: Gender issues and gaming  (Read 76006 times)

bleunienn

  • Cupcakes Member
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 261
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2012, 01:25:20 PM »
Not to turn this into a conversation about misandry, but as you know, men are slobbering idiots who only think with one part of their body. Thus the advertisers look at us poor, dim-witted souls and see easy money in marketing to us through sex because they know we'll respond.

And this is why feminists like to point out that sexist culture is bad for men, too.  I'm more than my boobs (very nice boobs though they are) and you're more than a slobbering knuckle-dragger with a Pavlovian response to the vague promise of sex.

Also, what Wren said.

I have a couple general questions about this.  First I don't think sexy is inherently a bad thing.  I don't think we need to start some crusade against bare mid-rifts and I think a larger issue is a sexy character is often only defined by being sexy.  When you make a female character sexy and in revealing clothing they pass on any other character development and leave her as the 'sexy' archetype.  Which isn't really a character at all.

Yep, that pretty much what I meant when I talked about being reduced to butts and boobs.  Not that there should be no conventionally sexy characters, but that they should be characters, not cardboard cut-outs (or blow-up dolls).  Morrigan's a good example of a conventionally sexy character who is a full-fledged character and isn't just reduced to her ladyparts.

Quote
Is it more okay if the guys are just as sexualized/objectified or is it more bothersome if it's a gal character is and the male character is not?

I don't particularly LIKE it when men are objectified, any more than I particularly like it when women are objectified (we call this "empathy" on my planet) but it bothers me less when both sides are objectified than when women (or men) are objectified and the other sex isn't.  There's a perverse sort of equality in a situation where both sides are objectified; when it's only one side it rapidly becomes obnoxious.

Wren

  • Cupcakes Mod
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1280
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2012, 01:26:07 PM »
I think there's also a lot of confusion re: where is the line between objectifying women vs. women being empowered. Or making the mistake that attractiveness/the way someone dress has a direct correlation to their intellect or knowledge.
So many things to consider! Someone should really study this stuff...oh wait.

Kharvek

  • Adjective Noun Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2977
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2012, 01:28:35 PM »
Frank did you just call Tali sexy?

...wait in some other thread I said I'd bang a Draenei.  Sup pot.  Sup Kettle.

Edalia

  • Red Velvet
  • Cupcakes Admin
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4112
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2012, 01:39:14 PM »
Personally, I don't have a thing for Tali...but I know she was a fan-favorite LI!
o/\o

Winston

  • Cupcakes Member
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1038
  • RPing since 1976
    • Argothald
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2012, 06:17:17 PM »
As long as the Booth Babes are drawing attention to their Booth and/or product, then they are earning their paycheck. If the Expo Participants don't pay them any attention, then they won't be hired in the future. So you can't blame the companies that hire these women when its the consumers/reporters/fans that respond to their presence.
I can totally blame the companies that hire them, I can expect and demand a company to do better and help change the culture of the consumers and fans that attend the convention. I think it has to come from both sides.
I'm going to agree with Vylin on this one. I acknowledge that sexism exists and that companies pander to it in their marketing. However, if a company tries to "do better and help change the culture" and loses sales by doing so, then its marketing department is not doing its job for the company, and that company is not satisfying its fiduciary responsibilities to its investors. Businesses aren't known for doing the right thing; their only measure of success is profit.

The challenge is to find a marketing approach that is (a) not sexist (i.e., neither gender-biased nor gender-degrading) and (b) can be demonstrated to generate at least as many sales as the sexist approach.

No, I don't know how to do this. I wish I did.
Bill Seligman
Alliance: Winston, Yungi, Pellinore, Tebyalyublyu, Theadora, Vasili, Winella, Winstonia
Horde: Grotar, Swiftslice

Wren

  • Cupcakes Mod
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1280
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2012, 08:06:10 PM »
But that's part of the problem, this assumption that sex sells is correct and that asking a company to not use that tactic would be irresponsible. There are plenty of examples in the entertainment industry of ad campaigns that found a way to be successful, clever, and engaging without relying on blatant sexualization.
Further, there have been numerous surveys and studies that show that overly sexual ads tend to interfere and distract from brand recognition and recall.

So I still think as consumers we can absolutely hold companies responsible, like I said change needs to be initiated and encouraged from both sides.

Kharvek

  • Adjective Noun Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2977
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2012, 10:10:11 PM »
I think the particularly weird part about the E3 booth babe thing is that to get into E3 you basically need to show proof that you either work in the industry or you're a video game journalist.  If you don't, the price of admission goes through the roof to something insane.

...so the primary people attending are not only gamers but in the games industry which generally says to me "They know what they wanna see on the show floor."  If I go to E3, I know the games I wanna see.  Sex isn't gonna sell me anything there.  I'm going to see Borderlands 2 since I'm crazy stoked about that game.  If there's some scantily clad version of Mad Moxxie there it's not gonna push me one way or the other.  ...sure I might enjoy the eye candy in the obscenely long line, but I'm sure to be annoyed by her once I get my chance at the game.  (I was reading someone's account of E3 and when they were trying the game the booth babe in question pestered them constantly to let them know what they're doing on facebook and twitter.  Holy shit would that piss me off.  Granted that would piss me off even if it was the studio's community manager and not a booth babe, but still)

I feel like if E3 took the auto show approach it wouldn't be as bad.  The auto show gals are dialed down on the crazy revealing and they're actually very knowledgeable about their products.  If I walked up to one of the gal's in the Ford booth and asked how the Focus ST deals with torque oversteer with so much power in a front wheel drive car?  She's gonna know what I'm talking about and give me an intelligent answer and probably correct me that it's actually understeer and not oversteer like I said.  If I asked someone about what kind of DRM they're using on a new game?  I'd doubt an E3 booth babe would know. 

They can still be good looking gals in sexy outfits, just not embarassingly slutty outfits and perhaps most importantly, know about their product and better yet, genuinely care.  That's the cool part about some of the auto show gals is that they are genuinely gearheads and can get to talking about their own dream car and the project car they're wrenching on over the weekends.  Granted my experience here is the Chicago show and it might be different at other ones, but I don't feel like the gals are being demeaned by what they wear and I don't feel like it's insulting the intelligence of the average show goer.

Just like I think being a female sexy game character is inherently bad, I also think that using sex to sell isn't inherently bad.  It's just the magnitude you do it at and if you're demeaning the person doing the selling or insulting the intelligence of your target market.  There's in your face flesh everywhere sex, and there's classy sexy.  It's attractive and it's helping call attention to something, but it's not screaming louder than the product itself. 

..or we could just add in some booth beef to go along with the booth babes and make it E3/XXX expo.

bleunienn

  • Cupcakes Member
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 261
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2012, 03:42:26 AM »
So I still think as consumers we can absolutely hold companies responsible, like I said change needs to be initiated and encouraged from both sides.

Yep.

Shame is a useful tool.  If you read Ta-Nehisi Coates over at The Atlantic (and if you don't, you should; he's a good and thoughtful writer, and a gamer too), you'll have seen some discussion on his blog there recently about how shame is one of the more powerful tools against racism currently at our disposal.  The idea is not that we can somehow shame people into being open-minded, but rather that by making an -ism (race, sex) shameful, we also make a disincentive for behaving in a blatantly -ist way, and so that behaviour declines over time.

(Obviously this doesn't get at the roots of bigotry, nor does TNC suggest it does, but if we can't change hearts, we can at least change actions).

In the game industry, sexism isn't shameful.  What we need is for more people to look at the blatant sexism and say to the game companies "... dude.  Not cool."  (And then maybe not buy the product.  Money talks, and a' that).

A couple of things that may be valuable about Anita Sarkeesian's project, beyond whatever her research may find, are that her experience with the threats and abuse over the Kickstarter blows the lid off the "well, it's not really that bad" excuse (oh yes, it really is that bad), and that it has encouraged other gamers to start talking about the problem.

Brynndolin

  • Cupcakes Member
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 2482
  • Frequently wrong, never in doubt
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2012, 07:58:46 AM »
I won't be buying tera beta. The scantily clad thing is like whatever. The wildly gesticulating hips made me snort, and basically assign it the too-blatant-and-pathetic-for-me-to-deal-with. It's easy for me to write off games. It's a shame since it looks cool. But that was just an easy line for me to draw. I don't really feel the need to fight further than my pocketbook, but it reminds me to go tell my beautiful daughter with crystal blue eyes that she's nice, gorgeous, and smart. And that anyone worth their salt sees beyond the outer veneer in a matter of moments.

AdmiralShardy

  • Ahoy!
  • Cupcakes Member
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 605
    • Twitter Account
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2012, 08:04:04 AM »
Over the years I've seen fewer gaming sites run "booth babe" features every year. Though there are plenty of more subtle forms of sexism found in the writing on most sites (including the one I work for, depending on the writer,) people do seem to be slowly getting the message that the booth babe this is embarrassing to everyone.  The article noting that having anybody in costume attracts booth attention makes a great point, too.  I've seen people with cameras swarming the freaking Carnival Games clown, for crying out loud.

As usual, my favourite way to make this kind of point is with humour.

I've also seen an increasing number of male game journalists willing to step up and say, "Hey, these objectifying portrayals of women in games are not ok," which is very much appreciated.  The complexity of the debate has increased as well. I'm personally not going to be able to make my mind up about how Lara Croft is portrayed in the new Tomb Raider without playing the game myself. On one hand, I wonder if the developers are getting away with putting her through so much realistic damage because she's female, and if male gamers would be willing to see an ordinary-seeming male character put through that much. On the other hand, the entire story is based on Croft surviving and overcoming the awful situation she's in, which is an empowering message.

I think some of the big work to be done in the game industry and gaming community right now involves men speaking to other men.  It can absolutely work, and I've seen it work in gaming communities that have decided that it's not ok to be a misogynistic jerk.  There's unfortunately still a lot of peer pressure in male gaming communities to act like a sexist boor, and there are still far too many jackasses out there who feel free to attack women who speak up on the issue.  Still, in some ways the game industry is ahead of the movie industry (though behind TV) in the level of  industry discussion going on and an active movement to make strong female characters who star in their own games.

Not that there isn't still a lot to be done, and I'm glad Sarkeesian isn't letting herself be defeated by her haters.
Admiral Shardrell, Retired Nelfy Pirate
Julia Cappo, Active Guild Wars 2 Pirate.  I like pirates.
Twitter: @BeckyCFreelance

Leahnidas

  • Guest
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #25 on: June 14, 2012, 07:19:18 PM »
As someone who once owned a small business, I can tell you that IN GENERAL, companies do not do things that lose them money and if they do, they don't do it for long. Granted, sometimes people/companies are slow on the take and don't notice the revolution until it has passed them by, but my general feeling is that if these companies were losing money because of their objectification or immoral behavior, they'd try alternative methods quick, fast, and in a hurry. You don't make the kind of money these companies are making by being idiotic. People may find booth babes/objectifying women in video games reprehensible but if they know they make X dollars with the current way and there's no hard evidence that doing something else will make more than X dollars, then what's the motivation?

Bleu mentioned shame and it's a solid idea to try but, imo, this is an entertainment industry that is essentially the same as Hollywood. Hollywood puts out some of the most vile, disgusting crap possible and there's an audience for everything and so I don't really see them being too particularly ashamed of anything they do. The Human Centipede is an actual freaking movie, people and it got a SEQUEL! Chew on that.

The other argument, of course, to what people are talking about is that if the heroine of Lollipop Chainsaw was a smartly dressed character with a great deal of depth and strong dialogue, everything would be fine and dandy and not talking about the just massive amount of blood and gore that abounds in the game. Why? Because we're adults here and we can handle violence and they're not going to make US violent because we're smarter than that; we don't get our values from a video game. So if we're smart enough to ignore/be ok with/enjoy copious amounts of violence ("Yes, my young impressionable child, I just killed that squirrel in Elwynn Forest for no reason but there wasn't any blood so it's ok and besides it's for an achievement"), why aren't we able to say "Wow, that large breasted female character sure is wearing some skimpy clothing; I don't think I'll play that" (Alternative being: "Wow, that large breasted female character sure is hot; I think I'll pirate that game and play it lots and lots")?

bleunienn

  • Cupcakes Member
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 261
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #26 on: June 15, 2012, 04:45:23 AM »
In general, Leah, I think there are two things (well, maybe three) going on.

One is unexamined bias -- the game industry isn't being deliberately sexist, it's just not thinking about it.  This is where a project like Sarkeesian's has its real value: it points things out so that people do think about them. 

There are plenty of people pointing out and talking about sexism (and other -isms and -phobias) in Hollywood.  And, to an extent, things are starting to change.  There are still too many films and TV shows where the women are either bimbos or shrews, but then there are also people like Joss Whedon getting big money, writing generally non-sexist scripts, and interesting characters, both male and female. 

Is change fast?  No.  But it's happening and we can support it.  When Bioware's lead writer for DA 2 told the "you ignored the straight male gamers" guy on their forums to get over it, I not only stood up and cheered, I threw a little more money at Bioware to back it up.

There are, as you say niche markets for pretty offensive stuff, but I don't think you can make a case for The Human Centipede being anything more than a particularly egregious, and therefore particularly well-known, example of gross niche product.  It was not a Hollywood production and according to Wikipedia (I know) even the major investors didn't really know what the content was before the director finished the film.  I'm also not sure you can make a case for THC being sexist, exactly, so tossing it in here is something of a red herring.  (I haven't seen it and don't care to, but a glance at the plot summary doesn't raise any particularly sexist themes).

The other thing is that people don't often think that their couple o' bucks is going to matter (or saying "not cool") is going to matter.  Individually, no, probably not.  This is where talking about it comes back in.  If I decide not to buy a game because the female characters are all Bimbo the LARP-Bunny, but don't say anything, who's to know?  If I don't buy that game and also mention somewhere (like here!) that I'm not buying it for that reason, maybe that encourages a few other people to consider whether the bad writing/costuming/anatomy of the female characters is a deal-breaker for them, too.  Then maybe some of them don't buy it, and mention to their friends why, and we get a ripple effect.

Better, I don't buy the game, tell my friends, and write a letter to the company's customer service/marketing people: 

Gentlemen: 

I have long been a fan of BigManParts' games for their exciting gameplay and dynamic combat systems, but I was extremely disappointed in the character customisation options in your latest offering.  Specifically, I found that the armour options for female characters being limited to fur bikinis, when male characters wore authentic-looking mediaeval armour, was sexist and demeaning as well as unrealistic and immersion-breaking.  I will not be buying the game as a result, and I hope you will do better in the future. 

Sincerely,
Bleu the "I'm very disappointed in you, son" Elf

Better still, we all write letters.  Then, when sales are disappointing (as I can only hope), they have an idea why at least some of their customers didn't cough up the cash, and see they have an incentive to do better in the future.

Again, it's not fast.  There's no magic wand to wave at it.  But my money is just as green as anyone else's. I feel like I'm completely within my rights as a gamer to ask for games that don't insult me just because I happen to be a woman, and I don't accept "that's just the way the industry is" as a valid excuse for having to put up with sexist tropes.

Vylin

  • Mains Are For Casuals
  • Cupcakes Member
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1699
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #27 on: June 15, 2012, 05:00:51 AM »
If I ever started a game company, or any company really, I believe I will have to name it "BigManParts". Actually, maybe I will name my Guild Wars 2 character that... :D
SWTOR Characters: Republic - Zerana, Hedrak, Joanna, Delmond; Empire - Destro, Entropi, Pennance, Purgatori

AdmiralShardy

  • Ahoy!
  • Cupcakes Member
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 605
    • Twitter Account
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #28 on: June 15, 2012, 05:38:33 AM »
Having written a weekly games industry news column for a while now, I can tell you that game companies do stupid things that lose money all the time.  Hell, being married to an accountant for a large Canadian business, I can tell you that all companies do stupid things that lose money all the time.  I have to listen to my husband bitch about it. :)

Creating better female characters, using at least a bit of creativity, and avoiding stupid stereotypes doesn't harm game sales at all. In general, critics who ask for stronger female characters aren't saying that no female characters should be "sexy," but that we want to see a better diversity of female characters in games, and we want to see those characters have more depth.  And it'd be nice if more of them weren't nearly-naked.  Most of us also want to see male characters with more depth as well, but there's currently a far greater diversity of male characters than female characters in the genre, so we'll often focus on the women.

Getting rid of booth babes doesn't drive gamers away, either.  The Penny Arcade Expo doesn't allow booth babes (although some companies try to skirt the line, most obey) and it sold out in days this year. If a show that caters primarily to game customers instead of the gaming press does that well without booth babes, why does E3 need them?  Oh, and the male-female ratio at PAX is much healthier than at E3 and many other gaming cons. Gamers are ultimately in the hobby for the games, and are more than happy to support great games that happen to have strong female characters in them.  Hell... even the notoriously immature Blizzard fanbase (you guys have been on the WoW forums, you know it) finds what Blizzard has done with Jaina Proudmoore to be distasteful. They liked her better when she was portrayed as a stronger, not-whiny woman who wasn't largely defined by the men she'd dated.

The games industry isn't doing very well right now, and one way that a number of companies are surviving is by tapping the huge potential female market. Another way that companies are surviving (especially on the PC side of things) is by appealing to a slightly older demographic. Both these demographics appreciate deeper characterization and are on the whole turned off by wholly exploitative representations of both women and men. As the middle falls out of the industry (most companies that are doing well either make blockbusters or are privately-owned companies making niche games,) appealing to these demographics is helping a number of companies stay afloat.  Being thoughtful about female characters isn't just about doing the right thing.  It's good for business.
Admiral Shardrell, Retired Nelfy Pirate
Julia Cappo, Active Guild Wars 2 Pirate.  I like pirates.
Twitter: @BeckyCFreelance

Andraax

  • Adjective Noun Member
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 602
Re: Gender issues and gaming
« Reply #29 on: June 15, 2012, 07:05:11 AM »
Let me start by saying that I agree with the contention that sections of the industry are sexist, in one way or another.

However, I'm surprised that no one has brought up the example of the porn industry in this discussion; whether you like it or not, porn brings in billions of dollars and is widely perceived as being highly profitable (I don't know if this is the case or not in reality).  I suspect that many companies run by men (whether its the company itself or marketers) see this and figure "Hey, sex sells in this case!  Why not ours?"  This is not necessarily good reasoning, but I can see people thinking that way.

Remember, the Internet is for porn....

-Andraax