Evaluating Gender in Game Design

Initially, I planned to look into more than one type of representation in games: gender, race and sexuality. I felt it was a good choice as the geographical and historical differences of representation are often varied, so I could compare the findings against each other. After creating a plan, I transferred it into a timetable but realised I would be unable to conduct this amount of research in the time we were given. Having experience in studying gender differences, I decided concentrating on this would give me a head start to a short term.

To begin research I went to the library and took out ‘Gender Inclusive Games Design’ (GIGD) and ‘From Barbie to Mortal Kombat’ (FBMK). Over the next week I took notes from GIGD and found valuable sources and experiments that I could use. There was history of the Girl Game Movement that I would expand on by further researching the roots of gender differences. After returning the books I chose to purchase them from the Internet. We wouldn’t be discussing the topic of Representation in Games in our lectures until a few weeks before we were going to hand our projects in, so I decided that owning the books would be beneficial.

Upon reading the first few pages of GIGD, Sheri Graner Ray discusses the International Game Developer Association and how their Women in Games Special Interest Group mailing list had supplied her with valuable information for her studies. Knowing that I’d need more up to date sources than the books, I requested entry. Within a number of weeks I had a folder of links to articles that interested me, from both my own browsing and those sent via the mailing list.

A common debate found was the lack of games created aimed to appeal to women, and how women gamers seem to be part of an invisible minority. I am not suggesting the cause is lost, as a result of looking at games that host these sexualized women, the efforts of those that choose to defy this consequently stand out. I found that even when being brought up in the same environment, social or perhaps biological differences occur within each gender.

Another debate was the representation of women’s bodies, e.g. unbelievable proportions, beauty and sexual demeanour. Resembling women and heroines featured in comics, this kind of representation was around before games came along. However, the situation of the character must considered. Factors such as their history and role/job will determine how their physique is developed. Personality and narrative have a large impact on the way we judge characters. Lara Croft is often sexualized through advertising but her character always remained strong, independent, courageous, yet beautiful and with a body that indeed began with unbelievable proportions, but has been tweaked over the years into a more believable size. If one of the most popular woman in games has gone through these changes, this suggests hope for the female figures of the future.

Titles such as X-Blades, Bayonetta, Rapelay and Onechanbara are often accompanied by the outcries of gamers, both male and female, who don’t appreciate the high impact these games have in encouraging the stereotype they set. Though noticed by many (through media) they are not the most popular. However, these games are still being made and sold, so there must be consumers interested in these games. If you compare this market to other media, there are few successful films where the female is playing the alpha role such as those in the games named above. So as games are maturing, companies using sex to attract these consumers is proving harder. However, this is a western progression. Consumers in different cultures still react to sex, such as Japan, which possess a market for games such as Rapelay. Until consumers stop reacting, games will still be produced, as there is still money to be made.

Through the entire study I have broken down boundaries in myself in order to keep an open mind about the information I come across. My greatest weakness was holding on to the gender stereotypes I was comfortable with, allowing myself to become very defensive when it came to something I didn’t agree with. I understand there are vast social influences that affect both media and consumers. I felt my strength was my time management; I began gathering research material early so that I was able to use the rest of my time effectively, concentrating on the task in hand. However, I would of liked to of concentrated on looking into why gender is so important to people, and how this is portrayed in other media. This is something I would include if I carried my study on further, including the topics of race and sexuality that I mentioned earlier. I would also like to become more involved in online groups that are aimed at women gamers, and find out why they have made these and what their goals are.

Overall I am pleased with my research, as I believe I have learned from what I have discovered. Although I am unable to update the blog further for a period of time, once my blog becomes available again I plan to continue updating it, including research for the representation of race and sexuality.


2 responses to “Evaluating Gender in Game Design

  1. I stumbled upon this site while googling an unrelated gaming topic and found the page I landed on interesting. However, when I went to the home page and I saw the title “Evaluating Gender in Game Design” I was a little bothered.

    I’m going to cut right to the point: it would be better if you didn’t confuse evangelizing with evaluation. Both can have a lot of value if used appropriately, but when the two are confused, you end up with something that confuses science with opinion, or, to be more blunt, it confuses fact with emotion.

    You have a lot of good things to say. It is also my opinion that games like Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 are not doing anything positive for women, and it’s worthwhile that you point that out. But where is the evaluation in that statement? it’s not there. That statement doesn’t use science, but rather a gut reaction based on what you and I know about society.

    Am I being petty? Maybe, but I’ve seen so many examples of people promoting their opinions as facts in damaging ways that I can’t help but cringe when I see someone do it in a “positive” way. You don’t need to hide behind an “evaluation” that doesn’t really exist. Just call it like it is and let people make their judgments of your opinions based on the body of your work. The ones who count will respect you for it.


    • Hey Paul,

      I’m really glad you commented it’s nice to see people are finding and reading my blog. Basically, I created this blog for part of my university course for our ‘Critical Studies’ where we are required to choose one of a number of topics and research/evaluate it. We were allowed to submit them in the form of a blog and I thought this would be a nice change to creating a portfolio. The reason I called the post an evaluation was to make it clear to the examiners that that’s what my “evaluation” is, and none of my other posts, even though it’s obvious, I wanted to make sure.

      I’m in total agreement with you and I’m flattered you chose to voice your opinion. When I am able to change the blog again (We have to wait until a certain date before we’re allowed to edit it, for marking/exam reasons) i’ll definitely give it a few tweeks and put up a proper description of everything i’ve written above, so people know why I started it etc.


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