Interesting breakdowns of gender signifiers in videogames

I thought it was terrific to read an article that wanted to understand how we signal gender in games, what message signifiers send, and then how that message is interpreted.

Do you think this is true? Pink and bows mean: Look no further, nothing to see here?

Do you think the solutions offered make sense? I know a lot of the game devs here will have some insight into that.

Here’s the article:
[](How to not suck at game design: Gender Signifiers in Video Games)

link that works

That’s a lot of words to make the observation that pink=girls. I’m not sure what the author thinks about teen girls walking around in short shorts with “juicy” emblazoned on the back.

I guess my problem with this article is that it conflates widespread cultural gender signifiers as parochial creative intent on the part of games with examples of sexism in some games, and takes as an assumption that gender role signifiers are a bad thing outright. It’s also worth wondering if girls/women prefer highly stylized avatars in online games, like some of the classes Guild Wars 2, or if they use them because it’s the only option given.

I thought the article stated that it was alright for games using those signifiers to exist. The problem wasn’t that a SPECIFIC game was that way, it was that nearly all games were. Games that don’t fall back on the same use of signifiers as the vast majority of games can find an audience that didn’t exist before.

I think your comment that girls/women may prefer highly stylized avatars is missing the point, because not all women will share that view even if there is a majority consensus. There’s still room and still audience for different portrayals of women / gender. The article was sketching out the normal portrayals games take with gender.

What I think would have helped was presenting some unique portrayals. The author suggests that they’ve heard of interesting alternative approaches to gender portrayal from women (in the section “Fixing it!”), but doesn’t present any of them. They only present what they don’t like. It’d help get the point across to have a few examples of what they’re talking about.

I think the main thing I learned from it was actually that if you have a bunch of characters and none of them look like girls or boys but then you throw in one girl and add a bow and a pink dress etc then you might be overdoing it.

Unappreciated by that author is that fighting and sport in the real world is male-dominated… and this is also often the subject of games. As are the mythologies that games draw from.

The more female knights you add to your round table the farther from the shared cultural anchor that spawned your idea you go. Unfortunately, if you want to have a fighting game for the best fighters on the planet, that is recognizable and familiar, it’s not the same as having a fighting with half females. Like all other media, games reflect culture rather than shape it… might be great if females were treated equally as often as men were, but that is not historical.

One of these types of articles pops up every now and then. I seriously doubt any designer sits down and goes “IMMA MAKE A GAME FOR DUDES ONLY!” They probably just want to make a game. Then they get some designer who likes drawing big boobs.

It’s a societal issue.

Are we really trying to focus on reality here when we have guys running around with swords that are look 8 feet tall, guys with muscles the sizes of tires, and this kind of weird armor fetish where women get their breasts and crotch covered but little else? I don’t know why so often when gender and sex portrayals are brought up this reality card gets pulled as if so much of gaming is at all based on reality.

Want to hear a female gamer’s voice on this?

My daughters and I absolutely hate it, when a game has “us” running around fighting in a bikini.

In WoW, beginning of Burning Crusade, a female character had no other options, even plate male came with “belly button window”. I remember falling back to prior (worse!) equipment in order to look decent and to be able to relate to my Paladin once more.

There you are :-)

– cookroach

Games for teens are power fantasies and of course need blunt heavy big boobs. So the question is, what womens fantasie about? If womens start talking in public about his fantasies we can add then to games. Speak up womens!

Yeah, speak up womens!

The other day my wife was disappointed to find out there are no female skins in Minecraft. She went with the closest one…the kilted scottish guy.

So even indie games have this problem.

I don’t think the article is implying people sit down with the intention of making a game with no relatable female characters. It’s suggesting ways game creators can think about these issues while making a game (but I don’t think it’s doing a great job since it doesn’t provide positive examples).

I only skimmed it, but I thought the overcompensation / “trying too hard” thesis was helpful to me from a criticism standpoint (i.e., why do I like and dislike certain things).

The list of memorable female characters was clever. It reminds me how airbrushed porn stars are so unappealing. It’s hard for me to relate to the idealization / escapist fantasy theory because it’s unattractive to me. It’s often distracting or annoying, like when Bioware enlarged Shepard’s breasts for ME3.