Saturday, March 31, 2012

Video Game Superheroines: Appropriate role models or just “a 13 year-old boy’s fantasy”?

Many video games I grew up playing had the main characters as male. Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros., and Sonic are all examples of games that starred a male character. In addition, many of these games had the main character, such as Link or Mario, saving the helpless female, (Zelda and Princess Peach) who had been captured by the main boss. However, as the years have passed, many more games have been created, or at least evolved, to have female main characters. Some games have it as choice between gender characters and some strictly have a female protagonist. Nonetheless, these female characters seem to be modeled after a woman that has the perfect breast to waist to hip ratio with flawless skin and hair. Thus, has this evolvement toward a more female empowering gaming world really contribute positively to the cause?
            I have mixed feelings and so do other critics. Peter Hartlaub, writer of the article “Top 9 greatest video game heroines” mentions how The Chronicle’s video game critics picked “nine playable characters…judged on toughness and coolness, with no swimsuit, or evening gown competition” since many of these characters still have exaggerated body images. Still, that doesn’t take from the fact that these characters still kick serious butt and can stand on their own two feet. The fantasy world these characters live in have their community depending on the character’s success. That is a serious load to have to carry. So don’t these females get credit for that?
            Yes, it would be nice to have a game focused around a woman who radiates strength and independence without her having to have the next Miss America body but would that game really sell?  I feel that we are making progress toward a more gender-equal society but the step is just really small. Nonetheless, any step counts and we should appreciate the step for what it is worth. While some people may initially start playing the game to admire the woman’s shape as she moves across the screen, I feel that eventually these people will begin enjoying the game for its storyline. This may be a very small fraction, but at least it is something, right? A drastic leap from powerless, but beautiful women to strong, but physically unattractive women may just be too much of a shock to society. The cause must be eased into or all the efforts may be lost. As a final note, give the public what they want but slowly habituate them to an idea that truly puts women on a pedestal that is equal to a man, without the degrading body image stereotypes. Whether this is in video games, books, movies, or government, these small steps to the common goal will eventually reap praiseworthy benefits.

Read more about the “Top 9 playable characters” article at:


  1. As a female video game player, I would have to say that almost all the games that I play that involve action and saving the world all feature male characters, but quite frankly they are far more enjoyable then those featuring a female lead. They involve more gore and combat, which is what I enjoy about playing. I am a bit disappointed that games like Halo, Gears of War, or Call of Duty don't have a female equivalent in their popularity or like-ability. However, the lack of a female lead within these games hasn't stopped me from playing them. In fact, I'm not a fan of the female leads because of the greatly exaggerated features. I do think it's time for a new female lead, kick ass game, that doesn't make the female character look like a stripper or supermodel.

  2. I agree that having a strong female lead would be progressive, but I understand why video game makers are not really trying to make a game with such a character. Most video games are marketed toward a male audience, and therefore, although it is sad, a female lead has to be attractive for the game to sell. Otherwise, the lead is a male. Games with males include more gore and action, and until multiple games with female lead serve as substantial rivals to the popular games of today, they will not sell.

  3. With numerous male-targeted video games, I feel trying to find a video game with a well developed female protagonist who is strong and independent is harder to find. Many females shy away from video games, leaving game-makers to exploit these gender stereotypes of females. When I used to play video games, they were also usually targeted for males. I also agree with the previous comment. I feel that the few video games that were made for females were not as fun. I feel that women are in a way commodified and objectified in video games; they are used in a way to increase sales in video games.

  4. Sadly, I believe this all to be true. In order for games to sell, the majority of gamers (who are male) must like them. In order for that to happen, the main character must either be a man whom the gamer aspires towards, or a woman whom the gamer aspires to date. Though it is a shame that this situation leaves us with sexy women as leads and women in general being objectified, there is a greater evil at work here that nobody's fully acknowledged yet. The fact that money rules the world and decisions are based on profit is the source of this debauchery. So until a solution to that issue is proposed, or until the gamers' taste buds mature, I'm afraid this conversation will change nothing. But that's probably a topic for my philosophy class, not my feminism class...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.