Exploring the Treatment of Women in Video Games


Exploring Violence Against Women in Video Games
A scene from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Photo: Ubisoft

I don’t really play video games any longer unless you count “Candy Crush”. When it comes to next gen gaming systemsm in the past I’ve played “Uncharted“, a little “Call of Duty, but mostly games such as “Tiger Woods Golf” and “Gran Turismo” so my experience with what is being discussed in the following videos is essentially zero, but it’s rather damning stuff when it comes to the portrayal of women in video games.

The videos presented here use a range of games to make the case women are most frequently portrayed as overtly sexual and brutalized side characters, included only to have violence done upon them either for the sake of creating a seedy atmosphere or to give the gamer something to do. Therefore, the characters are more or less props rather than actual characters.

Considering most of these games feature a male protagonist and there are very few games (at least to my knowledge) that feature a female guiding the action, it’s hard to make a case against what is being discussed here. I don’t know how often male characters are seen being killed and/or in distress in games such as these, giving the main characters reason to continue on their required mission, but I don’t believe there are many games featuring male prostitutes and strippers with the sole intention of being displayed sexually.

As a non-gamer I wasn’t aware of this situation, but at the beginning of the week I started seeing several messages on Twitter condemning the treatment of women in video games and was unclear as to the motivation. Today, over at Screen Crush, Britt Hayes clued me in to what the deal was including a header image featuring a tweet from a now suspended Twitter account threatening to rape and kill Anita Sarkeesian, the director of the three videos below.

Hayes’ post is first and foremost targeting the reaction to Sarkeesian’s videos as well as the treatment of “Depression Quest” developer Zoe Quinn while getting into the actual treatment of women in video games and other media at the end of her post, noting a recent tweet from Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon


It’s interesting it would be Whedon (whose work I don’t want to discount with the likes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dollhouse”) whose tweet gets so much recognition since Marvel’s Kevin Feige won’t commit to a female-led superhero movie, citing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

So this isn’t just a video game issue, and as Britt’s post at Screen Crush gets into, it’s sort of an issue bleeding into geek culture, though I have to admit I’ve only recently become increasingly aware of it since I don’t really live in that world outside of superhero movies so I can’t speak with much authority.

This is clearly a conversation that deserves more than the 30 minutes I took to put together this post, but I’d be interested in hearing where you come down on this issue. Watch the videos below, leave your thoughts in the comments. If you’re a gamer I’d be curious to read whether or not you’ve played the games mentioned in the videos and if the misogyny and treatment of women in them gave you pause. Do you think Sarkeesian is only looking at one side of the conversation and if so what is your argument for the other side?

My hope is for a constructive conversation because I think these videos are compelling and, at the very least, worthy of opening a dialogue and exploring the issue further. Would these games be made any less fun to play if the women weren’t dressed as prostitutes and used merely as objects of desire, added to the background merely to be slaughtered? I would certainly hope so or that doesn’t say much for the games in the first place.

NOTE: Be sure to read the post at Screen Crush for added insight into this issue.