Girl Game Power - Almost
Is it really true that gaming is only for boys? Paul Artz gets the facts on fan girls.
The myth, according to video game fans and makers, is that girls lose all interest in games once they turn thirteen. Before then they are just as devoted as boys, spending hours playing games based on their favorite toys and shows, like Dora the Explorer or Barbie, or inside virtual worlds like Club Penguin and Webkinz. Then, just as the boys discover World of Warcraft and Halo, the girls walk away.
Like most myths, some of this is true and some is fiction. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, nearly all teenage girls play games, but the same study finds that as girls grow older they play less frequently and give up on trying new genres like first-person shooters and complex strategy games.
The easy assumption is that girls just don't like these types of games. But ask Sheri Graner Ray, author of Gender Inclusive Game Design and co-founder of the Women in Games International group, why girls don't like these games and she hits back: “That's a little like saying women don't like the food in strip clubs.”
The games don't keep girls away. It's the way they depict women that turns them off.
Since their beginning, and especially after the mid-90's, when game technology allowed for 3D game characters, video game heroines have looked like they’d fit more comfortably in Playboy than in battle, and often ran into battle wearing nothing more than chain mail bikinis. The most famous, and one of the first, is Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, played by Angelina Jolie in two movie adaptations. Lara Croft is smart and strong, a world-traveling archeologist in the model of Indiana Jones, only younger and with hot pants and a spine cracking figure. But, according to Ray, Croft's chest is fine. Videogame heroes should look the part, she explains, and large breasts and a thin waist on a woman hero are no worse than broad shoulders and thick arms on a man. The difference, however, begins right on the box cover, where women are too often shown in the height of arousal ––red lips, flush cheeks and mouths open to indicate heavy breathing. In game advertising and even in some games, the women are heroes who are “showing the signs that say, 'do me, baby,'” Ray explains.
It's not the sexy heroine Ray doesn't like, it's the heroine ready for sex. As a counter to Lara Croft take Sony's game, Heavenly Sword, which gave its heroine, Nariko, long, flowing, red hair and a body just as glorified and over-exposed as Croft's, but the game's cover shows a much different woman. Nariko holds her sword pointed at the camera, ready to stab, while she glares out tight lipped, with her eyebrows furrowed into a stern look letting you know she is ready for battle, not sex. Compare that to the cover of the recent Tomb Raider sequel, which crops Lara off above her nose, and below her thighs, putting the controversy-stirring bits right in the center, and at the top are those large red lips, slightly parted.