I read an article by Bloomberg’s Tae Kim (which was an opinionated blog that was well written), about denigrating portrayals of women and how Aloy is the “first” to break that cycle. I wanted to discuss it as, although I don’t mind if women are vocal about how they want to be portrayed in any media, it’s important to listen to ALL women that play video games. As I’ve noticed that a certain group of women have hijacked the conversation and made it seem that all women are monolithic in this opinion.

In the article, Tae Kim touched on both the portrayal of women in gaming and the treatment of women in the workplace. Both are sensitive topics that I’ll try my best to be mindful of! However, my primary focus is the portrayal of women in gaming. Women’s portrayal in gaming has by far in large evolved over the years. Yes, there is no denying that women were once either the damsel in distress or the fan service in the game, but over time they’ve taken prominent roles as either competent side characters or the main protagonist. And in most cases, men don’t have an issue with this. Listen, I’ve seen the comments and I know how some men act, but it is important to know that for every misogynistic guy that has an issue with a woman being the main protagonist there are men out there ready to shame the guy and buy the game if it’s good.

I didn’t like how the blog tried to make it seem that all men hate women in games that are smart and resourceful. I also didn’t like how the article downplayed or diss the fictional women that have come before Aloy. Like Laura Croft for example. Yes, she wore tiny shorts and had her infamous triangle boobs, but her remake has all but gotten rid of those traits and made her a more realistic and less “eye candy” woman!

Nevertheless, it’s important to note the issue is not that women are portrayed as damsels, but that there’s isn’t a variety of women in games. Like the Laura Croft example. If you keep your ears to the ground, you’d realize that plenty of women actually liked how Laura Croft was portrayed in the past! I’ve seen and heard women wanting Lara Croft to at least act the way she did in the old games, something that was surprising to me. Trying to imply that only one type of woman should exist is not the solution to the problem that is present.

Just as there are women who hated how Lara Croft was handled in the past, there were other women who loved her! Articles like Tae Kim are making the dangerous assumption that all women want Aloy, and hate Lara Croft, which is not true! What women want is to be able to create a variety of women, both beautiful and smart, resourceful and sexy, ugly and strong, average and funny! They want to control their own image, which is where we should be focusing on. Bayonetta, another example she pulled was designed by Mari Shimazaki, a woman. And designing a character goes through a number of processes that require many concepts before one is landed on. Then there’s the boatload of women in games that have come from indie games and are beloved to this day. Yes, there are not top-selling games but both men and women didn’t have an issue picking these games up, regardless of gender.

It’s perfectly fine if Tomb Raider or Bayonetta makes you uncomfortable or as Tae put it:

“I find it uncomfortable playing leading titles like Tomb Raider, Genshin Impact, or Bayonetta, all of which feature female characters in skimpy outfits.” and “Of course, plenty of best-selling videogames don’t rely on cringe-inducing portrayals, but familiar gender tropes of the damsel in distress and the use of overly sexualized characters turn up far too often.”,

however, you are one in the millions of women who not only play the games that you’ve mentioned but enjoy and admire the characters in them. Not to mention that there are girls that like these stories if handled correctly! Some women like the damsel in distress stories. I also don’t like how these types of blogs effectively shut women out who like these characters and stories and if they speak out, they are often labeled as “insert derogatory word here”!

This leads me to the work environment that women work in. This should be the bigger problem to tackle as forced conformity is a big issue, where the men who are usually are in charge, don’t tend to want to stray away from the conventional means that makes them money, thus making it easier to uphold sexist and misogynistic opinions of women. And not to mention, as we saw from this year alone, they don’t value the skills and humanity of their fellow female co-workers. There are been times where game creators wanted to create a female lead, but they’re shut down by short-sighted executives, too afraid to take the risk of trying something new. This is what gave birth to indie games space in the first place. I’m glad however that the disgusting people in these companies are slowly been removed from their position, allowing for a better and safer work environment.

It’s going to take time, to get to the point where everyone is properly represented, but that means listening to everyone on both sides and understand that everyone has their preference in how they want to be portrayed. There’s a place for characters like Bayonetta and Aloy to exist so long as it is handled well in their narrative!

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