The gaming world is inundated with common gender stereotypes in nearly every game, and the surrounding cultural context. That cutesy girl-gamer/female-gamer label needs to become a thing of the past asap, and so do gender-based video game designs. The classic tropes of guns, violence and adventure games for boys, and cooking, designing or fashion games for girls are unfortunately common in the video game market.
Now don’t get me wrong…a LOT is changing out there, with more diverse game storylines being created, more customization options for main characters to be any gender, and less of the “girls do this and boys do that” advertising in the media.
However, it is not always the video games themselves that reinforce harmful gender stereotypes. It can also be the people that play them, and the wider online community surrounding the games.
One notable example is Fortnite. For context, I used to be a primary school teacher where we were warned about the addictive (and potentially aggressive) impact of this game on male students. I instantly wondered “what about if the girls want to play that game too? Shouldn’t we consider the effects on them as well?”. This gendered assumption made by school administration relies upon the stereotype that “video games are for boys,” which is 100% not the case anymore!
Fun fact: statistics show that around 48% of video game players are female and around 29% identify as people of color. We are a diverse and dynamic group! These key statistics need to influence video game developers when advertising and creating their latest games. Shout out to some of the all-female gaming companies like Studio Drydock, who’s newest game ‘Wylde Flowers’ is a brilliant LGBTQ+ friendly experience with farming, magic, and stunning visuals! These inclusive games are the backbone of progressing the video game industry at large.
It was rare even a few years ago to see a female protagonist or even a customization option to play as a female-presenting character. This is important to those of us who want to play as a character that reflects who we are! It is also still rare today to find LGBTQ+ characters that take main roles in the storyline of video games, or to have an option to be a non-binary character as well.
Gender stereotypes are everywhere in life, so video games should be a place where people can escape this reality, and immerse themselves in characters that fully represent who they are - without fear of being judged or bullied.
My advice to my fellow gamers: whatever anyone says, video games are your choice! If you like the look of a game, if it ignites those nostalgic vibes, or if it is your favorite genre: go for it!
There are essential stereotypes that need to change in the video gaming world, but as Satoru Iwata summarized perfectly: “Above all, video games are meant to be just one thing: fun for everyone.”
Written by: Sophie HiggsInstagram: @timeladysophz