Women more often being seen as video game main characters

11 months 4 days 23 minutes ago April 18, 2016 Apr 18, 2016 Monday, April 18 2016 Monday, April 18, 2016 3:47:00 PM CDT in News
By: Katie Cammarata, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - Female protagonists are gradually becoming more common in video games of all sorts. 

University of Missouri Graduate Sociology Instructor, Zach Rubin, said women have been more often placed in leading roles in video games in recent years. 

He also said the number is still much less than it should be, with male characters being most likely to conduct heroic feats and rescue other characters from peril.

A study by one of the largest video gaming research companies, Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, said, in a study of 669 games, only four percent had a sole female protagonist, 47 percent had the option to play as either a male or female character and 51 percent had only a male protagonist.

"There are very few roles for women as protagonists in video games," Rubin said. "That translates to there being fewer women gamers because there is less of a model for women to emulate, and they feel less included in the field of gaming."

While the number of female protagonists is increasing, those characters generally wear highly sexualized clothing.

Life-long video gamer Natalie Abright said she has seen less objectifying of women in the video game industry recently but would like to see more realistic women, wearing clothes that match what they are doing.

"I really love games that manage to tell a really emotional impactful story and have compelling, well-rounded characters that actually seem like real people," Abright said.

She sais she chooses video games based on the story, not whether or not there is a female protagonist, but she appreciates being able to choose a woman when possible. 

"I think it is, inherently, a little bit easier to play as a character that matches your gender," Abright said.

Rubin said one way to further increase female inclusion in video games would be to have more female programmers in the industry.

"Women account for 11 percent of game designers and three percent of programmers," Rubin said. "They're still somewhat of a minority, and even though there's plenty of women who are interested at very young ages, the further they go in the industry, the more they feel shut out."

Abright said, as more women enter the video gaming industry, there will be "an even greater diversity of games and probably of more female protagonists and more stories that speak to the female experience."

Although many companies, like Sony, offer scholarships for women to attend a video game design program, some of the women who enter the field and move higher up in the industry feel pressured by their male peers and leave by the age of 35. 

Rubin said one woman, Anita Sarkeesian, who has a blog about the female experience with pop culture, especially video gaming, received death threats for publishing her opinions online. 

Another female video gaming programmer, Zoe Quinn, was accused of soliciting good reviews in inappropriate ways, even though those reviews were never published. She also received death threats for her position in the video game industry and also has a blog detailing her experience with the discrimination.

"I really want to see situations like this change," Abright said. "But that's not all gamers. As a female, I've really had a very positive experience overall in the gaming community."

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