Gender Representation in Video Games

By May 23, 2014 May 6th, 2016 Digital Media Context

Pac-Man can be considered one the first and most successful games of its time to be designed to appeal to a larger audience out with the usual target audience. The creator, Toru Iwatani attempted to combat the missing demographic of women, at the time the typical audience playing video games were young boys and teenagers, but they were also the ones being targeted by the developers. Finding that a large percentage of arcade games at that time were shooters, Iwatani found that on the whole women weren’t as enthusiastic about them as much as males.

He listened to what women had to say on the subject of games and created Pac-Man incorporating elements such as navigating through a maze, less aggressive character designs and gameplay elements such as eating to gain power.

Tamashii Hiroka, a popular YouTube user who focuses on creating Pokémon gaming content has been at the hands of unfair comments purely based on the fact she is a women in the gaming community. In a video, she explains here views on the role of women in games as well as her experience on YouTube.

She explains that due to gender roles around the time of emerging video games, women did not typically have as much access to computers and so for a long time most video games were marketed towards men. As Pac-Man showed it was the way games were marketed rather than their content that caused it to be a successful game for all genders. However this successful feat was shadowed by the later introduction of Ms. Pac-Man, specifically targeted towards girls. This basically said to girls “no, this game is for you” further isolating them from games.

Most triple-A games have multi-million dollar budgets and in order to get funding investors have to be convinced. Many big budget mainstream game developers stick with a dependable target audience such as shooters, because they can depend on the title being financially successful. In order to change gender representation in games, developers have to stray from their formula, which is a risk they don’t seem to want to take.

Tamashii describes this as a “feedback loop” using Call of Duty as an example of a safe option when it comes to developing games avoiding risks.

The games industry on the whole is slowly moving towards a goal of better representation of women in games although perhaps not as quickly as people would like. Each year sees more inclusion of female characters within games as well as more creative and innovative ways to make games enjoyable for all.

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