About a week ago we had a Media Research Seminar with Dr. Esther Maccallum-Stewart on Loving Play: Getting It On, Or Getting To Know You In Gaming. The primary focus of the seminar was on the representation of love in certain games today: video, card and board games.The entire session was very enlightening, because I’ve never considered the meaning and representation of love or sex while playing games (if at all).
For centuries now love has been depicted through mediums like movies and books. Video games, a relatively new medium, are still struggling to get the ingredients right. By their very nature they have gamified love and this had led to a goal-centric understanding (The Guardian 2016). Dating is considered the game and sex as the goal. This in itself is the commodification of romance. The act of love is not understood but games still try to replicate its processes. For example a simple mechanic of pressing key A is to kiss, moving forward to hug and so on. But then again the act of romance comes down to the player and protagonist.
Dr. Maccallum-Stewart also spoke about the inevitable sexism in the gaming world. It is a very tangible and ongoing reality in this particular community. Women are now the biggest demographic in gaming catering to an audience larger than just teenage boys. Kleeman (2015) suggests that “the existence of misogyny in spaces that have traditionally catered to men isn’t new or surprising, but the insistence that it doesn’t exist is particularly vociferous in gaming”. Though not an avid gamer myself, I believe that sexism in gaming is still a potential problem in terms of excluding female gamers, even influencing thoughts about body image.
The current scenario also dates back to the birth of the gaming community in terms of gender gap and how many people (males vs. females) were playing video games. The thought for a long time had been that since men were the primary consumers of video games, the gender balance was lamentable but not surprising if firms were simply designing games with their target audience in mind (Gittleson 2014). However, the dynamics of video game consumers has drastically changed over the past half decade, with the latest industry figures in the United States showing that a whopping 48% of gamers were female (Gittleson 2014).
The industry soon realised that their target audience had changed. This in turn led to multiple games being created with the addition of female protagonists for example Beyond Earth, Evolve, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel etc. (Dr. Maccallum-Stewart 2016).
It would be unfair to expect games to replicate every single facet of human relationships due to their own limitations: time, budget, technology. But it’s definitely good to see progressive games with female protagonists and possible asexuality.
- Gittleson, K. (2014) Why Does Sexism Persist In The Video Gaming Industry [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27824701 > [13 February 2016]
- Gray, K. (2016) What Video Games Get Wrong About Love And Sex [online] available from <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/12/what-video-games-get-wrong-about-love-and-sex > [13 February 2016]
- Kleeman, S. (2015) Five Charts That Show Sexism Is Still Alive And Well In Gaming [online] available from <http://mic.com/articles/121528/sexism-in-gaming#.7Y5jC66fB > [13 February 2016]
- Maccallum-Stewart, E. (2016) Loving Play: Getting It On, Or Getting To Know You In Gaming [lecture] Media Research Seminar, 10 February 2016. Coventry: Coventry University