Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Dude Looks Like A Lady: Men, Women, And Games Which Can't Tell The Difference!

The number of Girl Gamers has continued to rise significantly since the early twenty-first century. Until that time, gaming was considered to be a widely male-dominated aspect of the Entertainment Industry, with games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Prince of Persia being aimed exclusively at a male audience.

Nevertheless, the development of the Nintendo DS in 2005 led to greater family and casual games being produced. These games also appealed widely to a female audience.

Coupled with this, the Hardcore Gamers market started to feature strong female leads in games like Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Velvet Assassin, and Bayonetta, which increased the validity of being a female gamer.

Nevertheless, whilst video game producers now sought to include female and male avatars in many of their games, they still do not always consider female gamers in the main plot of their games.

Mini Gamers has found that a  number of games contain blatant gender errors, which show that the industry is still promoting video games as a male-only pastime. Here we expose the worst offenders:

 MySims: Agents

Although this game allowed for female avatars (and clearly shows a female on the front of the box), the actual storyline was clearly aimed at male gamers. We created a female avatar (Let's call her 'Minnie Gamers', for example,) and set about choosing a suitable hairstyle and outfit - all good so far.

We then chose our assistant - a male called 'Edgar'. The game starts. The first thing the text on the game says is: "Agent Minnie explained the details of the latest assignment to HIS assistant, Edgar..."

At first this might seem like a minor indiscretion, but at several other points during the game, the accompanying text refers to our obviously feminine detective as 'He', 'Him', or 'His' . Never at any time throughout the game does it refer to our avatar as 'She' or 'Her'.

This must be very off-putting for all the Girl Gamers out there, as the earlier games in the MySims series had a very big appeal to females. The worrying thing is that this game is not the only one that seems to be suffering from some form of gender-confusion.

Enchanted Folk: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Anyone who has tried this game will know that it is a brilliant and absorbing game that provides an interesting cross between the worlds of Animal Crossing and Harry Potter to create a  virtual environment set in a Magic Boarding School. Nevertheless, that still doesn't stop Enchanted Folk from getting confused between its male and female characters.

Several times during the game, teachers and other staff at the boarding school refer to our female avater (Minnie Gamers,) as "Young MASTER Minnie," instead of using the feminine term "Young Miss Minnie".

Once again, it may seem a minor point, but it is amazing how annoying this can get after a few hours of gameplay. Nevertheless, if you thought that only Nintendo DS games contained these kinds of errors, then you would be wrong.

ModNation Racers (PSP)

This particular racing game is big on customisation. When we first reviewed ModNation Racers back in May this year, we were taken aback by all the various costumes, facial features, hairstyles, vehicles and tracks that could be customised to suit the individual player.

This game had a wide range of items aimed at creating the perfect female avatar including pink hair and outfits, bunches, plaits and ponytails, skirts and dresses, lipstick-covered mouths or eye-shadow covered eyes.

Thus a game which has spent so much time making sure that it is also inclusive to female gamers is bound to feature them strongly in the main story mode, right? Wrong.

The game's Career Mode featured a young male racer named 'Tag'. The game then gives players the option to change this character to a created avatar if they wish to do so. Again, we created the female 'Minnie Gamers' avatar and returned to the story mode where we completed our first race in third place.

The commentary at the end of the race did not take into account that we had now chosen a female avatar and said: "HE will have to work harder if HE hopes to beat competitors in the next race..."

Okay, so the odd mention of the wrong gender in the commentary or text description is probably considered trivial by many gamers, but if video game developers are serious about their intention to produce games which can appeal to both males and females alike, then the inclusion of female avatars alongside male ones is clearly not enough.

Therefore, if a game wishes to contain both female and male characters together, then any plots or commentaries should cater for both instances by accurately recognising the gender of the chosen character, and by reflecting this gender in the actual storylines.

Why should female gamers settle for their avatars being refered to as 'He' while a male character being called 'She' throughout a game would clearly be laughable?  This form of androgeny cannot continue if the Video Games Industry hopes to truly attain equality for both its male and female audiences.


Do you consider yourself to be a Girl Gamer? Have you encountered a game that refers to female avatars as 'He'? How does this make you feel? Do you think that female avatars being referred to 'He' or 'Him' is acceptable? What could the Video Games Industry do to rectify this problem?

If you have any thoughts on this issue and would like to share it with others, why not leave us a comment by clicking on the 'Comments' link at the bottom of this post? We would love to hear from you.

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