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You hear often from some critics that video game violence is gendered towards women, but how true is this claim? Are women the primary victims in your quest to save the world from destruction? Or your quest to save the hostage? Well, let’s check the facts.
If we were to say anything at all about enemies that you destroy on your way to the castle to save the princess, we would have to conclude without a doubt that the biggest victims of your tirade are random animals and beings that you attack for power and money. I mean, where else can you mug a squirrel for items and gold? But most sane people (in which PETA is not included) would not flinch at the idea of you destroying native wildlife, different species (Orcs, Trolls, Goblins), or robots, but once you set your sword against a lady, all hell breaks loose with some people.
In many games, human characters that you can fight are usually about 50/50. Maximum Carnage and Pokemon are prime examples of such. But we also tend to use males as the default antagonists in many games, such as Sly Cooper, Assassins Creed, Mark of the Ninja, and Tomb Raider, where one can make the argument that you only kill male enemies. This is an important distinction due to the trope known as The Disposable Male. In many games, the majority, or even the only, enemies in the game are males, and almost exclusively white males in some games, and nobody flinches at that. One game is deviating from this, and got called sexist and racist as a result, and that game is called Hatred. The game in question dared to include females and POC instead of just the generic white males.
Now I cannot think of a single game in where you kill solely female characters, I personally have not played one that focused on The Disposable Female. Although many gendered boss battles are pretty equal when it comes to it, if anything portraying men moreso as the ultimate threat. Sly Cooper, for instance, has several female bosses to fight in its games, as does the Final Fantasy series, the Metal Gear Solid series, and Chantelise.
Well, what about NPC violence? Violence against random citizens that have done nothing to you? Well, this happens often in Sandbox titles like Grand Theft Auto, Fable, and Watch Dogs, where you are able to kill NPC’s if you desire, but are not forced to if you don’t. Even in these games, you are able to kill an equal amount of men as women, if not more men than women. There really is not a significant gender bias in games like these.
Well, what about women treated as hostages and damsels in distress? It does seem that women have the monopoly on hostage situations, but in some games it is not that clear if we can make a single gender the bigger victim in this. The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, as well as A Link To The Past, the princess is kidnapped, but only after the king is murdered. So in cases like this, one would not have a compelling argument that one gender is more victimized than another. Although in some cases, individual female characters are indeed murdered as part of a subplot, such as Aerith from Final Fantasy 7 and Kratos wife and daughter in God of War.
But one can also make the argument that men are too, such as Arlin from Atelier Iris and Yunesca’s dad from Ys Origin. In video games, killing off a character as part of a plot is common, and is not a gendered thing unless you look at it like it is.
In the end, video games, like books and movies, are a form of media that is incredibly diverse and growing moreso by the day. Games are meant to be an escape from reality and not meant to be something that we are supposed to nit-pick and compare to modern day society issues. There is little evidence that video games are designed to be sexist against women, just as there is little evidence that video games are designed to be sexist and perpetrate violence or ideas of violence against men, or even native wildlife for that matter. If one wants to make the assumption that videogames promote violence or misogyny against women, one would have to, under the same logic, state that videogames promote animal violence, and let’s not be crazy.
Play and enjoy games as a medium like books, and let’s not get too hung up on what a fantasy world represents in accordance to reality, because fantasy is and will always be – fantasy.