Video games are a hit. Take a look on YouTube, and there are countless channels devoted to male gamers. Some of them humorously riff their games, philosophize over them, or even make funny cartoons about them. They love their video games, and they’ve built a strong community over that shared love. Subscribing to each other’s channels, liking videos, commenting, and admiring one another’s work is part of the game of being a gamer with a YouTube channel.
But women are a small voice in that community. Quick YouTube searches for female gamers will yield mostly feminist commentary on misogynistic gamer culture or commentary about the feminists.
Gaming is a male dominated activity, but how often do we actually sit down to ponder why that is? There is no reason why gaming should appeal more to men than to women. Many women and girls love games, whether the games are electronic or not. So why are video game consoles so closely associated with masculinity and not femininity?
In honor of International Women’s Day, here is a YouTube history of how the world of gaming became such a male one.
Adam Conover explains why people think video games are for boys
Adam Conover, of truTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything,” takes the time to explain why people associate video games with boys. It’s a funny, insightful, and fact-filled video about the history of video game marketing.
Originally, video games were marketed towards families and not just boys. In the ’80s, females in particular loved Atari’s Pac-Man so much that a Ms. Pac-Man was eventually created.
Unfortunately, a crash in video game sales led to a new marketing strategy. Nintendo decided not to have its brand new NES in the electronic sections of stores, choosing to put it in toy sections instead. Aisles in toy sections are divided by gender, and Nintendo chose to market their product to boys.
Thus began the association of video games with boys.
Feminists reacting to Grand Theft Auto 5 in 2015
It would be great to offer up a link to this YouTube video, but there’s some cursing. It’s called “Feminists Play Grand Theft Auto For The First Time.” It shows a group of feminist women playing Grand Theft Auto 5. They pretend to drive stolen cars, crash those cars, and get into brawls on the streets.
Of course, they aren’t too happy when they end up in a strip club. They see beautiful, computer generated strippers with their breasts exposed. They have the option of using their remote controls to touch the strippers, but the gamers don’t want to do that. One points out that you’re not supposed to touch strippers at real strip clubs.
They’re even more unhappy when they have to interact with a sex worker. The remotes vibrate, and it’s pretty gross.
Female video game characters and their butts
Anita Sarkeesian is a hoot. In this Jan. 2016 video, Sarkeesian examined “strategic butt coverings” on female characters in video games. There appears to be a lot of emphasis on female behinds in video games, either through lack of butt coverings or clothing designed to emphasize the rear ends of female characters. Male characters are not subjected to this and are often well covered.
Of course, she points out that the answer to this problem isn’t to demand more emphasis on male bottoms in video games. She just wants less emphasis on female bottoms.
This article started with female-friendly gaming via Ms. Pac-Man in the ’80s. Ending with an overabundance of computer-generated female bottoms in 2016 seems a good way of showing history’s shifting perception of women and their relationship to video games.