She’s a kick ass female soldier. Ok, can you put her in a bikini? – Feminism fail for computer games.

The new trailer for the Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain is out. #nice. the trailer features some new and old characters and is in Japanese. I was stunned, you should watch it.

I was stunned. The new female character “Quiet” jumps out a plane without a parachute. That wasn’t shocking. The way she disappears and reappears. That wasn’t shocking. The way she they men with the gun treat her and her seeming calm in the situation. That wasn’t shocking. the beautifully rendered graphics. That wasn’t shocking. The translation of the last spoken line as “But not yet, she won’t die now. Because when she does, I’ll be the one that kills her.” That wasn’t shocking.

The fact that one the biggest computer games to be released in 2015 has as it main female character a lady wearing a bikini and ripped low denier tights. Thats shocking. The character, (named quiet, backstory revealed she cannot speak), in  the gameplay videos can do everything the male characters can, except all the male characters are given body armour and sneak suits, whereas Quiet is bikini clad, oh and its one of those bikinis which ties at the front. To be positive, at least it has a female character as a main protagonist. the one of the biggest selling games in history, Grand Theft Auto (2013), introduced 3 lead characters, none of which were woman.

The problem is that within game players a casual revolution has taken place. The typical game player is not a teenage boy in a bedroom shooting people in the face, or stealing cars. It is a female aged 25-44 who’s playing candy crush or something similar on their phone. (And before you say you don’t 69% of the entire UK poplution has played a computer game within the last 6 months. Check the research here.)

Why are AAA games with multimillion dollar development budgets continuing to show woman as a sexualualised fantasy object. Why is femanisim not engaged in the world of games. the answer is two fold.

First reason is economic. The research points to woman downloading free games, teenage boys are willing shell out £50 upfront for a game, (perhaps that should read the parents of teenage boys…).  Grand Theft Auto can publish with no female leads, while generating sales of almost $2billion Yet this is a false arguement. If the majority of the game playing public (woman – 25-40) were to by a computer game, the income generated from that game would significantly out earn a game aimed at a smaller part of the market. For example, Look at the sales figures for the wii (family and arguably focused on woman) as opposed to sales of PS3 and xbox 360, (arguably focused on more serious games, teenage boys & 30 something males), over the same time period. (Clue, Wii easily outperforms the other two by about 30million units.)

The second reason is the games industry is sexist. It doesn’t value women. (Lara Croft is a case for another time). Due to liberal use of the Smurfette principle. games will never change this as long as the status quo exists. The situation where Males primarily design the majorityy of computer games. Research  with young people, has found that games designed by girls, were prefered by girls, and were perceived as being more gender neutral that games designed by boys.

So why haven’t girls designed games, because the industry tech industry is not particularly welcoming of  female developers?  I am not a game developer so I cannot say. The UK Government has appointed Lottie Dexter, Head of the Year of Code Campaign a campaign to encourage teacher to teach 5 year olds one hour of coding every week for one year. Unfortunately in this BBC Newsnight interview, she admits, she cannot code, and struggles to explain well what coding is.

That is shocking. It feeds a view of women as uniformed about tech as an area. Jen from the TV show, “The IT crowd” is the caricature which needs assassinated as it creates a nasty atmosphere for females who work within tech. 

On the receiving end are female games journalist and academics who say “This is wrong. Why are things this way?” In Particular Anita Sarkeesian, host and creator of the Feminist Frequency youtube series. In this series Anita, analyses computer games from a feminist perspective. titles such as “Damsel in Distress” “Ms.Male Character” or “Woman as Background Decoration” are intelligent, cogent, persuasive and witty feminist engagements which provoke reflection about computer games treatment of women.

For this Sarkeesian has been threatened both verbally and physically, her family have been threatened, and an appearance she made a conference resulted in bomb threats been made against her. That is shocking.

So what can be done.

First consider how the world looks through this Feminist perspective. As a white, male, from Scotland, I don’t see much racism/sexism or other isms. yet watching the videos asked me to consider how I understand and evaluate my relationship with women (as a gender), illuminating where have I been a contributor directly or indirectly to this sexism which pervades a large part of culture. As such my attitudes have changed. Now I find it shocking that they have a character who wears a bikini and ripped tights as her outfit in a game. As such I probably won’t buy that game.

Second, vote with your wallet. If you don’t like sexism don’t buy games with it in it. And write to the game designer/publisher and tell them why your not buying the game. explain to your children why this game is an issue for you.

third, Play games. As Anita points out in every one of her videos
“it is entirely possible to be critical of some aspects of a piece of media, while still finding other parts valuable or enjoyable.”