Women are believed to be underrepresented by numbers in many types of geeky entertainment, including roleplaying and computer gaming. This page covers primarily computer gaming communities online.
- Some fellow gamers believe that there are no women at all in gaming, to the point where when a woman gamer identifies herself online they believe it is more likely that she is a man who is lying.
- Many computer games are centered on a single 'hero' player character who is very often male. If there is a choice of several heroes/avatars, they can be disproportionately male and where there is a choice of plots it skews male.
- Computer gaming marketing and frequently invokes archetypes that clearly indicate that the audience is expected to be male (and heterosexual), such as remarks about how a particular game is going to be so engrossing it will annoy the player's girlfriend.
- Despite women making up a relatively large amount of the buyers of some computer games, games that appeal to women are still regarded as a niche market.
- Limited education: market forces in computer gaming favour the development of games for the relatively small proportion of gamers who invest a significant amount of their leisure money and time in gaming. These gamers are disproportionately young and male, and the games aimed at them tend to be lengthy, involved and difficult. The socialisation of young girls strongly discourages this level of investment in computer gaming. This can be a disadvantage in many geek circles even when not centered on gaming, as competitive gaming is a common social activity.
- Sexualized environment: sex and sexual plot elements are a valid part of some games' role as entertainment, but many roleplaying and narrative games feature sex with women or the appearance of conventionally attractive women as an optional or compulsory part of a game's arc, often as either a reward or a game goal, particularly compared to those that play on male attractiveness or on sex with men, or sex with partners of the same gender. In roleplaying games women may be pressured by other players to play attractive female heterosexual characters to provide love interests for other characters.
- Sexist advertising aimed at a presumed-male audience and denigrating women.
- Online harassment: in online settings, there is a long history of male gamers engaging in various levels of harassment of female gamers, spanning from wanting to know what the female gamer's body looks like to pursuing a female gamer for dates, relationships, or online (or sometimes real world) sex acts. In tabletop settings, where a female gamer may be the only woman in the gaming group, if she is not participating with a boyfriend/husband, the male gamers may assume that she is "fair game" and harass her in-game or out-of-game.
- The enormously successful RPG-style computer game Baldur's Gate II (which had comparitively wide appeal to women and had female dominated online fanfic communities in which some of the game developers took part) provided optional romances for player characters. A PC could conduct a scripted romance with a game character of the opposite gender. Three romances were provided for male PCs, but only one for female PCs.
- OMG Girlz Don't Exist on teh Intarweb!!!!1: Whitney Butt's multiple experiences of disbelief when revealing her gender in online forums include online games.
- Rape simulation game sold on Amazon (Feministing)
- Electronic Gaming Monthly replaced with Maxim
- Fat Princess and related backlash
- Female designer Meg Stivison discusses ingrained sexism in the industry on her blog
- Gaming comic Penny Arcade and the dickwolves debacle.
- Oatmeal gaming girl comic
- Sexual harassment at the Cross Assault fighting game tournament.
Sexually explicit video games
A number of video games are sexually explicit, or contain gratuitous nudity intended to titillate the player. Generally, these video games cater to a straight male audience. If options exist for female players, they have fewer features and options than those for men.
- BMX:XXX - gratuitous nudity on bikes
- All the Grand Theft Auto games have multiple issues with women, dating, and prostitution.
- Leisure Suit Larry (various incarnations)
- Custer's Revenge, "Beat 'Em and Eat 'Em", and other games from Mystique
- As covered on CNN/Money:
- Playboy: The Mansion
- Singles: Flirt Up Your Life
- The Guy Game
- Various incarnations of "Strip Poker"
- Many more listed in this thread on snopes.com
- Puma Index:
When the Dow goes up, the models on your iPhone put on their Puma clothes. When the Dow goes down, they start taking their Puma clothes off.
Violence in video games
Violence in video games is a constant issue. Various governments have banned, or attempted to ban, violent video games:
- Japanese ESRB Bans Rape Depiction in Games (Slashdot)
- German Interior Ministers seek ban on violent games (Slashdot)
- California petitions Surpreme Court on violent video game bill (Slashdot)
Sexual violence and rape
Some games include sexual violence:
- RapeLay (the rape simulation game mentioned above)
- Stockholm, in which you kidnap someone and attempt to seduce her
- "...a terrifyingly vivid exploration of Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which a captive falls in love with her kidnapper. And you play the part of the kidnapper. With a limited number of options, you must figure out how to make her fall in love with you."
- GTA IV (link is to an opinion article)
- "Rape does in fact does take place, or is made possible, by the game makers in GTA. If one has sex with a prostitute in the game, one can then beat the prostitute up (some reports say that one can murder the prostitute) and take one's money back, and this, my friends, constitutes rape."
- Custer's Revenge, in which the goal of the game is to rape a native American woman
- Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude
- "More disturbing than the thought that some of the mini games are fun is the fact that Larry likes to get the ladies drunk to get his wicked way, yes, honestly, the term used in game for alcohol mixed for a female target is and I quote “A-Grade Panty Peeler”. I think the developers missed a prime addition to the game however by omitting GHB, rohypnol and ketamine, I mean if getting the girls totally smashed to get into their pants is ok, why not date rape drugs?"
- Rape for sale in Second Life at Feministing and also Shakesville, Gawker, AdRants.
- Gay Panic video game (Shakesville)
- Fear_Effect_2:_Retro_Helix, in which computer hacker Rain Qin is raped by a giant insect
Also, sexual violence is often committed on avatars in MMORPGs. For instance, the practice of teabagging is used by Halo 3 players to humiliate players who have died in-game. The first publicised case of online RPG rape was A Rape in Cyberspace.
Sexual violence in video games and their communities is an example of rape culture.
Other problematic games
- Videogames controversy at The F Word blog
- What do we do about video games? at Feministe
- Andrea Rubenstein, at Shrub.com, has a series of articles on women in gaming and the way games are advertised to men:
- Alisha Karabinus, at Blogcritics: Girls, Games, and a culture of hostility
- Nielsen: 64% of online gamers are women
- "Just because 64% of the characters are female doesn't mean the people playing them are in real life. Like the old joke about IRC goes - The men are men, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents."
- Feminism and Final Fantasy at feministgamers.com
- Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities at Shrub.com
- Women are treated better than men online, says NerdBoobLoot-man (Shakesville)
- What more could a girl want? at Shakesville
- More on games for girls at Shakesville
- Virtual rape is traumatic, but is it a crime? at Wired
- Writing a Girls in Games Article by Richard Cobbett (satire)
- Women outnumber men in online gaming at The Daily Tech (check comments thread for idiocy)
- This is a Girl. She Likes Video Games. What's That About!? at Upworthy
- (French) Sexism in geek culture: why our community is ill, and how to fix that at ça fait genre! (blog of A-C Husson). Written by @Mar_Lard, this blog post also deals with comic books, hacking and FLOSS programming.
- Girl in the Machine blog (Defunct since 2008)
- Girls Don't Game blog (Defunct since 2010)
- Feminist Gamers (Gone)
- Gaming Moms blog (partly in Swedish)
- Old Grandma Hardcore
- The Border House
- Go Make Me a Sandwich
- Frag Dolls Blogs
- Cerise Magazine
- The Iris Network's directory of resources on women and gaming
- Shrub.com: Games even your girlfriend can play
- girl_gamers community on LiveJournal
- The importance of leadership on gaming websites
- An interview with a woman game programmer