Women Fighters in Videogames

Okay so I know the class is going to talk about the #1reasonwhy movement tomorrow and that much of what I have to say may very well be a part of planned discussion tomorrow. Or maybe this post will kickstart more conversation. I am %1000 aware of the fact that I am erasing tons of people who have been historically underrepresented or badly represented in videogames but I only have so much space and frankly I could write a dissertation on this subject. Anyway, on to the meat of it!

Women with a very few acceptions have been poorly represented in mainstream videogames. As a female gamer, I often run into a series of issues when purchasing games. First, I cannot find games with playable female characters, the second is that when there are female characters they are either a doll for the male hero to save, a plot device or eye candy. Or any combination of the three.

The heart of the matter comes down to loads issues of which I will only discuss one. That is, the misogyny that is deeply embedded into mainstream videogames. Within this core problem, there are many sub-problems which also need to be fixed. These include sexual harassment during online game play, a lack of realistic female armor, and the overarching attitude that women exist in videogames only for male entertainment.


I have yet to meet anyone who is okay with being sexually harassed and threatened during online gameplay which makes up the core of what makes games such as WOW and Halo fun. There has to be a serious change in attitudes towards women and their bodily integrity  before I would be comfortable saying that we are a respected part of the culture. Rape is not okay even if it is “just joking.” A well documented example of online game harassment can be seen in Anita Sarkeesian’s talk during TEDxWomen 2012. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZAxwsg9J9Q[/youtube] Although I don’t agree with everything that she has to say or even how she went about her project, she still did not deserve the sort of harassment which she received from the online gaming community. She is not the only documented case, just the most well known.

Armor is a particular sore spot (get it? sore spot?) particularly for me as an action fantasy gamer. The difference between male and female armor is deeply appalling not just because of the difference in levels of protection, but also because of the total disregard for basic laws of physics and the use of the boob plate armor. Those of you who are not familiar with the term may be surprised to find that plate armor which has boob holders is actually almost as bad as not wearing any at all. Because of the front seem that is required to make such armor, the weakest part of the armor is where it should be strongest and also will crack the woman’s sternum is she falls during combat.

cracked sternum

Metallic lingerie
Metallic lingerie

This non-armor has justly earned the title of metallic lingerie by the wikipedia page describing it. There is literally no protection from any harm in armor of this type and one can only assume that the ladies wearing such clothes are not ment to be fighting alongside the men. So what is our woman warrior there for?

That question was rhetorical but it brings up another good point. If women do not want to see only the traditional sexy, scantily clad women, what do we want to see? WHAT WOMEN WANT (IN FEMALE VIDEO GAME PROTAGONISTS) and the Gaymer‘s essay on armor in particular are sources which I found thoughtful and altogether accurate. Further reading on female media representation can be found at Feminist Frequency and other illustrious sites.

  5 comments for “Women Fighters in Videogames

  1. jaustin
    February 14, 2013 at 11:24 am

    In some ways I do agree with you but in other I do not. I do think that women a lot of video games are portrayed as sex symbols because of what they wear but then again it is fantasy. And in fantasy you see a lot of things that are not true and I feel like the makers of these games are just making women how they want to be made. We all know that having “Metallic Lingerie” is not practical put it shows the difference between a man and a women. Think about it, if you did not have those boob plates that show off that you are a women would anyone ever know? I do not think so because normal armor covers everything on a person. Now I do think the lingerie is a bit over the top but wouldn’t you be mad too I am a female gamer and sometimes I am just happy to be put into the game. For example a lot of first person shooter games women are either not put in there or have a really small scene. I personally loved Tomb Raider and how the main character was a woman. So all in all I do not fully agree with what you are saying but I understand where you are coming from.

    • eng1
      February 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      I have to agree and disagree with your statement. You’re right, these games are fantasy and none of this needs to be realistic but must they go to such extent? You make an interesting point of using armor to decipher a male from a female, but I feel there are a lot of other ways that can be done. For example, Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII-2 (second ver. Armor) is clearly a girl with armor in the right places and no massive breast plate area sticking out that could backfire into her ribs in the future. Also, from make-up and drawing experience, I can definitely say that there is a big difference in female and male face structure as well as their body structure. (Actually this one make-up artist worked on female twins, made one look like a man and the other a woman just by using make up on their face) Sure, a male can look very girly and be thin but their chin, their eyes, things like that really can help you differentiate between the two. I do understand that details in games sometimes aren’t that great either so it’s can be hard to figure out the differences but if we can tell female and male bathroom signs apart from just a triangle as a dress, I am sure we will be able to figure it out with our technology now. In the end though, it’s funny to think the player themselves can be male or female and playing a gender opposite to theirs. Anyway, I just think what adavis7 really wants is just a female protagonist without all the excessive boobage.

    • adavis7
      February 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      First, thank you for your comment! But here’s the thing, there are loads of examples of female armor that both allow the viewer to see that the character is a woman, and do no endanger her life. For example, Kristen Stewarts armor in Snow White and the Huntsman allows for her boobs and still keeps her alive while fighting. Frankly the only media that uses the boob plate is videogames and it makes the game less realistic for me. Implying that players of videogames want to see women basically naked is insulting for me as a lesbian gamer. If I wanted naked women I would go watch porn. That being said, I recognize that your opinion is valid and you have the right to want to see that sort of portrayal is videogames. It can be an option but I do not think that such fantasies should be EVERYWHERE in mainstream games.

  2. Joshua Abbott
    February 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm


    I completely agree with your statements regarding online gaming. As a fan of the Halo series I used to spend countless hours online in multiplayer and a girl could not come into the game without being reduced to her sex. Either should would be blatantly harassed and mocked for being a girl or very creepily hit on by a large portion of male gamers.

    I kind of have to agree with the previous commenter regarding the topic of armor. While some games can be over the top with the sexual armor they place on female characters, I can understand the use of breasts on plated armor to distinguish a male from a female. You said that you wished they had more armor that catered to females, what would you like to see?

    Also this:


    • adavis7
      February 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Thank you for your comment:) What I would like to see is armor that is comparable to male armor, especially heavy armor, in its effectiveness and protection. I still want to feel like a sexy badass during gameplay but without overt sexuality. I like lady sif’s costume design from the new Thor personally. You dont loose her sexuality but she also wont be stabbed in the gut within minutes of battle. The two links are good examples of what I was trying to say!

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