Amongst the YouTube greats of RadBrad, Pewdiepie and Smosh Games, have you ever heard about a dedicated female YouTuber who plays more than just the Sims? We have female YouTubers like Vixella and Deligracy who originally started with Sims based content but in the past few months have started playing games such as Firewatch and games such as Emily is Away which to conforms to social trends. There are some girl gamers in the YouTube world however, who play well-loved games such as Assassin's Creed, Destiny and Overwatch such as SSSniperwolf and LDShadowLady but in comparison with their male counterparts their subscriber count is in the mere millions compared with the likes of PewdiePie who has more than 48million subscribers to date. So what makes girl gamers so different to guy gamers? Is it merely gender or is it something more?
This my friend, is the sexist side of gaming. From the underwhelming volume of girl gamers, to the way that women are portrayed in games such as Final Fantasy, Bayonetta and Grand Theft Auto, it is clear that there is a perhaps less flattering image of women then there is of men. In recent years, games such as Tomb Raider and Halo have helped to redefine the ladies of gaming. Yet, there is still an underlying image that these games comply to. Having said that, in the 20 years of Tomb Raider, we have seen Lara Croft go from a female sex symbol in an aqua tank and a pair shorts to a young woman with normal body proportions and clothes that women can relate to today. In my personal opinion Sony has been a huge player in the redefinition of women in video games. Sony exclusives such as The Last of US and Beyond Two Souls are two very story driven games in which the lead female is not only a main character but a main character who kicks some serious ass, opposed to a main female character who always needs saving such as Princess Peach. However, this is still a rarity when you consider the females of Final Fantasy - which remains one of the biggest gaming series to date and their impractical wardrobe choices for fighting off Sephiroth or Bartandelus.
The issue of sexism in gaming is sadly one of the most controversial issues facing society. In the age of equality campaigns how can we expect sexist ideals to go out of fashion when we are still bombarded with women in a skimpy outfit and a tight body? Of course there is argument that suggests that not only are women portrayed in an over-sexualised way, but men are too in games such as Uncharted and Metal Gear Solid with arms bursting out their t-shirts.
As a girl gamer myself, and having worked in the retail industry, I can tell you that the sexist society doesn't stop here. It extends to the shop floor and in general conversations with people assuming that you are just there to be a "pretty face" and that you have no idea what you’re talking about. I might not be an expert in gaming but my knowledge of both Playstation and Xbox will allow me to recommend great games to buy and terrible games to avoid. In retail, female employees have the ability to sell any product just as well as male employees, so there is no need to ask to speak to someone else.
The sexist side of Gaming does shows signs of improving however. In 2013 the director of Lionhead Studios based in the UK and responsible for the Fable series has suggested that within the next 5 to 10 years women will make up at least 50% of the gaming industry and UKIE (The United Kingdom Association of Interactive Entertainment) has suggested that although women feel underrepresented within the games industry the percentage of female workers is set to rise in the coming years and that the games industry is increasing employment within the UK which are all positive things to take not of.
Despite the statistics, the video games industry is far from gender neutral. This is not only reflected within employment statistics but also through the design and portrayal of female characters as well. Even games such as Until Dawn (which captured the voice actors, movement, body type and facial expression to precise accuracy) dressed the female characters of Sam and Jess in somewhat revealing and inappropriate items for a weekend excursion to the snowy mountains of Alberta Canada, whereas the male characters in the game were dressed to fit the Canadian setting. There is even a point in the game where one of the female characters [Jess] is in her underwear and remains in her underwear for the continuation of the game; this doesn't add anything to the story, it's unnecessary but it still creates a particular image of women.
Throughout this article we have discussed female employment within the industry and the portrayal of girls in games but I have failed to mention girl gamers themselves. It is claimed that women make up about 52% of all gamers in the UK according to the Internet Advertising Bureau. People argue that although women make up more half of all UK gamers they tend to avoid online gaming due to the hostility and the verbal aggression they experience. This could also explain why we see a lack of female gamers on YouTube or never hear about them, due to the fear of breaking social norms.
YouTube and Internet streaming is now a crucial part to everyday life, so perhaps changes in gaming society should start there with female YouTube gamers such as LDShadowLady and SSSniperWolf who have been breaking boundaries when it comes to gaming since their channels started. The sexiest society of gaming isn't going away anytime soon, but possibly in the next five to ten years we will see the emergence of more girl gamers and the arrival of more realistic looking female characters who aren't just their as a constellation prize but have important roles within the games themselves. At least I hope so.