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Female Representation in Video Games: A Real Controversy in a Virtual World

 

Video games exploded in popularity in the early 1980s and there have been female characters in video games ever since. There’s Ms. Pac-man, Princess Peach from the Mario Brothers games, Lara Croft – the list is extensive.

 

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There is an on-going discussion over Lara Croft’s place in our society, some people claim she represents a strong, leading female figure and others argue that she’s just another objectified, overly-sexualized female character.

Games that have featured female characters have gone on to be some of the most successful franchises in the industry. Ms.Pac-Man is the most popular arcade game of all time, selling more than 115,000 gaming machines to arcades around the world. She was made into toys, t-shirts and even a Ms. Pac-Man cereal merchandised in her name.

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Though her name isn’t well known, Princess Peach has been a supporting character in the Mario games. In most of the Mario games the main object of the game is to rescue Princess Peach from the villain Bowser. When Mario succeeds in the rescue, he is rewarded with a kiss.

Tomb Raider debuted in 1996 and it has spawned 14 video games since it first came out. It went on to produce two movies starring Angelina Jolie, which earned over $430,000,000. Lara Croft has been a household name for nearly 20 years. There is an on-going discussion over Lara Croft’s place in our society, some people claim she represents a strong, leading female figure and others argue that she’s just another objectified, overly-sexualized female character.

Such arguments like these, have grown recently in the video gaming community. Some game developers are challenging how females are represented by creating strong leading female characters. These developer’s characters aren’t just a female version of a male characters (like Ms. Pac-Man), weak (like Princess Peach) or sexualized (like Lara Croft). One example is the character Kaitlin who is the main character in the game Gone Home, a realistic dark narrative game. An online group called #GamerGate formed in August 2014 in opposition with these game developers and their new types of games. #GamerGate opposes these more varied roles and content in video games. In one instance, Zoe Quinn, the creator of Depression Quest, a game allowing the player to explore the effects of depression, has been harassed by members of #GamerGate to the point where she and her family have received death threats.
Find out more about these issues in the following lesson and decide where you personally stand and why.