Take up your arms! A game company has besmirched the fairer sex! Or has it? Read on to find out!
The topic of sexism within video games has always been a controversial one but never have the flames been fanned over something like the packaging. Just a few days ago, Ken Levine of Irrational Games had to defend the company’s choice for the BioShock Infinite cover which prominently displays male protagonist Booker DeWitt with no sight of Elizabeth at all. Immediately, fans cried foul at the supposed slight for the feminine focus of the franchise’s latest entry.
Following this small outcry came word that Naughty Dog refused a push to take female lead Ellie off the cover for their upcoming title The Last of Us. According to actress Ashley Johnson who provides the voice and motion capture for Ellie, this is just an example of a larger problem when dealing with the portrayal of females in video games.
“As a female gamer, you definitely have your viewpoints on how women are portrayed in video games.”
“Typically they’re over-sexualized, the damsel in distress, or simply there to be a love interest. There may even be one female in a game who’s a badass as opposed to ‘just another male character’. It does bother me which is another thing that attracted me to this game and Naughty Dog games in general.”
“You had Uncharted with Elena and I feel Naughty Dog creates very real characters especially with The Last of Us. Everybody is real and all of the characters have flaws which I feel you don’t see a lot of in video games.”
This specific issue is a unique one that raises an interesting question. Are female characters purposefully passed up for the cover out of belief that it will better market the game?
Going back to the BioShock Infinite situation, Levine himself admitted that the choice for the cover was so as to target “frat boys”. So, what are you saying exactly? That frat guys don’t like girls? Do I have to resort to a book I read in my early childhood to prove how stupid that sounds?
To be fair, Ken Levine did attempt to rectify the situation with a poll to choose the design for the reversible cover of the game (click here). There are some nice choices here I’ll admit with #5 being my favorite followed closely by #4. Does this help fix the problem? Is it really our call to say how a game should or should not be represented?
Ashley Johnson again gives her thoughts on this particular issue.
“I feel like they don’t put women on the covers because they’re afraid that it won’t sell. It’s all gamers really know, and I don’t want to be sexist by any means, but I get the feeling, generally, that they think games won’t sell as well with a woman on the cover compared to some badass dude on the front.”
Out of curiosity, I looked up the covers for video games that feature prominent female characters. I’m not crying conspiracy here but it is interesting to take note of if the mindset of marketing video games is truly universal.
Controversy or coincidence? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!