Blatant sexism in the video game industry was the subject of a lot of news stories in 2013.
But it looks like many in the “male-dominated” industry, especially the journalists, still aren’t getting the message, according to game developer Brianna Wu.
Wu is head of development at Giant Spacekat (GSK), which is perhaps the only full-time game development studio whose employees are all women, she says.
As many of us know from the game and the movies, Tomb Raider stars the fictional character Lara Croft, an English archaeologist who overcomes trouble as she explores hazardous tombs and ruins around the world.
That should make Croft a strong, awesome character appealing to women and men alike. But she didn’t really begin that way, writes Wu:
Lara Croft started her gaming career in 1996 as a ridiculously large-breasted sex symbol, a trend that largely continued for the next eight sequels as Croft’s main character traits were … a figure meticulously sculpted to appeal to the male gaze.
However, the 2013 reboot, written largely by Rhianna Pratchett, changed everything.
… 2013’s Lara Croft is one of the most empowered, well-written, kick-arse women in all of video-game history. … She was still gorgeous, but so much more real and relatable.
… 2013 Tomb Raider isn’t just a very good game, it’s a historically important one. It’s a game that shows the vastly improved product possible when including women in the process of writing women.
The industry desperately needs to overhaul its attitude toward women.
In 2013, we heard some horrible stories of women game developers putting up with harassment.
In March, an act of sexism at the Gamer’s Developers Conference in March caused Brenda Romero to resign her position as the co-chair of the International Game Developer’s Association’s Women in Games group.
Later that month Meagan Marie, community manager at San Francisco gaming company Crystal Dynamics, exposed the sexism that women endure when they participate in “cosplay.” Cosplay is when people dress up as video game characters.
And in September, Gamespot’s Carolyn Petit “endured what was undoubtedly the most horrific moment in 2013 for women in the video-game industry,” writes Wu.
As part of a glowing 2,300-word review of Grand Theft Auto V, Petit wrote a paragraph that noted that the characters, billboards, radio ads were constantly spouting stuff that glorified “male sexuality while demeaning women.”
The comments exploded attacking Petit. A petition was even signed by tens of thousands to get her fired.
Yeah, this industry needs some help. It needs a heroine like Lara Croft to rescue it from the dark.