France Considers Solutions to Video Game Misogyny
The Background of the Story
The representation of women in video games has recently been a hot topic in the gaming blogosphere. Women are increasingly joining the gaming community, in part due to the massive increase in the popularity of gaming, and partly due to the booming market for casual games. Many women feel excluded by the male dominated 'hardcore' gaming subculture, but play games like Angry Birds on their smartphones.
Gamergate started when anonymous social media users slandered Depression Quest creator Zoe Quinn and video game critic Anita Sarkeesian. Members of the movement were motivated by what they saw as the pressure of political correctness and censorship in the video game journalism sector.
Anita Sarkeesian hosts a youtube show where she highlights various ways in which video games marginalise and demean women. It categorises these 'tropes' which include 'women as reward' and 'women as background decoration'.
The recently released game Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 provoked a bitter argument amongst the gaming community. Some argued that its skimpily clad women perpetuate the objectification of women. Others argued that it is just a fantasy that doesn't influence players attitudes to real women, and that those offended by the game are not being forced to play it.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Screenshot
The French Newspaper Le Figaro this week reported that the French government is looking at several strategies for countering sexism in video games. The French Minister of State for Digital Affairs, Axelle Lemaire, held talks last month with figureheads of the French game industry to discuss various ideas for eliminating degrading depictions of women, and including positive women role models in video games.
Catherine Coutelle, a French parliamentarian last year proposed similar measures, asking for games with sexist content to be made ineligible for government tax credits. This proposal was met with hostility by various members of the French gaming industry, and was scrapped in January this year. However, Lemaire this week wrote a response to Coutelle's proposal, agreeing with the general sentiment behind it. She stated that she supports efforts to foster greater gender equality in video games, and to tackle sexism in video games.
In her speech to the French Parliament, she mentioned Assassin's Creed Unity director Alex Amancio's remark that creating female characters would require too much work. She also quoted a passage from the female character 'Kara' from French studio Quantic Dream's 2012 tech demo, where Kara says she will do all the chores, and gratify a man's sexual desires. She also cited the example of the Imagine series of games. Games about household topics are marketed to girls, whereas sports games are marketed to boys.
One of the proposals under consideration is a financial reward system for games which portray women in a positive light, and labels to alert consumers of this, so they can financially support these games.
One of the other proposals currently being looked at by Lemaire and industry figures is the inclusion of sexism in a ratings system. Any game that encouraged violence towards women would be placed in the 18 plus category, protecting children from harmful attitudes. The PEGI Europe wide classification scheme has a discrimination category, however it does not currently look at sexism. A similar suggestion has been made by Swedish politicians, who want to make all forms of entertainment accessible to both boys and girls.
French Video Game Industry
The French video gaming industry is smaller than the US or UK gaming industry, but is still bigger than some, and has a number of well known companies. Arkane Studios is a studio based in Lyon, France and has worked on blockbuster games such as 'Dishonored' and 'Half Life 2'. Asobo is a video game developer based in Bordeaux, France which has worked on titles including Quantum Break, and the video game adaptation of Disney Pixar's Up. There are currently over 200 French video game studios.