More and more female characters are coming to video games

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Grand Theft Auto will have a female protagonist, according to a report from Bloomberg. As of this writing, Rockstar Games, which makes Grand Theft Auto, has not confirmed this and has not responded to Marketplace’s request for comment.

But that would be a noticeable change – there are far fewer playable female characters than male characters in video games. And for a long time, women have been cast as damsels in distress, like Princess Peach from Super Mario, or sex objects depicted with scant clothing and exaggerated proportions, like Lara Croft from the 1990s Tomb Raider games. is an archaeologist exploring old ruins wearing tiny shorts and a tank top.

Lara Croft from the 1996 video game Tomb Raider. (Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd via Flickr)
Teresa Lynch (Courtesy of Ohio State University)

Teresa Lynch, a professor of communication at Ohio State University, has studied the representation of female characters in video games for 31 years and found that they are increasing in number and it is less and less common to portray women in this hypersexual way.

The stereotypes haven’t completely disappeared but they have receded, giving way to female protagonists with deeper stories, motivations and flaws like Aloy, a warrior and hunter who wields a bow and arrow in the post-game. 2017 Horizon Zero Dawn apocalyptic.

“There are a lot fewer damsels in distress, but it’s not just that there are fewer,” Lynch said. “It’s also that there are more portrayals of powerful, capable female characters.”

Any reason for this change? Video game makers have realized that women play games too. Nearly half of all American gamers are women, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

“People really started realizing that they didn’t always have to target the same audience,” said Amanda Cote, professor of media and gaming studies at the University of Oregon.

Amanda Cote (Courtesy of University of Oregon)

According to Cote, game companies began marketing their products to what they considered “non-traditional” gamers and not just young males in the early to mid-2000s. This strategy paid off for Nintendo in 2006 – he marketed his Wii console to daughters, mothers and the elderly, eventually selling over 100 million.

Cote said that women want their video game avatars to be represented in a logical way. For example, a lot of female players complain about something they call “chainmail bikini”.

“So it’s when you play as a character and you get a cool new piece of armor and when you put it on your avatar it becomes an armor bikini,” Cote said. “So all of your vital organs are exposed and the armor wouldn’t do anything to protect you. It really drives a lot of the players I talk to crazy because it takes them out of the immersion they have in the story. It takes them out of the role of their characters in the game.”

The 2013 Tomb Raider reboot and its subsequent sequels kept these concerns in mind. The main character, Lara Croft, received more realistic proportions and less revealing outfits.

Lara Croft in the 2015 reboot entry “Shadow of the Tomb Raider”. Credit: User “eko” via Flickr.

We don’t yet know how the Grand Theft Auto 6 character will be portrayed. And the game has been criticized for its controversial content in the past. But there seems to be reason for hope.

The video game industry has earned a reputation as a supplier of games for men, and this could be because there are traditionally far more men than women making the games.

In a 2021 survey, the International Game Developers Association found that only 30% of respondents working in the games industry identified as female, although that number was up slightly from 2019.

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