I made my first Derailed Blog Post about a year ago. This was also the time that we decided that since we had been seriously discussing creating a company for a little over six months, we would bite the bullet and actually create a website. A lot has changed in the past year. Last year at this time, I had about ten more inches of hair, I had no degree (though I shortly thereafter finished my bachelors. Now I’m doing my thesis for my masters!), and my fur babies were a spry 12 years old and nine years old. A lot has changed since then (my babies are now 13 and 10!).
What really hasn’t changed, however, is my opinionated nature. This got me some weird emails over the past year (shout out to /r/kotakuinaction and others!), but it has also introduced me to a bunch of people who have helped me really refine my opinions of representation and feminism. This isn’t to say that I only talked to people who shared similar views. That certainly helped and allowed me to put words to ideas that I had but didn’t know how to describe, but I would be lying if I said that hearing dissenting opinions didn’t also help me figure out what I thought about feminism, representation, and women in gaming.
So, going through my old blogs, a prevalent feature I found and the first thing I want to address is the sheer amount of pink and sparkles (Palaces and Princesses coming soon!). In some places, I pushed it a little hard, but I stand by the basic idea. To attract women to gaming, you need women. Women are (obviously) a really diverse group with different tastes, interests, etc. So, to accommodate this, developers, artists, and everyone involved with games needs to think about who the women in the game are and what they are representing.
Off the top of my head, a great example is Firefly.
In Firefly, about half of the cast is made up of women. This is the first step. The second step is making them not suck. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all super effective in battle or anything; it just means that they don’t suck. To do this, put as much thought into your female characters as you do your male characters. Give them distinct personalities, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears. It would be pretty difficult to mistake River for Zoe because they’re so different, but they’re both strong characters. Also, even though I don’t particularly like Inara, I see why people do. She’s not my cup of tea, but she’s still a well developed character, and she draws particular audience members to the show.
In terms of gaming, this can be added to NPCs or premade characters. Hell, even characters featured on the book or box. If you find yourself having just one character or type of women in your game, think about the men in your game. If you have a diverse range of men and not women, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. If you do not have a diverse selection of either gender, then it’s really time to go back to the drawing board.
Additionally, I’ve changed my stance on the chainmail bikini (sort of)
What’s made me think about my position is just really considering completely eradicating anything from gaming, comics, etc., and seeing how many women dress in chainmail bikinis at conventions. Let’s talk about Red Sonja (featured above). She’s like the damn poster child for chainmail bikinis, and she definitely rocks it. It may be objectification on some level, but the problem comes not when acharacter wears a chainmail bikini but when all or most characters wear chainmail bikinis. You can have a badass woman wearing whatever because it is a fantasy. That definitely attracts some women. However, it definitely makes others feel uncomfortable. Like I said before, women are a diverse group. As a result, everything should come in moderation.
As a game developer and proud feminist, I feel that it’s my duty to apply these values to my games. Moreover, I think the same ideas here can be attributed to race. It does seem that white people are still dominating the covers of books and boxes. The goal (whether people like it or not) is to create an inclusive environment. I mean, who doesn’t like games?
As always, feel free to add your thoughts below!