GIRL GAMERS, GET
Copyright 2002 Rhianna Pratchett / The Guardian
[ April 11th 2002 ]
Croft is every boy's fantasy and every girl's
role model, claimed Chris Deering, the president
of Sony Entertainment Europe, while announcing
the sixth Tomb Raider title, Tomb Raider: The
Angel of Darkness.
a perfect piece of PR hyperbole on Deering's part.
The male games journalists in the audience quietly
nodded affirmation at the first part of the statement,
while dribbling over the new "real life" Lara.
As for the latter part, the majority of "girls"
were busy behind TV cameras or serving, so there
wasn't anyone to pin him to the wall with a chicken
satay and ask him who he was trying to kid.
as I'd like to be able to black-flip my way down
to Sainsbury's and vault over the queue with my
Reward card in my teeth, it's certainly not high
on my list of role model attributes. I play games
for a living and, personally, I don't have a problem
with Lara. But whenever a Tomb Raider game is
released, there's usually a sudden flurry of media
attention about girls and gaming. Articles positively
vibrate with righteous indignation about an industry
emblazoned with images of female game characters
with cleavages you could launch planes from. Suddenly
the "girl" is the focus. Everyone is a "girl gamer".
A hideously pop-ish phrase that sounds like something
Geri Halliwell would have emblazoned on a T-shirt
because she's once been seen in the same room
as a PlayStation. All-girl clans are formed. All-girl
websites debate religiously the portrayal of individual
female characters in games, as if all games had
to offer women was a mirror on themselves.
girls claim they prefer female clans and communities
because they can't stand the abuse they get elsewhere
from male gamers. Unfortunately, this is just
what happens when you get a mixture of people
together in a competitive and relatively anonymous
environment. Online-gaming pulls no punches: deal
with it. There's going to be abuse from all sides,
so you're better off leaving your gender at the
come we don't see more agitated men complaining
that it's appalling that men in computer games
have muscles like watermelons, chins like bricks
and can shoot accurately while wearing shades?
You never find guys saying, "Yes my role models
are Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Duke Nukem." That's
because they know that games aren't supposed to
be accurate representations of the real world.
They're supposed to be fun. Escapism. Not an exercise
in social studies.
most games are designed by men, with a purely
male demographic in mind. So there's nothing to
be shocked by when a female character struts her
ample assets in an outfit that would not fill
a Kinder Surprise. When a team of guys stays up
late, night after night living off stale pizza
and coffee granules, something's going to give.
There's going to be the occasional mouse pointer
slip (rumoured to be the cause of Lara's legendary
cleavage), then the contented smile as another
buxom wench is born.
can partly be attributed to the lack of women
in the games industry when compared with their
male counterparts. Gone are the developer divas
of the 80s such as Roberta Williams, the driving
force behind the King's Quest series, and Jane
Jenson, creator of the Gabriel Knight mysteries.
These women didn't think that prefixing anything
with the word "girl" struck a blow for womankind.
They recognised that such self-segregation wasn't
needed. Williams even said in an interview: "I
prefer being thought of as a computer game designer
rather than a woman computer game designer. I
don't put myself into gender mode when designing
feels the need to label themselves gay gamers,
black gamers or boy gamers, so why should being
female be any different? It's not. Girls play
games, they're gamers. Can women really expect
to truly break through the walls of one of the
few remaining bastions of male predominance when
they hide behind barricades of their own making?
If the world is encouraged to see gender as the
defining factor, then in the end, that's all it's
going to see. Because regardless of whether we're
packing a double D cup out front, we'll all become
Lara in the end.