I read a lot of research about video games being targeted to young men and female characters being hypersexualized. According to these reports, the hypersexuality of the character makes girls feel uncomfortable or left out. While I’m sure this is probably true (it is, after all, what the overwhelming majority of the research on females in video games suggests), I don’t feel that I can relate to these findings.
I have been gaming for a good ten years now. I started out in middle school (oh the awkward years of changing bodies and “becoming a woman”) playing the MMORPG Everquest. True to gaming style, my character was a very busty, scantily-clad wood elf ranger. This never bothered me. (Pictured to the right: Me at age 12, killin it in my leotard.)
As a young girl gamer, I quickly learned that in smaller, single player games I would be lucky to even be offered a female character. Given the choice between a “sexy” character and a “tough” character, my sisters and I would choose the sexier one because we wanted to be pretty (thank you society).
I guess the point where I felt, and still continue to feel, turned off by games is in the actual interactions with other players.
Although I love my console games, I will always be a MMORPG kind of girl at heart. I started on Everquest, graduated to Everquest II, and dappled in Rift. Across all three games the story is the same. I have played both male and female characters and I am aware of the differences. There is the obvious, males will try to give gifts to and power level females and that we are given help more often when we ask for it. But there is also the lack of respect. Males will always approach males to ask for a group invite, they will stop to kill the mob you are fighting if you are soloing and not killing it with great ease.
My sister is a very skilled player and has a great knowledge of the game and raiding. She maxed out her character and was well into her end-game quests when she abandoned the character to start over as a male. As her female character, no one would listen to her advice in raids, let her main tank, or even help organize. She created her male, almost maxed-out, joined the raiding group and was quickly elevated to the status of running and advising raids. With a weaker, yet male character.
Bottom line, my only turn off as a girl gamer has been lack of respect from the guys. But hey, that’s just life. I don’t like it, so I solo if my usual gang isn’t around. But I don’t have a problem whatsoever kicking ass AND looking sexy.