Krystyna Bell, a second year paralegal student at Humber, loves to play video games, but sometimes feels that the whole gaming community wants nothing to do with her.
“When you’re gaming and there’s mostly guys around you, if they see you doing something wrong, they’ll try to correct you,” said Bell.
Group playing is like being under a spotlight, with all the people around you waiting to jump in when something goes wrong, she said.
Mohammed Zahran, a first-year Architectural Design student, said he’s sympathetic to the way females feel about the industry.
“I don’t see a lot of females in the game room. There are always more guys. I would be intimidated if I was the only girl surrounded by guys,” Zahran said. “I also don’t think they like the selection here, though they’d probably be more interested in adventurous games, not FIFA.”
Conventions like Comic-Con or Fan-Expo tend to have women under a different kind of spotlight.
“They’re super skinny, big breasted cosplaying girls, who are always half naked in their costume. (The guys at conventions) think you’re there just to be eye candy,” Bell said.
What encourages this to continue is the constant focus of stereotypes within games themselves. There are few games with female lead characters that are smart and capable.
“Games focus on the sex aspect, not so much the story or the game play. It’s about how sexually appealing she is to male gamers,” said Bell.
Stereotypes aren’t just geared towards women; the reality is that stereotyping in general is a staple of the gaming industry, according to Humber professor Paul Neale, a 3D Animation expert, who believes stereotypes play a needed role.
“You also get the big hunky guy in the tight outfit and stuff. You get it on both sides,” he said, “As far as art goes, we work on stereotypes.”
Stereotypes are the easiest way to make believable characters, Neale observed, noting everyone has certain expectations of what different personalities look like. That’s what a stereotype is. When trying to make a product that resembles real life, or at least has lifelike human interaction, stereotypes give characters motivation and purpose, he said.
“How smart is the blonde? The guy with the unshaven face is who? The Asian kid who’s smart. There’s the East Indian kid who’s overly funny. Talk about stereotypes,” Neale said.
It’s not so much targeting women but everyone and in a way that makes the characters relatable, he said.
Despite the stereotyping, women are slowly starting to make their way in the video game design world.
“I see at least as many females interested as I do guys. I think the industry is slowly equaling out,” Neale said. “It’s been happening for a while and has been building.”