Recently, under the guise of her online persona Feminist Frequency, pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian made waves online by introducing the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter, a video series exploring female stereotypes in the world of games.

Predictably, as any subject matter involving feminism usually goes, the response has polarized readers. From sexist attacks on the announcement video to over $137000 in donations, the venture highlights how contentious the portrayal of women is, especially for an industry still emerging creatively.

Being a feminist, her views are obviously slanted toward how women are characterized in games. And while a valid question, her project brought to light another important issue: the mischaracterization of men as hulking, death-defying heroes, a standard to which most male players cannot compare.

As a result, “An analysis of misandry present in modern interactive video game media” aims to broadcast the opposing side. A video series displaying how men are constantly subjugated, and sometimes vilified, as abusive, homicidal, head-shaved warriors with little remorse or resentment of their actions.

Understandably, video games are produced for a male audience. It isn’t outlandish to suggest most consumers purchasing these games are male. Both publishers and the public think your average enthusiast spends unlimited hours labouring away while surviving on a chips-and-Red Bull diet, which is furthest from the truth.

Because of other media, bald or shaved male characters associate with obscene acts of violence or heroism, a strange dichotomy of the male psyche. From movies like American History X portraying bald, ruthless neo-Nazi violence to Bruce Willis in Die Hard, the male persona as represented in media slowly transformed. And the budding medium of games willfully soaked up the badass-ery.

The grisly image of a bald man committing ultraviolent acts as subtly advertising. Since the persona is so strongly attached to utter destruction, creating a “typical” character achieves two things: depicting that person as violent as to where some may relate; and to play psychologically on the interactive nature of the act, seemingly making the player think they are committing the act.

This is not to say all players are prone to violence — in fact most aren’t. It’s built on the publishers’ wrongful notion that these games sell well because of the amount of violence. That because all men become excited by violence.

And this trend has reached unprecedented levels recently, most with heavy advertising campaigns. Some include: Mass Effect 3InfamousHitmanGod of WarGrand Theft Auto 4 and Killzone.

The fund’s description makes an apt point as well:

“Such stale and stagnant design clashes vividly with the rainbow of personalities that are so abundant in real life, and seeing as how the hardware necessary has been available for a few years, isn’t it about time that video games reflected the diversity of the audience?”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

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  • What

    Okay, what I’m getting from this article, is a small group of men believe it’s unfair that there are so many strong bald men in videogames. ALSO, they seem to be upset by the violence..? Not saying all, obviously, but most video games marketed to boys are fps, because that’s what they like.
    If it has strong bald men and blood, and you don’t like those things, don’t play it.
    Let’s keep it simple people.
    The chances of you changing anything by sitting in front of a screen and blogging your thoughts, is fairly minuscule.
    Although, having more diverse characters would be really lovely.
    Personalization of characters has really become fantastic lately, so maybe in time character diversity will gain traction as well?

    • Jeff

      The pervasiveness of military men as lead characters is lazy design. It wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for so many franchises where killing is the main objective having bald or shaved-head characters. The violence associated with the persona is another issue entirely.

      I know the chance of me changing things are miniscule. But you must understand this blog is still less than a week old. Ushering in sweeping changes probably won’t ever come, I’m more hoping to connect with likeminded people who enjoy critical video gaming commentary.

      Your last point is possible, especially with this being a talked-about issue. But commonly this makes the rounds and withers away quickly. But as technology improves, so will the amount of options available for character customization.

      Also thanks for the comment! I appreciate any and all readers. :)

    • Rhys

      “If it has [things], and you don’t like those things, don’t play it.”
      Suddenly Women vs. Tropes in Video Games and all projects like it are a non-issue.

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