Game quality and femininity aren’t mutually exclusive

Stereotypically feminine activities and aesthetics in video games can lead to wonderful art if we unlearn femmephobia.

Femmephobia refers to a societal system which devalues and regulates femininity, or anything deemed feminine. Not only women, but any person who presents as feminine or engages in stereotypically feminine activities can be a target.

In the video game market, femmephobia discourages the production of games that include stereotypically feminine activities. Yet those games often have the highest quality, storytelling, and most developed characters.

Playing Red Dead Redemption 2, I would spend countless hours curating protagonist Arthur Morgan’s closet. In Yakuza Zero I poured hours of my life coordinating outfits for the female hostesses, making sure all their jewelry was silver instead of gold because it better matched their undertones.

Gaming is gradually transitioning to be more equal in gender demographics. In 2006, women made up 38 per cent of gamers, while men made up 62 per cent. In 2023, women made up 46 per cent of gamers and men 53 per cent. Yet, so many AAA games—games produced by major publishers—are rigidly masculine.

When I hear the words “video game,” I think of series like Halo, Metal Gear, GTA, Elder Scrolls, Call of Duty, et cetera, which are rife with violence, action, and explosions—all associated with stereotypical masculinity.

Purple Moon was a production company active in the ’90s whose objective was to make the gaming industry more inclusive by creating video games for girls. Studies conducted by Purple Moon concluded little girls enjoyed video games that include things like fashion, horses, and makeup. However, girls additionally reported interest in games with more meaningful gameplay and complex characters.

The gaming industry continues to produce mostly low-quality games targeted towards young girls, reinforcing the femmephobic assumption that games with stereotypically feminine activities are of a lower quality and less valuable than those traditionally masculine.

The industry can and should create videogames containing stereotypically feminine activities—which means complex characters and compelling storylines, not only horses and fashion.

Transforming the gaming space to be more feminine isn’t just for women, but for everyone. As much as some straight men hate to admit it, they enjoy dressing up Arthur Morgan in cute little vests. Femininity is fun.

People of all genders can enjoy traditionally feminine games. These interests aren’t vapid or less valuable, they’re fun for everyone and deserve quality characters and storylines.

Arden is a third-year sociology student and The Journal’s Editorials Illustrator.


femmephobia, video games

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