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Quick History of Feminism and Gaming  

WRITTEN BY Chelsea Hall 

In recent years, there has been a rise in female gamers. According to Forbes, 41% of gamers in 2020 were women in the United States. 

Now that there is an expansion in a female audience there is also a call for a change in female characters. Female characters in video games are historically known for their hyper-sexualized roles based solely on stereotypes. 

This can even be seen in their designs. Most adult female characters are designed with a bigger chest and a smaller waist, representing male-focused beauty standards based on men’s desires. Female characters’ physical design is meant to be eye candy for male characters and gamers.

This is notable in outfit choices between male and female characters as well. A male warrior character’s armor will offer full coverage, while a female warrior will be dressed scantily. There is no game-specific reason for the female characters not to have full coverage yet this is a pillar of female character design.

Another problem is that most female characters are only created to help further male characters and their goals — playing supporting roles in a male-centered narrative. Female characters are also commonly seen in video games as the goal or reason for the mission, whether it’s to be saved or as a final reward. 

A widely popular example of this is seen in the relationship between Mario and Peach from a variety of Nintendo games. As a prominent example of the damsel in distress trope, Peach is usually kidnapped and has to be rescued by Mario. 

Not only are these some issues for female characters, but there are hardly any stories being told with female characters as options for the lead. 

In 2019, Wired noticed that of the 76 games featured at the E3 conference, only seven centered or focused on a female protagonist. At this time, female gamers did not have a lot of options of well-rounded female characters, and the ones they did were hypersexualized. 

In 2020, the percentage of video games featuring female protagonists reportedly rose from 10 percent to 18 percent. Wired speculates that maybe this shift in numbers follows the recent rise of female gamers. 

There is still a long way to go when it comes to female-friendly gaming, but the wide swath of growing girl gamers will keep fighting until they get their stories told.