When I was scouring for information about video game history I was desperate for something different and interesting to write about. I found a lot of information about females and how important they were to the video games industry. I also found a lot of information on how the industry has attempted to reach us and more so how the video games industry has outraged us.
Firstly I am not a feminist I just thought it would be interesting to get inside the head of a feminist and write a history of video games from a feminists point of view, even if those views are not my own. Others have written bits and bobs, no one has done a complete timeline.
And now I present in my own words, A brief history of video games, from a feminists point of view.
1979 The first Female video game designer.
Carol Shaw was first female video game designer. The first game she ever designed was tic tac toe. She later went on to Activision to create the game river raid for the Atari 2600 and many other popular games.
1980 The First Woman to Design an Arcade Game. Dona bailey
Dona Bailey was determined to break into the buisness of making games. She became an engineer at Atari in 1980. At this time she was the only female game designer at Atari. She co created and designed the Arcade hit Centipede.
1981 First game aimed at a female audience
After the release of Pac Man a year earlier there was speculation that the games puzzle based less violent game play was more of an interest to women. To tap into the female market Namco released Ms Pac man. They used Ms rather than Miss Or Mrs in an attempt to reach a wider female audience and not to single out any age group. Unlike the original Pac Man, the spaces in between the walls are filled in, making it easier to see where the path is. I do not know if the game was made this way so the inferior female brain could cope with the game.
Apart from being the classic heroine of video games the reason why Ms Pac man was so popular is that “her” game was considered by most gamers to be a whole lot better than the original pac man.
This is surely proof that people will play a decent game regardless of the gender of the character.
I still don't think games developers have “got this”.
1981 First damsel in distress.
Donkey Kong is released in arcades, this is the first example of a female character acting as damsel in distress in video games. Donkey Kong set the template for lots of similar female characters. The Legend of Zelda series that followed also had a main objective to rescue a damsel in distress and later on Resident evil 4 where the object of the game is to rescue the presidents daughter. This is to name but a few. At this time the female character is still seen as weak and not as an equal.
1983 The first female adventure game for girls
In 1983 Amy Brigg created an adventure game primarily aimed at a female audience. She convinced her bosses with her spirit and writing skills to give her the go ahead for her video game concept for a romance game for girls called plundered hearts.
1983 The first female competitive gamer.
Doris Self was one of the first female competitive gamers. When she was 58 she entered the 1983 video game master tournament and she managed to break the world high score for Q*Bert with 1,112,300. her score was beaten a few years later but she still continued to work towards conquering the game.
1984's First Video game degrading women.
The national Organization of women criticised the game Custer's revenge for containing elements of rape.
1986 –Best female protagonist of all time.
Nintendo creates the Metroid series which has a female character Samus Aran. Samus who stood at 6' 3 was not originally intended to be a female but at the end of development the idea was suggested to make Samus a female to surprise the player.
Due to the impact the Metroid developers thought it may have on the franchise they hid the fact that Samus was a female until the end of the game. Samus wore a power suit through out the game. When the game is completed she takes it off and is revealed as a women who is wearing very little.
1987 .The first western action game with an exclusively female character.
The video game Saboteur II :Avenging angel was released in this year, with an exclusivley female character.
1992 The first female playable character in a fighting game
Chun-Li. The character has acquired the name “ the first lady of video games” by enthusiasts of the genre. At this moment female characters became equals.
1993 -Core design began the development of the game Tomb raider. Lara Croft was created as the main character of this video game.
1996 – First female character pin up.
Lara Croft was introduced and became a pin up . Rather than offering an alternative to a strong male character the developers created a highly sexualised character that engaged in the same violent aggressive behaviour associated with male characters. The character has been criticised for this.
1997 The birth of GTA
Grand theft auto has created a lot of controversy in relation to promoting violence towards women. There are parts of the game where you beat up and kill prostitutes, The game is continually criticised for encouraging violent behaviour towards women.
2004 - Ubisoft created the Frag Dolls.
The Frag Dolls were created for the purpose of encouraging more women to play video games and also as role models to encourage females to play video games online. There other goals were to prove that women enjoyed the same kind of games as men. Also, the team has been known to actively promote games published by Ubisoft during interviews and events
2004 –a survey done at this time shows that 46 percent of video game consumers are female.
2006 - Sony releases a limited edition Pink PS2 in europe
2008 First Gaming magazine aimed at females is released.
Nintendo launches the free magazine Girl Gamer in the UK. Nintendo attempt to reach a female audience by associating the magazine with pink things, cooking and raising babies. The magazine is given free in the two most popular girls magazines Bliss and Mizz.
2009 Game aimed at female audience is the best selling console game of all time
Wii fit is the best selling console game in history the game which is primarily aimed at a female audience.
2009 The player gets to decide how the women appear in the game.
In the game silent hill shattered memories the women in the game are affected by the players interaction with certain objects/ scenes in the game. For example the way the women dress in the game will depend on a questionnaire you fill out at the beginning of the game.
Part of the game play requires you to shine a torch on certain areas if the player shines it for two long on certain objects such as dirty magazines found in the gaming environment then the female characters dress and attitude will change depending on how much time the player spent looking at that certain object.
2010 Nintendo kills Samus
Fearing that Male gamers see the Metroid franchise as a girls game due to its strong female character, Nintendo change Samus Aran's character so she is less masculine. In parts of the game she runs away from Boss fights and has the guys come and help her out. That is not the Samus Aran I know and love.
Summing it up
I appreciate that the games industry has identified us gals as a target market, and is consistently trying to think of new ways to get us “into” video games. To be honest I think they are waisting there time and money doing so. They need to realise that women do not want stereotypical computer games. In fact us girls want games involving bringing up babies and cooking just as much as guys want games were they have to work a 9 to 5.
In my opinion they should just carry on doing what they do, we like the same stuff as the guys and we always have, no doubt about it. Back in the day of course wives were playing there hubbys magnavox odyssey between hoovering and dusting. Us female gamers are only starting to “crawl out of the woodwork” now because gaming has become an acceptable female pass time as has getting a career, driving a car speaking our mind and so on.
As for the Controversy games create that “offend us so much” who cares. Its a business and if female characters with large breasts and no clothes sell then so be it, it makes money, isnt that the ultimate goal. No one is forcing you to play these games if the site of flesh offends you so much.
As for characters being realistic, video game characters are never realistic, whether they are male or female. The design of Lara croft does not offend me as a women, why would it. All video game characters are exaggerated. For example Mario is a short, fat Italian man, he can jump 15 ft in the air, Sonic, a blue hedgehog? not very realistic is it, exaggerating characters is part of the fun. The main thing that attracts me to video games is that they are an escape from real life, I dont want real I want fantasy, youve achieved that already please dont change.
As for The issue with good ol Lara Croft being “not real” enough, whats next? stopping off to buy tampons between levels? Labour pains during bosses? PMT during puzzle solving? You get the point.
Get with the times video game industry. We are equals so give us the same, I like blowing stuff up aswell as the next man or woman for that matter.
Sources of information