Can videogames be defined as regressive as opposed to radical?

In Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Anna Anthropy speaks to the artistic and revolutionary capacity of videogames and conversely, how mainstream videogames offer ‘such a narrow view of what it is to be human’ (2012, 3). Anthropy identifies the gendered tropes of gaming narrative, stating that ‘Mostly, videogames are about men shooting men in the face’ and discusses the limiting binary in which female characters reside; ‘games that involve a woman protagonist in a role other than slaughterer put her in a role of servitude: waiting tables at a diner (or a dress shop, a pet shop, a wedding party)’ (2012, 3). Anthropy proposes radical reformation of videogame content as contingent on a decentralization of game creation, in order to dissolve the existing insular production of games, and thus expand thematic, aesthetic and design possibilities (2012). In addition to female characters existing in a limited set of sexualised roles, I also argue that Simone de Beauvoir’s polemic theory of the feminine as ‘Other’ is relevant within the context of gaming, demonstrating the lack of radicalism within contemporary videogame culture. In the seminal text The Second Sex (1949), de Beauvoir noted that women have historically appeared ‘essentially to the male as a sexual being’ and that a woman is ‘defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her…she is the Other’. The very fact that women are ‘vastly underrepresented in popular videogames and are often hyper sexualised when depicted’ (Beasley and Standley 2002; Dietz 1998; Glaubke et al. 2001; Ivory 2006; Miller and Summers 2007) exemplifies my contention that this media form has not yet evolved into a radical text, due to its inherent ‘othering’ of women into subordinated positions of sexual service to the male counterpart. In no way can videogames be regarded as a radical or progressive text if they continue to perpetuate out-dated stereotypes of women, and damaging masculinist discourse promoting such harmful attitudes towards women. The Japanese game Rapelay represents misogynist themes of sexual violence against women, and is the crudest example of rape culture and oppressive representations of women within videogame culture.

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