Some of you may realize that I am a total video game nerd. Others among you may realize that I am, by and large, greatly in favor of gender equality. And what all of you probably realize is that I rarely find these two parts of my nature in collision.
That is, until things like this occur.
During a recent trip to Target I happened to pass through the video game aisle and stopped, struck dumb for some time by what I saw. Come, allow me to take you on a brief journey through gender roles as explained in video games.
There will not be a quiz.
The games intended for males were what you might expect:
We have titles like “Sins of a Solar Empire,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Command and Conquer,” and “Flight Simulator X.” I’m fairly sure these are intended for males, and imply we can be emperors, commanders, pilots, really muscular (and green) and should be doing things like fighting and dominating.
And these trends continue with “Supreme Commander,” an entire series on the “Age of Empires,” and a whole new emphasis on heroism with “Company of Heroes,” and “Heroes V.”
So, boys are supposed to be violent, aggressive, strong, dominant, and rule others. What about girls?
I’m glad you asked:
We have “Wedding Dash,” “Diner Dash: Flo on the Go,” and “Diner Dash: Hometown Hero,” where women are waitresses. There are the related titles “Burger Island,” and “Turbo Pizza,” which are basically the same thing (Burger Island promises “Burger flippin fun” whatever that means). We have “Jane’s Hotel” which seems to be the exciting game of service labor and, finally, “Cooking Quest,” which seems to require no explanation.
Then we have “Nanny Mania,” and “Babysitting Mania.” Don’t get enough of that gendered labor for money, young women? Now you can do it for free on your computer! Woot! That “Miss Popularity” game just scares the heck out of me.
And finally, we see some women in reasonably advanced roles but, really, only so much. Apparently an educated woman can be a vet. It’s not too restrictive, however, as she can be a “Farm Vet” or a “Pet Vet” who has “Australian Adventures.” She can run a regular kind of “Animal Hospital” in 3D or branch out to a “Wild Animal Hospital.” And of course, she has to be perky like “Dr. Daisy.” And I’ll be honest with you- “Pinkie Pie’s Party Parade” makes me want to kill myself. Seriously, stare too long into her eyes and feel your sanity begin to melt away.
Am I saying that these games cause gender inequality? Nah, I really don’t think this is where we should focus our energy. Rather, I think these games reflect some very persistent ideas about gender in our society and they’re just as dysfunctional for girls, who apparently are only allowed to be vets, child care workers, or service labor, as they are for boys, who are being told to be violent, dominant and destructive.
So, really, no need to blow this out of proportion but, at the same time, can’t we do a little better than this?