A Peek into Female Representation in Video Games

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at the representation of female characters in video games as a whole, as well as esports basketball in particular.

It is no secret that the representation of female video game characters is historically lackluster. In order to appreciate the progression made on female avatars since the introduction ofMs. Pac-Man in the mid-80s, it is important to look back on the history of the depiction of females in some of our favorite games.

From damsels in distress in Mario and The Legend of Zelda, to the notorious glorification of sexual harassment and graphic violence against women seen in Grand Theft Auto, video games made in the late 90s and early 2000s were not lacking in negative portrayals.

In recent years, however, there has been progress made.

As Kate Harveston pointed out in a 2017 article for Headstuff.org, the character known as “The Scythian” in Sword and Sorcery is a prime example.

“The character is not defined by her gender, and she demonstrates that women can be mythical heroes just as effectively as men,” wrote Harveston. “She is also an independently existing character and not the family member of a main male character in the game.”

Additionally, there is “Aloy” in Horizon Zero Dawn who serves as the main hero in the game.

“Aloy is not a weak sex-symbol who needs to avoid danger,” wrote Carlos Pacheco on Medium. “She is skilled in defeating giant animal robots inhabiting this world, and is equally matched to any male enemies.”

Huge strides were also made in August 2019 when NBA 2K announced the introduction of WNBA teams to the latest version of the gaming franchise.

According to Business Insider, Los Angeles Sparks Forward Candace Parker was relieved by the long overdue addition to 2K.

“This should’ve happened a while ago,” she voiced. “But, I’m happy it’s happening now, because now young boys and girls are going to grow up seeing that.”

2K Gameplay Director, Mike Wang, expressed that the league had been planning on implementing WNBA characters for years, but wanted to be sure that “the process wasn’t rushed.” This process includes scanning and motion-capturing WNBA players the same as NBA players, followed by animating them in such a way that integrates their very mannerisms, skills, and individual swag. 

The evolution of the representation of female characters in the virtual gaming world is considerably impressive, but much like the real world, there is still room for progress to be made in order to create a truly level playing field.