Gamers Reveal What Playing Games Is Like For Women In 2018
At the new V&A exhibition 'Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’, we chatted to some gamers about how inclusive games are becoming for women.
The V&A museum in London's all-new exhibit, ‘Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’, explores how modern gaming design has evolved and transformed over time.
From new indie titles to discover, to Splatoon, via No Man's Sky: it’s totally immersive, and a gamer’s paradise.
MTV got an early sneak peak at the exhibition, which features dark rooms filled with mesmerising lights and atmospheric game sounds, where we also met 8 of Instagram’s 100 young Gaming Ambassadors (chosen by Instagram to support its community of young people and "help keep Instagram a safe and supportive place for self-expression"). All of the ones we met were female, and many of them had gamed their whole lives. They spoke about how games have become more inclusive over time, and whether they thought gaming in 2018 has become an equal playing field for women.
Their answers were positive overall, with all of the gamers describing how much female representation within gaming has come on leaps and bounds since they first started playing, and most saying they rarely ever felt attacked or demeaned because they were female while playing. But it was clear that this depended on the platform, and that some games were better than others at inclusivity.
One of the platforms that seemed to come out worst in terms of making women feel welcome was the online streaming platform Twitch. Instagram Gaming Ambassador Jessica (@rage_darling) commented: "I've experienced a lot of sexism, more so than probably the average user, because I’m a Twitch streamer... when you’re a Twitch streamer you’re obviously exposed to a lot of trolls, a lot of insults, people that just wanna generally ruin your day for the fun of it.”
But even outside the realm of Twitch, some of the gamers had occasionally gotten weird comments. Emily (@emilymeganxart) described how she'd had "other experiences where [the guy I've chatted to online has] obviously got a different agenda so they'll message me and be, like, really flirtatious".
Overall, though, the gamers' experience seemed overwhelmingly positive, especially today, as opposed to when they started playing. But what about the games themselves? How well do they treat and represent women in 2018?
Sophie (@retro_space_girl) argued that there was a genre for everyone now no matter what your identity. She agreed with Stephanie (@stephoppotamus) that actually, the gaming world is not only embracing more female protagonists, like Horizon: Zero Dawn's Alloy, or a more realistic woman in the newest iteration of Lara Croft in 2018's Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, but is also starting to represent the LGBTQ+ community more too, with characters like Ellie from The Last Of Us, Tracer from Overwatch, or in Mass Effect, where the player is able to choose a same sex partner.
Even though there have been more and more female characters in Western games that look like normal people and have strong personalities, there are still some female characters that are overly sexualised. "[The gaming industry is] changing ever-so-slowly from objectifying women, but it’s still objectifying women," Jessica (@itsthatjess) said.
Even though the gaming scene has made massive positive progress, it looks like there's still room for improvement in terms of its treatment of women. Stephanie would like Zelda to be able to rescue Link for a change, for example, and Sophie would like some games to sexualise women less: "You want it to be more story driven than just about what she looks like."