Don’t let the title fool you: this is not intended strictly for men. It is, however, a question or two guys ask on the subject of sexism in gaming. Maybe I can make a trend of this by periodically publishing those questions and getting readers and bloggers to help answer them.

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Today, here’s my inspirational question taken from a commenter on the question of target audiences for certain games:

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I know it is degrading and objectifying but… I still like beautiful semi nude women and not really beautiful semi nude men. What can I do? Should I fell guilty to like that in my entertainment? After all, I want the entertainment that I pay for to entertain ME. Not anybody else. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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Don’t force my entertainment to follow to your tastes, if you don’t like my entertainment, buy entertainment to suit your needs. After all, there’s a huge industry of pornography for gay men that I don’t consume but I’m very happy it exists because they are happy with their thing I am happy with mine and we can all happily coexist. – Commenter on the Hawken Riveter posters

You can’t request co-existence while also asserting that you only care about your own entertainment. That’s not co-existing. Co-anything requires a certain amount of respect and understanding that it’s not about you, it’s about us.

I don’t think you should feel bad about what you like, generally speaking. We all have preferences. But you should understand why you prefer some things. It’s definitely not good enough to just like something without evaluating it’s quality or value. In this case, you have confessed that some of the imagery you enjoy is degrading and objectifying for women. You tell us: is this a good thing?

When we’re not even considering the things we do, then we can’t possibly evaluate or care about the consequences until it’s often too late.

Can you still appreciate art that’s not directed at you? Must you make it all about you? Can you derive joy from someone else’s even while wanting the experience for yourself? I think all of this tells us that our egocentric view of entertainment is depriving us from actually enjoying it for it’s own sake. There might be something wrong with that, but you be the judge.

A fellow commenter followed up with this gem:

But I still believe Hawken was targeted at men. It’s not only the mechs. It’s the mechs, the guns, the sci-fi setting, the scantily clad women, the competitiveness. Sure, there will be girls who love the game, but they are the minority.

We can also agree that My Little Pony is the exception rather than the norm. I don’t see too many guys watching Strawberry Shortcake or Rainbow Brite.

There’s kind of a catch-22 going on. Women usually don’t like sci-fi stuff because it’s not targeted at them, and content producers don’t target sci-fi stuff at women because they usually don’t like it.

How do we know when a game is targeted at men? Well this guy sums it for us: guns, sexualized women, competitive and sci-fi. So eloquent.

What’s really troubling about this is that we can safely assume this is the general mindset of many game developers when trying to create games that appeal to men. Look at how shallow this paints us. I mean, do we (men) enjoy being thought of as childlike, simple-minded, uncooperative, and violent? I certainly don’t.

This process of picking attributes to make games for men happens before the outcries of sexism, which these same men are very angry to deny. It’s not even possible to believe games are targeted at men, name the things implemented precisely to exclude women, and then conclude that sexism in the industry isn’t as bad as people make it. At some point, the man who believes any or all of these statements has to accept the fact that sexism is embedded in the culture and he’s not been immune. He’s what I’ll call a benevolent sexist. We’ve all been there because we all live here; don’t lash out or be upset about it. Just try to understand it so we can get rid of it.

Is there a way to target a game strictly at men or women without being sexist? Maybe, but to what end? What game are people making these days in which it’s in their best economic interest to exclude women? I’m not trying to say that games should only be made out of economic interest. I’m saying many are made almost exclusively for economic interest and they don’t benefit at all from this kind of marketing. They effectively lose half the market. Are developers being irrational? You know, sexism is irrational …perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised?

As the woman informed the commenter, she exists and loves Hawken and sci-fi. It’s pretty ignorant to make statements that it’s made for men, and yet that might have been the motive of Meteor Entertainment during creation. How many women are hiding in your games, allowing you to trick yourself into believing they are men in order to not be harassed or treated like a unicorn? Probably half the players you encounter, since women make up more than half the human race. This in turn allows men to console themselves that the myth is true, that it must be since the women aren’t announcing themselves more often. It’s insulting to believe that men must be comforted by myths in order to justify their maleness. It’s degrading to assume that I need to know the sex of the player I’m gaming with in order to enjoy the experience.

So, what are your thoughts? Do our game developers make these kinds of assumptions that the commenter above does when making games? What are the qualities a game must have to appeal to men or women separately? What are some scenarios in which targeting a game at one sex and not another a good idea? Finally, how can we get fellow gamers to understand that it’s not guilt feminists want you to feel about your sexual preferences?

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