When we launched the Gaming The System podcast, we combined two passions, gaming and feminism. We all knew that gaming was great, but was it equal? In our first podcast, we discussed our motivations for this project. Let’s look at that chat, more than two years on, and see if and how those views have weathered.
Gaming women know the special kind of hush that comes over game chat when they speak. This was my awakening to how male-dominated the gaming world is. A reminder I received every time I spoke when tanking in a raiding guild on World of Warcraft. Alex knew that a gaming school friend was a rare gift. Sadly, the placement of Tomb Raider Pajamas in the ‘boys clothing’ section was not so rare. (Do not get me started on the problems with gendering clothes!) Matt’s revelations started with a recognition that the gaming and movie world looks like him, mostly only him. Real-world inequalities are reproduced in too many gaming worlds. Caroline loves the escapism of games such as Rust, infamous for its misogyny, racism and abusive players.
Why should we care?
Gaming has sometimes been a source of entertainment, escape and even comfort. It has helped us connect in person and remotely with friends and family. Our gaming experiences have shaped our lives, earning an exceptional place in our hearts. We must hold games, their designers, the industry and gamers themselves to account. Like books and movies, games have significant power to influence and change social attitudes. However, unlike books and movies, games are interactive, sucking us in and involving us. Gamers are invited to connect with the characters we play and worlds we explore. Be it platform-hopping with Mario, home-building in Animal Crossing or surviving with Elle and Joel in The Last of Us. This deep connection means that the game environment, protagonist and the core messages of the story matter.
These factors impact our psyche and influence the way we see the world. Even more relevant when we consider that many people begin gaming as children. Young brains are open to the fictional societies, values and gendering. We have explored many aspects of this over the past few years, and there is a growing body of evidence that t is essential that the Gaming the System podcast uncovers and examines these topics to view games through a feminist lens and challenge the status quo.
The importance of representation in all aspects of life cannot be overstated. I know these girls were reacting to a movie, not a game, but the point is simple and well-made. It matters that we can see people that look like us in our entertainment. Only then can we believe that we can do it and are welcome and included. The Gaming the System team wants a fairer, more equal gaming environment that represents and includes everyone who plays. Our contribution to moving that dial in the right direction is to talk about it. We aim to shine a feminist light on the world of gaming and to view it through an intersectional feminist lens.
We recently revisited these motivations for the Gaming The System podcast. Aside from the joy of talking about our gaming experiences, we learn so much from one another’s interpretations, giving us a better perspective. We all agreed that producing the GTS podcast has made us more aware of equality and inequality in games. We are more aware of how women are sexualised in games, pleasantly surprised at the implementation of more accessibility options and see our game choices in a broader social context. Our gaming experience is now politically charged.
Things have moved on since we started the pod, but we still have a long way to go. Sometimes it feels like two steps forward, one step backwards. I give you The Summer Games Fest, failing to platform *any* women. We have also seen a depressing array of “Fighty, Shooty and Grey” games and a patriarchally driven capitalist approach to the industry. So, there is still plenty to discuss as we bob along this rocky river. We have not even started on AI and virtual reality yet!