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The Slow Evolution Of Women In Video Games

Call Of Duty Black Ops 3 actually features a female soldier.

10/07/2016 4:16 PM AEST | Updated July 15, 2016 12:56

A sneak peek at the latest Call of Duty is enough to reinforce the idea that the tide is turning when it comes to female representation in video games. Until very recently, gaming has been almost entirely male dominated. It's not just the players, but the characters in the games too.

Female video game characters of the past were mostly relegated to roles of the 'bag-carrier wearing next-to-nothing' kind. Lara Croft, and her super-tight tank top, was the poster girl for female gaming, like it or not. Game designers have even complained that females were more difficult to animate due to bone structure. Oh, and they're more emotional so there's the challenge of animating a more expressive face.

It's even been suggested they were more difficult to animate due to the female characters' tendency to frequently disrobe. Imagine trying to animate a character who was gradually peeling off her clothing from scene to scene?

Ahem.

Women are also starting to be included in more sporting games, with the announcement by Big Ant Studios that female players and teams will be part of the cricket video game experience, in the upcoming Don Bradman Cricket 17. It's a world first that Big Ant Studios CEO Ross Symons is immensely proud of.

"One thing we decided from early on was that we didn't want to be tokenistic about this; we wanted to ensure that, just as in the men's game, that the women's is as completely true to the sport as is possible," Symons said.

Big Ant Studio
Big Ant Studio is the first developer in the world to feature women in a cricket game with Don Bradman Cricket 17.

Apart from sexism in video games and under-representation of female characters in games, there is also the sinister world of real-life sexual harassment of women players and those in the gaming industry.

The #GamerGate controversy in 2014 started as an attack against one female developer, which saw her home address and phone number published and a sustained campaign to destroy her public image. Its proponents claimed to want to restore the traditional values of gaming.

Whether times have changed since then is up for debate, but one sure thing is designers have listened to the pleas of the growing band of female gamers. While there are still challenges faced in terms of being a minority in what is still a mostly male dominated industry, statistics show 48 percent of all gamers are female.

Call of Duty
Video game designers are now creating strong female protagonists.

Australia's Kayla 'Squizzy' Squires became the first female to qualify for Call of Duty World League in Los Angeles, a video game tournament pitting the world's best gamers against each other. Known as an 'eSports athlete' Squires plays as part of team, Exile5. She is leading the way for professional female gamers in Australia and she's told The Huffington Post Australia the tide has certainly turned in favour of female gamers.

"When I first started playing back in 2012 I didn't know any other female gamers. But things have changed. Not only are there more and more female gamers, who are attracted to the competitiveness of the games, there's much better representation of females in the games. It's come a long way just in the last few years," Squires said.

Kayla Squires
Kayla 'Squizzy' Squires

"The rise of female gamers means that the designers have really had to listen to what we want and it's really pleasing to see some great, strong females in a variety of games."

Video games now attract celebrity fans like Cara Delevingne, who is extremely vocal about her love of the game. She even appeared in the trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

Call of Duty
Supermodel Carla Delevingne is a passionate gamer and appeared in the trailer for Black Ops

But while there has been a lot of progress, there are still grumblings that female representation in video games has not gone far enough and that the games will never feature full gender equality. But there are games like Mass Effect: Andromeda which, as revealed at the recent E3 Expo in LA featured a female lead character. Other Mass Effect games allow players to choose the gender they wish to play by.

Grace is a YouTuber who goes by the name 'I am fall from Grace'. (She prefers not to disclose her surname.) She has more than 100,000 subscribers to her channel and became hooked when introduced to video games by her father at the age of 13.

"My father and I would stay up playing until 2am! It's always been a part of my life and I was very drawn to Call of Duty because, being a first-person shooter game it's my go-to genre. It's a fast game play and it's competitive. I'm attracted to the different game modes, weapons, maps and challenges. And now there are more and more female protagonists so the game is really moving forward in terms of equality," Grace said.

Grace has recently returned from the E3 Expo where she saw a preview of the new Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare game. She's told HuffPost Australia that video game developers have been listening to female gamers when it comes to female representation.

"It's evident in seeing the games progress to what they're like now. In Infinite Warfare the female soldier is a very high ranking officer, who is very respectfully dressed. We've come a long way from Lara Croft with her boobs and skimpy clothing. So I do believe the game developers are taking it on the chin when it comes to designing female protaganists," Grace said.

"I've been involved in gaming from a very young age and gone are the days where female characters are the 'damsel in distress.' There are three leading female characters in Call Of Duty who are all very strong characters. They wear full soldier outfits, they are not masculine but they are as dominant as their male counterparts."

I am fall from grace
Grace, competing as 'I am fall from Grace', has over 100,000 subscribers to her Youtube channel.

"I'm really hopeful that this will start to be the end of females in video games as the 'damsel in distress. Female gamers sent a strong message that we love gaming too and we want to have strong female characters. We've said, 'Can you please cater to us?' and many of them have listened."

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