I just finished reading an article on women in games from the NY Times and I have a lot to say. Before I begin, it's important to know that the article discusses the way women are portrayed in games and not female gamers, as they are two very different topics.

The discussion is similar to the one that occurred when black people first appeared in television and film -- is it better to have black people on tv being portrayed inaccurately or to have them off tv completely? In regards to women, the critics seem to agree that women need to be in games, but there is argument as to whether or not the portrayal is acceptable.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is at one extreme, as women are often beaten or killed, usually after a helathy round of prostitution. Clearly, no critic approves of this. In a game like Tekken 4 the women are capable of defending themselves and often kick ass, but are still hyper-sexualized versions of real women (see image below). All of the games in the Tomb Raider series are also good examples of this. As the article points out, many women have applauded the heroism and stength of Lara Croft but have been disappointed by her incredibly large bust size. Few games give a totally positive portrayal of women -- even games like Super Mario Brothers show the Princess as a completely helpless person that a plumber can save from a hideously large and violent super-turtle.

Tekken 4: Christie

The bottomline is that although women are being given a fair shake in fighting games and often given starring roles in other genres, it is under the wrong pretenses. They are put there and are shaped accordingly in order to appeal to the male gamer's labido. What's more troubling, and isn't fully addressed by the article, is that this accurately portrays real life. Yes, women are finally gaining some equality in society but they are still portrayed as feabile, sexual creatures. A quote from the article sums it up nicely.

"Now women can be killing machines, but adolescent about everything else," Ms. Hooks said.

"That is what one sees in 'Charlie's Angels,' " she continued. "The women kill as ruthlessly and as brutally as any men, but when it comes to sex that drops out and they are little girls. It is a tremendous burden."

At this point I would like to point out that men are also shown as hulking masses of testosterone, only capable of maiming and looting, which reminds us that games, like all fiction, allows people to live out fantasies. Still, we need to remember that authors of any form of fiction have a tremendous power -- the ability to shape our concept of reality.

Now, I challenge the video game industry, and all other industries as well as society, to think of women as equals in all senses of the word. I admit it is fun to visit a fantasy world where men can pretend they are 6'4", incredibly strong and unbearably handsome fighters who get to wrestle with unbearably buxom women, but if this is giving adolescents the idea that women can be treated like dirt then I think we can and should give up these images forever.