The topic of gender representation in video games, including survival games, is an important part of the broader conversation on inclusivity and diversity in media. Traditionally, the gaming industry has been male-dominated, both in terms of the development teams and the player base. This historical bias often led to the perpetuation of gender stereotypes, with male characters portrayed as strong and action-oriented, while female characters were often secondary, sexualized, or portrayed through a “damsel in distress” trope. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need for more nuanced and equitable gender representation in games. This has resulted in changes, but there is still much work to be done.
Survival games present an interesting case for examining gender representation because these games often involve complex scenarios that simulate aspects of real life (like resource management, decision-making under stress, etc.). These scenarios could allow for a more nuanced depiction of gender roles; however, they also risk reinforcing harmful stereotypes if not handled carefully. For instance, if a survival game restricts female characters to roles traditionally associated with caregiving, while male characters take on all combat roles, it can reinforce existing societal norms about “appropriate” gender roles.
Moving beyond stereotypes in gender representation in survival games involves several key considerations:
- Character Creation and Customization: Offering players the ability to create and customize their characters across a broad spectrum of gender identities can be an immediate step toward inclusivity. This can include more options for body types, hairstyles, and clothing that are not tied to a binary gender model.
- Storytelling and Character Development: While creating a survival game, emphasis should be laid on nuanced storytelling where both male and female characters have depth, aspirations, and agency. Their survival should not be solely dependent on traditional gender roles, but on a mix of skills, intelligence, and other attributes that any human, regardless of gender, can possess.
- Game Mechanics: The core mechanics of survival should not be inherently tied to gender. For example, resource gathering, combat, and strategy should be skills that any character can master irrespective of their gender. Certain tasks shouldn’t be easier or harder based on the gender of the character the player chooses.
- Community Input and Testing: Developers should also engage with a diverse community of players to get input on how different gender representations are received. This can help in fine-tuning the game to be more inclusive.
- Representation Behind the Scenes: Having a diverse team of developers can also contribute to more nuanced portrayals of gender. Different perspectives can enrich the development process and result in a more inclusive game.
By taking these steps, survival games can offer a more inclusive and realistic experience for all players, challenging traditional gender norms rather than reinforcing them.