My son counts down the hours until Friday after school because that's the magical moment when the remote controls to the Wii are released. He, and usually a couple friends, get to immerse themselves in the world of video games.
Sometimes I play Lego StarWars Wii with the boys. They've almost stopped being annoyed when I make my character jump on top of those big spiders and ride them around.
Okay, that's actually not true.
I've had several lectures about taking my participation more seriously. But have you seen those spiders? They're so much fun!
And so is playing video games. Everything I read about the world in which my children will live and work leads me to believe video games and gaming technology will probably make up part of their work experience. Many games teach problem solving skills and even hand-eye coordination. These are good lessons. If that's where the lessons stopped I wouldn't have an issue with video games.
Unfortuantely, gaming culture is often dismissive and sometimes downright mysoginistic when it comes to its female characters. Even though we're still at the G rated end of the spectrum, I've noticed disturbing patterns that only become more prominent as the games skew toward an older audience.
The female characters are often built like scantily clad Barbie dolls and fall into outdated stereotypical roles; women in distress, women as a reward or sexual objectification through use of women as decoration.
Video games have become one more part of popular culture that shape childrens' perception of the world. As such, I'm concerned about what these games teach about women's roles in society both online and off.
Turns out, I'm not the only one who's worried about the portrayal of women in video games. Anita Sarkeesian created Feminist Frequency, a video webseries that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives with an emphasis on deconstructing the stereotypes associated with women in both popular and gaming culture.
It makes me feel less alone to know I'm not the only one who's deeply uncomfortable with the way women are portrayed in video game culture.
Websites like Feminist Frequency are a message to game developers. One of the reasons girls and women play video games less than their male counterparts is because video games often don't depict our experience of the world.
I'd love to see games where female characters get to be powerful and strong without wearing a bikini. Or where their strength of spirit and intelligence were key factors used to unlock rewards. In fact, if I knew about those kinds of games I'd probably run out and buy the tomorrow. And I'm sure I'm not alone.
Talk about an untapped market!