The Guardian

'Fed up with fantasies for male teenagers': fixing the depiction of women in games

Developers and video artists are beginning to break down cliche and sexist gender stereotypes to explore new ideas and storylines
The depiction of 14-year-old Casey in new Australian game Wayward Strand is more realistic and balanced. Photograph: Wayward Strand

When Nicole Stark set about writing a new video game, she took inspiration from an unusual subject: her autistic teenage daughter who was battling bullies.

“I was fed up with power fantasies for male teenagers,” says Stark, one half of Noosa-based family studio Disparity Games. “We wanted something different.”

Sick of seeing female protagonists who behaved “exactly like the male character but with large boobs”, Stark, with help from her daughter, created Gemma, a 16-year-old ninja pizza delivery girl who must navigate a dystopian world of sky-high slums, exploitative mega-corporations and the cruelest of adversaries: her own peers.

“It was important to make Gemma look like a 16-year old,” says Stark, recalling her career as an artist when she would routinely make the breasts smaller on female characters – only for male colleagues to routinely make them bigger.

Launched in 2015, Ninja Pizza Girl received favourable reviews. Then came the

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Guardian

The Guardian6 min readSociety
Margaret Atwood’s New Work Is Full Of Feminist Hope. But Don’t Dumb It Down | Natasha Walter
The Testaments gives a vivid portrait of female resistance. But we should beware seeing women as merely angels or victims
The Guardian3 min read
Keane: How We Made Somewhere Only We Know
‘There are loads of internet theories about what the song means. For me, it’s about smoking weed in a school playground’
The Guardian3 min read
Hollywood’s Gender Pay Gap Revealed: Male Stars Earn $1m More Per Film Than Women
Disparity is almost the same in 2015 as in 1980, say researchers who call for contracts to be made public