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Female Roles in Games

One of the things that attracted me to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was the fact that on the cover they had female characters. And when I read up on it, that Mario has female companions to help him the battles. This is something that is rarely scene even in newer video games. Most video games (especially violent ones) are notorious for the macho male roles and women as the damsels. As a female I have always found this irritating since I despise most “damsels in distress” that awaits for their man to rescue them. Not that I’m saying it’s wrong, I’m just the type of girl that would rather fight my own battles and kick ass than wait. This is one of the reasons why I don’t like many of the first person shooter games because it does not allow you to select a female to play. So, I decided to play Paper Mario: TTYD because I thought it would actually maybe surmise some of these tropes among video games (especially Mario’s) however, it still lacked very much. I figured on the whole rescuing Peach (who I loathe by the way) by some kidnapper’s hands, but I was excited on having a female in battle. To my great disappointment, Mario only enhanced the gender stereotypes especially in the fighting female roles.

The first female partner that Mario gets to join his team is Gumbella: a student that went to Rogue Port (a town within the story) to study underneath the Professor.  Gumbella’s only real talent within the game is to “tattle” a notorious female gender stereo type about females “gabbing” too much. While this can be useful in some battles, she is otherwise utterly useless.

The second female partner that Mario encounters is Flurrie: An actress (go figure) that decided she wanted out of the limelight and when to live with some of the little creatures in the forest to get away from the hum drum city life.  At first I was extremely happy to get Flurrie because she was actually a powerful partner (though one of her moves were gail winds (blowing, yes I’m aware how perverted this is) except I came to realize that she played on the fat female stereotype. She was infatuated with Mario (making inappropriate statements) and did very well at body slamming FLATTENING the opponents, using the whole “you can sit on the person and squash them” statement that people pose towards fat females, especially when they are angry. Of course this move would be powerful *eye roll*.

The third female partner to join Mario’s party is Vivian: the abused sister of Siren sisters that are working for the bad guys to resurrect a demon. Vivian eventually switch sides to help Mario on his question. Vivian is basically useless within the battle and sometimes useful during the game. One of her key moves is hiding and essentially sneaking. This is kind of stereotypical of women as we are known to “snoop” around and hide to find things. I also found it irritating that she essentially was a weak character in the game.

There are some more partners that Mario gets: Koops (Koopa), Admiral (bombomb), and my favorite, a Yoshi (we names ours Punk). These three single handedly are the most useful in the game and in battles, often being able to wipe the enemy out before the next round. While I like these players, they are also annoying because they play on the male macho types.
At the end of the game, Mario rescues Peach and it’s assumed they are together forever – well, until Peach gets kidnapped again. Ezra Gweon states “That once you save the damsel in distress, love will occur. This idea highly affects our perception on women. Women are seen more as sexual objects that can be attained,” which is a common reoccurrence within video games and stereotypes. Even now, there is women being taught that if you’re smarter than a man, you must not show it; you must hide behind the scenes. There is men being taught that they have to be the macho men. They have to provide for their family, have muscles, etc. All gender stereotypes that are taught at an early age.

SPOILER ALERT One of my new favorite books “Ready Player One” even slightly touch base on the roles of gender within video games (and in the world) with the character Aech (who by the way, is one of my all time faves now). When Aech is first introduced it’s as Wade’s best friend inside OASIS and even outside of OASIS even though they have never met in person. His avatar portrays him as a Caucasian male. At first, he seems like a typical male until close to the end when we find out that Aech is an rubenesque African American lesbian. Seriously, I love her! She is very very kick ass! But this is besides me point. When Wade finally meets him in person, she confesses that the male avatar was her mother’s idea. That her mother sold things online and business would be far better if she is portrayed and thought of as a white male instead of a black female. There is racial stereotypes in here as well as gender. It used to believed that women weren’t smart enough to be able to run a business and it was considered disgraceful. Now, most of us know better. However, it doesn’t change the fact that even in a virtual world as huge as OASIS that gender does play a role in how people view you.

Gender roles shouldn’t be displayed in videogames. It hinders everything that humans have striven to drive out of our culture. Why don’t they have a game where Peach (who I loathe) is the heroine out to save Mario instead of how it normally is?  Why are females viewed as weak sexual creature in the games? Whether or not you believe videogames affect your outside life, it does. It sends subliminal messages to all of us, especially children that are still developing their outlook on life. I think we should push for a change in the stereotypes and gender roles within videogames. Demand more female games, I’m not meeting the cooking games geared towards girls (another gender role), but female fighting games where women are anatomically correct. Hell, even a rubenesque woman fighting game that has nothing to do with sex or sexual implications would be amazing. 


  1. Great article. I think stereotyping is in many ways important to video games and it makes sense as a developer, although things do seem to be a bit much at times. Also, I LOVE Paper Mario up until that Wii one that ruined the series for me, many memories came back to me seeing the photos of Paper M. Thanks!!

  2. Thank you. They play a role in video games, yes. However it's really degrading how they treat females. Paper Mario is fantastic! I love the game. I just wish there was a stronger female role.


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