Hiding gender politics in games

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

Games can have invisible politics, and the fact that the politics are hidden in the mechanics of the game makes the message much more powerful than if it were overt. Consider that these words are more controversial than the game they comment on, and you’ll realize the political power of games:

In an article headlined “How RimWorld’s Code Defines Strict Gender Roles” writer and academic Claudia Lo dug into RimWorld’s code and found that “there are no bisexual men, only gay or straight men; there are no straight women, only gay or bisexual women.” Women are also eight times less likely to hit on men. A few other items, like how men are less attracted to older women (but not the reverse), and how physical beauty is the only measure of attractiveness, stood out to Lo. These things are real-life issues that can negatively impact real-life people. To Lo, it was strange for a sci-fi game developer to intentionally insert them into his game.

She wrote that RimWorld’s model for sexuality is “flawed in a way that perfectly mirrors existing sexist expectations of romance, with such specificity that it is hard to view it as unintentional.”

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