Anita Sarkeesian’s latest installment of her informative “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” covers the issue of female characters in games that are made up of clothing adjustments applied to the standard male template. In the video she outlines the history of the game Ms. Pac Man and points out that adding simplistic, stereotypical gender signifiers to an otherwise male design creates female characters that have no independent identity beyond the male that they are based on.
I remember being disappointed when Rovio updated Angry Birds with a pink female bird because it seemed to imply that all the other birds were male by default. Sarkeesian’s video covers the controversy surrounding that decision as well as Rovio’s defense and subsequent addition of bows and lipstick to other birds. While it can seem silly to focus on entertainment characters as a means to facilitate social change, I think some game makers may not even be aware of what they’re doing. There should be a broad range of both male and female personalities available in games, rather than a sole, girly Smurfette in a diverse world of enterprising Smurfs.