Does anyone else find it strange that we find ourselves talking about women being exploited in video games, but not in real life? I mean we have talked about what Lara Croft is wearing in the New Tomb Raider, the art of Dragon’s Crown, the censorship of Bravely Default, and the like. No one is really talking about the daily news shows of IGN, GameSpot and Polygon.
Let me be clear with my point of view. Women can be, and should be whatever they want. If a woman chooses to be a doctor, a nurse, a striper, an escort, a soldier, a programmer, or whatever, that is great; if that is what they want to be, go for it. Moreover, a woman can wear whatever she wants. That having been said, I do feel like IGN, GameSpot and Polygon are exploiting their daily news hosts for page views/ad revenue. All of them are attractive (depending on your taste in women) white women.
I also believe that games, generally speaking, are a product targeted at white middleclass males from the ages of 15 to 40. That is the target audience, not that more people do not enjoy them, but that is their market. That is also who IGN, GameSpot, and Polygon are also targeting by virtue of covering video games. This largely explains why they have the hosts that they do.
It really began with Jessica Chobot when she landed a job at IGN after the pictures of her, sensually licking the PSP, blew up on the Internet (whether or not that was related I could only speculate). However, she was the regular host for IGN’s "Daily Fix." There were a few episodes where there were guest hosts, but she was the star. She was the "Daily Fix." Jessica Chobot is still doing stuff for IGN’s YouTube Channel Start show “Mix’d Reviews.” Lately there has been a lot more Daemon Hatfield, but it is still mostly Jessica.
Now Naomi Kyle hosts IGN’s show. It is the same deal with Jessica Chobot, she is the main host and is synonymous with the "Daily Fix." She is also the host of and IGN show called "Cheap Cool Crazy" where you are shown items that are vaguely nerd culture related and readily available for sale. IGN seems to go the extra mile with her and has her wearing different costumes to promote different games and prizes. They also really love posting pictures of her on Instagram.
GameSpot uses Jess McDonell form their Australian offices. She does both the daily news video, cleverly tilted "GS News," as well as a show every Monday called The Gist. Stop me if you have heard this one, but she does the daily news show exclusively, unless she is out of the office for some reason, then Chris Watters covers for her. Here is the thing that really bothers me about this one. GameSpot has fantastic talent and diversity. Why not have Carolyn Petit cover the news? She is a transgender woman who does well on camera. Why not use her? Oh right, ad revenue. I forgot.
Finally Polygon. Polygon, despite all their diversity news stories fell into this hole too. They used Alexa Ray Corriea for their daily news show titled "Speed Run." For the first 80 or so episodes, it was exclusively Alexa, but to Polygon’s credit, when the users started calling them out on this, they started using other site personalities. And as their reviews editor Arthur Gies would say, Polygon even started using “brown people“ (I hate that term and fuck him for saying it. It is Samit Sarkar and he is pretty awesome). There is still a lot of Alexa, but it is not bad. As someone on the outside looking in, when you see other hosts (mostly Samit) being utilized regularly, it does not look as exploitative for Alexa.
So what do you think? Do sites use T&A for pages views? Is that OK if they do? Alternatively, is this just a nonissue? What expectation are these women establishing for women who want to be in the gaming press?