By okoctothorpe 96 Comments
I was working during E3, and to catch up I turned on G4's replayed E3 coverage to play in the background as I cleaned the house. I'm vaguely familiar with G4's reputation as somewhat of a joke in the serious gaming community, but I'd never actually seen any of their programming. The twenty or so minutes I could choke down were.... enlightening. Jesus, are they serious?
Although it was a shitstorm in its entirety, I was particularly shocked at their covert (and overt!) portrayal of women as vapid eye candy, nothing more. None of their male interviewers struck me as particularly talented (certainly not GB caliber ;) ), but their female interviewers asked the type of questions I would expect from someone who has never picked up a controller before. (Example: a general "so what's this game about?" versus a more nuanced "how is this an improvement on the FPS genre?") What's more, the lady employees were on-screen most of the time during their interviews while male employees' interviews would switch between shots of the interviewer and the interviewee. I didn't care enough about my thesis to actually tally screen time usage, mostly because that would involve watching more G4.
Another thing I noticed was that most of the women were very similar to one another. Andy Allo and Sarah Underwood's voices are both high-pitched and nasal. Their physical features are slightly different, but both are slender and were wearing revealing clothing. Shots of the G4 party were stocked with more-attractive-than average women wearing less clothing than average.
So what's my point in all this? Stereotypes arise or are reinforced when seemingly homogeneous groups are presented. By providing a collection of very similar women, G4 is presenting a prototype for what a "gamer woman" is like: absolutely gorgeous, but unable to appreciate the finer points of gaming. I did find an exception that proved the rule: Morgan Webb. She interviewed a developer for a longer stretch of time, and the questions were more sophisticated (she asked about art direction and the game creation process) and screen time was split as it was for male interviewers. She showed that women are capable of playing games intelligently. If G4 found more employees that were more than year-round booth babes, they might be able to improve their image as denigrating to women.
EDIT: My argument isn't against hot women - sexy ladies exist! My argument is against the homogeneity of women as presented by G4 (that is, most "gamer women" are hot, but unable to be serious gamers). I also understand that G4 is a company trying to make money and that they have a target demographic of casual dude-bro gamers. Again, wanting to make money is an understandable motive. But when they present their demographic with these homogeneous female prototypes, the casual young gamer sees social scripts for appropriate behavior when interacting with gamer girls (i.e.: Tits or GTFO!).