The Representation of Women in Gaming as an Issue

For the final version of my digital artefact, I’ve created a ten-minute video essay with a media archaeology of female characters and adventure games as well as a comparative analysis between Life is Strange and Telltale’s The Walking Dead. My analytical framework was made up of:

– A media archaeology of adventure games and female protagonists

– Feminism

– Genre – Narrative and dialogue

I also touch on the political economy of The Walking Dead with the shutdown of Telltales.

Ideation and Concept of Idea

My digital artefact has come a long way from its original concept. When I first made my pitch, I only had a general idea of looking at how female characters are represented in video games.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before my BETA progress report that I truly narrowed my focus onto a comparative study between Life is Strange and Telltale’s The Walking Dead. With an essay plan laid out for my BETA, I was able to form the final product into the content it is. In the video essay, I came to compare Max and Clementine as female protagonists through my experience with the games and then the history of female protagonists and women, such as Roberta Williams and Amy Hennigs, helped to act as a foundation for my analysis.


The main components I focused on in creating this project was my player context, genre context and socio-cultural context. The player context consisted of my first-hand experiences with the games I used as my case studies. I achieved this by playing the first two episodes of Life is Strange and watching let’s plays of Season 2 The Walking Dead on Jacksepticeye’s channel.

Source Credit: YouTube

With the genre context, I focused on how the games are both adventure games and are presented in the same format but with contrasting narrative situations. This lead to the media archaeology of where adventure games originated from and how female characters have evolved over the years.

The socio-cultural context was examining the characters themselves. I took notes during my interaction with games in order to see if there was anything I could notice about how these women were being presented to an audience


My first point of research was through the Laine Nooney reading from the bcm215 week 3 lecture. I took her idea of the media archaeology and used that in order to provide context for my video essay and a structure to follow with the discussion in it. Going from there, I began to look into the impacts that representation has had on women in the gaming community. I found ted talks from two individuals that focus on how people are represented in video games.

The first one is by Stirling Little, who discusses how women are being harassed in the gaming community. He goes on to talk about how in 2009, the most popular Xbox game was Halo for men and women. This shows that females are in fact playing “real games”. (Little, 2013).

The other ted talk I watched was by Andray Domise, who brings light the issue of representation for people of colour. This was interesting to engage with as he said that “there have been less than twenty playable black female characters in the history of gaming.” (Domise, 2016).

Another concept I touched on in my video essay was participatory media culture. Something I pulled from Joost Raessens theory is the idea of gameplay being participation. With both of my case studies, this was something easily identifiable through the choice and consequence mechanics of both games. Interactivity and Connectivity are clear in both games. The narratives of the games respond directly to player choices and players are then able to see the decisions of other players at the end of the episodes.

Source Credit: Life is Strange

When looking for discussions on feminism in gaming, I stumbled upon the femenistfrequency YouTube channel. I had no idea about the harassment against the founder of the channel, and as soon as I read about it I knew I had to include it in my video essay. This is how I came across her acceptance speech at the 2014 Game Developer’s Choice Awards.

Additionally, I was horrified at the types of threats and abuse she faced for pointing out sexist tropes in video games.

Response from Pitch and BETA

Most of the feedback taken on board for the final product came from the BETA and the essay plan I posted. From the BETA, a fellow classmate suggested I include more of a timeline in my DA. I incorporated this by talking about the emergence of action games in the late 90s and how adventure games were impacted by this. Additionally, a commenter from my essay plan suggested I talk about Metroid. I researched the game and discovered the protagonist was a woman and is considered by some to be the first playable female protagonist. This is something I planned to definitely talk about in the video essay, and once I integrated it, I found it segued into talking about other female protagonists in video games over the years.

Trajectory of the Project

The project had slow beginnings, and it was really only after the BETA that I was able nail down to get the project done. I think now that I have more understanding on what it means to study and conduct research in the field of gaming I will be better prepared for future projects.

Public Utility (Successes and Limitations)

I don’t expect much to come from the project, but it has shown me I am capable of looking into problems within the gaming industry and finding research to support claims and theories I make. I think the media archaeology in the video essay is the strongest aspect of it and it helped me to understand a genre of games I never would have looked up on my own. However, the content is limited due to a ten minute time frame, and I could have gone into more analysis of Clementine and Max as female characters, but perhaps that means I could expand this into a bigger project in the future.


Raessens, J. (2005). Computer games as participatory media culture. In J. Raessens & J. Goldstein (Eds.), Handbook of computer game studies (pp. 373-388). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. File

Kondrat, X 2015, ‘Gender and video games: How is female gender generally represented in various genres of video games?’, Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology & Sociology, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 171–193

Fisher, HD n.d., ‘Sexy, Dangerousand Ignored: An In-depth Review of the Representation of Women in Select Video game Magazines’, GAMES AND CULTURE, vol. 10, no. 6, pp. 551–570

Claudio Cortes-Picazo, L 2016, ‘Transgression of traditional gender identities through the graphical representation of women protagonists video game developed by children’, ARTE INDIVIDUO Y SOCIEDAD, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 459–473

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