I’ve recently played three games that I wouldn’t normally play. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, God of War, and Jedi: Fallen Order. Common for all three is the archetype of the witch that pops up in the games. They’re all manipulative and treacherous, and one of the versions of the witch also plays on sexuality.
It wouldn’t be so egregious if there were actual enemies that were women in those games that weren’t quite so manipulative and treacherous, but that seems to be all we can expect from dangerous women in games. I suppose it would be better if the male enemies had some sort of backstabby aspect to them, but they almost never do.
Anyone who’s ever read any kind of literary criticism theory, or whatever it is called in English, will of course know that manipulative, backstabby women is a very ingrained stereotype that that it was properly introduced by the Western church and reinforced over and over and over again in culture and in media.
It’s not that strange, in other words, that we keep running into women who will stab the player in the back at the smallest provocation. I keep bringing up Kramer and Sprenger in these contexts because the authors of Malleus Maleficarum – the witches hammer – were really clear in their misogyny.
What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors!
Sometimes I miss the days when misogyny was clearly displayed in media and in culture. It was a lot easier to point at something so obviously misogynistic rather than having to spend hours and hours pointing in the direction of misogyny and in addition to that, having to explain why choice of words, choice of attack patterns and gameplay is actually just as awful as saying, straight up “I hate women, I don’t believe they’re actually people, but I sure would like to have sex with them without their consent.”
I realize that the sentence above might be a little… or as the Penguin in Batman would say “it’s a lot!”. The thing is that we reinforce patterns over and over again, and I’m not even sure it is a conscious choice.
Once a team of creators or enemy designers sit down to start brainstorming enemies, if they even consider women, having them be witches or behave like witches is probably automatic.
I can’t even begin to tell you how deeply I sighed when Second Sister in Jedi: Fallen Order made her appearance. Of course she’s a woman. Of course she works for the Empire. Of course she’s a Sith. The same thing went through my mind when encountering the Nigthtsisters. Of course they’re witches. Of course they’re manipulative. Of course they use the Force for their own gain.
While I also recognize the power of stereotypes, I do think that we can do a bit better than this. Maybe at some point in my life, I’ll have the opportunity to write properly about the witch stereotype as presented by video games but today is not that day.
Instead I will keep making note of all this lack of diversity in female enemies and try to encourage male colleagues to think outside the box. It would be nice, for a change.