Sherman, Sharon. “Perils of the Princess: Gender and Genre in Video Games.” Western Folklore 56.3/4 (1997): 243-258. 18 June 2013.
In her study of gender and genre, focusing heavily on female characters, folklore (drug culture and the hero-narrative), Sharon Sherman argues that the continuously re-enforced ‘saving the princess’ narrative captivates males while female players “subvert the male message, changing the object of the game, the gender of the main character whenever possible, and the ‘message'” (Sherman 245). She provides nearly all her evidence from the long line of Mario games which often revolve around Mario saving his princess, Princess Toadstool (Peach). While her (seeming) digressions about the drug references which are littered in Mario are highly interesting, it is intriguing that Sherman feels that while male players care about saving the Princess, female players seek to display their abilities to others – “points were only important at the arcade because ‘you get to put your name on the list'” (Sherman 252). When the choice of playing Mario or the Princess was given, both genders enjoyed playing the Princess but for the males it was far less common and they spoke of her with sexual connotations: “Now you get to use Princess Toadstool to your advantage (laughs)” (Sherman 254). Furthermore, when gender and species is less clear, such as in the game Metroid, female players do not recognize the gender of the alien protagonist. Sherman writes that “the female becomes a green-haired monster for boys and a male action figure for girls” (Sherman 254). Overall, Sherman concludes that video games are highly masculine and re-enforce stereotypical gender roles but “females re-vision the text to make the female central and powerful” (Sherman 256).
Sherman’s study focus more on the relation players had to video game characters than on the prevalence and use of genders in video games, which I am more interested in. I am not surprised that video games are much more masculine than feminine but I did find the difference between the ‘goals’ of female and male players interesting. Males seek to complete the narrative by saving the princess (the necessary counterpart to the hero) while females seek to earn points and further, reputation. They want to show off their skill (perhaps indicative of the notion that female players are not as talented as males?) I think I will use this article to discuss masculine stereotypes which are prevalent in games.