A UK Labor party MP has vowed to pressure the government into taking a stance on sexism in video games. This comes as French MP pushes for similar legislation.
In our increasingly globalist society, politics are rarely confined to a single country. Political ideas often transcend geographical boundaries, with governments taking note of current trends. This usually leads to similarly implemented legislation, which is what we’re seeing today.
Taking a leaf from recent French developments, a UK Labor MP has vowed to follow its example. Last week, we covered the attempt of French MP, Axelle Lemaire, to put forth legislation that would tackle “sexism” in video games. This wasn’t the first time she had done so – it was initially struck down – but the change in wording has allowed it to flourish.
Lemaire sought to implement a system where games that show women in a positive light would be rewarded. Video games that didn’t meet those criteria would be subject to higher age ratings, and would not be allowed access to advertising reserved for non-adult games.
The move to the UK has been brought about by Chi Onwurah, a Labor MP in the British Government. Ms Onwurah felt that Ms Lemaire’s ideas were important and that the government should “absolutely” be involved with ratings boards.
I think it’s absolutely right that the government should be doing more to promote more women into the gaming industry, and that includes helping to identify when video games don’t have sexist and demeaning representation for women – Chi Onwurah
Ms Onwurah’s words echo those of Ms Lemaire, with both proposing similar legislation. Due to the way this is being put forward, any censorship would therefore be indirect, with tertiary sanctions against games that fail to meet standards. This differs from Ms Lemaire’s first attempt, which sought to financially dissuade developers directly.
One of the key aims of Ms Onwurah, and by extension Ms Lemaire, is to “signpost” games which present women in a positive light. This would mean implementing a labeling system which would allow consumers to see whether a game has met the criteria.
Tulip Siddiq, another Labour MP, has previously backed up this statement, saying that “Sexism in video games is more prevalent than one may initially think”. Ms Siddiq’s comments echo other prominent anti-gaming advocates, with a strong stance against negative portrayals of women.
The most famous video game franchise in history, Super Mario Bros., frequently sees a helpless Princess Daisy in need of rescue by Mario and Luigi – Tulip Siddiq
Ms Siddiq clearly means Princess Peach in this instance, though her claims that she knows how prevalent certain themes are within the industry are surely true.
Ms Siddiq goes on to suggest that the video game industry should be able to embrace women as “positive role models without resorting to sexism”, which she states aren’t “allowed to fester in other industries”. Video games certainly attract a special kind of attention regardless of other industries, so it’s difficult to say whether this claim has any truth.
One major issue with this, of course, and one that’s been put forward by others is that sexism is hard to define. There are wildly different opinions on what constitutes sexism, and it would not be easy to pin down. This could potentially lead to a greater stigma against women, who may eventually see less female characters as developers seek to avoid it altogether.
I take the broad view that laws and regulations must keep pace with technology, and in this case, they are clearly lagging behind – Tulip Saddiq
Whether this movement gains any traction has yet to be seen. It’s become apparent that certain groups within the French and British Governments are discussing the topic, particularly as Ms Lemaire spends time in the UK.
It’s a disturbing trend toward outright censorship, particularly within the EU, with governmental bodies taking further strides into private industries. While regulation is often necessary to ensure product quality, creative industries aren’t usually one you would associate these with. The ESRB/PEGI rating system is already in place, so attempts to (financially) dissuade developers seems rather draconian.
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