The gaming industry has long been viewed as one that caters to a male audience. Women, on the other hand, tend to be depicted as sex objects both in games themselves and at industry events. Take the Xbox party at 2016's Game Developers Conference where scantily clad women danced for male attendees, or the multiple reports of sexism and harassment from women who work in the industry.
Even as research shows some progress with female characters in games becoming less sexualised in recent years (see: Lara Croft's less cleavage-bearing ensemble), the gaming industry still isn't viewed as one that's very friendly to women. The latest example of this is not a game, but rather, the logo of a dating service geared towards gamers called Gamerhug.
Today, Brianna Wu, the video game developer who fought trolls during Gamergate and is currently running for Congress, tweeted an image of the site's logo. She points out the obvious problem: The logo appears to be a sexualization of women's body parts to appeal to its users.
"As someone that designs video game UI, the function of an icon is to communicate your purpose and values at a glance," Wu told Refinery29 in an email. "There is no small amount of irony that in a hobby infamous for treating women poorly, they’d use an icon with graphic sexual imagery."
Wu added that the female gamers she showed the logo to were "strongly freaked out" and pondered the two possible options for its misguided creation: "A: They did not notice. B. It’s intentional sexual imagery. The first possibility is uncomfortably the better one."
Gamerhug isn't new — the promoted tweet Wu includes in her own was posted this past June — but her tweet has called new attention to it. Gamerhug's website sells itself as any other dating site, a place to mingle, grow your gaming community, and "meet your real-life game partner." The language the site uses to describe what it offers differs from the message its logo sends: "You'll be able to upload pictures, talk about what kind of games you're into, not mention a description of your ideal partner."
If the goal really is to serve as a place for relationship building based on shared interests, not appearance, Gamerhug may want to rethink its logo. Right now, it just seems to play into the industry's old school, boy's club stereotype.
Refinery29 has reached out to Gamerhug for comment.