Sweden Looking to Devise “Bechdel Test” to Measure Sexism in Video Games

Swedish gaming organization Dataspelsbranchen is developing a Government-funded rating system to determine the level of sexism and gender stereotyping in video games.
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Swedish gaming industry trade organization Dataspelsbranchen has been awarded a government-funded grant to develop a rating system denoting how sexist a video game is.  By working close with game developers and studios, Dataspelbranchen is hoping to create a system that will be fair and just in determining the level of sexism and gender stereotyping in each game that is awarded a rating.  This news falls in line with Sweden’s efforts to be one of the most gender inclusive and diverse countries around.

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It is unlikely that the sexism rating system for video games will follow this same structure, especially since many critics say the Bechdel Test is not thorough enough and a rather simplistic measure of gender equality in film.

While the actual methodology and metrics remain to be seen, the new rating system for games seems to be riding on the coattails of the decision to advertise the famous (or infamous, for some) Bechdel Test in Swedish cinemas.  The test works as follows: if a movie has 1) two named female characters that 2) have a conversation with each other about 3) anything other than men, the film receives an “A” rating that is advertised publicly on promotional material and show times at whichever participating theater is screening the film. It is unlikely that the sexism rating system for video games will follow this same structure, especially since many critics say the Bechdel Test is not thorough enough and a rather simplistic measure of gender equality in film.  However, it does continue to show the increasing importance that gender issues are playing in the video game industry.

To say that social inequality in video game culture is a hot button topic would be an understatement.  With all the controversies and divisive movements (you know the ones) currently floating about, equality in gaming is becoming a prevalent issue that has many critics, developers, and gamers alike voicing their opinions on the subject.  Considering that roughly half of all gamers are female, it makes perfect sense that we would open up the discussion.  But just like every other ethical quandary, there doesn’t seem to be any one right answer as to where the issues stem from, what they are exactly, or how to solve them.

Since Sweden has become one of the most prominent countries for game development (they’ve been known to export large titles like Minecraft and Battlefield – maybe you’ve heard of them?), the effect of this new rating system could be felt internationally.  Or not.  Just like how not every theater in Sweden is required to display Bechdel Test ratings, it remains to be seen if every game studio in Sweden will adopt this (still undefined) rating system.  Furthermore, just because Sweden is choosing to develop and adopt such a rating system doesn’t mean that other countries will follow suit, akin to how the Bechdel Test hasn’t been adopted as a standard in other countries.

What do you think?  Will having a dedicated rating system for sexism affect sales and development in Sweden?  How about the international ramifications of establishing such a system?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Esteban Padilla
Recent grad in Chemistry, Psychology, Music, and Biology. Passionate about doing music and science, sometimes simultaneously. Enjoys the nerdier things in life and is likely to turn any subject, even video games, into an academic discussion out of the love for knowledge.