Sweden Government To Reform Ratings System Based On Sexism

Tom Coyne ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Earlier this week Swedish trade group Dataspelsbranchen announced that it would be looking to create an improved ratings system for video games. The goal of the system would be to rate a game for how positively women are portrayed. It’s unclear whether the system would be assigned as an additional content descriptor, as the ESRB rates forms of violence, drug use, and humor, or if games giving positive images would be given incentives for positive imagery. Anton Albiin, project director of Dataspelsbranchen, has said that the system would be based on the Bechdel test, often used to rate films.

The Bechdel, for those unfamiliar, is the simple test that asks – do two women in a film talk about something other than a man for five minutes. However, many, many films fail this test. Many female characters in media lack depth because they are written to be objects for male protagonists, or exist within worlds written by male writers.

Today, AAA games are produced with largely white, middle class males in mind, yet are consumed by an increasingly diverse group of people. Women now outnumber men in video game consumption but are still background characters, objects for the player, or represented with fewer characters (see the first two Borderlands and Left 4 Dead).

What’s so exciting about Dataspelsbranchen getting government funding to create a “sexism” rating system is that it could pave the way for similar efforts here in America. Fears that games would become censored or doctored to be politically correct are valid concerns, but come from the misleading term of “sexism rating”. The Bechdel test is not a tool to find sexism. It exists to point out a flaw in representation of a group of people. It can be modified to check for the hegemony within media. How are Middle Eastern countries treated in this game? Gay men? Gay women? Modifications to the Bechdel test can explain why stereotypes persist, and breakdown how a lack of proper representation can affect groups of people. A game that has four playable characters but only one female will assert the idea that only a quarter of the audience is female.

While some will shudder at the idea, Sweden’s proposed rating system offers a chance to talk about representation in games. The goal really is to help us all, at the end of the day, get on a big couch and play together. How could you argue against that?

Show More


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button