The Bechdel Test is a way of measuring the degree of female representation in media. It originated in a comic strip, Dykes to Watch out For, by Alison Bechdel. As part of this site’s goal, I have modified the test to better fit into video games. (If you want to submit a game to the list please use this form, leave a comment or E-mail me at namedbychaos @ aol.com)
In order to pass, the film or show must meet the following criteria:
1) it includes at least two women*
(*some make the addendum that the women must be named characters)
2) who have at least one conversation…
3) about something other than a man or men.
The important thing to remember about this test is it is not a measure of a works overall level of feminism, but rather the trend of so many movies failing the test (and so few failing the reverse) highlights society male centric bias. I have modified the test slightly in order to make it more relevant to video game, as well as creating four subtypes, which I believe address the issue of interactivity in games.
In a game containing a recognizable narrative:
1) There are at least two female coded characters…
(a) Of which both are either playable or a significant NPC (non-playable character)
2) …who have at least one instances of sustained commutation (a conversation) with each other,
3) About something other than a male coded character or characters.
This definition integrates several of the critiques I’ve heard about the Becheal test. From a gaming stand point the things I added to the test are. First is a preface noting that this test really only applies if there is a recognizable narrative. I have found two tests that can be used in case where a game still has gendered representations but not a recognizable narrative I call them the Playable Character Test and the Equal Representation Test (I will go over both at a later date although I’ve already added the Playable Character Test to my Submission form) . The second is the addition of the sub-point (a) to the list. This is on one hand analogous to frequent addendum that a character be “named” however, this also represent a point where I believe gaming starts to diverge from traditional media in meaning full ways. While these minor NPC may not be important to the game’s narrative per say, they may be important to the games ability to immerse ,to that aspect unique to gaming (post to come on this), so believe it important to note these “NPC only cases” in some way. Which is why I listed it as a separate sub-point while retain the original checklists’ form.
However, as games are interactive and filled with optional choices. I have developed four subcategories in order to better understand how interactivity and player authorship interact with the test and its associated concepts.
The Four Bechdel Subtypes for games.
Type 1: A scene meeting these criteria is a unavoidable part of the game. It is impossible to beat the game without having a scene the passes the test, regardless of any choice you make as a gamer.
Type 2: A scene meting the above criteria is an unavoidable part of the game if you play as a female character in a game where you can select your characters gender.
Type 3: A scene meeting these is an optional part of the game regardless of your characters gender; this includes side quests, optional scenes and dialogue, DLCs etc. (Games with fixed characters with optional scenes meeting the test would fall here)
Type 4: A scene meeting these is an optional part of the game if your character is female in a game where you can select your characters gender; this includes side quest, optional scenes, dialogue, DLCs etc.
- For types 2 and 4, you the gamer can count as selectable female character if the game speaks to you the gamer directly as a character.
- Note that I’m counting DLC as an optional portion of the game, because they are optional by their nature, but for large scale expansions feel free to submit an entry for just the DLC and if it as a stand alone product passes the test.
If you want to submit a game to the list please use my Submission forum, leave a comment or E-mail me at namedbychaos @ aol.com