I’m turning 30 this year, and I’ve long been planning to have a Theme Hospital birthday party to celebrate the start of my fourth decade.
I was going to call it Theme: Hospital (genius, right?) and get people to come to a medical-themed bar with bloaty heads, slack tongues and alien DNA. I even had my costume lined up: I was going to be Hairyitis, which basically just involves neglecting my personal grooming for a few days.
But recently, as I was excitedly telling someone this plan, I had a terrible realisation.
Theme Hospital is really, really sexist. Why? Because all the doctors are men.
Worse, all the nurses are women. And all the receptionists are female and the handymen male. There is no crossover. Women in this game can only run the reception desk or dole out the drugs. That’s really not OK.
The patients in the game can be either male or female, but I don’t think that makes it any better.
Particularly because there is literally no reason why the doctors all have to be men. They’re just sprites, you could draw them any way you liked (although you could make the same argument for Fifa, which has only just added women to its player lineup after claiming for years that it’s ‘too hard to draw their hair’ #rolleyes). Why the sexism, Bullfrog?
A lot of people, like me, grew up playing this game.
While I doubt it discouraged anyone from pursuing medicine if that’s what they really wanted to do, it certainly added to the constantly-reinforced idea that nurses are women and doctors are dudes.
1997, when the game was launched, was hardly the dark ages as far as feminism’s concerned – in fact, it was the year Geri Halliwell stormed the Brit Awards in her Union Jack dress. The height of Girl Power.
Yet I don’t remember anyone calling out this game for blatant gender stereotyping, and indeed the trope is so deeply ingrained in society that at the time, aged 12, I didn’t even notice it. That’s pretty sad.
Now that I have noticed it, though, my affection for the game has diminished somewhat. It’ll always have a special place in my heart, but I can’t pay tribute to something so blatantly sexist at my 30th. SimTower party it is, then.
Image credit: Miyaoka Hitchcock