In last year's reboot of "Tomb Raider," the wildly popular '90s action-explorer, player character Lara Croft transformed from a buxom adventuress in short shorts to a crafty, fearsome survivor in better-suited outerwear.But even outside of the discouraging motifs surrounding women that Sarkeesian mentioned, there are still blips of frustration over who is included in play.

Yet America's 190 million gamers, 48 percent of whom are women, still play in a harsh frontier.

About 70 percent of female gamers said they played as male characters online in hopes of sidestepping sexual harassment, according to a study cited by "Hate Crimes in Cyberspace" author and law professor Danielle Keats Citron.

The number was more than 5 million, not 13 million.

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The game developers' association's executive director, Kate Edwards, said some female developers have told her they're thinking of not just leaving the industry but discouraging their daughters from following in their work.

Still, the changing role for women in gaming has touched not just the players but the characters themselves.

Of the women who played as men, he said, "they wanted to be treated equal on the virtual battlefield." As games have expanded from consoles and computers to cellphones and social media, developers and publishers have found whole new niches for attracting a paying audience.