I touched on this subject yesterday, and it’s something that I’d like to expand upon. Basically, there’s a tendency among both game designers and game players to marginalize, sexualize or downright denigrate the role of women both in the games and playing games. It’s a stupid, misogynistic and shockingly accepted behavior, and I really wish it’d stop.
Nice job empowering young girls out there, Christie.
Now, don’t get me wrong. As a red-blooded mostly-heterosexual male who still has a pulse, I can appreciate a curvaceous woman who’s unashamed of her body. But really, how you can take the female fighters from Dead or Alive, stick them in a game that has them frolicking around on a beach in skimpy swimwear and not call it objectification? I mean to have strong women in a fighting game is one thing, but to take them from that context and stick them in another where all they do is flail around at one another, roll around on a sandy beach and pose provocatively for the player is quite another. At one point in DOAXBV 2, Christie does a pole dance. It’s just absolutely shameless exploitation of her sexuality. On top of the unfortunate social message this sends, the engine’s “jiggle physics” makes things unrealistic to the point of hilarity. Sure, somebody’s somewhere getting off on it as I write this, but I could say the same thing about a picture of a particularly woolly sheep.
Somewhere out there, somebody’s picturing Victa here on a pole.
Even when taking a lead role in a game, it’s difficult to find a pre-determined female protagonist who isn’t meant more to titillate than inspire. I haven’t been able to take Lara Croft seriously for some time now, for example. Bayonetta is a pretty blatant example of female protagonist exploitation, but at least she’s aware of it and is willing to laugh at how pathetic her exploiters can be. For the ultimate tongue-in-cheek gamer prick “taking the piss” experience, I’d love to see her saunter into a future No More Heroes title.
Seriously. This babe, teamed up with Travis Touchdown. Think about it.
It’s not all bad news, though. Yesterday I talked about Alyx Vance, from Half-Life 2 and its episodes. While she isn’t the main character, she gets a lot more characterization and personality than Gordon does, other than what’s projected onto him by the player. She’s probably still number one on my list of female sidekicks, though Farah from Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is a very close second. And when it comes to protagonists, positive ones are certainly out there. Alex Roivas from Eternal Darkness comes to mind, as does Jade from Beyond Good and Evil. But I think it’d be very difficult for me to find a girl gamer who doesn’t consider Samus Aran a very positive role model.
Looking this good and kicking galactic-scale ass is a tough job.
Now, recent titles seem to depict Samus’ Zero Suit as having been sprayed on by some unknown Chozo technology. However, it still makes sense, as an environmental layer between her and her armor that still provides a layer of protection. In addition, she doesn’t need to look as good as she does, never relies upon her looks to survive, functions independently and projects a motherly instinct from time to time. She’s a well-rounded, positive character that blows the crap out of alien pirates who cross her. Female Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect games is another good example. It’s no coincidence that they’re both voiced by Jennifer Hale, if you ask me.
Women in games continue to struggle to be taken seriously. The players, too, have a lot of misogyny and prejudice to deal with. A good chunk of the gaming population seems to think that girls who play games are limited to Farmville or Cooking Mama or Little Big Planet. That’s such a complete load of immature misinformed crap. Face it, kids, women play games too, and not just the aforementioned “casual” titles. (And really, what makes those games “casual”? A lack of gunfire? No swearing? Not enough achievements to swell your
virtual penis gamerscore?) There are entire organizations out there like the PMS Clan dedicated to reinforcing the notion that women who get behind the keyboard or controller are just as capable of racking up kills, scoring points and talking smack as the boys, if not moreso.
Ladies, don’t let those underdeveloped wisecracking jerkoffs keep you from playing games you love and demanding a better representation for women. They’re not better than you are and they don’t have any right to say that you don’t have a place on their servers or in their games. And what’s more, deep down, they know it, and it scares the hell out of ’em. I think I’ve said more than enough on the subject, so let me close by reiterating something I’ve come to believe about pretty much any endeavor I or any of my peers undertake.
The only thing that’s really capable of stopping you from making the most of the opportunities out there, in gaming or any other walk of life, is you.
EDIT: The conversations started by this post over on the Escapist have gotten VERY heated. Watch the fireworks from here, but bring an umbrella, as the forecast predicts a 75% chance of bullshit.