Video Games and Vaginas

I stumbled a few days late into a fantastic G+ conversation about sexism in the video game industry, based on the video by Genki in response to part 1 of Anita Saarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series. First off, ’bout time Anita put this video out there after all that media attention. Pity I’m not seeing anything worth the $160,000 Kickstarter funds raised, and worse, the points Anita raises are poorly backed with partial evidence and out of context information….but Genki and others and others have already responded the problems in Damsel in Distress part 1, so I’m not going to bother to repeat. Plus, this is only part one of this topic, so I will reserve judgement on the topic itself. Mostly.

Instead, I will focus on some of the interesting points raised in the G+ conversation. First of all, I was surprised to find that, within more than 60 comments, none of the female gamers had come out of the woodwork until the very end, when one lady popped in to offer her opinion. Credit to the boys for having a rational conversation that did not involve tittering about boobies. See, internet? It is perfectly possible for us all to have an adult discussion. lol I said “tittering.”

Sigh. No Ivy. Just, no.

As a female gamer, I’m generally not offended by boobs and skimpy armour and don’t need anyone defending my sensitivities on my behalf (goes for race issues, as well). I admit to pretty much playing Tera because of the sexy armour. However, I will be offended when things are obviously out of control, like Ivy Valentine’s outfit and barely contained balloon boobs in Soul Caliber. What truly offends me in a game, is when my character’s gender is called out. “Because I’m a woman.” Sometimes, it’s just a few pieces of dialogue where gender is pointed out only in the case of a female character. That tiny moment automatically means my female character is on a lower standard and first must prove her vagina isn’t a limitation. Many of these games (and other mediums) take place in a world different from and/or beyond our own. There is opportunity to move past our prejudices, yet the opportunity is rarely taken.

That said, it was pointed out that MMOs seem to transcend all of the prejudices. Players are able to choose their gender, race (which may not even be based on actual, real world races), age and more. Because an MMO  involves so many aspects, it has to concentrate on all encompassing story and characterization and game play. Any prejudice that appears in the game tends to come directly from the the players.

SIE. Yes, please.

I prefer to play as a female character and appreciate that many current games offer an option. I am not opposed to playing a male character though. In fact, one of my favourite games that I consider a fine example of how females in video games should be portrayed is Alpha Protocol. The main character is a white male, but he deals with several women. They can all become love interests, but I really appreciated the amount of respect that can go into the relationships, even resulting in romance scenes that reflect each of the women’s personalities, as opposed to a generic bra and panty moment. Yes, you can play your character as an asshole, but the women will respond accordingly. I chose not to pursue relationships with the women in the game and was really impressed with the way the mechanics worked. I did fall for SIE though. I couldn’t help it. She was a 40 something woman (ageism… there’s another issue) who was very comfortable in her sexuality.

The Evolution of Lara Croft

Being comfortable with her sexuality. That is so very important for a woman (and a man) and I appreciate the games that embrace that. Even the stylized ones like Bayonetta (which I will speak more on in the future, when I’m finished playing it… but for now, read this.) I have yet to play a Tombraider game, but, now that I know how heavily story and character based Lara Croft’s new game is (in spite of the sexualized marketing plans that wants you to believe otherwise), I’m very interested in getting to know her, now that her evolution has turned her into far more than the sum of her parts. Then comes Remember Me later this year. These are all strong female characters who can be sexy and feminine and who don’t need to “act like men” to be accepted as heroes.

Nilin, Remember Me. Thanks, CAPCOM,
for taking the risk on her.

The gaming industry is going through this transition in much the same manner as other industries. I think it’s moving more slowly, because there is still a LOT of sexism within the industry itself that needs to be dealt with, but there definitely is forward progression. Especially with industry insiders like David Gaider giving talks like this one to further raise awareness and explaining why it’s important for industry insiders to do so. Step one is having more females playing and being part of the creative process, which is already happening. Step two is to make sure the executive and marketing types comprehend that. We need to get rid of the belief that a lead protagonist that is not a white male is a “risk” that won’t sell well.

A gamer – even a sexist one – just wants a damn good game. That means story, characters, music, gameplay. Make that your priority and you will have our money.

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