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“Might as well have been just a guy”- A Female Gamer’s Protest

June 19, 2009

I was browsing Game Revolution today, looking to see what new stuff is coming out so on and so forth. (Mr. I is pretty excited about the new Ghost Busters let me tell you.) And I saw a Preview for a fairly awesome looking game called Wet. And so I read it. And it was interesting, the game sounds cool, Tarantino esque , graphically cool, they gushed.

I am posting only on the last paragraph of this preview:

WET looks to be more than just your standard third-person shooter with a buxom bombshell who might as well have been just a guy (but wasn’t because that wouldn’t be new or boobilicious or something like that).

Now, the guy who wrote this review isn’t wrong about the new edgy boobliciousness.  I’m pretty over super hot video gaming heroines whose main purpose is to be super hot while killing people.  I’m tired of feeling like every time there actually is a playable female character in a game they have at least one if not more of the following characteristics:

  • Near Nudity
  • Total Bountifulness
  • Annoying qualities that are mere stereotypes of actual women (Not to say that the male characters are particularly nuanced…)
  • Shitty Abilities, No Abilities, or Terrible Controls
  • “Different” skills from male characters
  • Random periods of helplessness

Some types of games are worse about some parts of this than others. For instance RPGS are generally better about having better abilities, but worse about the annoying characters. (Which is extra annoying because these are ROLE PLAYING GAMES and who wants to play the role of the most annoying individual  in virtual existence.  See: The incredibly patronizing Final Fanasy X-2 which was obviously written and designed by a group of men who have never spoken or interacted with an actual woman.  I’m still offended.)  But in general this is a really REALLY annoying phenomenon.

What he is wrong about is that the characters “might as well be just a guy.” It really  ISN’T just as well that every character ever be a guy.  The same argument can be made in reverse, that most of the characters in a lot of awesome games might as well have been female.

Most recently I became incredibly frustrated while playing Infamous because I felt like there was very little actual reason that character had to be a guy.  Additionally there was very little actual reason that the two female characters in the game basically served as 1. a shrew and 2. something that had to die to drive his character forward.

All the enemies appear to be male (Or perhaps that is just my assumption since they may well have been genderless.)  There was a male side kick and a male villain and blah blah blah blah lots of dudes.

And I suppose on its own, this wouldn’t be so bad.  But it’s not like this is the only (really awesome) game where you have no choice but to be a dude surrounded by annoying women who serve only to further the plot (See also Metal Gear, Devil May Cry, Assassins Creed, God of War I’m sure I’ll think of more.)

There already are a shit load of games where the protagonist is a dude, (Max Payne, Hitman, FarCry, both .hack series, I”m just going to stop listing these now, GTA!) and there are some games where you can choose to be a chick (Fallout 3, any mmorpg).  But there are not a lot of games where you get to be an ass kicking heroine.

So it isn’t, in my opinion, all the same.  I would like more games that focus on a female protagonists.   I mean look at all those awesome games I listed with dudes as the hero, I didn’t even do any research, those were just off the top of my head.   So it would be nice to see more awesome, epic games with awesome epic female characters kicking some ass.  Women are, after all, over half of the population, is it so trying that they might represent half of the population of video game heroes?

In a world that fits my internal ideal, the gender of any game’s main character would be decided by coin flip, since they might as well be one or the other.  (Ideally we’d always have the option, but then one runs into plot issues.)

In this world it is decided by whether a gaming studio thinks guys would rather play a game about a guy, or play as someone they would like to fuck.  Unfortunately that is a decision that leaves female gamers completely out in the cold.

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From → Not About Fat

10 Comments
  1. And when it comes to Japanese RPGs, you’ve got tons of guys complaining that the characters look so gay, they must have done that to please the women. *rolls eyes*

  2. Riiiight, because women are so interested in men who are not attracted to them. Duh.

  3. Electrogirl permalink

    When it comes to MMORPGs, may I mention the Chainmail Bikini and Balloon Boobs syndromes? Chainmail Bikini is pretty self-explanatory (and, for some unexplainable reason, more common in plate armor than with cloth armor. WTF?). Balloon Boobs occurs with female characters who have Rack O’ Doom that needs no support whatsoever. At least there’s a cosmetic ‘shirt’ slot in World of Warcraft, to put a shirt under one’s chest armor. Female gamers have been campaigning for a cosmetic ‘pants’ slot for years to no avail.

    I would love an in-game scenario like this comic. http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/community/comics/gallery.html#136

    “In a world that fits my internal ideal, the gender of any game’s main character would be decided by coin flip, since they might as well be one or the other. (Ideally we’d always have the option, but then one runs into plot issues.)”

    Actually, you do have this option with the PC in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. And in Jedi Academy, come to think of it… although all the race/clothing choices in both are still pretty much fanservice for the boys.

  4. Hanako Games permalink

    In a world that fits my internal ideal, the gender of any game’s main character would be decided by coin flip, since they might as well be one or the other.

    OTOH, I far prefer writing my games with heroines and would rather not have to write half my games about guys!

    Although in my next upcoming title, I pretty much *did* go down a list of potential NPCs and assign alternating genders in the planning stages…

  5. Godless Heathen permalink

    The faceless tabula rasa avatar that runs around in Portal is female, though you don’t really see it unless you do some fancy ass portaling thing to get a look at yourself. I found it kind of funny, a little play on the fact that Gordon Freeman is basically a tabula rasa stand in for the presumed male gamer. Even when the protagonist is a guy, there are a lot of times where he has the depth of a small scummy pond. No diving, folks! So yeah, the protagonist might as well be a woman for all that you know of them. A woman with a dark mysterious past that causes her to brood, yet doesn’t cause her to develop as a person or spout out meaningful lines of dialog. Maybe she could have a bishy sidekick guy who giggles and jumps up and down, when he’s not smacking people with an umbrella or revolving in a cloud of rose petals to heal people.

    This is why I’m more partial to MMOs. Sure, I have to struggle with an art department that decided I would be sex on toast no matter what I did, but I’m sex on toast with a big friggin gun! The personality is all up to me, as well as making her uber skilled and geared to the hilt. Yeah, while you’re watching my virtual boobies bounce, I’ll just be shooting you in the throat. I have a little problem with people trying to protect the cute little girl which usually gets shut down as I stuff them down the damage board.

    • meerkat permalink

      Godless Heathen, I want to play that brooding-female-protagonist/rose-petal-spouting-bishy-sidekick game!

      • Electrogirl permalink

        Thirded! That would be incredibly awesome. 😀

  6. To be fair, almost any fandom has a high percentage of women (or maybe teenage girls) who are just in it for the pretty boys, especially if there’s a chance that they could be gay. So I can see where the complainers are coming from, it’s just that they’re still wrong. I highly suspect that in the case of Japanese RPGs, it’s simply a cultural difference in beauty ideals. Besides, if they were really adjusting their games to please women, they would start by removing the big bouncy breasts and NOT by giving women something to stare at as well. I’m currently playing a game that makes me feel embarrassed every single time a certain character appears on screen because her boobs are so huge and so exposed and in your face that you might wonder why they didn’t put a porn warning on the cover, and she’s supposed to be a freaking queen. (That game totally fails at the pretty gay boys thing, though. And guess what, women still play it.)

  7. I’m just going to say that a lot of games have no plot and no characterisation to speak of. Metal Gear, Devil May Cry, Assassins Creed, God of War. Looking at these games for their story or their characters is a sure-fire way to get annoyed. They’re mindless games that are fun to play. Yes Metal Gear too. I don’t care about the really really long cutscenes, I think the story sucks.

    Which is why I prefer MMORPGs which give some room to make up your own story. And what is wrong with choosing your character and then playing her, like in Fallout 3. That still gives you the opportunity to play a strong heroine. Same for Oblivion and Morrowind and Mass Effect.

    I agree about the chainmail bikini, ugh. And I hate how most MMORPGs make all women look like barbies. In WoW I played only female dwarves, just because they were curvy like me. And yes, I like a character to be a bit like me, if I get to choose. In other games, there is either no way to make a character curvy, or the only way is to make her huge.

    Right now I’m stuck on LotRO, at least they dress everyone in that game properly, with armor that cover thighs and bellies. I like it.

  8. ladyjaye permalink

    Beyond Good and Evil remains a rare game in that the main character is a woman who isn’t there to be eye candy or helpless. There’s also Samus in the Metroid series, but that might fall under the “might as well be a guy” category (at least as seen by certain reviewers).

    Not all RPGs stick to the chain-mail bra and near nudity model. See Bioware’s games (Baldur’s Gate, KOTOR, Neverwinter Nights, Mass Effect): the female characters are not automatically half-naked sex kittens. Granted, wish there was more choice in terms of body type, but it’s a start. For instance, my characters in NWN and in Oblivion aren’t half naked; they’re properly protected by body armor instead of wearing a metal bikini (à la Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi?)…

    Speaking of RPGs, one pet peeve in hack n slash and older North American RPGs is how the female characters are always archers or sorceresses. Hmmm, how about us who want to play female knights/barbarians?

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