Oh my bouncing breasts, how handsome you are! - Tactical Ninja
Aug. 17th, 2011
09:50 am - Oh my bouncing breasts, how handsome you are!
Yesterday afternoon I went home early because of a heavy snow warning in the hill suburbs. Imagine my disappointment when we got one half-hearted hour of slushy snow, followed by sleet, followed by hail, followed by a return to normal programming - in Wellington that means horizontal freezing rain blasted in on a 60km/hr southerly. This morning all the snow was gone.
On the upside, I suspect the airport disturbances will stop and my headlong hurtle into 30 degrees+ will go ahead as planned. Yay!
And since it was an 'inside by the fire' kind of night and I'd just handed in my presentation on Anonymous* for Thursday, I took the opportunity to finish my second playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins. And then I woke up this morning and spotted a link to this: an interesting article in Filament about women (or the lack of them) in the videogame production industry.
Now, I'm a gamer but not a programmer. I have done some programming, and one of my first major projects when computers found their way into schools was to debug the game Transylvania on our school's Apple II in Basic. However I've never had the urge to make games, rather to play them.
There was a big chunk of my life where I didn't have a computer, but when I got one the first thing that took my interest was minesweeper. OMG logic game! Only usually there comes a point where you have to make a guess, which made it lose its shine pretty quickly. Shortly after that my brother gave me a copy of Heroes 3, and I still play this on occasion. Little pixellated god-view critters, I <3 you!
Then followed all sorts of experimentation: Road Rash, Tekken, Spyro the Dragon, Unreal Tournament, Bejewelled, Plants vs Zombies, Bloons, Heroes 4 (which was never as good IMO), World of Warcraft, Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, The Witcher, Settlers 7, Portal, Dragon Age: Origins... the list goes on.
I can honestly say that every time I've spent decent money to upgrade my machine, it's been driven by a desire to play a game. Hardcore gamers out there will probably notice a lack of some of the classics in there - wot no Wolfenstein? No Tomb Raider, no Doom, and where on earth is Mass Effect? Well, I've come to the conclusion that being a little bit obsessive means that I tend to get a game and play it to death and while I'm doing that I miss out on 20 others. I will go back and try something if it's recommended (I did this with Baldur's Gate) but it means there are gaps in my gaming. There's also a theme - I like world-building games, strategy games and RPGs mostly. Less keen on first-person shooters and racing games. Tekken I found.. boring.
There are several reasons I've returned to Dragon Age. First, I've never played a rogue and wanted to give that a runthrough (I like it!). Second and importantly for me, on the first playthrough I played it pretty straight - picked the honourable answers, courted Alistair, killed the dragon yadda yadda. But DA:O has been designed to have a lot of options with the sideplots - and this romance business, while perhaps cheesy and bordering on embarrassing in the G-rated cutscene department, does add to the interest of the story. It's not just hacking and slashing monsters, and that makes it more immersive. So this time through my aim was to sex up as many of the characters as possible. And I did. It went like this:
Leliana --> foursome with Leliana, Zevran and Isabela --> Zevran --> Alistair --> Zevran. Not bad for 45 hours of gameplay.
I'm told you can sex the succubus in the Fade as well, but I took Morrigan in there and she's straight as so the option didn't come up. You'd have to be playing a male mage I think. Maybe that's my next playthrough..
Anyway, all this is leading to a point, and it's a point that's up there in the article. None of these games are 'games for girls'. I do have one game that might be considered a girl's game - it's a horse RPG in which you have to win the cup by doing one day eventing. The main character's a girl and there's a romance option with a boy that looks remarkably like Harry Potter. It's in a pink box and it's all a bit *embarrassment* but it's actually quite a challenge (the controls/hand-eye stuff are similar to Tekken only with horse jumping instead of kicking someone's face in) and the graphics have got the horse movement right which is important to me.
But anyway, yeah. 'Games for girls' is a silly concept. I like particular types of games, other women like other types of games. There may be a tendency for more women to like one type of game than another (I'm told it's RPGs), but that doesn't mean that all RPGs are girl games - there's a large section of male gamers out there who like them too! So why this assumption that there's a type of game that will appeal to women? It's just.. bollocks, and should be self-evident that the default gamer-people (men) like a variety of types of games, and since women are also people, we will also like a variety of games.
So let's stop with this 'games for women' thing and start looking at games for people, that include women as people. I think DA:O does this pretty well. It has its problems (OHAI Morrigan's outfit, OHAI treatment of transgender characters), but what sexism is in there is pretty low key and playing a female character doesn't disadvantage you. The female secondary characters are also strong and capable (although it annoyed me that to bond with Leliana I had to talk about shoes).
The Witcher is a good example of a classic game that I didn't finish. Now, part of the reason I didn't finish it was because it was glitchy, but a lot was to do with the fact that I had no choice but to play a male character and the first woman he encounters almost pokes his eye out with her bouncing breasts, then jumps into bed with him. I'm all O.o She's not strong or well-rounded (except in the obvious places), she's 'feisty'. And falling all over herself to shag him. Exactly whose ego is this designed to massage? And whose humanity is getting subjugated to produce the result?
Hmm.. and of the games listed above, how many are like that? As a woman gamer, it's obvious to me that the default in most games is male. This situation has improved a lot in the last few years, since statistics have started to emerge that demonstrate women make up just under half of the gaming market and that women have been playing games that aren't 'for girls' (which is most of them) since games were invented - but it still exists. Female characters still fall out of their tops and talk about shoes, while the male characters get armour that would actually work as armour. Main NPCs are still usually male, and casual sexism is still part and parcel of gaming. And for those who play online games - go ask one of your female gaming buddies how often she reveals her gender online, and if she doesn't, why not?
Or you could just read this - Fat, Ugly or Slutty? It's a site where the sort of thing female gamers encounter online is conveniently gathered for the lulz of all concerned.
Just for fun, here's a link to a place where the 'only men are gamers' trope is taken to the extreme - a Battlefield 3 launch LAN party in Texas where women are banned because the organisers don't want anyone made uncomfortable by misogyny. *cough*
Since this shouldn't just be me rambling about gaming and my experience as a woman, I'd like to hear from you gamers out there - male and female gamers alike. Since I just finished my second playthrough of DA:O, I'm looking for a new game to get hooked on. The Youth of Today says DA2, Happy and tieke say Portal 2. What do YOU say? And, why do you like it? What is it about that particular game that hooked you, and do you think it'll make me foam at the mouth if I play it?
Older games ok for recommending too.
* Not the actual essay, a presentation that demonstrates what the essay will be about, with notes, to get peer feedback. I'm hoping for feedback that'll help focus down the topic to something I can really chew on in 4000 words.