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I know not everyone who reads this is a gamer - Tactical Ninja

Sep. 13th, 2013

11:44 am - I know not everyone who reads this is a gamer

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But a lot of you are, and a lot of you are into RPGs, and a lot of you like story-driven gameplay, and a lot of you also happen to be women.

Being a female gamer involves a lot of accepting that the development world sees men as the default gamer. This means accepting that in more games than not you will be forced to play a guy because a female protagonist is not an option. It means that playing a woman often means slaying dragons in a bikini. And almost without fail, it means that in marketing material you are invisible, even in games that allow female protagonists. Even my first and biggest love, Dragon Age, which is known for its inclusivity, is so far failing to acknowledge women as protagonists in the marketing material for the latest instalment in the series.

So imagine the thrill I got when Ambrov X came on my radar. The first thing I saw at the top of their Kickstarter page was.. a woman. A female protagonist, featured in their marketing as default. This is a game that allows you to choose the gender of your protagonist, and they chose to feature women! OMG.

Scrolling down, I liked what I saw more and more. A story-driven sci-fi RPG set in a universe I'd never heard of, but with a pretext of being forced by circumstances into a dangerous symbiotic relationship with a companion, that you must maintain without fear or you both die. Meanwhile, you're investigating a mystery and solving universe-sized problems in the standard RPG way.

I like the story-driven aspect, I like the premise, I like the episodic nature of the game that means relatively low time-commitment, I like that it's DRM-free and will run on Linux (even though I don't use Linux, it's nice to see it getting a nod you know?), I like the paradigm conversation system, I like that combat is only a part of what the game involves. As a lover of RPGs, I am always disappointed when a game claims to be RPG but is really just combat with a loose story to tie it together. This promises to be much more.

But mostly, I like that the developers are acknowledging that women gamers exist and that some people actually like emotional content. I'm a fan of Jennifer Hepler's writing and would like nothing better than to see her come on board for this game.

But, by doing all of these things, by making women the default, by placing how the story might make you feel over how big a monsters you can kill or how many headshots you need to get a badge, they are taking a risk. Many people will see that woman at the top of the page, then read 'emotional content' and close it. You can see by the amount of pledges that the dudebro FPS crowd that the vast majority of big-selling developers generally pander to, are not interested in this game. Of course they aren't - it's not them in the picture for a change.

It's me. And I would really like to see this game get made, because few developers are brave enough to even acknowledge my existence when marketing, never mind place me as the default.

If we want to see games made that step outside the young-white-male-as-default paradigm, we have to support the making of such games. And this one looks like it'll actually be a good game too. So please, if you give a crap about changing the culture of gaming, if you've ever felt miffed that developers always seem to assume their audience is male, if you want content that's truly story driven, or even if you would just like to see a cool RPG from an indie developer get some success, make a pledge.

Or if donating to making games is beyond your resources or ethics, even just boosting the signal would help, eh?

Comments:

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From:ferrouswheel
Date:September 13th, 2013 12:20 am (UTC)
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I backed it a while ago, but I don't think it's about us, you, them, me. I think it's about a story, and having that more diversity in stories is a good thing. Plus doing any story driven game, that isn't a linear sequence of events and where your choices matter, is incredibly hard. We should encourage more people to do that too, instead of just building games with superficial player control.

Is it necessary to generalise people who like FPS games as dudebros? There are dudebros, they might like FPSes, but that doesn't make the reverse a thing. Or that gamers will close the window before reading further because it says "emotional content"? I don't think maintaining these generalisations about gamers, will help the industry explore beyond them.

While I backed the game, those hand tentacles creep me out, so I hope you can turn them off in the options!
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From:tatjna
Date:September 13th, 2013 12:28 am (UTC)
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This is true, but it was still a thrill for me to see that woman at the top of the page because it's so rare, and it made me very happy to see that and it's something I want to support. I know other people who feel the same way and therefore it's going to be a focus in what I write about the game.

Of course all FPS players are not dudebros. A lot of FPS players are women, for a start. You are an FPS player, and you're about as far from a dudebro as it gets. However, there is a combination of FPS player and dudebro that is particularly vocal on the internet regarding the 'feminisation' of certain games, and they are the people I'm talking about when I say 'the dudebro FPS crowd'. They exist. They are the ones who (extreme case) wanted to kill Jennifer Hepler's children 'to show them how much better off they'd be if they'd been aborted instead of having her as a mother' because she wrote male characters with emotions and suggested that a person could potentially enjoy a game without combat.

And I am willing to bet that those people would close the page on sight of a woman or the words 'emotional content'.

Yes, I know they are not the majority, but if you check the marketing of videogames, they are still the market that gets the most pandering. It's sad. I'm hoping that supporting games like Ambrov X will help change that.

I would like to have tentacles, only I'd prefer mine to be bigger, so I can use them for more things!
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From:anna_en_route
Date:September 13th, 2013 01:08 am (UTC)
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Have you seen the Jimquisition videos on the escapist?
He's done a lot of episodes on this recently.


Also after attempting octodad, I'm pretty firmly in the tentacles are more trouble than they're worth category...
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From:tatjna
Date:September 13th, 2013 01:32 am (UTC)
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I haven't seen that, will bookmark it for later perusal.

I'm still in the tentacle camp, but that is speaking from zero experience. ;-)
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From:anna_en_route
Date:September 13th, 2013 02:11 am (UTC)
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He's huge, gay and foul-mouthed but I really like his videos and his calling out of game companies who are terrified of diversity.

He's oddly compelling.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 13th, 2013 02:14 am (UTC)
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I just watched* the one about entitled gamer abuse of devs and I was wryly nodding along going "My thoughts exactly." Especially the Fuck Yous.

His talking till he runs out of breath is a bit distracting, but if that vid is anything to go by, I'll be pillaging his archive over the weekend.

* Which I might get in trouble for -work, oops.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:September 13th, 2013 09:49 am (UTC)
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Sorry I should have warned you about the nsfw thing

He does use dildos to make a point a suprising amount of the time.

Apparently he used to be kind of a misogynist but he seems to have seen the error of his ways and these days he's got some really compelling arguments.


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From:rivet
Date:September 13th, 2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
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I like the fact that you guys openly disagree on the internet :)
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From:tatjna
Date:September 14th, 2013 04:02 am (UTC)
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We might be grownups.

At least, sometimes. ;-)
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From:Aharon Cagle
Date:September 13th, 2013 08:31 pm (UTC)

Tentacles

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Thank you for the Awesome Blog post!

@ferrouswheel Oh the Sime tentacles. Yeah they can be pretty creepy. The good news is that they will be retractable in the final game - we left them out in the Pre-Alpha for a number of reasons...mostly to test collision. And of course, you can always play a Gen as well...as they don't have tentacles. -Aharon@Loreful
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From:tatjna
Date:September 14th, 2013 04:20 am (UTC)

Re: Tentacles

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You're most welcome! ;-)
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From:anna_en_route
Date:September 13th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC)
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I've got my fingers crossed for this project.


I'm feeling really lucky that I cut my gaming teeth on point and click adventure games which actually feature a non-zero number of female protagonists.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 13th, 2013 01:00 am (UTC)
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Heroes 3 drew me in for YEARS.
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From:meri_sielu
Date:September 13th, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
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That's awesome! Like seriously, seriously awesome... I'll definitely have to back that and put the word out to my friends. :)
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From:tatjna
Date:September 13th, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
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;-) I really hope they meet their target.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:September 13th, 2013 06:00 pm (UTC)
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Hm,bmaybe it's different here. Men ate still the majoroty of gamers (about 2/3 I guess) but most games, pen and paper, larp, vids, allow for both. Yes, the femaoes in vid games are usually sexy, but so are the men and J doesn't exactly look like either class. I was even surprised to see when he played his last few games that the protagonist was a woman. Period. No choice. Something like Lara Croft or so.

I hope you enjoy the new game though. Sounds like fun.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 13th, 2013 06:38 pm (UTC)
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Globally, women make up 45% of gamers. Yet the majority of marketing of games is towards young men, and when women are marketed to, it's often under the assumption that what we like is pink frilly stuff and puppies.

I have 29 games on my current game shelf, all more recent than 2003. Of those, 10 of them allow you to play a female protagonist. It's notable that of the 10, 6 are made by the same developer.

There are a handful of games where the protagonist is compulsorily female (Portal and Tomb Raider spring to mind), but in the vast well of games out there, it really is a tiny percentage. There's a web series being made at the moment by Anita Sarkeesian called Tropes vs Women in video games that explores these kinds of biases in some depth. It's in its early stages at the moment, and currently looking at the way female characters are often portrayed as helpless and powerless and in need of rescuing in order to further the plot for the (male) protagonist.

If you look, you'll see that the comments are closed on her videos. This is because of the abuse that was heaped on her for even suggesting that there might be sexism in video game culture. It's.. ironic, actually.

So yeah, supporting a game that recognises women is important. I suspect I would enjoy the game anyway, because it's in the style I like. But their inclusivity is the icing on the cake for me.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:September 16th, 2013 01:33 pm (UTC)
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Well, the "no sexism" statement is fairly ridiculous! Of course there is. But the industry is catering to the audience. The 55% males apparently like their women in mail armor bikinis and the 45% women are obviously not picky enough to shun games that only allow male protagonists or female barbie dolls.

I wonder what the percentage for the programmers is. I bet it's higher on males than the players. Could be a factor here ;-)

Go for it - It's definitely a good thing when someone starts catering to the female half of the population. And I bet it doesn't deter the men either.
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From:tcpip
Date:September 14th, 2013 08:56 am (UTC)

Reposting..

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This is such good exciting news that I want to repost it in the next issue of RPG Review... If you'll let me :)
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From:tatjna
Date:September 14th, 2013 09:06 am (UTC)

Re: Reposting..

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I would be most grateful if you did. Thank you. :-)
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