I was pointed to this post on tumblr recently and asked if I’d throw in my 2.346 cents (Canadian). The entire thing, both parties, touch on exactly the sort of problems with having this type discussion about representation. Both are using emotional responses to support their argument, and both are using analogies that are flat out wrong. Let me preface the rest of this article by saying that I think it’s great when developers want to add more characters, male, female, trans, gay, straight, black, white, asian or anything in between. I also support devs that don’t; that want to keep their period-accurate middle Europe game true to the time it’s set in, and I do not condone people who pressure developers and artists to change just to fit some notion of morally acceptable art. That’s really the bottom line here, games are art, and artists do try to balance what the market needs and wants with their creative vision. I don’t think there’s some nefarious plot to keep women out of video games, or make games just for guys. I don’t think there are meetings where developers discuss how best to make sure an entire demographic is offended, but I do think meetings happen where a list of ‘requirements’ are looked over and boxes are checked just to fill some quota in hopes that they can avoid the drama that could make or break a game. That, to me, is the worst way to go about any creative process. But, back to the example above.
I’m an old gamer, compared to many who might be reading this. I started on an Atari 5200 and I remember when the biggest games at the arcade were Tron and Galaga. I was getting started as a gamer when computers weren’t even in homes yet for the most part, so when I see examples like the one above, both of them, it makes me tear my hair out. No, video games are not like a department store that only has men’s clothing, and is suddenly being asked to make women’s clothing, and no, it’s not like a department store that only has lingerie and bikinis in the women’s section. Gaming used to be quite genderless, and commercials featured whole families, mom, dad, brother and sister sitting around to play Defender, or Pong. Arcade ads featured young men and women both enjoying Pac-Man or Space Invaders. Back then the popular games were not male or female oriented, my mom loved Centipede, and my favorite game on the Atari was Super Breakout. Gaming is like a department store that started out making very generic clothing that anyone could wear, and putting out commercials that tried to get everyone in the door.