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Representation in Video Games, A Male Perspective

TT_NotTheFandom

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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.

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He said what? A male perspective on females in gaming

Women-in-GamingFirst of all I would like to thank Crymson Pleasure, and the Real Women of Gaming for the opportunity to give a male perspective on female gamers and females in gaming.  I know, that sounds strange, a male perspective.  I’ve seen arguments and debates end with a line similar to – you’re a man, what right do you have to comment on women’s issues.  I know that reaction is the extreme, but it does leave many of us standing outside the issue, not even wanting to engage, and I imagine some women feel the same way.  When you don’t agree, 100%, with the most vocal in any issue it’s easy to feel ostracized by their reaction.  However, out of respect for those same women gamers we support and love, I want to give my honest views, without the fears or PC coating.  With respect comes the realization that patronizing or condescending statements, or weak statements that commit to nothing at all, are neither honest nor respectful.

            How are female stereotypes in gaming having a positive or negative impact?  That’s tough because we first have to identify which are good or bad, but it’s unfair to do that without asking why they are there in the first place.  Stereotypes exist because someone, more likely many someones, existed that are just like that.  To tell a true and engaging story in a game you need to include ‘real’ people.  Is the trashy bimbo in the game because the story requires a trashy bimbo or because the creator wanted eye-candy?  Is she a negative stereotype, or an integral part of telling a realistic story because trashy bimbos really do exist.  Is it the creator’s responsibility to only present empowering images or is it also our responsibility as adults, parents, and gamers to teach each other and the younger generation to recognize the difference?  To me it’s a little bit of both.  You can’t have the positive without the negative.  You can’t explain why the strong, intelligent heroine is positive without the trashy, flaky eye-candy.  Hells, reverse the genders in that statement and how is it any different?  That’s part of story telling – the good and the bad, the dark and light, righteous and evil, right?  But, if the trashy bimbo is there because the marketing team wants more digitized breasts in the game then the image is completely unnecessary and we’ve delved into the realm of a harmful as well as negative stereotype that has no place in the art. Read the rest of this entry