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A New Generation of Women in Gaming and Film

Wonder Woman’s success at the box office is a sign that the portrayal of women in the media is improving. This film showed the world that female superhero films can be on par with any other blockbuster within the genre. And it’s not just in terms of revenue, but also on audience impact. Like Soliyra shared in a previous RWOG post, she was floored when she realized Diana is the same as her gamer persona – a long-time “tank” player who would rush into battle and absorb all the damage. It’s a far cry from a decade ago when women were stereotyped as either damsel in distress or nurturing lovers.

18673115_1499705770082033_9026401747109957452_o(image credit: Injustice Facebook Page)

Usually, superhero movie releases are accompanied by big-budget video games featuring the same hero. Unfortunately, the gaming community is still waiting for a Wonder Woman-centered video game but fans can at least enjoy playing Diana Prince in other big titles like Injustice 2. There are also projects from non-AAA game developers who have been inspired by the character. For instance, the global player base of Slingo has access to a mobile-friendly Wonder Woman slot game that has borrowed elements from Lynda Carter’s version the character. All of this goes to show how the Amazon princess remains relevant even decades after her first appearance in comic books and TV.

But Patty Jenkins and the new Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, are just two of the women who are making waves on the big screen today. Charlize Theron, for instance, showed that she still has what it takes to be an action star in the spy thriller Atomic Blonde. She played a top-level MI6 operative on the hunt for double-agents in this flick, so there were heavily stylized and well-choreographed fight scenes.

Theron has long been an advocate of women’s rights, and she’s vocal in her support for women in the industry. She’s actually friends with Jenkins due to their collaboration in Monster and the latter expressed on ComicBook how much she looks forward to working with Theron again.

On the other hand, Warner Bros.’ trailer for the upcoming Tomb Raider film shows Alicia Vikander portraying a different Lara Croft, in the sense that the character is not yet the badass explorer like Angelina Jolie’s version. It’s necessary so as to stay true to the ‘origin story’ angle. But still, Vikander’s Lara is fierce and willing to go beyond her limits.


(video credit: Warner Bros.)

The video game industry meanwhile, has already gone far in portraying strong female characters. We have Samus Aran (Metroid), and Max Caulfield (Life is Strange), to name a few. But like Wonder Woman, new female leads are generating a lot of buzz this year.

13247836_1195894880443571_5935357477196211488_o(image credit: Guerrilla Games Facebook Page)

Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn piqued many players’ interests back in 2015 when its first trailer featured the female protagonist, Aloy, battling a gigantic machine with a bow. CBR noted how the character played a big role in becoming a system seller. Since Horizon: Zero Dawn is a PlayStation 4 exclusive, it became a selling point for Sony. The decision to promote a female-led original game clearly worked because the game already sold 2.6 million units just two weeks following its release earlier this year. Some gamers even went as far as to buy the console just to play the action RPG title.

Blizzard’s popular online multiplayer game Overwatch also surprised fans when it announced that one of its characters, namely Tracer, is a lesbian. Tracer is a fan favorite, so it was a huge statement for Blizzard to present her as having an unorthodox sexuality. The move drew ire from some players, but the majority praised the studio’s initiative to diversify the world of gaming.

All things considered, onscreen female characters are now becoming more layered and varied. While there are still a lot of improvements to be made regarding our portrayal, it’s safe to say that the world openly welcomes this new generation of women in gaming and film.

About the Author: Alexa Henderson is a freelance writer and avid fan of RPGs. Her favorite game of all time is Squaresoft’s Chrono Cross.

Overwatch Just Can’t Catch a Break

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It wasn’t long ago that one person managed to complain hard enough to get Tracer’s pose changed in Overwatch.  Nevermind that the new pose isn’t really that much different from the original, or that the original is just like many of the other character victory poses.  Ignore the male victory poses that have them thrusting themselves forward as if proclaiming their victory with a burst of manhood at the screen.  This one character had to be changed, and Blizzard changed it.  They didn’t change it so much though.  She still shows her backside, looking over her shoulder, flirty look; not much difference at all.

Then comes winter.  Blizzard releases a fun holiday skin for Mei and people get upset.  It’s a fun skin, perfectly matched to the season.  It fits her character theme, and her original costume design.  Again, Blizzard apologizes, for a design choice!  They wanted to create something fun, fun being an entirely subjective word, and the company says sorry.  Of course gamers have a right to voice their complaints, but when’s the last time a painter apologized for a painting, or a writer apologized for a book?  It doesn’t happen all that often does it?  The artists that create our games, however, they always seem to be apologizing.

If only that were the end.  Now comes the Lunar New Year update and people are upset about Mei again.  Now, while the profile view looks odd, and yes it could either be her clothing or a strange bug, people weren’t just complaining about that.  Take off her thick fur parka and voila, she’s still a curvy girl but sans a thick parka.  Blizzard is saying this bug will be fixed, and granted they may not change her all that much.  How can we know, at this point, whether it was a bug, a design choice, or just a mistake?  Is it Blizzard just apologizing again?  We won’t know for sure, because they’ve set a precedent.

It’s not just them though, and no this isn’t going to turn into an ‘entitled gamers’ rant.  If you don’t like a game, something about a game, or the company that makes it, say so.  Don’t buy the game, express your suggestions, and do whatever you think best.  What I have a problem with is every company bending over backwards in an attempt to please everyone.  It creates an environment where if a few of us yell loud enough we can make an artist change their creation however we want.

It’s one thing to apologize about a mistake, a large number of bugs, or delays of release.  The list of apologies for design choices is long however.  Christina Love recently apologized and censored her own game because of complaints about one sex scene.  Just this past year a handful of games were censored because of outrage, localization or fear of outrage as in the case of Uncharted 4.  Watchdogs 2, a game featuring male genitalia, had to be changed to remove one instance of female nudity that was found (not readily on display), and shared to social media.

We’re creating an atmosphere where creativity is chained by fear.  Where art has to run through a checklist of things that are allowed and aren’t, and where artists are always questioning their decisions because someone might be upset.  I’m here to tell you someone will always be upset.  I’ve seen games change things to please one group, only to piss off another, then change something else that pisses off the first group again.  I’m a writer, and I can tell you there’s nothing less creative than having to work off a checklist of things you can and can’t do, things you have to do.  Then there’s the realization that even if you check off all those boxes, and do your best to make sure it doesn’t seem like you’re just checking off boxes, someone will still be pissed.

Don’t get me wrong.  Voice your opinion and give feedback.  Let them know when a game’s broken or that you are upset at a ridiculous delay.  Report bugs and offer suggestions.  Just remember that those hard-working artists that put all those hours into the games we love are people too.  They’re creative, caring, and real people.  When criticism turns into just a mob crapping over a design choice, or getting offended by a joke, we’ll wind up with games created by automatons rather than artists.  I don’t think any of us want that.

Artists, stop apologizing so much.  If you have to change your art to please some people, then you inevitably lose others.  If some people don’t want your work because of what it involves, guess what…that’s normal.  Not every person in the world is going to read my book, like someone’s painting, or play your game.  Make the stories you want to tell.  Create the art you want to share.  Never apologize for creating what’s in your heart.  If you make an honest mistake then own up to it, but when you bring something artistic out of your mind, or your heart and soul, that’s not a mistake, a bug, or an error.

There’s Something for Everyone in Gaming but Everything Isn’t for You

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That statement is pretty blunt, “There’s something for everyone in gaming, but everything isn’t for you.”  I imagine you’ve had one of three reactions reading it:  you either, one, nod your head and get it right away, two, give your computer screen a confused look because you aren’t sure if you should be upset by it, or, three, get upset and start to formulate a rebuttal to tell me how offensive this is.  Bear with me for a minute while I lay this out for you.

As I write this, there is another article being written about how games need to become less violent, more this, less that, and so on and so on.  There’s always someone, somewhere, trying to make the case that games are bad for us.  There are people, whether they are being honest or not, that think every game should fit into their own set of morals and standards.  Sounds a little nuts, doesn’t it?  I do hope you think so, because, if you don’t, you probably won’t like the rest of this.

Gaming has been evolving for decades now, growing from a niche novelty item into the largest entertainment industry in the world.  We’ve gone from just a couple of consoles and PC to countless platforms including handhelds and VR.  Where once your selection of games was fairly limited with just three games released in 1972, we’ve had about 680 games released this year.  The genres available to you are more than I can list, and just about anyone can find something to play.  Maybe that’s why it is estimated that 44% of the world is playing some sort of video game.

The beauty of gaming is it has those niches.  It has genres within genres, all of which appeal to someone.  The reality is they don’t appeal to everyone, and they shouldn’t.  Every one of us has a genre we don’t like, or type of game we think is awful.  There are games we won’t even try because of platform, publisher, subject matter, or genre.  That’s absolutely normal, and we shouldn’t do anything to change it.  Just like we all have book categories we don’t like.  Do we actually consider changing those to fit our tastes?  I wouldn’t pick up a romance novel any more than I’d play a Japanese dating simulator.  I couldn’t imagine demanding romance writers start writing their books more like fantasy adventures so I would find them more entertaining.

What it boils down to is there are definitely games out there for me, but not every game is for me.  That’s actually pretty great because it means more people will have games to play.  If every game fit my tastes, I can assure you many gamers wouldn’t find something they liked.  Our tastes are different.  I like FPS games, RPGs and MMOs, and I play just one mobile game.  I know a lot of people that don’t like any of those genres.  For FPS games, I play military sims almost exclusively, but thousands and thousands like Overwatch, a type of FPS I don’t care for.

Hopefully it’s making a lot more sense now.  But what’s the point?  Point is, when you see people saying “this game shouldn’t exist,” or “I don’t like that, change it,” keep one thing in mind.  Even if you agree with their dislike of whatever game they’re talking about, the next person may say it about a game you like.  As a matter of fact, I can guarantee that whatever game you do like, there’s people out there who don’t.  Imagine if we all stood up and said “I’m offended by that, ban it,” or started a petition to pull a game from store shelves.  How many games would we be left with?  So, when someone says a game shouldn’t exist, even if we don’t like it, we have to say, “yes, it should.”  Otherwise, we can’t really say much if someone comes after the games we like.

You Can’t Please All the People All the Time

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Recently the developer for World of Tanks was asked, as part of a larger discussion about women in esports, whether he would do anything to make his game more appealing to female gamers.  His response was very on the nose, and highlights a couple of things I’ve noticed over the last few years with a higher demand for representation that has been logical and measured from some, and completely irrational from a few.  What he said was:

Not necessarily. I think there’s very little we can do to make photorealistic tanks appealing to females.

Now, on one hand he has a point.  World of Tanks is a very specific type of game.  It’s a wargame simulator that strives to present historically accurate battlefield scenarios involving tank combat.  That’s going to appeal to a very specific demographic.  Of course there are women out there that like historical wargames, photorealistic tanks, and combat sims.  I’m 100% sure there are.  Just as sure that there aren’t as many of them as men that like the genre, and as sure that the few women who do like it wouldn’t want it changed to reach this nebulous ‘broader demographic.’  Too often, demand is put on developers to try and make everyone happy, and many try, and fail.  We see them attacked from all sides for including this, or excluding that, or including it wrong.  We saw it with Assassin’s Creed, heavily criticized for a lame excuse for not including female characters, then criticized for including them wrong, or including them only as a marketing scheme.  It was a much-needed change to add the option, but they still got beat up.

On the other hand, I think he misses something.  Like I said, some women like World of Tanks.  The game is already appealing to those women who it was going to appeal to.  I know the developer wasn’t blindly dismissing those gamers, but it servers a larger point.  Different types of games will always appeal to a certain type of person, despite gender.  Women and men are both competitive to different degrees.  You don’t always find fewer women playing FPS games or wargames because those games don’t appeal to women.  I know a lot of women that enjoy those types of games, are competitive and love the action, violence, and chaos of those them.  Some of them don’t play them for other reasons, which can be addressed, but a lot don’t and never will.  It’s not because those games are missing some hook they need in order to play.  Some gamers, men and women, just don’t like those games.  My wife, as few games as she does play, would never be interested in Battlefield, no matter what they changed about it.

In World of Tanks’ case what could they do?  How was it even a legitimate question?  I don’t like Japanese dating sims, and there’s nothing a developer should, or could, do to make me want to play one.  In all likelihood any change they did consider would only make it worse for the current player base, and not win me over anyway.  That’s a little specific, however.  Imagine instead a romance novel publisher was asked what they planned to do to draw in more male readers.  Books in general already serve a wide market, with a plethora of genres that appeal to different demographics.  I would hate to see what someone’s idea of a romance novel that appeals to the average male would look like, but I have a feeling it would no longer appeal to the average romance novel demo.  The only logical answer is, nothing.  There’s nothing to do.

When we’re talking about wargames like this one, the women who like them will like them, and the women who don’t, won’t.  Likely any changes that anyone would consider are the same insulting, superficial changes we see often in FPS games like pink gun skins, or in this case tank skins.  No one really thinks women are avoiding this game because they can’t have a pink tank, right?

This is much bigger than a single question about one game however.  It’s a trend we’ve been seeing grow over the last few years.  Many games, and entertainment in general, can stand to diversify.  It does, however, come with a caveat that is often recognized by the vast majority.  Sadly the vast majority is usually quieter than the vocal minority.  Recently The Mary Sue published an article that, nearly in the same breath, criticizes the upcoming live-action Mulan for casting a white character, and one that is ‘too Chinese’.  That caveat is that is has to make sense.  Are we to no longer tell stories about a group of guys that go on a road trip, because we can’t tell a story about all guys anymore?  What about a sisterhood of girls with migrating pants, need a male character because it’s not diverse?  Do we shove pink, rhinestone tanks into WWII because we need to draw in the preteen female gamer, or do we stick with a little realism because they won’t like it anyway?

The moral of the story, ladies and gents, is if you’re a creator, artist, writer, developer, or whatever, don’t try to please everyone.  You can’t.  If you try, you’ll fail, and it won’t always be something you can bounce back from.  There are people out there that just can’t be happy with anything, they aren’t your audience.  I’m begging you all to stop trying.  Stop being swayed by the one person that thinks Tracer’s (Overwatch) pose is too sexy, or that Marcus Halloway (Watchdogs 2) is too ethnic.  It’s your creation, your art, and your vision.  If it’s not something people want to see, you’ll know when they don’t buy it, but at the end of the day if you just create to satisfy the vocal minority, they’ll never be enough to keep you creating.