GEL’s Headspace on Videogame Women and the Discussion of them.

“Alright lets see what demos they added to XBox Live…hmm…Fuse, eh? What is this, some generic third person shooter? *clicks demo* Oh hey! Wait. One of those characters in the background looks like a woman! TWO of them do actually! Ooh! Are they playable? Please tell me they’re playable *clicks screenshots* …THEY ARE! FUCK YEAH! Lemme clear some space and grab this demo! Who’s making this thing anyway? INSOMNIAC?! Aren’t they Sony’s bitch? Don’t they do Ratchet & Clank and Resistance?! What are THEY doing on XBox 360?! EA?! Curiouser and curiouser…”

This is the thought process that went through my mind this morning as I checked the new uploads to XBox Live. This is how I think and should give you a good idea where I’m coming from.

FUSE1

See, as you’ve already noticed by now, there is a huge debate going on about women in videogames as I already discussed in a previous article. The thing is, half the time I read these articles I feel like they come from a completely different planet from my own! There are no women in videogames?! This is news to me!

As this post is a bit long, allow me to summarize: Do you all want me to write more articles on this subject or just save it for The Big Article? Are all of you sick of hearing about this shit, or is it half the reason you came to my blog in the first place?

In case you couldn’t tell from the above quote, female characters are a selling point to me. If your game lacks female characters, it better have a damn good hook! Customizeable robots? Move support? Ninjas? I like ninjas, does your game have ninjas? What about playable bug monsters? No?! Then what does it have!? Huge movelists? Online co-op? Coffee fortunes? J-Pop? Wait…what game has J-Pop but doesn’t have female characters?! Is it a chase-view rail shooter? Does it involve going really fast and blowing shit up?

No? Just ‘roided up guys with shaved heads hiding behind walls? I think I’ll pass. Thanks.

But if your game has female characters? Shoot then I’ll play even the most bland, generic, and unpolished of games! Shallow? Yup!

You would think this would mean I barely buy any games. However, one look at my monthly “New Releases” posts will tell you otherwise. The game industry is much larger, crazier, and more varied than we give it credit and while recent developments have hurt the amount of variety we see from the industry, it has not completely dried up.

The result is that I have found myself with blinders on, completely oblivious to what those other games are doing as I have no interest in them. I’d feel bad about this but one look at nearly any of these articles reveals that everyone else is doing the same thing! They’re completely oblivious to the games that I like and thus they don’t exist to them! It’s a weird thing to be sure.

My interest in female characters in videogames dates back to my childhood, believe it or not. Why? Well I have an older sister. Whenever my Mom took me and her to a rental store, she’d get an anime and I’d get a game. But if I could find a game with a girl in it, I could convince my sister to rent it and thus get two games that week instead of one! Ha ha! I’m a fucking genius!

As such I became acutely aware of all the game heroines of the 16-bit era and they quickly became an important part of my childhood. El Viento, Valis, and Alisia Dragoon? This was what I grew up on: games most people don’t even think exist!

dc_22852_0_0_ValisIII

Of course, my love of female leads is two fold. On one hand I just prefer playing as them. Sexualized or not, they’re always more attractive than men (to me anyway)! But I do enjoy me some heavily sexualized women. I like them a lot. I’ve spent an absolutely absurd amount of time on Rumble Roses XX crafting sexy music videos from intro sequences. I’m one of the only people on the internet who defends the Oneechanbara series of bikini-clad samurai women fighting zombies. I have Gal*Gun on both 360 and PS3. I also really like Queen’s Blade (though the videogames are disappointing).

So this puts me in a really really weird position in this debate. I want more women in videogames! I want more women to play videogames! But I also want another Rumble Roses game.

So here I am scratching my head as to what to do. I can’t stop thinking about this discussion. Heck I’ve got an absolutely massive article I’ve been writing on the subject for months now discussing it from every angle I can! Shoot it’s darn well nearly a book!

But at the same time, I’m sick of it. I know everyone else is sick of it. I’ve actually avoided discussing the topic here and been trying to bottle it all up into one singular article on the subject so that way I can just publish that and be done with it. I don’t want my blog to become an overly political mess like MovieBob’s is.

But at the same time the debate is still going on and I have so much to say it’s starting to leak out. This blog is just focused on the stuff that interests me afterall, and as you can see this is very relevant to my interests.

In some ways I wonder if it is even my place to be discussing this. As one person pointed out, the biggest issue with this discussion is that it’s mostly men talking with other men about what is best for women. However my conclusion on that is just not to try and label anything as “positive” or “negative”. That is mostly a matter of personal opinion and unless someone can magically conjure a definitive list of criteria for “positive” and “negative” female characters, then I’m not even going to try beyond a slight nudge as to what I personally find pretty positive.

One thought that went through my mind though is perhaps a second blog devoted entirely to posting every time a game with a female character in it is released. I’m thinking of calling it “GameBabble’s Progressive Scan” or something like that. Again, no judgement calls. Just a giant list of female characters and discussion of them. If nothing else it would be an interesting project that would help prove a point: that female videogame characters exist.

Because, you see, the way I see it half the problem is in how we discuss female characters in games. You see, every time there’s a hyper sexualized character like the Sorceress from Dragon’s Crown or Ivy from Soul Calibur, we write articles wagging our fingers at them for being “negative”. But every time there’s a “positive” female character, we don’t. We seldom really make note of them, actually. Because “positive” females should be normal, right? There are also no articles about “negative” male characters because…how do you even make a negative male character?!

So when people completely ignore female characters unless they’re negative, it leads to this belief that women are universally negatively portrayed in videogames and the perpetuation of this belief. The more people say it, the more we believe it to be true.

In many ways it is actually disturbing! I remember when the gaming media stood against sensationalism in the news media when they brought up gun violence and tried to ham-fistedly link it to videogames. But now we suddenly turn around and wag our fingers when it comes to sexualized women? In fact, I’m starting to see some gaming media cave and start to question if videogames really do cause violence! Have we honestly been told “videogames are bad” so much that we are starting to believe it?! Or is it that the gaming media’s ever decreasing credibility has caused them to resort to the same sensationalist tactics?

Of course I would be remiss to not mention the one key difference: guilt.

You see, with violence many gamers can safely say that they never killed anyone and never planned to. The only major exception there are the many gamers who are in the army and I don’t need to tell you why that is a non-issue.

But when it comes to female characters in videogames? Well…most of us have rubbed one out to quite a few of them. Some of us even have massive porn collections of said characters or even drawn porn of them ourselves! To say nothing of the many conversations about which character’s ass we’d like to tap. So when someone pops up and says these characters are oversexualized and that we objectify them…we often plead guilty.

The key difference there is fantasy and reality, but that can become a tangled mess when discussing videogames. I’d probably need a but more time to think of how to better word that but the point is I’m pretty damn certain that fantasizing about fictional characters does not make you a bad person.

Trust me, we all do it. Even women. Pretty certain it’s just a part of human nature.

But I’m sorry, I’ve rambled long enough.I just wanted to explain where I come from and what my stake in all of this is. The point is, do you all want me to write more articles on this subject or just save it for The Big Article? Are all of you sick of hearing about this shit, or is it half the reason you came to my blog in the first place?

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4 Comments on “GEL’s Headspace on Videogame Women and the Discussion of them.”

  1. Sleepy Says:

    To answer your question, I think you should write maybe one more small(ish) article before you publish the giant one you’ve been working on.

    As for the “Progressive Scan” blog, I think that’s a great idea. With blogs like “Escher Girls” and “Hawkeye Initiative” showcasing and mocking the negative portrayals of women in pop culture, one that showcases the positive examples of women in games would be a refreshing change of pace. If you’re ever looking for a guest contributor, let me know.

    • GEL Says:

      *nods* Noted and…I hadn’t thought of it that way. I was wondering if “Progressive Scan” would be a bit much but yeah there’s Escher Girls and Hawkeye Initiative so…hmm…suddenly it seems less like a weird idea! I’ll get on it when I get back from the convention (shame that means I don’t get to put “Sanctum 2” on the list :P).

      That said I refuse to make the call on what is “positive” and “negative”. Not my place and besides it’s heavily opinion based anyway. LAST thing I wanna do is deal with people going “You think THIS character is positive? This just SHOWS how sexist you are!” or some crap like that. Just wanna point out what exists and look at things from different angles.

      …and can I just say that I sit somewhere between “Hawkeye Initiative” and “Escher Girls” myself. I approve of the Hawkeye Initiative as it is funny and makes it’s points very clear: “This pose is impractical and sexualized. Look how silly it looks on a guy!” But Escher Girls sometimes just goes too far and loses track of it’s goal. It went from “poses where the characters are contorted for the sake of getting boobs and butt in the picture at the same time” to “ANY time boobs and butt are in the picture at the same time even if it’s a natural pose” or complaining about plausible action poses because you couldn’t “hold them”. And yes, I’ve tried some of the poses.

  2. Göran Isacson Says:

    Long time no comment, GEL! georg_vanlunden from LJ here, deciding he should finally catch up with this here blog and see if it was still active, and lo and behold, it was!

    Sorry if I’m necro-posting here though, just thought I’d throw my two cents in on one thing you’re writing here: “Have we honestly been told “videogames are bad” so much that we are starting to believe it?! Or is it that the gaming media’s ever decreasing credibility has caused them to resort to the same sensationalist tactics?”

    While I don’t know much about sensationalist tactics (I admit that these days most of my game news I get from Swedish sites who are generally pretty up and up on journalistic ambitions, and Magic Box and Silicon Era who don’t dabble too much in sensationalism and opinion pieces), I think I can say something here. I think that more and more, people are starting to really talk about how media affects us, not in the sense of “VIDYAGAMES GON BRAINWASH LIL SUZIE AND CALVIN INTO AL QAEDA COMMIE MASS MURDERER HOMOS”, but in the sense of how common some stereotypes are and what that does to our self-image and how it affects the stories we tell and future generations tell etc.

    I believe you and I both agree that the “bald dude with guns and body armor” stereotype is way too common and we do not like it. I see similarities between more and more people complaining about those things and the discussions about female characters. I think the stereotype that female characters are sexy and scantily clad AND more or less useless in stories, just there to be fanservice, has been so ingrained into us that now that we’re starting to talk about toxic stereotypes, like five-eight year olds only now starting to realize that the person behind the fake beard is in fact mom/dad and not Santa Claus, we throw ALL that we associate with the facade meant to deceive us into the “bad” pile. But just because Santa Claus isn’t real doesn’t mean the character of Santa Claus is a corny hasbeen that only diaper babies like, just like a bald dude in armor and a sexy-looking lady isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just part of a system that more and more people are growing really tired of.

    Holy crap that simile ran away from me, but eff it it’s almost 4 at night and I’m not clearheaded enough to go back and pretty it up. My point is basically that I believe most Internetians are trying to really clean house and try to settle the score with old stereotypes, but it’s NOT a smooth process and babies will be thrown out with the bathwater.

    In that sense I think that a list like yours of female characters that do exist (though I also have to admit that my cynic side is smugly saying “and what does the fact that so few of them are talked about today say about how memorable they actually were?”), and your Progressive Scan blog could be some real interesting reading. I’d also totally like to see that big darn post of yours, because I’m always a sucker for reading TL;DR on video games.

    • GEL Says:

      XD Oh no worries. WordPress alerts me when there’s a comment on ANY of my posts so there is no necro discussion…though I seldom check in on Sonic and the Worst Fandom Ever. EGAD that thing has a lot of comments! Damn near it’s own forum at this point! XD

      Oh the big darn post is in revision 3. The more I think about the issue the more problems I find. I’m not kidding when I say it’s damn near a book (I am SERIOUSLY wanting to publish it).

      While I’m sure there are plenty of people that mean well, I see far too damn many folks just trying to prove how much better they are than everyone else by wagging their fingers at them.

      As for the question of if the characters are really memorable if no one talks about them? Well that is this weird issue where everything from Japan is immediately presumed to be perverse. “Look at that pervy Japanese game! It has a GIRL in it! How offensive! Our games are SO much better (because they DON’T have girls in them).” I so wish I was kidding but back in the 90s this was actually some of the sentiment and it’s part of why this discussion has me worried. There’s so much “This is bad!” and not enough “THIS is what we want!” that I fear we’re drawing closer and closer to the conclusion of “Women in videogames are offensive, so don’t put women in videogames!”. The sad truth is that, in a round about way, THIS IS ALREADY HAPPENING and it is CAUSING the problem!

      I’m serious. I think the discussion is causing some of the problems that it is discussing in the first place!

      It goes something like this: Games with female characters “don’t sell”. Why? Because no one talks about them. Why? Because women are portrayed negatively in videogames and they don’t want to be seen as a pervert. So how do we portray women positively in videogames? You can’t. Because SOMEONE will take offense at SOMETHING and thus anyone who talks about positive portrayal of women in videogames is just overwhelmingly sexist because they thought this BLATANTLY sexist character was somehow positive just showing how sexist they truly are!

      So the solution is to not have any female characters so that way no one has anything to complain about.

      Another one is how we keep claiming women are a “new market” that the industry needs to “adapt to”. While this SOUNDS fine on paper, it is subconsciously saying “Hi we don’t like videogames so completely change them to suit our needs, fuck the longtime fans with a deep personal investment in these series and their characters! They don’t matter.”

      We keep focusing too much on the negative and what we need to “change” rather than focusing on the positive and what is already there. Women are NOT new to videogames, they are not a “new market”, female characters HAVE existed and they HAVE been positive in the past! Gamers don’t wanna hear about what you want to take away from them, they want to hear what you want to ADD.

      There’s also the second issue: Game journalists don’t play videogames.

      I so wish I was kidding but FUCK ME! EVERYONE in the damn industry is a PC Gamer and I don’t mean that as a slight against PC Gamers but how the fuck do seemingly 90% of all game journalists have more fond memories of X-Com and Adventure Games than Street Fighter II?! Fuck, Kotaku did a “History of Attractive Videogame Characters” and it’s ALL PC GAMES! What the entire fuck! (It’s also an utterly worthless piece of crap but it still raises so many eyebrows)

      I’m sorry, I’m rambling. I have a hard time thinking straight after a shower for some reason XD But you get the idea.

      …and yeah I need to get started on Progressive Scan. Thus far my theory still holds true about us seeing a new game with a female lead every week. I forget what this week’s was but it was certainly there. Just…not as memorable as Clash of Elementalists (Virtual On with schoolgirls on DSi Ware?!) or Sanctum 2.


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