May 172013

Someone sent me a link to [David Gaider’s take on sexism in video games] and asked for my thoughts. That’s an excellent interview, and covers a lot of things, but the part I loved is way at the end. So if you’re short on time, or already read about this back in March, skip down to the last picture and read from there on.*

That’s such a wonderful point and sums up [my feelings] about video games: “You’re not who we want to play this game.” It isn’t that I’m not in a demographic worth making games for, it’s that most of the games are actively hostile to my demographic. A game doesn’t have to be [Dead-Island-Riptide-levels] of shitty to be hostile to me, either.

The other day my awesome brother, who is way more into gaming than I am, recommended that I grab Lego Batman 2 while it was on sale on Steam. It started with a lengthy cutscene and then I was too tired to figure out the controls, so I’m waiting to give it a better try when I’m actually awake. It looks decent and I like puzzle-type games so I’m still excited. But look at [this list] of unlockable characters. Notice anything? My cursory count is that 11 out of 60 are female (I may have missed some because I’m not very comics-savvy). Out of those, several are either “superhero’s girlfriend” or “lady version of superhero”. I’m going to say it: Tokenism is hostile. It perpetuates stereotypes and shitty tropes. People who aren’t in tokeny subgroups don’t notice how much this affects them.

There’s no such thing as a Normal Gamer. We are a diverse group. We are not all Dudes-Under-35.

Feminists and allies and anti-rape activists all love to hate on Penny Arcade and I kept not caring because often I laughed at the comics. Yes, even the gross and sexist ones. I like a lot of offensive things, and you can’t sue me for it, so there. They recently ran [this comic] and I was like, yes yes that is totally what is wrong with fucking games someone understands!

But then there’s the [accompanying news post] to that comic, which enraged me. Tycho calls the character depiction freaky and scary, but then says anyone uncomfortable with it is a brainwashed zealot feminist.

Then he points out the nearly unreadable font art of the games title, see how their core artistic style is to make things so stylized that you cannot recognize what they are supposed to be? He would have a great point if the character in question looked like [this] instead of [this]. When you watch the tits and ass of the “female” characters swaying in the artificial breeze of the game’s website, you instantly understand that you’re looking at sextoys. There is no artistic fucking refracting prism.

And then our buddy puts on some 7-league boots and takes the third step aaaaaaaaaall the way backward to MRA/VD country. Meeeeeean psychotic bullies don’t want to hear about how many times he jerked off over this visionary art that is so visionary that he just called it freaky, scary, and unable to convey basic meaning.

That sort of thing makes me feel unwelcome and actively pushes me away. It isn’t a hyperemotional lady reaction, it is a simple fact that some of these “thought leaders” spew words and attitudes that make it clear they think gaming is about men and for men. Anyone pleased about “girl gamers” on the basis of it being better to have people available for them to be sexually attracted to, that actually makes this whole thing worse, so please consider how dehumanizing it will be before making a comment about how horny guys should want to have women around in the gaming community.

Gaider is right. I don’t need a pink box and unicorns to buy a game. (Although I’d totes buy a [Charlie the Unicorn] adventure game. So would you.) I know there are great games out there that depict females artistically and without hate. All I want is to not have to wade through 50 males and a half-dozen swaying-boob sextoys to find that depiction.

Slowly but surely, the industry is taking note and changing. That pleases me and frustrates me — if you look at the pace of change in technology, you’ll laugh with me when people compare the pace of this change favorably to civil rights struggles. Yeah, it takes a long time for bigoted generations to die off and we make some progress while they get senile. But since I was a kid playing nintendo pinball, how many new consoles have come out? How many geniuses are making games? There is [a game] that will let you cast spells with your fucking brain, and you’re telling me this industry, an industry constantly eating the tail of its own revolutions, can’t figure out how to simultaneously market a game to horny 18-year-old males and crotchety 32-year-old females? I CALL BULLSHIT.

In the meantime, you’ll find me playing Portal (female protagonist, female antagonist, one of the most popular games ever, thanks, with a great but problematic sequel) and Unmechanical and Braid because I like puzzle games, and being disappointed that I couldn’t play [Bioshock Infinite], which sounds like a great less-sexist title.**



* His GDC talk. Actually I like this link much better than the one at the top, but that’s the one I was asked about. *shrug* I aim to please. (buzzzzzzz)

** I suck at first-person shooters. I loved the opening bits of the game, and then I got shot in the back 15 times in a half-hour, on baby-easy mode, so I gave up forever. The saddest part is that I’ve heard from people who played through it that the FPS element probably could have been removed entirely. *sigh* Maybe they could release a shooty-free version?

Jan 072013

I spent a few hours playing this PC adventure game Primordia. If I recall correctly, chaos ordered it for me when I was mourning Glitch and complaining that I hadn’t liked a PC game since Myst.

It was both fun and irritating in all the usual ways of adventure games. You get a blowtorch but rarely get to burn things. The inventory puzzles are frustrating (but could be much worse).* I admit that I used a walkthrough at times, and didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about ruining the purity of my experience.

There are some well-written reviews of the game that will actually describe it for you and help you decide if you want to drop a few dollars to play it (just don’t read the comments, unless you enjoy mild console-vs-PC flamewars).

What I don’t see reviewers mentioning is the sexism in the game. Really interesting sci-fi adventures that examine societal identity and creation issues should do better than lazy titty jokes and references to “gynoids” — in my opinion, anyway. Why is the little floating circular sidekick robot interested in human sex characteristics in an all-robot society that barely believes humans ever existed? Is this some sort of commentary on how boobs are inherently interesting to all intelligent life forms? Why is there a little female robot who ends up as a romantic prize for the sidekick once he completes the quest to “find the courage to talk to a girl” (a quest that is completed by, and I’m not making this up, talking to a lamp for practice)? Maybe that little female robot had hopes and dreams of her own. Maybe she’s a better conversationalist than a lamp.

There is one decently developed female character, who travels with the protagonist for a while and is primarily interested in the law, but she’s also the only character who has a humanoid shape with secondary sex characteristics and doesn’t wear head-to-toe baggy clothes. She has nice gynoid boobs and shapely legs, but I never get to see how hunky the robots are (and I’d be objecting less to the term gynoid if the males were actually called androids, but they’re not). I have problems with the final boss, too, and without giving away the whole game, there are some elements of “bad things happen when a woman gets uppity and tries to leave the kitchen to do men’s work.”

None of this was purposeful, I don’t think, and I’m sure that if the gaming community read this they’d call me a whiny baby for even caring, but these elements bounced me out of the narrative of an otherwise fun game. It may have been avoided if there’d been some women involved in production (I don’t think there were any based on watching the credits). Anyway, it all contributes to the feeling I’ve always had that my money is good in gaming stores but I’m not the target audience for games. I’m either an afterthought or a prize.


* This footnote is a nonsensical excuse to link to this hilarious fancybears thing.