Thursday, May 16, 2013

Girls in games

The cultural gestalt these days seems to include more talk about women and video-games than ever before.  Suddenly, women are 47% of video-gamers and game designers (and game advertisers) are still figuring out how to deal with that.  If you haven't seen any of Anita Sarkeesian's videos before, they're really good.  Her concepts help me understand a bunch of common patterns and gave me names to more easily identify them (the "smurfette effect" for example).

Anita's concepts have not ruined my enjoyment of video games, but I may be getting more selective.  We have a PS2 and have been playing some old games.  One of them is Okami which is an outstanding game in many ways: playable, artistic, incredibly rich and creative.  In the game, the player's character is a wolf who begins a quest to regain divine powers the character once had, and rid the world of demons and darkness so it can bloom and the sun can shine again. When the world blooms it's simply gorgeous; all the art is painterly and beautiful.

Although the wolf fights, and is the best fighter in the world, its gender is ambiguous. My son thought the wolf was a 'he', missing the repeated interactions when the wolf meets other minor gods and they always call the wolf "Amaterasu, mother of us all".  Throughout the world there are reasonable ratios of male and female characters, adult and child and often the female is more powerful than the corresponding male (in the main city, the empress is clearly more important than the emperor).  Both male and female characters are killed off, not just the females.  Females need rescuing more than males but not exclusively.  So there's more balance than normal.

A few things grate only a tiny bit; the main non-player character who fights with a sword is alcoholic, lazy, scared and male, and goes off to save his brave, supportive lady love.  The character who seems good but is secretly taken over by a demon is called "busty babe" over and over by the pixie (and she is pictured as having unreal boobs), and there are scenes about this 2-inch tall male pixie trying to literally get into her shirt.  All in all, did not make me love the game any less -- the overall balance is so pleasing that an annoyingly-stereotyped interaction could be enjoyed as mild low humour.

And then there's this kind of thing.  *sigh*  I thought the Internets were supposed to know all about me by now and target ads right at me.  Clearly the Internets know I'm a gamer, but can't they tell I'm female?

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