revanchist: eve from wall-e looking happy (Default)
the emperor of ice-cream ([personal profile] revanchist) wrote2010-07-27 08:37 pm

Sex & Gender Roles in Modern Video Games [1]

Alright, so, this is a post about, well, what the title says. But I'm hoping it can have cross-media implications, and possibly to open discussion about these issues. Because I want to be educated, and I want that discussion.

Backstory: I recently got embroiled in one of many ongoing debates over at the Bioware forums in regards to the upcoming game Dragon Age 2, which began when a poster asked a relatively simple question over whether any promotional materials would be released showcasing a female protagonist. This spawned a debate of several (thirty-three) pages, which attracted comments from a moderator and the lead writer on the game (which is common on the forums, surprisingly).

To summarize, the OP wanted to know if any other women were put off by the company's continual use of a male protagonist in their marketing, to the point where both Mass Effect games had been marketed as if there was no female option, and was wondering if this would be the case with DA:2, as the (so far) released materials seem to be following the same course. As the game was only announced a few weeks ago, OP wanted to give input so that this could be subverted before it happened. OP went on to say, "I feel that Bio-Ware could use a female protagonist that both males and females would love to relate to, and watch in trailers and advertisements for the games." The arguments commenced, and ranged from intelligent discourse to downright infuriating. And yeah, I dove in headfirst.

Quick and dirty for those who aren't in the fandom: Bioware has released several very popular RPG games in the past, including KOTOR, a Star Wars cult classic; Mass Effect, a futuristic space TPS (third person shooter) trilogy; and Dragon Age: Origins, a return to fantasy gaming's D&D roots. There are more: it would not be incorrect to say that the company has a solid history of releasing cult classics with excellent plotting and character building. They are remarkable not only for the quality of their output as far as RPG gaming goes, but for always including the choice to play as a female with a unique gaming experience. They've done their best not only to level the playing field with equitable romance options and general gameplay and roleplaying features, but also to incorporate alternate sexualities, etc. (There's a whole 'nother issue there, which I shall not get deep into in this post, simply because it's opening up a can of worms. They try hard, often attracting the ire and scandal that go along with, gasp, space lesbians and bisexual elves-- but they sometimes fail miserably at getting it right simply by backtracking under critique and succumbing to general misconceptions, etc.)

(I am not going to get into female representation in more than an 'does it exist' level, so do not expect me to delve into natural bodies, armor that doesn't cover the fleshy bits, one dimensional personalities, etcetera. One thing at a time, no?)

But I will freely admit that Bioware has been on the forefront in this issue, such as it is. So I do not want to demonize them, or say that they've done nothing to advance the experience of female gamers, because they definitely have. Any girl who has played RPGs and TPSs extensively will probably acknowledge this. Bioware is on the forefront of game companies in this regard.

And I will acknowledge, straight away, two more things:
1. Games of this sort have a primarily male audience. Males, aged teens to twenties, are the primary demographic. Unlike many other media forms, women are the minority: truth is, we simply do not make up 50% of players, nor any statistic close to that.
2. Marketing often is responsible for putting one, instantly recognizable 'face' to a game, and releasing images/trailers/materials with six different faces could theoretically be confusing and hurt sales.

I get it, I do. But I still am asking that some promotional materials feature women, and I am not the only one. Here's why:

To be perfectly honest, this is part of a much larger problem which encompasses society as a whole. It's the reason the protagonist pictured on the box is unfailingly always going to be white, as well as male, but that, too, is an issue for another time. But we should be doing everything possible to change the current status quo, which means speaking up as opposed to quietly going along with it. Discussion raises awareness, which hopefully in turn will cause action. I think visibility is very important when it comes to changing perceptions. If a thing cannot be ignored, well, then you actually have to think and do something about it.

Now, to backtrack a bit, I personally want to see some marketing efforts put towards releasing a screenshot or two of a female version of the protagonist, possibly a piece of concept art, since equal representation and visibility in the marketing of video games is pretty much considered null chance. (Protag for DA:2 will hereby be referred to as Hawke, and protag for ME is Shepard, to clear up confusion.) As one poster put it:

I am not thrilled by the fact that an "iconic" Hawke was chosen, who happens to be male, but I can accept it. What I really, really am concerned about is that the last game Bioware marketed, Mass Effect 2, completely erased Female Shepard from any screenshots, trailers or art, until a few days before the game's launch. I don't want to see this repeated with DA2. If anyone is wondering *why* I want to see screenshots or trailers of FemHawke, I would ask, why should Bioware *not* show off a female version of the hero? What is gained by alienating those who primarily play female characters? (p.8)

And I think this poster brought up good points. I would add that even if women made up a scant 10% of the gamers, it would still make sense that one or two screenshots be catered exclusively to them-- far less than 10% of promotional material. To go back to Mass Effect, and quote another poster or two:

I mean, ME2's packaging made NO MENTION whatsoever of the fact that Commander Shepard didn't have to be the dude on the box. Not one. How is that not shooting themselves in the foot? (p.22)

Male driven industry = male driven marketing" is kind of a self-fullfilling prophecy, no? I mean, why ever increase your female clientle by actually marketing to them? (p.12)

Now, I would like to go into my response to this thread/issue. So here's what I jumped in with, somewhat edited for length:

I think it goes towards expressing the frustration that is common to women or other minorities facing this kind of issue. Personally, I do not believe the devs are doing this intentionally, so to speak (though they are ultimately still responsible for their actions). As I said earlier, it's part of a larger problem, which is common perception of female characters versus male characters. And I believe that it would be relatively easy for the devs to release one or two screenshots of a non-white female Hawke, which could go a long way towards combating the invisibility fans feel when they are not represented.

Otherwise it is easy to feel that you are not 'good' enough to be a Warden/Hawke/Hero/Etc. That somehow, women/ minorities/ GLBT cannot be heroes, cannot be strong self-assured characters who kick ass, save the world, and look good doing it. Or simply, that the majority of gamers do not want to be represented as a woman or as a minority or as a homosexual, because there is something intrinsically wrong or uncool or weak or whatever in being in one of these categories. That it is vastly preferable to be white, straight, and most importantly, male.

THIS is what we have a problem with. (p.10)

Now, one of the devs, who happens to be a lead writer on the game, responded as such to my post, and I will quote the entire thing:

I'm trying to picture what a single character would look like which would be politically neutral enough to be representative of everyone playing the game, appeasing those who feel the character should be female yet also attractive enough without being exploitive to appeal to the male audience and of a race that doesn't make anyone feel left out. It's not easy.

Not that I think there isn't a point here-- certainly these things deserve to be considered, as the issue of privilege is a touchy one (I think I just used that word in the same-sex romance thread... I have to be hitting my limit by now) but at some point trying to construct a character based primarily on minority profiling seems a bit futile to me. I don't doubt some amount of marketing went into the image you see-- they wanted a single recognizeable 'face' that a player could identify with-- but I also suspect that the largest part is simply that the artists wanted to create someone they thought was cool.

A femHawke would be nice to see, though, and I doubt there's any harm in asking for one. (p.10)

First thing, full props to a dev for diving right into this and other sensitive issues. As one poster put it:

I'd just like to say that I really appreciate how willing you are to comment on issues that are touchy, David, you're a beacon for transparency and communication in an industry that tends to be wary of both. (p.11)

Now that I've shown the whole thing and avoided taking words out of context, I want to highlight one part of this: I don't doubt some amount of marketing went into the image you see-- they wanted a single recognizeable 'face' that a player could identify with-- but I also suspect that the largest part is simply that the artists wanted to create someone they thought was cool. I feel as though the reasoning is flawed, for the same things I pointed out above.

The artists always 'create someone they think is cool' who a 'player can identify with', and that face has always, traditionally, been male.

Not only that, but any attempts to request or advocate for a few, paltry offerings (aka a few screenshots or pieces of concept art) are not met with the open-mindedness one would hope for. This is a pervasive problem in gaming today, and one thing that was quickly evidenced on the board was how quickly (male) gamers were to jump to accusations, and to act as if some sort of trespass or encroachment had occurred upon a territory which was somehow theirs. Here is one that jumped out at me:

Sensationalism, this is what this thread is all about. I can't really believe you're bothered by just a few pictures of a male warrior. (p.10)

I will quote my response with original emphasis (sorry for all the self-references!):

The heart of the issue is not that we are bothered by the pictures of the male warrior, nor that we are trying to encroach upon male representation. What bothers me, at least, is the omission, the lack of a female counterpart. It is the empty space which I find dissuading. We are not asking that the man on the advertising be replaced with a woman, but that he be joined by a woman. (p.10)

A forum mod responded:

I see what you mean, but it creates a more concrete image by having a single face of a game, rather than two halves. (p.10)

As you can probably tell, the conversation went in circles for a bit, and then devolved into a debate (and I use the term loosely) over feminism.

Now, of course many of the arguments used against will sound very familiar, including women being told not to ask so vehemently, and also asked why they weren't as angry over the lack of, say, mages in marketing materials, as you can play as a mage or a warrior but the marketing only shows warriors. One brilliant response to that one:

Mages aren't an underrepresented minority. No one is going to identify with them. There isn't an apostate sitting behind his computer feeling left out. (p.22)

Another complaint was that in a world based in a medieval-like fantasy setting, women were not as historically relevant. To which I would (and did) reply that the keyword is fantasy, and why is it stranger to be a dominant woman than to cast spells that light your enemies on fire? Why do we accept the existence of mages more easily than equality in our fantasy worlds?

Here are some more responses by posters. I admit I am mostly representing the pro-female marketing contingent, but TBH that is what I am interested in.

And, no matter how politely we bring the issue up, we're bound to get shouted down, condescendingly told it's not important and/or targeted by sexist comments. I see it happen all the time (not only with women's issues either, and not only on 'minor' issues). And then people wonder why we feel angry. (p.11)

I think this is part of why I'm so frustrated ... I've been looking at my posts earlier in the thread because apparently some people took offense to them, but I tried my absolute best to be polite and respectful and reasonable, if firm. It seems -- and I'm not making accusations here or pointing to one particular person -- that a lot of the times, the ugliness in these discussions tend to come from people annoyed that they're happening in the first place, thinking that it's a nonissue. (p.11)

We ran into the feminists are against men, etcetera arguments, comparing feminism to the swastika, stating feminism was sexist/outdated/what-have-you, and all hope was lost and the thread was later locked by a mod. But here is my response, for my own records. Feel free to skip ahead:

Okay, how best to put this without offending anyone. The ability to see feminism as outdated is a privilege, one that comes of never having been treated as an inferior due to your sex. (Both men and women can have this privilege, though obviously it is more common to men.) It is easy to stand in a position of relative privilege and scorn those who do not have that privilege because, well, you've never seen women treated as inferior and you've never treated a woman differently than a man, so sexual discrimination must not be widespread in the Western world.

This is a fallacy. And it results from a certain innocence, I believe, which we cannot fault you for... but simply try to educate you.

However, the reason people in this thread are getting angry is because some of us have dealt with sexism, at differing levels of severity, throughout most of our lives. And it hurts to see you disregard our experiences and our voices, because guess what? That's generally how it begins. (I am reminded of the Mass Effect council... 'Ah, yes, 'sexism'.... we have dismissed that claim.' ;)

For some of us, feminism is a very real and very important force for combatting the dismissals and insults that we have experienced. And yes, we are looking for equality, not dominance.

And in this case, we're looking for a few measly screencaps. And instead, some posters (not you specifically, poster, but looking back at this thread) have decided that no, this is cause not only to dismiss a polite request but also to begin bashing those fighting for equality throughout the world. (p.30)

I think you and I disagree on one thing in particular. You see feminism as a mutually exclusive vision, that cannot coexist with a general strive towards equality. This is incorrect. Feminism is a belief practiced by many people. Many of those people also believe in equal rights for racial minorities, GLBT individuals, the disabled, etcetera. The quest for universal equality is all-encompassing, and different people are free to take from it what they will. Feminism is the struggle for equality of the sexes. Had we lived in a woman-dominated world, it would be called Man-ism or something similar. However, the truth is that our world has been male dominated for centuries, and so those advocating for equality were seeking to gain the right to vote for women as men already had it. And in many countries world-wide, women still do not have this right, while there is not a single country where women may vote and men cannot. So feminism remains relevant. (p.31)

But to get back on topic. I later brought this up with an RL friend over Facebook chat, and here is what she had to say. Edited for grammar:

I'm a bit ambiguous about womens roles in games. I worry that they may go to far in their portrayal and stereotype women in general as opposed to the women in gaming ideal that already occurs. The occuring ideal is obnoxious - but livable and clearly antiquated- any new sterotype would be worse because it proves we haven't progressed at all.

To your GBLT point: how many games offer themes mature enough to actually bring up the topic without including it? I know in both Dragon Age and Fable II being bi or lesbian was an option- no one seemed to mind in Fable II. Does it then not come up because it is commonplace in the game or because they are avoiding the topic? I'm not entirely sure which it is. Many games are based off antiquity and goodness knows Rome had plenty of M/M going on; some of the most famous greek poetry is Sapho; Spartan men were notorious.

I don't think a screenshot of a woman or minority would hurt any, especially the female part. It is generally assumed that you will have the option to customize your characters appearance, but the ability to have a female character is much rarer.

I have a lot of questions, and I've tried to copy over all of the things that really stuck with me. I understand that I'm probably not being as coherent as I might have wished, but I'm confused and frustrated and I need some place to put my thoughts together. I agree, it's impossible to represent everyone in the marketing. We live in a world of infinite possibilities, and any programmer will tell you that some things cannot be computed. But I think it's important to try. Sometimes putting in the effort is equally important, and Bioware goes a long way towards putting in the effort.

However, it's not something that's ever over. It's a continual struggle towards representation, not just in this game but in every facet of some people's lives. When you're hitting a glass ceiling at work, or being called names in the street, you don't want to encounter that in your fantasy world, which is something of a safe space where you are the hero. So people get frustrated at not being represented because it's something they deal with on a daily basis. It's bigger than this, in a way, and so long as that doesn't get lost, as long as it gets considered, I think we're moving in the right direction.

edit august first: html fixes for readability.
animeshon: (d&d)

[personal profile] animeshon 2010-07-28 03:12 am (UTC)(link)
Hiya - followed over here from [community profile] girlgamers.

It's a fascinating point you've made, and not really one I pay too much attention to, to be honest. I have to admit to having been lucky where I haven't experienced any sexism, or if I have its gone completely over my head. I do however ONLY play female characters in games. I regularly play D&D with a bunch of guys (I am the only female) and I always play a female character with them. I have played one of each character type in DA, every single one female. I've also done the same with other RPGs like Neverwinter Nights and the MMO Guild Wars.

Now to marketing. It's interesting to note that the only game I have purchased in the last few years is Guild Wars. The marketing and cover art for the three Guild Wars games that I own all have strong female characters depicted. While I've played DA and Borderlands and enjoyed both. I didn't buy them but rather borrowed the games off male friends.

The same is true for books however. Give me a cover with a bad ass looking female with a sword or some other weapon and I will probably purchase it regardless of the description. I guess my subconcious wants to see more of these dominant females who can hold their own and are worthy of being heroes.
animeshon: (Default)

[personal profile] animeshon 2010-07-28 03:38 am (UTC)(link)
I think its almost more of a subconcious attraction to being represented. I mean when playing through a female character one can associate oneself with that character and that is the appeal for me. I first and foremost want to play games where I can pretend to be the sort of female warrior I want to be. It's quite telling however that in all my RPG (and I play most games that come out) I only have 5 male characters and 3 of those are from Borderlands where you don't get to choose sex. One of the others is my alternate "evil" character in Fable II, which I'm only playing because of the achievement points.
gb: (Default)

[personal profile] gb 2010-07-28 12:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Found this through girlgamers. Sorry if this comment is incoherent, I don't write about this sort of thing very often.

Background: I've played Dragon Age, only started ME1 and haven't got far, know a little about ME2 (mostly from videos of the alien romances, heh!). Not planning on buying DA2 mainly because I don't have the time for a RPG, but may change my mind. These games have been in my mind lately, having found out about the male!Shepard/Kaidan romance cut out of ME1 last night.

I suspect Bioware themselves are not to blame for this, but the dudes in marketing/publishing and EA. I feel loathe to blame in on 'the suits' (it's such a cliche!) but some of the trailers that came out for DA and ME2 really didn't seem like something the writers working on the actual games would come out with.

I don't know much about how Bioware works as a development studio or how closely they liaise with EA on marketing, but how much influence would this lead writer or the artists have, even if they agreed wholeheartedly that female Hawke should be included, if the sort of people who do spout nonsense like 'only guys play video games so we should only cater to males' have the final say?

More importantly, does the marketing/promotional staff themselves frequent these forums and are aware of these concerns?

And (and this is very important) unless everything I have ever heard about triple-A title game development is wrong, the artists do not draw stuff they think is cool, they are TOLD to draw something by someone in the upper echelons of the company (who may or may not be an artist) and this person keeps telling them to redraw it until they come up with something that this person thinks is cool, and this person have their own supervisors giving their thoughts, too. Who gave the thumbs-up on the design for male Hawke in the first place, and what are their thoughts on creating a similar female Hawke for such purposes? When we have an answer on this, the real reasons the DA2 developers are taking this stance may become clearer.

Lack of a female option has never deterred me from a game, but recently I've found myself getting more and more impatient at games that are... I wouldn't call it sexist (though they probably are). Games that make it blatantly obvious they weren't FOR me, I guess. (gawd, The Saboteur, wtf mate? but anyway)

So, I can handle the lack of trailers and the lack of representation on the game cover, but it bothers me that they won't even release screenshots. It's not even as if there's no reason other than to 'appease the feminists'--it'd be a worthy demonstration of improvements made to the graphics, animations and character creation. Unfortunately I'm not sure where I'd find sources to cite this now, but I've seen plenty of people who far, far prefer female!Shepard over male!Shepard for her fantastic voice acting; if the voice acting is as good this time around it'd be worth demonstrating that, too.

Also, they may have worked on the male Hawke first and only he is finished enough to start showing in early promotional material; it'd be annoying, but not surprising.

I'm hoping they'll rectify this later in development. If I have the energy, I may even sign up to the forums and give them my thoughts, because while I'm not a big Bioware fan, I might be if they showed they're paying attention to this stuff. So, thanks for your post on this issue.
norah_liath: Yet another ME2 Shepard avatar, with a scar showing clearly on her cheek,only one side of her face is showing (profile) (Default)

[personal profile] norah_liath 2010-07-28 01:19 pm (UTC)(link)
I play mostly female characters. I might play one or two males in DA, for example, opposed to my at least 9 female characters. Never saw the point of playing a male Shepard, since the characters are pretty much the same in either gender. I tend to stay away from RPG games (adventures and the like are just different) if they do not offer female player characters, except if they are just that good.
It doesn't go for just games either: when I look at my bookcase, a majority of them have female lead characters, or if they have a cast of main chars, several of them are female. Most of the cover art depicts females in ways that are not meant to market to men.

Yes, Bioware has been better about a lot of stuff like this than many other developers, that doesn't mean they're good enough. I appreciate what they've done so far but that doesn't give them a pass for the future, or the right not to be criticised on what they should improve. I never go to discuss anything remotely serious on the Bioware forums, because I think the place is a cesspool where I'm not willing to stick my head out. I usually send them suggestions or criticism through the e-mail form on the EA support site. They always tell me they have sent my mail to the appropriate Bioware department, which I hope is true. Recently it's been mostly criticism of their treatment of disabled characters in their games.

We're all constantly asked to identify with male characters in the (cover) art, the game, or both. Females depicted are usually NPCs. And well, I have to say I have no problem with identifying with a male character, even if it's not my first choice for a playthrough. What I wonder then though, is why they use the excuse of needing a figure in the art that people can identify with ("and the majority of our gamers are male!"). What, the boys can't identify with a female character? Why the **** not? They don't do anyone any credit here, none of their fans of any gender. They´re perfectly willing to ask quite a lot of people (minority here is still a sizable number of players) to identify with a character of a different gender than their own, but they won't ask it of any males, because it might cost them in sales? They're concerned maybe that men will think they can only play female characters? They don't seem to think it's a big deal when it seems like you can only play male characters. They don't trust that their game is good enough that people will want to play it even if they cannot play their own gender (or it seems that way from marketing)?

They really don't get how and why it would be so nice to finally see a female hero centered on cover art and marketing (that is not just there for the boobs and hotpants)? I realise sales are important but I have to admit I'm disappointed that they are more important than this.

norah_liath: Yet another ME2 Shepard avatar, with a scar showing clearly on her cheek,only one side of her face is showing (profile) (Default)

[personal profile] norah_liath 2010-07-28 05:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Earlier I already wrote about Joker, Sandal, various other DA characters.

This time I wrote them mainly about the DLC 'Overlord', and also made some notes about a few ME2 members of Shepard's team. I prefer to keep it to one subject per mail, though of course one subject can include several characters and/or situations.
x2xbandgeekx2x: (penguins!)

[personal profile] x2xbandgeekx2x 2010-07-29 02:45 am (UTC)(link)
Gah, I wish I had time to sit down and really think about this and try to come up with a thought out response, but I need to get back to my evil comp sci homework (online summer comp sci class? Incredibly bad plan). Just wanted to say thank you! I don't really play video games much at all, but this was a really interesting post, and it was great to be able to read and understand a discussion even when it's centered on a topic I don't know much about.
x2xbandgeekx2x: (Default)

[personal profile] x2xbandgeekx2x 2010-07-29 03:24 am (UTC)(link)
Ooooo! I'm considering minoring in computer science, but that depends on how it goes next semester in a proper class. This online C++ stuff is killing me, too much trying to read and teach myself, and we can't see what we got wrong on tests, and it's driving me mad. <- since my code is particularly messy and generally bad on this project, I can't really separate out the issue I'm having, but you can see my code there. I've got like, 20 minutes though, I gotta admit defeat soon. =P

[personal profile] miss_haitch 2010-07-29 08:11 am (UTC)(link)
Here via [community profile] girlgamers -- I just wanted to say thank you for diving into the fray! I know how demoralising it can be to encounter lots of negative reactions about representation, but it sounds like you persevered and got good results from the discussion.

For my part I only play Female Shepherd -- Jennifer Hale is a brilliant voice actor, and the male one just sounds robotic to me.

What made me sad when playing Dragon Age was the fact that Zevran, who in every other way is immensely confident and TMI about his sexuality, seemed almost apologetic about expressing his bisexuality. IIRC in the conversation dedicated to it he's all, "I like men, but I hope that isn't a problem/won't bother you". I just felt like it was the writers being coy about it/not wanting to offend homophobic people. And then there was no option to say to him "that's cool, I'm bisexual/gay myself".

Bioware are hands-down my favourite CRPG developer, and I love so much of what they do for characters and relationships -- it's just, they could do better.
gb: (Default)

[personal profile] gb 2010-07-29 03:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Thought you might be interested in this: I happened to buy issue 8 of Game Informer today which had a giant picture of male Hawke being A Man of Action on the cover, and in a sidebar on page 41 was 'Fun Facts about Dragon Age: Origins'. Here's one fact that flew out from the page at me:

'The grey warden used in all of the promo trailers was created by the senior product manager and looks just like him'

¬_¬ ?

Another one that may be pertinent: 'The first creatures in the engine were the Ogre and the Human Male with Medium Armour'. It'd be unfair to judge them based on what random objects they used to test the engine, but it might be evidence for the theory that they're working on male Hawke first.

The thing is, Game Informer 2's Dragon Age 2 feature makes the game sound really interesting (you don't have to pretend to be nice to party members any more to stop them leaving you! that alone is a wonderful change), and I do agree that generic male Hawke looks like a total badass. It'd just be nice if I could trust them not to be so half-assed with the content not aimed at the straight white male demographic.
x2xbandgeekx2x: (penguins!)

[personal profile] x2xbandgeekx2x 2010-07-29 11:26 pm (UTC)(link)
Haha yeah, don't worry about it. This one just was a mess. The counting to 100 thing was becuase we had to calculate some sort of exponential thing, it was supposed to be similar to just using exp(), except we had to calculate some sort of taylor series thing, that my science friend insists wasn't actually a Taylor series, but it was infinite, so we were just supposed to have it loop 100 times. *shrugs* It only vaguely makes sense in my head. And as for the exponentialvalue bit, probably because I'm only faintly aware of what exactly taking something as an argument means. ... I can read the book and it makes sense, but I don't actually absorb too much, and I'm hit or miss when it comes to the actual code... today I just magically finished two problems quite easily, and had to use different functions and I actually understood... this likely means that I'm due for another pitfall into confusion, becuase that's how I seem to operate in this class, but hey, the final's next Thursday and then I can move on with my life. lol

And I think the numbers were kinda huge to be dealing with them by hand on that problem, but I'll definitely keep that in mind next time I get stuck. Thanks!

kaz: "Kaz" written in cursive with a white quill that is dissolving into (badly drawn in Photoshop) butterflies. (Default)

[personal profile] kaz 2010-07-30 03:43 am (UTC)(link)
Here via metafandom delicious -

Have a slightly different background as I used to game as a teen, then stopped, and have recently considered starting on some of the newer games again. So I've never played any of the games you mentioned - bought Dragon Age but my computer won't run it - but I *have* played Planescape Torment, Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Neverwinter Nights and Morrowind as far as CRPGs go and therefore consider myself kind of invested in these things.

The only male character I've ever played is in PS:T, where you do not have a female option. I have NEVER made ANY male character for any RPG where I could choose a female one of the same class (ex I've played male chars in Diablo II, if you want to call that an RPG...). And, you know, chalk me up as someone who would highly likely not buy a game with customisable protagonists if it didn't feature a female option.

Are they going to lose any people if the marketing has female characters as well as male? Doubtful. But if they had no female characters in the marketing at all, they'd lose me. (At least until I found out that it did allow for female characters!)
sqbr: me cosplaying the bearded dwarf cheery longbottom, titled Expressing my femininity with an axe (femininity)

[personal profile] sqbr 2010-07-30 07:20 am (UTC)(link)
This is a great post! And (via people mentioning it in the comments) you introduced me to [community profile] girlgamers, so double yay :)

I totally agree that there is absolutely no reason not to include the odd screenshot of a female Hawke. Maybe a female mage Hawke, that way they can show off any new magical stuff.

I did like how the images that went with each origin in Origins were 50:50 male/female, but I don't know if they were released before the game, I've just seen them on the wiki.

Would you be ok with me posting this to [ profile] dragon_age?
summerskin: Dianna Agron (drowning in our summer skin)

came by way of metafandom

[personal profile] summerskin 2010-07-30 12:08 pm (UTC)(link)
I've only skimmed the comments to the post, so excuse any points that might just be repetitive or just anything that might have already been discussed ad nauseam.

I'm not a gamer, but I am in fandom, I do pay attention to popular culture and mainstream ideas, and I have a point of view. My comments will be more general because I think you've touched on certain issues that are not limited simply to gaming.

After reading your post, I felt frustrated. Not with the post itself, but with some of the things you quoted from the threads that people had mentioned. The thing that most angered me was the idea that using a female character in marketing was counter-productive somehow, wholly unnecessary, and unwanted (even when people said they wanted it).

Now, there are many things I could say here. I could go into a rant on self-entitlement and privilege and male-domination and female-camaraderie (and lack thereof), but that would be a long and not entirely coherent rant. Plus, I get twitchy and ever angrier just typing the words, so that won't work very well in the long run.

I'm going to focus on one aspect that struck me, and that is how it seemed that there was as much of a battle for the female character as there was for keeping those girly cooties off the manly videogame sort of battle. As a rational human being, if someone would ask me (politely) to include XYZ into a marketing campaign for a product ABC that featured XYZ, my answer would be a positive because it's not as if I am being asked to do open-heart surgery. ABC and XYZ are not strangers to each other.

However, at least one of the comments you quoted seemed to be almost offended to being asked to have the female character alongside the male one. Now this could be because of two reasons: (a) the belief that the game is wholly male and, while you cannot stop women from enjoying it, keeping them off the ads is appreciated, or (b) ignorance that a woman would even be interested in playing the game (a.k.a., why would you even want a female character because there are no actual females to play her, right?).

At least, that's how it sounds to my mind.

Why (b) is pretty bad and offensive because it brings forth the idea that only boys like video games and girls are happy to play with dolls, (a) is the one that really angers me and my bet for the reaction the arguments people were bring being disconsidered. It's as if there is the idea that a female audience is rising for the game, and it must be stopped. You can't stop it if you put a female on the cover, etc., so any attempt to "feminise" the game needs to be nipped in the bud.

This, I think, goes back to the idea that some things are "naturally" manly and others are "girly". Traditional ideas of what makes a girl a girl don't intersect with video games, and this goes to the point where the very idea disturbs some folk.

This idea that maybe things are changing, that there is a paradigm shift occurring as we speak, and the comfortable things that used to make sense suddenly won't anymore--that's scary, and some people can't handle it. For us, having a female character on the ads is a step forward, lending visibility to a "minority" and attracting more players. To someone who wants to pretending things are as they were ten, twenty, fifty years ago, it can be terrifying.

Hopefully, my frustration and twitchiness didn't show much, and I made my point clear. As I said, I could talk about many things in this comment, but it's obviously a sensitive topic for me and ranting shall be reserved for my own journal. :)
kaz: "Kaz" written in cursive with a white quill that is dissolving into (badly drawn in Photoshop) butterflies. (Default)

[personal profile] kaz 2010-07-30 05:47 pm (UTC)(link)
stuttering Orzammar shopkeeper I dare ask? *is a stutterer, so.* I remember BG1 had Khalid, who was cool apart from the bit where he was depicted as incredibly cowardly. And then he died.
sqbr: Dagna from Dragon Age reaching for a book (dagna)

[personal profile] sqbr 2010-07-31 01:47 pm (UTC)(link)
That's true, the fact that you had lots of different options was a major part of the game.

Have posted the link here.

Page 1 of 5

<< [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] >>