An Ode to Video Games – Well, Maybe Not an *Ode*

Commodore 64Oh, yes. My commodore 64. Circa 1989 you would have found me hunched over my C64 coding early video games and saving them on to a cassette tape. I loved video games from the beginning and I still own a working version of every console I ever played on. And I’m not picky either. I’ve played everything from Civ to Rainbow Six to Phoenix Wright.

But all is not right in video game land. Developers struggle to incorporate any diversity, to find compelling stories that don’t use tired tropes, and IMO to understand what it is that people enjoyable about gaming. A lot of these issues came up in Captain Awkward’s fascinating post on casting in the film industry where commentor Travis drew some interesting connections between how the film industry fucks up and how the video game industry fucks up.

In particular he noted a shifting trend:

Some publishers…are “sensing” a “audience shift”—more and more women and non-white PoC are playing video games (like they always have been, natch) and are considering catering to those audiences more.

All of which would be awesome, except *historically* appealing to women in the video game industry has taken the form of making things *pink* or *social*. Which, sure, I’ve rocked the pink xbox controller, but pink is not the way to my gaming dollars. Instead, I love games that are more flexible in gender presentation like Oblivion. I love games that are flexible in romantic interest like Fable. I hate games where the gender of the character is fixed (Call of Duty) or where they flub the gendered pronouns (Mass Effect)*. The reality is that women – *waives* – like a variety of different types of video games and a variety of different color game controllers.

Travis goes on to make an important observation:

Others [publishers] are a little higher-minded, and are beginning to see that video games aren’t just for people wanting to test their skills or fulfill some kind of fantasy—they’re for people who want to experience stories and narratives in a whole new way.

Which, first, is definitely true. But still I have concerns. Mainly, because a good number of women like playing video games for a whole host of reasons. And one of the things I’ve heard from developers is that women play RPGs, cooperative games, or social games and we don’t like shooters or competitive games. Fuck that noise. My KDR was on my resume when I was looking for a job. I’m writing this post between rounds of Team Deathmatch.

Female gamers are not a monolith and as publishers and developers begin to react to these demographic shifts I hope they will listen to the voices of actual women rather than relying on tired tropes about our likes and dislikes.

So my question to you dear gaming commentors is (1) what do love and love to hate about video games; and (2) why do you play? To the non-gamers among us, why the fuck not? Or said differently what would make you spend your entertainment dollars on a video game?

*Yeah, I’m looking at you Mass Effect…how could you be in development for so freaking long and still have male pronouns with female characters. Boooooo.

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134 Responses

  1. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley August 24, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    Vis a vis Mass Effect, how often did you run into misgendered pronouns? Just curious as I have played through both games extensively and cannot recall coming across that issue but maybe I missed it *shrugs*

  2. adhdphd
    adhdphd August 24, 2011 at 10:02 pm |

    My favorite games actually involve huge amounts of destruction. Like Katamari, Smash Brothers, Elebits. Fast paced, and being able to break things is a plus. I also love Bayonetta, because it’s so much fun to play a female game character with so much personality — and she kicks a ton of butt — even though the sexuality is way over the top. I actually know way more women than men who enjoy that game.

    PS: On youtube, you can find a video of the Male Shepard and Kaiden love scene that was cut from the original Mass Effect game (because lesbians in space are ok, but gays aren’t?). Apparently it was all left on the disc, except when Shepard takes his shirt off he suddenly is 50 pounds slimmer and has breasts…

  3. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley August 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm |

    What I really hate is the lack of playable female characters in sandbox games like GTA, only games that has one is Saints Row 2. Need more female protags!

  4. Brandon
    Brandon August 24, 2011 at 10:06 pm |

    While I agree with you, I think making this progress will be difficult.

    1) While there are women FPS players, the majority of them are still men. There is also the realism aspect of shooters and war games…women aren’t on the front lines. A lot of FPS’s revolve around WW2 and there was not a battalion of women storming Normandy or Fighting the Japanese on Guadalcanal. Men also like to imagine themselves in those shooting roles…so it makes that harder when the lead is a woman. On the other hand games like Left 4 Dead would do just fine with a female lead since realism is basically out the window (unless we had a zombie attack that I didn’t get the memo)

    2) Women are coming into the video game industry, which is a good thing. But the advances are more towards casual games (e.g Angry Birds) then games you need to spend hours and days on (Fable).

    3) The more women that enter the video game scene, the more developers will be forced to make games aimed at women. Once women become a sizable (can’t ignore) video game consumer, then companies will lose money by not giving women what they want.

  5. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley August 24, 2011 at 10:26 pm |

    Kristen J: There are a couple of scenerios in ME2 where they refer to you as “he”.Its kind of jarring and most importantly I think it shows that they didn’t develop the female character concurrently.Male was still the default.

    Probably the case given that there is a default John Shepherd with a default backstory and everything. There are actually introducing a default female
    Shepherd for ME3 which will be part of the advertising campaign as well as introducing even more variant sexualities. It seems rather harsh to dismiss the MAss Effect series which does a lot of things to include more then just the male white straight gamer then the majority of the rest of the games out there due to what are basically a couple of programming glitches.

  6. Brandon
    Brandon August 24, 2011 at 10:31 pm |

    1) The largest male demographic of video games is 16-34 and every year it increases since those gamers are getting older. Well above the “babysitter age”.

    2) A direct quote from the article you posted:
    “While women showed the strongest numbers in “casual” game areas, young men still dominated in the more “hardcore” games like the latest Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 titles.”

    Your cited article also doesn’t mention an increase of female FPS players. But it does say that women are the biggest players when it comes to card games and WoW-like games.

    Just like men label the Wii as a kiddy toy, lots of male gamers don’t really count people playing solitaire as a “gamer”. And I see the article as slightly disingenuous to count hardcore gamer to that of a grandma that plays solitaire every once and a while…it’s apples and oranges.

    By and large, games like Call of Duty and Gears of War are well within the “male dominated” range. Thus developers are worried to change the formula since it might alienate the game’s original audience. Why would they change a winning money maker?

  7. adhdphd
    adhdphd August 24, 2011 at 10:35 pm |

    Brandon:
    3) The more women that enter the video game scene, the more developers will be forced to make games aimed at women. Once women become a sizable (can’t ignore) video game consumer, then companies will lose money by not giving women what they want.

    Unfortunately I believe this will mostly lead to more cheap games targeted towards women, while the big-budget titles will not change. I don’t think the movie “Bridesmaids” happened because a bunch of men suddenly realized that women like to watch movies.

  8. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley August 24, 2011 at 10:43 pm |

    Kristen J: See, I don’t think using the male character as the default is a programming glitch.I think its systematic.

    With that I agree. But I still find it harsh to dismiss the entire series on that basis alone and lumping it in with games like CoD and their ilk

  9. Nimue
    Nimue August 24, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    I like Oblivion and Morrowind because mostly what you said above, for the open-ended storyline and (in Oblivion) the way it seems like with all the various races, you can make a character look exactly like you (or like a giant lizard. Whatevs.) Also, the map for both those games are BIG. I don’t like games where there isn’t much to explore. I also play a mud, which I like because it’s completely open-ended with regards to race, size, and gender and requires lots of imagination in creating the storyline.

  10. XtinaS
    XtinaS August 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm |

    Circa 1989 you would have found me hunched over my C64 coding early video games and saving them on to a cassette tape.

    I think it’s a sign of getting old that my response in my head to this was that I had a trash-80, that didn’t save anything I typed — so I could enter in all the code for a variety of games (two Micro-Computing books of mine, alas), but lord help me if I turned off the computer.

    Uphill!  Both ways!!1

    Anyways.  What I love about videogames depends:

    – Some days, what I love is grinding, and winning battles, and getting demonstratively better at something.  (There’s a Cracked article about this somewhere…)

    – Other days, I want a frustration release.

    Alllso, I love documenting, so games where I have to grind for something make me especially happy.  It’s not a proper game if I don’t have two walkthroughs and three wiki pages open.

  11. Dingo
    Dingo August 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm |

    Probably a stupid question, but have any of you had a chance to play Portal? I’m just a bit surprised it hasn’t been mentioned yet. My first time playing that game the first glimpse I got of who I was playing as blew my mind. Then I got sad that I found it so surprising.

  12. Darque
    Darque August 24, 2011 at 11:02 pm |

    I’ve played all sorts of games, MMOs, FPS’, RTS’, and RPGs. I find the thing that keeps me the most engaged is both the social aspect of multiplayer gaming (competing and cooperating with friends), as well as the excitement that comes from being really good at any one game.

    I remember that during my time playing WoW, one of the activities that my friends and I engaged in a lot was open-world pvp combat (aka, ganking). There was a real rush that came from taking out a squad of enemy players – or defending a lower level allied player from a higher level aggressor. There was also the satisfaction that came from kitting out one’s own player character, and customizing them to your every whim.

    I’ve found that having this freedom of customization or choice is important for me in games. For example, in the Call of Duty series (especially MW2, which I think is superior to black ops), I’ve always enjoyed tweaking my weapon choice and support items meticulously and carefully customizing the appearance of my character.

    This choice manifests itself in weird ways in certain games. Starcraft II, for example, doesn’t allow the player to customize any kind of avatar. However, as an RTS, I feel like the plethora of strategies allow players to pick and choose their playstyles very well. There’s a reason that many players are known for playing a specific faction – and within that, for having a very specific style of play. I haven’t watched many replays lately, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that WhiteRA is still heavily into Protoss cheese.

    The final thing though – the best thing, is immersion. Demon’s souls, a third person action game, literally gave me chills as I explored the world and ran into the ghosts of other dead players. The creepiest and coolest thing that I still remember from that game was one level where you had to cross the ramparts of an abandoned fortress. As I walked over some charred corpses on the ruined castle wall, I thought “Man, that’s cool! Look at these graphics. Look at this amazing art and how authentic those bodies look!”. I walked a few steps further and then was unceremoniously roasted by a dragon, which swooped down from overhead. The only thought I was left with then was, “Well shit, I guess those bodies were more than just set-piece decoration then. Their vacant stares were trying to warn me.”

    So, yes, videogames are awesome.

  13. adhdphd
    adhdphd August 24, 2011 at 11:11 pm |

    Brandon:
    A lot of FPS’s revolve around WW2 and there was not a battalion of women storming Normandy or Fighting the Japanese on Guadalcanal.

    But there was a more significant number of Soviet women fighting on the Eastern Front, especially as snipers and partisans. Also, the “Long Haired Warriors” of Vietnam… I’m not saying it’s 50-50, just that it depends if you’re only telling the American side of the story.

  14. rae
    rae August 24, 2011 at 11:14 pm |

    I used to play Mario and Tetris on Nintendo; Spiro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot Warped on the Playstation and PS2 (I tried to play Kingdom Hearts and various Final Fantasies but always got annoyed and/or bored despite the cool stories and pretty graphics); Pokemon (oh how I loved the shit out of the various versions…particularly for the gameboy); and the Sims, a Civ knock-off which dealt only with ancient Egypt, and Farmville (don’t judge me!) on the computer.

    Now I don’t play any games at all, mostly because I don’t have any money or time. Although my boyfriend, who has even less time, still plays Xbox to unwind after a marathon of reading for his PhD…so I’m not entirely sure that “time and money” is the whole story. Maybe I partially thought I should “grow up” and that meant I should stop playing video games. I do think it would require time and money to do more than just dig out my old games when I’m visiting my parents, though. I’m not sure what it would take for me to start playing games again…probably if someone gave me a Wii I would start playing again because, 3D Mario! How can I resist!

  15. rae
    rae August 24, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

    Oh yeah, while women are obviously not a monolith and I bet plenty of women would play first person shooters, I am generally averse to playing them. I suppose I am mostly creeped out by the realistic violence and the idea of playing the role of a member of the US military, so if the violence was sufficiently cartoonish or maybe if it was about engaging in armed rebellion against capitalism and patriarchy (one of my few actual violent fantasies) I might play it.

  16. Heather
    Heather August 24, 2011 at 11:26 pm |

    I myself love all types of video games from shooters to full-on WoW addiction (arena ladders and hardcore raid-leading alike). I think my only pure requirement is that it is a good game with real depth and insight and this is achievable even in simple arcade games (cause we all still go back to those favorite for a reason – they were lovable). I have been entertained even by otherwise offensive games, damnit if I didn’t hear my heart break when I played the new Mortal Kombat and remembered that I can’t afford to be a console gamer at this point in time – even with the continued ridiculous costumes, THIS GAME IS FUN and well-made. If I had to choose an all-time favorite it will always be the Elder Scrolls series for the seriously immersive beauty of it. A game to get lost in and have such wicked antics whenever you fancy.

    To the point now, I care so much about the potential for games to embrace women. In fact I still someday dream of working as a concept artist to create female characters that first of all, can be the main character, and secondly embody something heroic and powerful. Girl gamers are about fed up with the short end of the stick every time. And seriously boohoo about fucking shooters: about realism not having women on the front line – maybe society will have to catch up to the video game first if we can start imagining such wild and crazy existences! Bottom line: more girls are becoming interested in games, more people are becoming interested in games, and EVERYONE wants to experience those epic wins for themselves, (love you Jane McGonigal) and FEEL LIKE A BADASS. We’re waiting developers. We’re waiting.

    p.s. I am super hyped right now because I am totally going to GeekGirlCon and I can’t wait for all the awesome that it will be.

  17. z
    z August 24, 2011 at 11:32 pm |

    Kristen J: Well, I guess I expected more from them.The games were in development for so long and touted as “progressive” and then *wham* the female character is and add on.

    It’s not really an add on, given that you can create a female Shepard in ME1 and ME2, and who is fully voiced, amongst other things…

  18. Iany
    Iany August 24, 2011 at 11:40 pm |

    Oh thank you, thank you! I have thoroughly had it with the video game industry and every game I play having female characters I can’t relate to!

    I hate: All the women being murdered to further the plot (make up with girlfriend, throw girlfriend off building, screw you infamous). All the women being characterised as sultry vixens unless they are the woman looking after your daughter, your daughter, or whacky throwaway npc’s (dead rising 2, a recent purchase).

    I love: Bayonetta, which served as post-catholicism therapy for me. An entire game about a woman destroying the patriarchy through the powers of friendship, hair and time travel; bliss. Basically, I like good character and visual design (like Psychonauts) and a diverse cast (also Psychonauts). I like platform puzzles and deep stories, silly stories, engaging stories….

    I am one of the people who likes to play for story, I won’t play a game without a half way decent narrative because I get bored (I include Flower as a good example of this, no dialogue but a great story). But I have found myself playing games that are fun to play and lacking in the story department (Infamous and Infamous 2 stick to mind, particularly with Infamous 2 rationalising that the deaths of thousands of foreign people was ‘worth it’ in the good ending). I’ve been trying to get into shooters but it’s difficult, since most of them are about manly men being manly but not in a gay way. I like the games that give you choices in that regard but they tend to be at the expense of a well defined, central character. Also, I suck at twitch aiming….

    I hate duke nukem.

  19. Iany
    Iany August 24, 2011 at 11:46 pm |

    Brandon:

    Your cited article also doesn’t mention an increase of female FPS players. But it does say that women are the biggest players when it comes to card games and WoW-like games.

    I would play FPS and online games if it weren’t for the unfriendly servers, or if they wrote a story that appealed to me.

    Other people I know are able to handle the sexism on game servers but I’m not a great player yet and find it difficult to begin with. If I were included in the target audience, you bet your ass I’d play.

    Women won’t play until there’s incentive, once there is the numbers will soar.

  20. Tony
    Tony August 24, 2011 at 11:48 pm |

    My gaming history tends to run very old school and PC gaming. I played FPS from the very beginning, Wolfenstein 3D, Blake Stone Aliens of Gold, Duke Nukem, Doom and Quake, but after that I got bored, and it was never my favorite genre.

    I very much preferred RPGs and strategy games such as Civilization, Colonization, Railroad Tycoon, Sim City, Dune, Command & Conquer, Red Alert, Diablo, Diablo II, Starcraft, The Realm, King’s Quest, the Laura Bow series, Heroes and Might and Magic, and EverQuest. Out of those last 15 games, 1 has a default male (King’s Quest), 1 has a default female (Laura Bow) and the other 13 either have no personal character or allow you to choose between male and female and often also the other physical traits of the player. Playing the female monarch in Civilization, the Rogue or later Assassin/Amazon in Diablo, Laura Bow or a female hero in Heroes was never an issue as far as identification with the character went. So I’m not totally feeling that WWII FPS have to have female characters, if you’re not playing the Soviets, because I feel that were I a woman I wouldn’t have problem identifying as the male character in the context of the fantasy. But of course I can’t know of certain. All I know is the Colonel’s Bequest (go 1989!) and the Dagger of Amon Ra were some of my fondest “gaming” experiences from childhood along with King’s Quest, both created by the wonderful Roberta Williams.

  21. konkonsn
    konkonsn August 24, 2011 at 11:54 pm |

    Brandon:
    Just like men label the Wii as a kiddy toy, lots of male gamers don’t really count people playing solitaire as a “gamer”. And I see the article as slightly disingenuous to count hardcore gamer to that of a grandma that plays solitaire every once and a while…it’s apples and oranges.

    Not only men label the Wii as a kiddy toy. Not ALL men think of it as that, either. I feel like you’re using ‘men’ interchangeably with ‘hardcore gamer,’ which assumes women aren’t hardcore gamers. And the Wii has its appeal to hardcore gamers through some of the more traditional games (Mario games and Donkey Kong).

    I’m not sure what your definition of hardcore includes, but if it doesn’t count MMOs like WoW, then I think you need to reconsider who’s comparing apples to oranges.

    Also, my 24-year-old sister plays solitaire, so I think its disingenuous and ageist of you to make that grandma comment.

    By and large, games like Call of Duty and Gears of War are well within the “male dominated” range. Thus developers are worried to change the formula since it might alienate the game’s original audience. Why would they change a winning money maker?

    I hate this argument. Young men couldn’t possibly cope with the idea of playing someone who is not exactly like them even though PoC, women, QUILTBAG persons, and so on can? I’m not seeing where Chell’s identity hurt Portal sales. My male friends loved ‘Splosion Man and didn’t throw a fit when Ms. ‘Splosion Man was the sequel.

  22. konkonsn
    konkonsn August 25, 2011 at 12:06 am |

    I grew up with a SNES, and I do enjoy a good platform/adventure game for de-stressing. These include Yoshi Island games and the Jax and Daxter series (though these can cause stress when it comes to timed objectives. I HATE timed objectives and racing mini games).

    I’m a big RPG and JRPG fan. I still remember playing FF9 for the first time and going, “What? Video games can be like this?!” I sucked hard at it because I didn’t understand the mechanics at all (all I had played before that were adventure games), but I’ve been replaying it and many of the other FF games lately.

    My favorite female character in a game has to be Ammy from Okami, though, because she’s barely gendered. She’s female, but the game creator basically went with “dog” as the primary character component. So you get a female character who is lazy, hot-headed, and INCLUDED in a lot of slap-stick comedy because, you know, it’s ok for women to accidentally fall down a trap and land hard on their asses. Also, she seems pansexual; she’s always blushing or getting revved up around sexy women, but there might just be something between her and Wakka.

  23. Heather
    Heather August 25, 2011 at 12:10 am |

    Tony:
    So I’m not totally feeling that WWII FPS have to have female characters, if you’re not playing the Soviets, because I feel that were I a woman I wouldn’t have problem identifying as the male character in the context of the fantasy. But of course I can’t know of certain.

    But the issue is that largely games have less female character options, if they have any. Your experience is one that most games represent a male character, akin to your gender identity, and every now and then you don’t mind playing a game as a girl character if you have to. While that is great, the experience from a female perspective is one where most of the time you’re forced to play a male character which you don’t necessarily identify with easily and every now and then when you get to play as a woman and especially one that is actually on par with male characters and not ridiculously sexualized, it makes the experience so much more exciting . Isn’t it all about taking that journey with the character? Quite honestly I can’t think of too many modern female heroes in video games that I love. There are tons of these examples in comic books but why can’t I remember an awesome and empowering experience as a kick ass lady in a game? I know there are some, but so many are problematic and half-assed. Why did Assassin’s Creed developers have to dangle that carrot about a possible female lead? When these disparities can start to even out, maybe we can stop having this discussion.

  24. Tony
    Tony August 25, 2011 at 12:45 am |

    Tomb Raider comes to mind as well, but that one just illustrates the problematic sexualization of the character, as enabled in that case by the graphics reaching a certain level.

    Heather, I get what you are saying. Maybe I was wrong. It’s true too that many of those classic strategy games that don’t identify the player’s gender identification/ethnicity aren’t truly neutral. The SVC in Starcraft says “yes sir.” We can’t really imagine the railroad “tycoon” as a woman, a good example of a nightmare would be to subject ‘Colonization’ to a social justice critique, and so on.

  25. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos August 25, 2011 at 1:13 am |

    (casts Demoralizing Mmmrrrggglll)

    I get rather annoyed at the whole casual/serious game distinction for a couple of reasons:

    1) for most of human history, games with a small number of rules that can be played in a few hours have been dominant. We’re talking the big guys here: chess, shogi, go, backgammon, draughts, dominoes, and with the development of printing, card games. We can track the diffusion of chess across central Asia and Europe by the sermons and laws passed controlling it. And it’s possible that Isabella of Castile changed the rules of the game by commissioning the first illuminated book of modern chess theory that included a highly mobile queen. These are the games that have had professional leagues, cultural superstars, and massive libraries of theory. Plot-heavy games that require more than a dozen hours to complete are something of a historical anomaly.

    2) Handheld devices are the fastest growing consumer electronics market in industrialized countries. They’re already dominant in developing nations due to the lower cost of building wireless infrastructure. By the end of this decade, ubiquitous low-power computing devices will have more eyes and more time than the traditional PC or dedicated console.

    3) The primary people promoting the serious/casual divide has been the highly dubious enterprise of “games journalism.” You’re looking at a payola machine looking to upsell the most expensive games and systems while directing eyeballs to gender-focused advertising.

    4) Anyone who thinks that women playing card or board games are “casual” about it never played with my mother, grandmother, or nieces.

  26. Jadey
    Jadey August 25, 2011 at 1:29 am |

    Yeah, I enjoy a lot of so-called “casual” games for the de-stressing aspect, but I also enjoy more hardcore games (computer only – growing up my parents never cottoned to the idea of buying me and my sister a console system and I don’t own a TV now). The problem I find is that so many of the games have a strong multi-player element to them, and I really, really, really dislike the ethos of the online multi-player realms I’ve tried out. Even when I’m trying to play with my actual real-life friends, they suddenly all begin behaving like douchebags, and a lot of it seems to be this unpleasant, overly macho, hazing/frat-boy kind of culture (although I know women who engage in this too). Online gaming culture is unappealing to me, so my gaming is very solitary – I like games, but I don’t always like other gamers.

    Ah well.

    *goes back to grinding her way through Diablo II as the ultimate in work de-stressing*

  27. Travis
    Travis August 25, 2011 at 2:19 am |

    Salvation, I think, will come from the indies.

    There was a (refreshingly) big stink made some time ago about Activision having a policy against female heroes, and in fact, against any feature or mechanic that hadn’t appeared in one of that year’s top five best-selling games. But Activision has both the luxury and burden of using Metrics Based Design–they have an army of researchers, marketers, consultants, and other professionals who’s job is to make sure Activision makes as much money as it predicted to its board of directors. Every decision has to be backed up by historical and market data to ensure a laser-light focus on historically profitable demographics–the very definition of self-fulfilling prophecy.

    But indie developers–who make, market and distribute their games without the support of a publisher, usually through the Internet or some open platform–don’t have the scratch for research departments and “ground teams”. All they can do is make the best game they can, get it to the widest possible audience and hope for the best. They’ll find the ways to appeal to heretofore neglected user demographics through their game mechanics and story, rather than marketing (which they can’t afford).

    If the best occurs–your game becomes the next Minecraft–it’s because people who love games like yours found it, played it, adored it and told their friends. This self-selecting group is going to cut across all demographic lines, consisting not only of genre fans or early supporters, but fans of good independent games.

    Indie development is booming like crazy, and big publishers are starting to consider how to bring the indies into the fold. Watching their forums and convention tables, there is no way they won’t notice the number of non-white, non-male, non-straight fans who keep showing up. They might soldier on with “this is how we do things”, but all it takes is one or two ambitious executives looking for a way to depose their bosses with promises of bigger profits.

    The big guys will learn to craft marketing messages that don’t exclude one (or three) demographic(s) while targeting another (HEY, EA!) when they see the power of marketing that excludes nobody (because indies don’t have the resources for it).

    It might seem optimistic, but really it just seems like the way market forces are aligning–indies can’t alienate customers or they’ll starve; biggies can’t alienate customers or they’ll become obsolete.

  28. shfree
    shfree August 25, 2011 at 2:19 am |

    I probably would play FPS if my brain could handle the first person perspective, but it simply can’t. I tried to play Morrowind and Oblivion, I desperately, DESPERATELY, wanted to play those games, but I just can’t play any game where I can’t scroll the camera out and behind my character, because I get splitting headaches if I play for anything longer than fifteen minutes at a shot. I need to be able to see my back and it needs to be a little ways away if I’m not going to need to have a lie down. (I have Portal 2 for Playstation 3 even though the controls are hard to manage, because it’s WAAAAY across the room, and nothing is quick-trigger life or death.)

    So mostly I play RPGs, ideally multiplayer. Currently I play NWN, original flavor, on persistent worlds. (I just didn’t care for NWN 2, even though I knew a developer) I used to play in a DM’ed campaign a number of years back, and that was awesome, but I haven’t found my way back into anything new, what with an inconsistent schedule. For single player it’s DragonAge 1 and 2, and I do find that slaughtering my way through hordes of darkspawn really does take the edge off of a rough day.

    But really, I do wish there were more games that allowed for more saves, or camera angles. Because I’ve noticed throughout the years, as graphics have gotten better, it has been considered to be a selling point for hyper-realism, and that is what makes it worse for me. I was really looking forward to playing Myst 3, but couldn’t because of the full 360 degree camera, and how it swung about. If I could have just clicked and have it moved slower, like Myst 2, it would have been AWESOME, but the bells and whistles made the game completely unplayable for me. So I worry that as games improve graphically, they will go in directions that I can’t, and some of the more awesome shit is going to be locked out from me because of my twitchy brain.

    Also, for non-gamers? Bioware, the makers of DragonAge, includes same sex romances in those games. Both female-female, AND male-male. I have not played Mass Effect because I cannot, and I’m not saying that they haven’t done frustrating things, but I just have to wave my little “go Bioware!” flag a little, as they have strongly and firmly stood behind this particular policy.

    And lastly, even if I only played solitaire on my Wii, I would still be a gamer. I don’t need some dude down at Gamers to give me gamer cred.

  29. Laika
    Laika August 25, 2011 at 2:27 am |

    I love Legend of Zelda, and I could fangirl all day about how she’s finally gonna get to be a real character after 20+ years, but I’d get into timeline theory and then everyone would be bored.

    Other than that, I play a lot of Minecraft (first-person legos, basically). Weirdly enough, it’s the game I get the most pushback and disbelief on from random ‘bros’. For such an un-hyper-masculinized game (though the default avatar is, sadly, male) it has a bizarre insistence among the fanbase and beyond that NO GIRLS EVER PLAY. idgi. Has anyone else seen this, for MC or other games? Or is it just a cooties thing that crops up in any online fanbase?

  30. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley August 25, 2011 at 3:06 am |

    Kristen J: Well, I guess I expected more from them.The games were in development for so long and touted as “progressive” and then *wham* the female character is and add on.

    Oh for god sakes it was a couple of glitches, the entire game has a default Shepherd, with a default backstory and everything in it so that people who didn’t want to play with the character creation could play the game still. Yes it sucks that there are pronoun glitches but the game is actually rather progressive, for a video game. I understand you being disappointed that they didn’t do better (I am too, though I’ve never encountered these glitches so *shrugs*) but you seem to be writing the entire series off on that basis and I have to ask what really that achieves. It’s completely unfair to put it in the same category as CoD (though why you focus on a lack of selectable gender in that game, rather then say a complete lack of women period I’m not sure) is disingenuous

  31. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley August 25, 2011 at 3:27 am |

    I just think hating Mass Effect because of that tiny issue is harsh. To extrapolate think back to the #mooreandme campaign, that was never about hating Micheal Moore it was about reaching out to him to see our point of view. How effective would it have been if everyone in response to that one incident (which was a hell of a lot more egregious then a few glitches, and they are glitches, the female shepherd was a feature not an add-on) just said fuck Micheal Moore, I hate him and nothing else.

    Sorry if I seem passionate about this, I just find the Mass Effect series to be probably one of the greatest video game series, which a)allows for variant race b)variant gender and now soon c) a vast variance of sexual orientations dismissed as something to hate because of a few glitches (and while yes the male default is systemic, the fact remains that the game is designed to allow you to be female, if it glitched and misgendered once or twice (which gain I’d like to say I never experienced and I played the shit out of that game) it’s unfortunate but hating the entire series based on that is honestly ridiculous, especially since if you wanted to hate a game for having default male protags you’re going to have to hate a ton of games)

  32. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley August 25, 2011 at 3:32 am |

    and I am sorry for so many responses in a row but I don’t know I just feel that in an article about the lack of women in games to single out Mass Effect in a negative list is just baffling given the medium we are discussing.

  33. unitled
    unitled August 25, 2011 at 4:05 am |

    Duke Nukem was supposedly an attempt to satirise chauvinistic and misogynistic meat-headed video game characters. It ended up being simply chauvinistic, misogynistic and meat-headed.

    It could have been a brilliant opportunity to deal with how the big-budget ‘Hollywood’ side of the industry treat the opposite sex (imagine, for instance, a level told from the point of view of someone being objectified by The Duke himself, something which might have given the target audience of vigorously heterosexual 12 year olds slight pause), but the developers completely failed to deliver anything in the way of social commentary.

    Even Lara Croft who, despite being portrayed as sexualised in ever game she’s been in, is now no longer an independent woman. She used to head off for Incan ruins and lost Tibetan cities by herself, now she has a man whispering in her ear, telling her where to go next.

    I love video games, I love them with a passion, but sometimes the knuckle-dragging, macho masculinity displayed makes me sick.

    Incidentally, I think the relatively small flaw you mentioned in Mass Effect was simply an oversight; I realise as a female playing it this will take on a greater significance, but to me the overt and deliberate pandering to young white men in many other games is a much more worthy target of contempt. Bioware generally allow players to select from a variety of genders, races, and sexualities, and the fact that this is something rare in games is a great shame (I can think of a bare handful of videogames where the preset protagonist is openly gay, for instance).

    Plus, as everyone who has played the game can tell you, the female Sheppard had by far the better voice over artist!

  34. Indiksi News » Blog Archive » An Ode to Video Games – Well, Maybe Not an *Ode* — Feministe

    [...] the original post here: An Ode to Video Games – Well, Maybe Not an *Ode* — Feministe [...]

  35. Heather
    Heather August 25, 2011 at 5:07 am |

    I love playing video games, especially RPG. I’ve beaten Elder Scroll: Oblivion many times. I am on Fallout 3 and awaiting Skyrim. I like the Fable series but you can only do so much until your ‘fabled-out.’ First-person shooter games are my favorite, too. I digged Dragon Age 2. Soul Caliber 4 is pretty good, but not as gory as Mortal Kombat. Yea, I’ve played a few games here and there, lol.

  36. rkel038
    rkel038 August 25, 2011 at 5:56 am |

    My sister actually used to play in a all-female oceanic CSS clan back in the day… I think they called themselves grrrl. There were definitely a few girls out there, but for the most part they were few and far between. I distinctly remember in the net cafe scene there were very, very few women who got involved. I’ve no doubt the atmosphere of those places was highly hostile, even if I didn’t see it at that point.

    I wonder whether the games industry will evolve to cater to women more – there is Zynga for more casual, facebook style games but those are not regarded as legitimate games by most ‘gamers’ these days, one only needs to look at a gaming forum to see that. But the big publishing houses are notorious for doing literally anything that will make them money, it’s no suprise considering how the people who run them have little to no experience of games themselves and have done everything they can to make gaming a more rigid and corporate controlled hobby in the past decade.

    I honestly have seen only token efforts to make games more accessible to women. No matter what a few anecodotal accounts say, the ‘mainstream’ gaming scene is incredibly heavily dominated by men. Geography also has an effect on gender in terms of involvement. Most of my American friends know of women who play games, albeit they are uncommon to most of them. Where I live, and most of my friends are reasonably progressive and well-educated, adventurous sorts and only one woman has any experience, and only in very limited manner (though she’s incredibly talanted, almost savant level at her games of choice, and I’ve seen some shit…).

    I would love to see gaming become a more open and welcoming hobby. I honestly feel that the continual pandering to the tastes of chauvinists holds the industry back considerably in terms of developing more mature, fulfilling content. I know many gamers who are literally repulsed by the sight of token, big breasted women who literally have no place in the plot or the game, they simply sit there like a sore thumb and remind you painfully, every time you see them, that this game is for BOYS, TEENAGE BOYS. It might also lead developers to risk adding actual sexual content in a tasteful manner.

  37. Doc G
    Doc G August 25, 2011 at 6:24 am |

    Just some other great sources/resources for people interested in this discussion:

    1) On indie games, which don’t suffer from a lot of the problems mainstream games do, in the same way indie films don’t suffer from many of the problems mainstream games do: http://playthisthing.com/
    They also cover tabletop games and RPGs, and they often link to interesting articles on game design. Most people on the cutting edge of game design in fact don’t think of games as primarily a way to tell a story, but focus on what the experience of playing teaches you or makes you realize. Reading this can help you understand why games are a cultural fixture that is worth saving, and not just a mindless brain drain that’s best left to the sexist troglodytes.

    2) On sexism in the game industry:
    http://gomakemeasandwich.wordpress.com/
    I think this has been linked to or featured here before. Mainly wundergeek focuses on the unequal sexualization of female characters, but goes into other feminist-related topics as well. This site made me realize that the main mistake is dividing the world into “boy games” and “girl games” (or worse, “girl games” and “normal games”) and trying to give each group what “they” “want”, rather than realizing their responsibility is just to make their games 1) good and 2) not sexist. That “taking your audience into account” thing is BS because it demeans all the groups that you’re trying to pander to, but especially to the “casual” audience and particularly to women. I mean I know their market research reveals certain trends among ladies, particularly ones that aren’t already gaming regularly, but to insist that therefore all ladies must follow those trends… but then again stereotyping people and then programming them to behave according to those stereotypes is kind of the point of marketing, so when the game industry is as big as it is it comes as no surprise they act in a similar way as the movie industry and the fashion industry. So game indie!!

  38. speedbudget
    speedbudget August 25, 2011 at 6:56 am |

    Brandon, your comment about male gamers not being able to identify with a female avatar is bullshit. 90% of the men I play with in WoW have a main that is female. They actively chose to create a female character.

    What I would like to know is why the storyline is that it is so darn hard for men to identify with a female character, but women should have no problem doing so. It’s bullshit. It’s male privilege, full stop.

    That said, I love playing WoW. I am kind of a spaz, so shoot-em-up games are not my cup of tea. When I do try PvP in WoW, I get so flustered and freaked out that I sometimes just have to quit the battleground. It literally freaks me out, so I prefer to hard-core raid and quest. I do get involved in the PvP, but just occasionally, and usually when I am with friends.

    My main problem with playing female characters in games in the constant sexualization. I remember when I was leveling up a paladin with a friend of mine on his paladin. We got the exact same armor as quest bonuses, yet his would look normal on his avatar while mine looked like bikinis or sexy underwear. I never understood that.

  39. Randomizer
    Randomizer August 25, 2011 at 7:23 am |

    From one cassette tape drive C-64 owning geek to another:

    Leisure Suit Larry!

    That is all.

  40. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes August 25, 2011 at 7:25 am |

    I play video games for a number of reasons:

    * I like the challenge of figuring out what to do next/how to solve a level (walkthroughs take the fun away for me quite a lot)
    * I like a good story development
    * Every so often, I just feel the need to cause violent mayhem, and it’s better for all concerned if it’s in a world of make-believe!
    * I get to be something I’m not.

    One of the big things that I’m not but that I want to be, is female. Playing a female video game character is about as close as I am likely to get to a quick, painless, reversible sex-change, so I identify sometimes more strongly with a character the opposite sex from me. If a game has a female playable character, then that’s the one I’ll play first.

    I play a wide range of games, including but not limited to: FPS, strategy, sports sims, management sims (Football Manager series, mostly), adventure, I still enjoy text-only adventure games!

    I think my favourite female character was the one in Tenchu: Stealth Assassin (forgotten her name now).

  41. me
    me August 25, 2011 at 7:54 am |

    I fit into the stereotype of women who only like RPGs and social games and have been playing video games since the NES. I’ve heard arguments like this before and I always wonder about something. I’m not convinced that it’s a great strategy to make games specifically to target a certain group of people – or at least not the really great games. I would imagine they try to make a game that they themselves would love playing. Personally I love games where I can create and customize my own character. It’s sort of a turn off when I can’t, especially with online games. But I do understand that creating a game where you can do that requires a significantly greater amount of work, from the models to the story, and can be prohibitive in many cases. It obviously makes sense to be able to create your own in a giant non-linear game like Elder Scrolls or Dragon Age, but I think most people will create a game for themselves first. In linear RPGs, like Final Fantasy, it could break the mechanics. But when the story is not open ended, I think the developers will try to create a game that not necessarily targets their gender, but targets themself as a person, and I think in most cases that will mean men creating games from the perspective of a man, and women creating games from the perspective of a woman.

    So if I were writing a story, for any medium, it would not always, but probably most likely, have a female lead, but I would probably think of a character or story before I actually set out to make a game in the first place. If I get all excited about making something and then someone tells me to start changing my characters I would sort of lose steam. And most of the times I’ve seen men try to create women characters they never seem like real women. But the great part is that many games have giant teams working on them, and if they all have different backgrounds and are of different genders, then I think the game will reflect that. So instead of pleading with game developers to make games that target women, I believe the only solution is to start hiring more women, or for more women to start making games.

    TL;DR There needs to be more women making games.

  42. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 25, 2011 at 8:01 am |

    konkonsn: I hate this argument. Young men couldn’t possibly cope with the idea of playing someone who is not exactly like them even though PoC, women, QUILTBAG persons, and so on can? I’m not seeing where Chell’s identity hurt Portal sales.

    Exactly! Also, hello? Samus Aran, anyone?

  43. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 25, 2011 at 8:04 am |

    And the games “Beyond Good and Evil” (damn, I miss Jade) and “Mirror’s Edge” received rave reviews even though they didn’t get very many sales.

  44. Otter
    Otter August 25, 2011 at 8:20 am |

    My favorite thing about Portal is that it’s an all-female game…I think the ONLY all-female game in vidya game history, unless I’m missing something? That, and it’s completely awesome, and GLaDOS is an absolutely amazing character. I saw a top 100 video game villains list once where she was ranked as Number One, a choice I completely agree with. Portal 2 unfortunately breaks the all female cast by introducing Wheatley and the voice of Cave Johnson, but it’s so awesome as well that I can’t be too saddened by it.

    Other favorite games include the Legend of Zeldas (especially OoT and Twilight Princess), one or two of the Final Fantasys, God of War for pure carnage factor (it’s pretty misogynist but fun as hell to play), Flower, and…that’s probably about it. I don’t play all that many games, too expensive.

  45. upyernoz
    upyernoz August 25, 2011 at 8:30 am |

    has anyone heard of the difference engine initiative? it’s a canadian-based project to encourage more women to become game designers.

  46. Mr. Kristen J.
    Mr. Kristen J. August 25, 2011 at 8:50 am |

    It does seem like create a character has gotten less prevalent. It doesn’t really make sense particularly when RB6V2 was so successful. People played that multiplayer in tournament play for years. I agree that there are more women in our rooms, but I think they’re too good to have just picked up FPS. If I had to guess its their presence in multi-player that’s new. I like your idea – which ? not in the OP – to make all multiplayer blank models and have the create a character as a separate program on the console/HD. Its a good idea.

  47. Because, links « blue milk
    Because, links « blue milk August 25, 2011 at 8:51 am |

    [...] This, on female gamers at Feministe. But still I have concerns. Mainly, because a good number of women like playing video games for a whole host of reasons. And one of the things I’ve heard from developers is that women play RPGs, cooperative games, or social games and we don’t like shooters or competitive games. Fuck that noise. My KDR was on my resume when I was looking for a job. I’m writing this post between rounds of Team Deathmatch. [...]

  48. rejiquar
    rejiquar August 25, 2011 at 8:54 am |

    Leisure Suit Larry! Goodness, me. Not saying I played it, much, but I remember it.

    The last game I played was Myst. I loved it.

    And I’m sure I’d like more games with female protags, less sexualization of women, freer gender roles etc. I’ve heard more than one argument that some of the most creative storytelling, exploration of social issues, not to mention art, is coming out of gaming. It certainly has made representational drawing, anatomy and a lot of that traditional training popular again, so as to make the fantasy characters more believable.

    But first, they need to start porting games to linux.

  49. Esti
    Esti August 25, 2011 at 8:57 am |

    Tony: All I know is the Colonel’s Bequest (go 1989!) and the Dagger of Amon Ra were some of my fondest “gaming” experiences from childhood along with King’s Quest, both created by the wonderful Roberta Williams.

    I know nothing about current video games and would not identify as a gamer, but fuck yes to the Laura Bow/King’s Quest love! I played King’s Quest religiously as a kid; I didn’t fully get into Laura Bow back then but I rediscovered it a few years ago and have played through both several times since then. I’m still sad that Roberta Williams retired so early in her career, because you would have to pry me away from my computer with a crowbar if she had kept developing games.

  50. licious
    licious August 25, 2011 at 9:40 am |

    shfree:

    And lastly, even if I only played solitaire on my Wii, I would still be a gamer.I don’t need some dude down at Gamers to give me gamer cred.

    Word. I am sick of being told that I am not a gamer because I don’t play FPS or whatever. Drawing lines in the sand doesn’t do anything for anyone, and I think women are especially policed in the gaming world. It doesn’t matter if you only play FPS, and you have the ‘right’ system (read: Xbox), your status as a ‘real’ gamer or ‘hardcore’ gamer are CONSTANTLY being evaluated. But what I find the most ridiculous is that I don’t even understand why it matters. Pardon me for getting all warm and fuzzy, but can’t we just all recognize that we have a common interest and embrace it?

    We are a Nintendo household, so my partner and I play Wii and DS, and the occasional computer games. My partner (who identifies as a cis man) does like some of the games that are traditionally marketed at men. He also loves Bubble Bobble.

    I tend to prefer any of the games in the ‘classic’ Nintendo platformer/adventure category (with anything featuring Yoshi or Donkey Kong being high on the list). I also love puzzle games, and anything featuring cute animals (I am not ashamed to admit a deep love for Animal Crossing!). On the computer, I am a really big fan of Age of Empires 2 (3 made me really uncomfortable do its not so awesome colonization narratives).

    I grew up in a strictly non-violent household. We weren’t allowed to have toy guns or other weapons or watch violent movies or play violent games, which I think is the biggest contributor to the kind of games that I play now. I never played violent games ever, and so its a surreal experience now to be shooting at people on the tv screen. I think it’s cool if other people want to play those games, and I definitely think that they should start making changes to more inclusive of the variety of people that I know play them.

    I suspect that I choose games where I get to play as some kind of animal creature a lot precisely because I get annoyed with issues of gender, race and sexuality in so many games. In the aforementioned Animal Crossing, I do find it annoying that if I decide to use a girl character (I say girl, because I don’t think they are supposed to be adults), I HAVE to wear a dress. What is that? I hate dresses! Conversly, if I choose a boy character, than I can never wear a dress? Ugh. That kind of stuff annoys me. Also, as a queer women, any time a game is heteronormative, I get frustrated.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have answers for the frustrations that so many gamers have in terms of gender, race and sexuality. But I do hope we start to see change soon!

  51. Andie
    Andie August 25, 2011 at 10:07 am |

    Not a huge gamer here, but I’ve played some (they will pry my SNES out of my cold, dead hands).

    My favorite game (which happened to have a female, not-overtly-sexualized protagonist – to the best of my recollection) was Parasite Eve. I can’t handle 360 play – always end up standing in corners, looking at the sky or the ground, so I liked the flat-ground type play. The sequel had resident evil esque 360 play and I hated it. I really liked the themes and imagery of birth and whatnot. I thought Aya Brea was a relatable protagonist.. not overly sexualized like Lara Croft, but not completely genderless either.

    On the other end of the spectrum, being a fan of the Final Fantasy Series, I bought my daughters FFX-2 and was thoroughly disappointed in how they attempted to aim this game at girls by playing out ridiculously tropes about girls and their supposed ‘interests’. Seriously, their powers are dancing and.. what? Changing clothes? Puh-Leeze. As a woman, FF7 through 9 were far more interesting. This game just seemed patronizing.

  52. Ryan
    Ryan August 25, 2011 at 10:36 am |

    I’d like to chime in with those defending the criticism of Mass Effect. My wife and I have both done several playthroughs with both a FemShep and BroShep but never caught the pronoun issue. I’m not surprised though, the default is definitely a male soldier paragon character, and numerous dialogues and cutscenes have minor incongruities if you depart from those assumptions (e.g., Shep holding an assault rifle in a cutscene, even if your character doesn’t have one). So I don’t think it’s an issue of ignoring female gamers. There’s only so much polish they can put on a game that open and massive and still manage to get it out to market. I mean, we’ve already seen ME3 delayed from Nov. ’11 to March ’12.

  53. Shives
    Shives August 25, 2011 at 11:28 am |

    I’m one of those ‘girl gamers’ (that moniker always irks me, I’m not a child.) I play WoW and not casually, I have no doubt I’m quite literally addicted to that game. I PVP, I raid, I’m an officer in my guild and I’m vocally ‘female’ on my server. I kick ass and I take names, better than most male gamers I’m surrounded by but I always have to deal with being doubted and looked down upon because of my gender. I play FPS games like CoD and I play them well. My favorite console games are the God of Wars, GTAs, the Spyro series, Jak and Dexter, Little Big Planet and I will adore Shadow of the Colossus until the day I die. I used to play Harvest Moon for days on end but I can’t stand Farmville. I played Fallout until my eyeballs were going to fall out. Okami took me forever to figure out but that and the Official Trauma Center games make the Wii one of my must have consoles. My guilty pleasure games are Lucinda Green’s Equestrian Challenge and the older Jaws game for the PS2 (I liked the fact that I could play as a shark and eat people). Oblivion made me fall in love with the Elder Scroll world and I already have Skyrim pre-ordered. Speaking of pre-orders I have Diable 3 and SWTOR ordered also.

    I’ve never played Portal but it’s on my list of games to play, as is Dragon Age and Alice: Return to Madness.

    The games I like are games I can play in 3rd person, I prefer games that I can customize my character, or at least play as a female. I like games that I can grind for hours, I like games with a social aspect, I like games where I can be violent and wicked and use GIANT guns. Mostly I just like games, alot. Always surprises the men I meet that when I say I’m a gamer I mean ‘I live and breathe video games and I’ll probably skip that romantic dinner you wanted to invite me to because my guild is doing rated battlegrounds but you’re more than welcome to bring over a pizza and we’ll play Street Fighter while my BG team is waiting on the queue.’

  54. Caitlin
    Caitlin August 25, 2011 at 11:39 am |

    I got started playing games with the whole Mario franchise. I am still a really big fan, particularly of the Paper Mario games, but have branched out a bit.

    I just got really into Bioshock, which was the first FPS I had ever really played. I think one of the main reasons that more women don’t play FPS is just a lack of interest in the themes and characters that many of them are built around. Bioshock is an incredibly immersive narrative experience both with visuals and audio. I think it also helps that you are killing sort of mutant things so even though they look human it’s a bit more removed than an FPS where you are killing soldiers or something.

    In terms of bringing more women into gaming it is a pretty faulty argument to assume that developers should just sit back and let them come to the medium before they start developing for them. I currently work as a lowly games tester so I have a bit of a stake in this process. We have a lot of conversations about what games for women are and as an industry we are still trying to answer that question beyond the token desire to make things pink and include shopping and fashion.

    The closest I can get to conceptualizing a game specifically built for women is one that places high value on storytelling and how the development of relationships, romantic and non, between characters affects the story. I would also put heavy importance on puzzles and by this I mean more traditional visual puzzles, but also just aspects of gameplay that force you to think through a situation and use a bunch of separate pieces or ideas to solve a problem. I think this kind of game can be equally appealing to men.

    Really though we are only going to bring women into the industry by offering them a product that they can identify with and want to play. But given the worlds population the untapped market is huge.

  55. KonekoN1nj4
    KonekoN1nj4 August 25, 2011 at 11:41 am |

    I’ve been playing video games since I was about 5, my Dad bought an NES for my sister and I a few months after it came out and we played the hell out of some Mario. I get into pretty much all kinds of games, currently I’m working my way through Fallout:New Vegas, which I love because it very clearly try’s to appeal to everyone and doesn’t shy away from having male and female characters of all ages and races included. It makes for a satisfying character creation!
    FPS are something of a love/hate thing for me, I really enjoy playing them, Halo was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed it! COD on the other hand…the game itself is fun and the mechanics are well handled but the cheating is absolutely rampant.
    My hate recently towards video games was the release of Brink. The game where the developers flat out said they just didn’t think it mattered to have female characters, they would rather have more clothes for the men. They were very casual about it and didn’t really understand why anyone had a problem with their attitude.
    On the love side, Portal! Such a fabulous game, I’m sincerely hoping to dig my hands into the second one soon. Chell and GLADOS are such fun to play and interact with, well designed with great puzzles. Just hard enough to be challenging and yet playable.

  56. shfree
    shfree August 25, 2011 at 11:50 am |

    Oh, I remember having an Atari 2600, and feeling like I was the shit, with those crappy joysticks that burnt out within six months or so. But Adventure was awesome, and although the random time when the game was entirely unwinnable sucked.

    I also really, really recommend Little Big Planet 2. It’s an adorable platformer, and I have my sackthing running around in a pink tutu, fez, cow sunglasses and a foam finger. So you get the joys of a traditional platform game with pretty graphics and a customizable character, once you unlock some stuff along the way. It’s for Playstation 3, though, not a Wii, and I am not sure about xbox.

  57. Sanoe
    Sanoe August 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm |

    Only the FPS genre could come up with such a creatively bankrupt pile of sexist crap like Duke Nukem Forever. FPS developers make no effort to include women and many FPS players do everything they can to exclude and harass women gamers.

    The idea that FPS games are the real ‘hardcore’ and that women ought to play them to be real gamers is nonsense.

    Dingo:
    Probably a stupid question, but have any of you had a chance to play Portal? I’m just a bit surprised it hasn’t been mentioned yet. My first time playing that game the first glimpse I got of who I was playing as blew my mind. Then I got sad that I found it so surprising.

    I’m surprised it took so long for Portal to get a mention as well.

    Yes, I played (and loved!) Portal and Portal 2, though Portal 2 has some abilist, fat-shaming insults that I dislike. If you listen to the developer commentary, Valve started up Project Lil to make their comments more accessible to female gamers.

    What I really want is Beyond Good and Evil 2.

  58. Isotope_238
    Isotope_238 August 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm |

    I’m pretty easy-going about games. They’re just a fun way to blow off steam and blow shit up while shooting hundreds of insert-enemy-here. I’ve never boycotted a game because the developers aren’t doing enough for the not ‘young white male’ demographic. The first game I ever played was the original Half-Life. I was in kindergarten when it was released, and I remember sitting on my dad’s lap and helping him shoot aliens. I still love Half-Life. I also play Call of Duty, where even female NPCs are few and far between.
    That being said, I definitely prefer games like Left 4 Dead, where I can and usually do choose to play a female PC. I love playing as a woman who’s just as badass as the male PCs–more, if I’m playing with certain friends of mine :).
    As far as the gameplay experience, I only ever play co-op with guys I know irl. That way, I avoid the anonymity==fuckwad problem. I’ve never had a bad experience with this way of vetting my fellow players. Everybody takes it in stride that I’m a chick and I’m on top of the kill list. I’ve never met a guy who was bothered by my gaming abilities, and if I ever do, he won’t make it onto my friend list.

    I think Valve does an exceptional job of remembering their female players. There’s a commentary file somewhere…here it is. Any transcription errors are my fault.

    Project Lil was our codename for an internal push to make our comments more accessible to the whole Valve community. It was pointed out to us in mail from a fan that in some of our previous commentary, the designers referred unfailinglt to the gamer as a he. Although in natural speech, most of us normally tend to say “they” and “their,” rather than “he” and “his,” some stuffy, overactive minion of the grammar police went through and revised those usages to make them conform to an oppressive gender-biased rule. However, research shows that “they” and “their” is a perfectly acceptable and even older form, and we’re happy to fall back on it and let people talk the way they normally talk. And screw the so-called rules that alienate our fans. Thanks, Lil!

    That’s from one of the Portal 2 commentary nodes. I don’t have a link; it’s from the game files on my hard drive. If you have Portal 2, you can find it here: /sound/commentary/com-lil.wav

  59. Ryan
    Ryan August 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm |

    This is an awesome discussion (which I neglected to point out in my intial comment). Though it seems like it would be incomplete without a shout out to Samus Aran and the Metroid series. Metroid II on the GameBoy got me through an entire childhood’s worth of long car trips.

  60. Zula
    Zula August 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm |

    Ooooh man, I could go on for PAGES on my love/hate relationship with my favorite games and how the handle gender and sexuality. For the sake of (relative) brevity, I’ll just touch (for now) on Mass Effect, which is probably my favorite game series ever.

    The Good: I love that I can make a female protagonist who’s competent and badass without being uber-sexualised, I love that FemShep’s voice acting is waaaaaay better than BroShep’s, and I love that I can have relationships with characters of multiple genders/species (or no relationship at all, if I don’t feel like it).

    I also love that there are complex, well-written female characters besides Shepherd. Even the minor characters have their own motivations that are more than just “I want baybeees!”

    The Bad: I am bothered that BroShep is still the default, and it’s taken them until the third game to have ANY marketing featuring FemShep at ALL. (And they haven’t actually released any ads with her yet! They’ve just said they’re going to.)

    I also dislike that BroShep isn’t allowed a gay romance option, even though they recorded all the dialogue for Broshep/Kaidan in the first game. Why was it cut? I also noticed that FemShep isn’t allowed any human female romance options. Inter-species romance is less objectionable than two human ladies or human dudes? Ooooookay.

    What bothers me the most, though, is how they characterized Jack in ME2. While I enjoy the character (I named my calico cat after her), it seems that her bisexuality and non-monogamy are used only to illustrate how ~craaaaazy~ she is. I’d be offended even if I weren’t queer and poly. (And I’m offended on behalf of mentally ill people even though I don’t have a mental illness.) The fact that she’s the only canonically bisexual/non-monogamous human in the game just makes it worse.

  61. Doctress Julia
    Doctress Julia August 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    I’ve been playing video games all my life. From Pong onward. I loved PacMan, and all arcade-style games (Xenophobia, Rampage, Marble Madness, and on and on!) I had an Atari 2600 with tons of games (Cosmic Ark!). I loved PC games, too- my dad was an engineer for IBM; we always had two computers at home. Microsoft Adventure, Zork (my mom played too, and drew the greatest maps), Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (it came with a microscopic space fleet) In Search of the Most Amazing Thing, all the Kings Quests (from 1 through 5, I beat them all- never played 6). We had Leisure Suit Larry, but I played it twice and found it repellent and sexist (as well as boring). I love MarioKart Wii, but I have an Xbox 360 at home… right now I’m playing Borderlands! Lots and lots of Borderlands. The one female character, Lilith is all sexed up and the only two other female characters are stereotypes: A crazy scientist and a disfigured mayor of a town, New Haven(?). I am beyond tired of sexist crap in games. And I am a woman. NOT a ‘girl’ gamer. And I iz OLD SKOOL. :P

  62. Muzakbox
    Muzakbox August 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm |

    I play a ton of WoW. I have tens of capped toons. I prefer to tank or heal and I often don’t speak on vent until the group has seen me tank for a while if I’m pugging because there is a definite bias, on my servers and on the horde side at least, against women tanks. My biggest complaint as far as being a woman in WoW is the culture of sexism and homophobia that I run into in trade chat and when I end up in a random dungeon with a bunch of gear head boys and men.

    I actually think they are taking complaints from women about the gear sets being ridiculous seriously. The Northrend stuff was definitely more full coverage. And the Cata sets are almost exactly the same as the male versions. Admittedly a little more cleavage showing in some of the earlier mail items but as I’ve been leveling my Shammy through the new content I’ve seen less and less Goblin flesh.

    I also play alot of the “casual” games. I’m a huge huge huge fan of tower denfense games. And I like time management and hidden object style games.

    I only own a Wii for console gaming and I prefer the games for those that are physical like golf and archery and boxing. God, I love the boxing. I do covet an Xbox. Mostly because the FPSs look really awesome and I know I could totally kick ass but I just can’t justify either the expense or the time I know I would put into the game with my full blown WoW addiction and raid schedule.

    I also really like the lever pulling like suck that is simulation gaming like Sim City and the Sims. Sim Society was a super let down though. Not enough control.

    I can’t remember exactly when I began gaming but it has almost always been primarily PC based. My earliest memories are of Tetris and I think it was called Police Quest. No wait…there were the language based games too like Zork on the TRS80.

  63. Azkyroth
    Azkyroth August 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm |

    think one of the main reasons that more women don’t play FPS is just a lack of interest in the themes and characters that many of them are built around.

    The closest I can get to conceptualizing a game specifically built for women is one that places high value on storytelling and how the development of relationships, romantic and non, between characters affects the story.

    Isn’t this just more stereotypying?

  64. Miku
    Miku August 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    I can’t really recommend Mount & Blade: Warband as a game which destroys gender barriers (it’s set in a fictional, Mediaeval region), but I DID have a very constructive conversation during its development with one of the lead developers about the extra obstacles women face in the game. It really made me hopeful for future independently released games that he was an admitted feminist and wanted to work on the tone of the game specifically for women – balancing historical accuracy and comments which are more-or-less still offensive to some women gamers. They’re a company I was glad to buy from!

  65. JSH
    JSH August 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm |

    http://deusex.com/media/askjjb#
    The art director of Deus Ex: Human Revolution did a series of responses to fan questions; one of them was “Why do you have to be a white guy? Why can’t I be Eve Jensen, e.g.?” The response, mostly given by the narrative director of the game, is pretty interesting. But at bottom the answer is still: it would be too much work to write story/dialogue for a female character, in addition to a male character. This strikes me as just the wrong way to go – indeed, while I’m really enjoying the game, I would be enjoying it about 10x more if I didn’t have to play as a brooding, hulking, batman-voiced dude.

    Also, side note about online communities: when I played CoD4, I found what the community was like depended very strongly on what the server was. I tended to play on a carefully moderated server that kicked people for using racist and otherwise offensive language; it was shockingly refreshing. That is to say, it’s not like we have to take hate speech for granted in these contexts; the tools to control it are ready to hand.

  66. Zula
    Zula August 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm |

    Miku:
    I can’t really recommend Mount & Blade: Warband as a game which destroys gender barriers (it’s set in a fictional, Mediaeval region), but I DID have a very constructive conversation during its development with one of the lead developers about the extra obstacles women face in the game. It really made me hopeful for future independently released games that he was an admitted feminist and wanted to work on the tone of the game specifically for women – balancing historical accuracy and comments which are more-or-less still offensive to some women gamers. They’re a company I was glad to buy from!

    Miku, I think you bring up something important regarding games as work of fiction. Basically, not every fantasy world constructed in games (whether it’s of the fantasy genre or not) can be a feminist utopia. Not only are some games based on actual historical periods that were rather unfriendly towards women, but constructing an unjust society can have valuable storytelling potential when done right.

    The key is to examine why the injustices occur and what can be done to end them, and that’s most effectively portrayed through the viewpoint of the oppressed and their struggle against the oppression, whether through dramatic uprising or smaller, more mundane and everyday rebellions.

    …Which means games need more characters that are women, religious minorities, sexual minorities, racial minorities, etc.

  67. Mandolin
    Mandolin August 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm |

    I am almost completely the stereotypical female gamer.

    Minus pink. Then sort of plus pink again because JoJo’s Fashion Show is the best game ever because it’s extended paper dolls, but you get graded for it. And also, vaguely like costuming.

    Also, I have zero spatial skills, so I can’t play first-person shooters, because I have no ability to construct a map of where I am with that kind of navigation. Third-person I can do; first-person I can’t. Go away, Portal.

    Zork. Phoenix Wright. King’s Quest. The Sims! Oh, the Sims.

    Social things. Cooperative things are nice so that I don’t get annoyed when my husband spends 10 hours longer playing than I do within the first 24 hours of playing the game and then becomes Advanced Specialist You Can Never Defeat Ever. (This is why Tetris is my go-to for ccompetitive video gaming. I learned that shit when I was a kid, and adolescent-me put in the gazillion “get awesome at this” hours, and adult me need only sit back and reap the benefits.)

    Except, for some reason, Soul Calibur. I want to kick your ass in Soul Calibur. Let’s competitive the competitive, with some damn swords.

    Although possibly this is because their costumes are shiny. Though, not always pink.

  68. Jodi
    Jodi August 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    Non-gamer here — mostly due to no free time (I work two, and sometimes three, jobs and have for many years). The time is coming when I will have more free time (money pressure finally lightening up) and there are games that sound interesting, but I’m such a newbie. The last game that I played for any length of time was the one where you could fight with all the avatars from various games (Mario, Link, Pikachu, etc). I really enjoyed that, but I know games have changed a lot since then, and I don’t have a console of any time and wouldn’t even begin to know what to buy.

  69. Vail
    Vail August 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm |

    I have been gaming either via tabletop, pre- Atari game consoles or computer forever. I remember when Rogue was AWESOME even though all you were was a smiley face going around fighting alphabet monsters.* Now days I’m between games waiting for the new Star Wars mmo to come out. I’ve played Aion, Dark Age of Camelot, E2, L2, WoW, Warhammer, DDO and others I probably can’t remember off the top of my head. I also love Big Fish games like Empress of the Deep and Mystery Trackers: Raincliff.
    I don’t normally play FPS might might change my mind if I could play a female Soviet sniper or fighter pilot** or a French Resistance fighter. As for mmos, I would love to see a steam punk mmo come out. I also want to see a new version of Alpha Centuri once EA finally lets the rights go.

    * Plaid potions were the best.
    **The Germans called Soviet female pilots “Night Witches” which I think would make a totally cool name for a game.

  70. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos August 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    I’ll throw in a plug here for Good Old Games which remasters older games as DRM-free digital downloads with installers friendly to Windows Vista/7. A lot of their titles are priced at $10 and under.

  71. shfree
    shfree August 25, 2011 at 3:10 pm |

    Kristen J:
    @Jodi,

    If you’re interested there are lots of fun non console games that you can play on a PC some web based ones are even free with ads.AND there’s no law saying you have to play brand new games.I still play an old copy of Tropico I picked up for $3.

    I think too often gamers (me included) get early adopteritis.We’re so keen to play the newest we forget about the 50 bazillion older games that sounded cool but we didn’t have time for.

    Yeah, a couple of sites off the top of my head are bigfishgames.com, and popcap.com

  72. Mandolin
    Mandolin August 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    CB: I don’t know whether to thank you or curse you.

  73. Mr. Siegal
    Mr. Siegal August 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm |

    unitled:
    Plus, as everyone who has played the game can tell you, the female Sheppard had by far the better voice over artist!

    Jesus, is this true. I can’t stand his idiotic-sounding monotone.

  74. Muzakbox
    Muzakbox August 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm |

    Kinda OT: But I think the best gig would to VO work for video games. When there were auditions for Cata I sent in my demo even though I do a completely different kind of work (ever done a walking tour of Philly? That may have been me pointing out the historical signifcancy of the placement of that Quaker church!) because what would be more awesome than playing a boss and killing myself repeatedky for purple loots?

  75. Aquaria
    Aquaria August 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |

    I still enjoy old fashioned card, board and word games of all kinds, on the computer or off.

    I’ve been console gaming since 1976, when my parents bought us the Odyssey for Christmas. Name the game system since, and I’ve probably owned it. Yes, even the 3DO and the Jaguar.

    The video games I loved have had stories, and adventure. They often had puzzles, as well. Platformers can fit into this, well enough for me.

    On consoles, I’m almost entirely a Nintendo player. I still enjoy the Zelda series, which is my ultimate favorite. I still love Mario, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Yoshi and Wario games. I enjoyed the Banjo-Kazooie games when they were on Nintendo.

    On computer, my favorites all-time are the Infocom games (I own all of them–still!), Zork Nemesis (best PC game ever!), the Sierra interactive games of the 90s (particularly the Gabriel Knight series), and The Last Express. I still have a great fondness for the King’s Quest series.

    I have not been into the kill-everyone/everything games, FPS, fighting or RPG games. All of them, except the recent Metroid games have bored me. Doom was fun–in 1996. I got over it. I can appreciate how totally awesome Chrono Trigger is (and it is!), but I don’t really care for playing it. I still have my Super NES cartridges of Chrono Trigger. Yes, two of them! I also have the original cartridges for Final Fantasy 2 and 3. And they all work, still! Bow before me! LOL

    I now play games on the DS mostly, and lately it’s been Scribblenauts and Professor Layton, obviously puzzle games. I got my money back for the dreadful Cate West game, which is just hunt and peck. Ugh.

    I’m a niche market. I know that. I like games that make me think and figure things out and explore. If there’s a great story and characters I can care about, even better!

    But they’re not necessary, if the gaming itself is good. I still play Ms. Pac-Man anytime I find a machine and have quarters on me, and that has nearly zero story.

  76. shfree
    shfree August 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |

    Gah, I just can’t shut up. Speaking of Professor Layton, they are doing a Professor Layton/Phoenix Wright crossover for the DS 3D, only they aren’t releasing it in the US. I told my daughter she has to learn Japanese so we can play it.

  77. Sanoe
    Sanoe August 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm |

    Zula:

    What bothers me the most, though, is how they characterized Jack in ME2. While I enjoy the character (I named my calico cat after her), it seems that her bisexuality and non-monogamy are used only to illustrate how ~craaaaazy~ she is. I’d be offended even if I weren’t queer and poly. (And I’m offended on behalf of mentally ill people even though I don’t have a mental illness.) The fact that she’s the only canonically bisexual/non-monogamous human in the game just makes it worse.

    I think you have a good point, but I’d like to add that she’s not canonically bisexual. If you play a Fem!Shep, Jack tells you she’s not interested in women. A person can be straight and end up in a threesome with a member of the same sex.

  78. Raja
    Raja August 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm |

    Bioware is good at making RPGs; I have had NWN since about the time I was 13 years old playing on one PW that is male majority but surprisingly quite a few guys who play female characters. Mass Effect is one of the best single player RPGs I have ever played; I am glad Bioware chose to make a scfi game after KoTR. Elder Scrolls from an innovate prospective is fanastic though I found myself getting bored after playing it for a few hours because it gets repetitive however, Skyrim looks like it will fix all that and possibly will be the best open world game for years to come. Right now I have my eyes on Guild Wars 2 which looks like a wow killer if it pulls it off. Is anyone here planning on getting it?

  79. Zula
    Zula August 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm |

    Sanoe: I think you have a good point, but I’d like to add that she’s not canonically bisexual. If you play a Fem!Shep, Jack tells you she’s not interested in women. A person can be straight and end up in a threesome with a member of the same sex.

    I could have sworn Jack made reference to multiple encounters with women, and the reason she shut down Shepherd was because she didn’t like female friends because they were more likely to make her drop her guard. I might be misremembering (or just wishfully thinking!), though.

  80. Brandon
    Brandon August 25, 2011 at 9:02 pm |

    Iany: I would play FPS and online games if it weren’t for the unfriendly servers, or if they wrote a story that appealed to me.

    Other people I know are able to handle the sexism on game servers but I’m not a great player yet and find it difficult to begin with. If I were included in the target audience, you bet your ass I’d play.

    Women won’t play until there’s incentive, once there is the numbers will soar.

    Ya, there are a lot of whiny little 14 year olds that constantly talk and scream vulgarities…that is why you can block and mute them. Also, you are not required to even talk to them while playing any FPS. Don’t use the mic and mute everyone and just focus on the game.

    Men typically like to compete and do a lot of trash talking…it’s nothing more than false bravado. Hell, even I am guilty of yelling “I kicked your ass” after I came in number 1 in kills. We like to rub it in. The whole “salt in the wound” thing. It’s a form of male-bonding.

    About the incentive part…developers (and practically every other business) don’t actively create products in the hopes that a market exists for it. In fact, it is very much the opposite. Developers will stick with what works, occasionally do something different and see if 1) it is profitable and 2) what type of gamer is attracted to it.

    Developers most likely are not going to spend millions of dollars on a game they think will attract female gamers. Lastly, if you like gaming…you shouldn’t really need an incentive.

    adhdphd: But there was a more significant number of Soviet women fighting on the Eastern Front, especially as snipers and partisans. Also, the “Long Haired Warriors” of Vietnam… I’m not saying it’s 50-50, just that it depends if you’re only telling the American side of the story.

    Very true. But most developers are American companies and they will most likely continue to tell the story from the American POV. Having an American developer make a game about the Red Army vs the Nazi’s is as likely as a pro-American movie coming out of North Korea. We had the Spetsnaz in Modern Warfare but they weren’t the playable group in the campaign mode.

    konkonsn: I hate this argument. Young men couldn’t possibly cope with the idea of playing someone who is not exactly like them even though PoC, women, QUILTBAG persons, and so on can? I’m not seeing where Chell’s identity hurt Portal sales. My male friends loved ‘Splosion Man and didn’t throw a fit when Ms. ‘Splosion Man was the sequel.

    Just because you dislike an argument doesn’t make it untrue or not be the “majority opinion”. While there are a few games that have been successful that have had female leads, most of the top 10 best selling games (from Atari to present) have either been gender-neutral (like Tetris) or the protagonist is male. In fact the only three games I can think of that had female leads and sold millions of copies are 1) Metroid series and 2) Tomb Raider and 3) Bayonetta.

    Needless to say, I don’t think Rockstar Games is going to but a women in as the protagonist of the next Grand Theft Auto game. Or Infinity Ward with the next Call of Duty game.

    One good thing was Bayonetta was a great game and maybe that was Sega’s attempt to see if more females would play it or even if a female lead is even profitable…which it was. Bayonetta sold over a million copies so lets hope for a sequel.

    Also, separate from your comments is the divide between female gamers and female non-gamers. Most of my observations with women and video games is them either angry that their husband/boyfriend is playing it too much and ignoring her or they just think it is a child’s toy. Women seem to have a love/hate relationship when it comes to video games. One group is squarely in the “I love video games” section while the other group has pure contempt for them.

  81. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil August 25, 2011 at 9:08 pm |

    Ya, there are a lot of whiny little 14 year olds that constantly talk and scream vulgarities…that is why you can block and mute them. Also, you are not required to even talk to them while playing any FPS. Don’t use the mic and mute everyone and just focus on the game.

    Men typically like to compete and do a lot of trash talking…it’s nothing more than false bravado. Hell, even I am guilty of yelling “I kicked your ass” after I came in number 1 in kills. We like to rub it in. The whole “salt in the wound” thing. It’s a form of male-bonding.

    The point. You are missing it.

  82. depizan
    depizan August 25, 2011 at 11:02 pm |

    @shfree

    You can do third person view in Oblivion. Maybe it’s still not far enough back for you, though. (My problem with Oblivion is how bloody dark it is. I can barely see the game on my 13″ TV.)

    As for the big questions here: (1) what do love and love to hate about video games; and (2) why do you play?

    To answer the second first, I play for fun and I play because my friends do. I’m mostly an MMO player, though I really only play with friends and friends of friends, which means I spend a fair amount of time soloing in them. I’ve played City of Heroes/Villains, World of Warcraft, Champions, and, briefly, Aeon and Star Trek Online. And I will be playing Star Wars: the Old Republic when it comes out.

    I love exploring online worlds and I enjoy questing more than anything else – though PvP can be fun in WoW. (But not in Champions. Ugh.) I particularly like games that let me customize my characters, though the fact that WoW is an entire world (with appealing art and Draenei*) kind of makes up for the relative lack of character customization. I’m not interested in the great hamster wheel of endgame content. (Grind this dungeon/raid for gear to grind this dungeon/raid for gear to grind this dungeon/raid, repeat ad nauseum.) I know some people find it fun, but I don’t.

    I’m put off by quests than I don’t think my character would do (especially when the quests are necessary). Somehow it was easier to mentally roleplay undercover heroes in City of Villains than it is to pass off some of the quests in WoW. Though, obviously, not put off enough to quit playing.

    What I would love (and I’m kind of hoping SW:TOR might have) are quests with multiple paths. I had a blast as an illusion controller in CoH completing quests with misdirection and stealth… even though it meant I leveled at a snails pace because I wasn’t clearing missions unless I had to. Having the ability to tell a quest giver that their plan sucks would also be nice. “No, you hypocritical twit, I’m not going to torture your prisoner with your pain stick because somehow that makes it not your fault. Can I sit him down with a cup of tea and explain that we’re actually the good guys… scratch that, that I’m actually a good guy… instead?” (Yes, this references a specific WoW quest.)

    I am put off by games like Aeon that give female demons natural high heals and leave one’s female characters mostly adventuring in lingerie. It’s one thing to have sexy looks available (but have them for both genders if you’re going to), and another to have no choice. At least in WoW, there’s only a small chance of having mysteriously protective underwear and one can fix most of the silly tops by wearing a shirt under them. (And male characters do sometimes end up with mysteriously protective underwear, too.)

    *I admit that Draenei were one of the big selling points from day one for me. (Yes, I started in Burning Crusade.) I have a thing for horned, tailed critters. (I had demon superheroes in CoH and Champions, too.)

  83. Lara Emily Foleyj
    Lara Emily Foleyj August 25, 2011 at 11:11 pm |

    Zula:
    Ooooh man, I could go on for PAGES on my love/hate relationship with my favorite games and how the handle gender and sexuality. For the sake of (relative) brevity, I’ll just touch (for now) on Mass Effect, which is probably my favorite game series ever.

    The Good: I love that I can make a female protagonist who’s competent and badass without being uber-sexualised, I love that FemShep’s voice acting is waaaaaay better than BroShep’s, and I love that I can have relationships with characters of multiple genders/species (or no relationship at all, if I don’t feel like it).

    I also love that there are complex, well-written female characters besides Shepherd. Even the minor characters have their own motivations that are more than just “I want baybeees!”

    The Bad: I am bothered that BroShep is still the default, and it’s taken them until the third game to have ANY marketing featuring FemShep at ALL. (And they haven’t actually released any ads with her yet! They’ve just said they’re going to.)

    I also dislike that BroShep isn’t allowed a gay romance option, even though they recorded all the dialogue for Broshep/Kaidan in the first game. Why was it cut? I also noticed that FemShep isn’t allowed any human female romance options. Inter-species romance is less objectionable than two human ladies or human dudes? Ooooookay.

    What bothers me the most, though, is how they characterized Jack in ME2. While I enjoy the character (I named my calico cat after her), it seems that her bisexuality and non-monogamy are used only to illustrate how ~craaaaazy~ she is. I’d be offended even if I weren’t queer and poly. (And I’m offended on behalf of mentally ill people even though I don’t have a mental illness.) The fact that she’s the only canonically bisexual/non-monogamous human in the game just makes it worse.

    Jack is straight in Mass Effect 2

  84. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley August 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

    Uhhh I have a comment wiaiting in moderation cause it randomly added a j at the end of my name :/ long story short Jack identifies as straight iirc saying that she had tried women before but that it wasn’t for her

  85. shfree
    shfree August 26, 2011 at 12:11 am |

    @ dezipan,

    Yeah, I’ve tried 3rd person perspective in Morrowind, but I couldn’t pull it back far enough. I didn’t want to risk throwing good money after bad for Oblivion, so I just didn’t bother.

  86. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig August 26, 2011 at 12:24 am |

    Vail:Oh, wow, someone remembers Rogue! I spent soo many hours on that game..
    I don’t really play much anymore, except for the DS. I’ve been considering starting a few online games, but I hardly even visit my AdventureQuest account anymore. I do kind of like the advances- Pokemon trainers are male or female and most of the elite trainers are evenly divided. There are a lot more female gym leaders too. And in Golden Sun- right from the start the first female player character is bad-ass, and she has way more magic power than the main male character.

  87. depizan
    depizan August 26, 2011 at 12:37 am |

    @shfree

    Ah. I just wanted to make sure you knew. That makes perfect sense.

  88. JenniP
    JenniP August 26, 2011 at 3:38 am |

    I like complexity, subtlety and general lack of compromise in my games. If the game has any amount of action in it, I want seriously good controls. Story, etc. window dressings I virtually always ignore – it’s not like they ever match a good book or movie, anyway. If I’m not being challenged, I quit. For instance, the only way I might play WoW again was if they came out with a special PvP edition where you fight others with equal gear and never have to grind a single thing.

  89. John
    John August 26, 2011 at 6:06 am |

    I work full time and I’m married with children, that’s why I don’t play video games. The video gamer tends to be solipsistic, they don’t have much room for anyone else in their lives.

  90. Latoya Peterson
    Latoya Peterson August 26, 2011 at 9:13 am |

    @John –

    The video gamer tends to be solipsistic, they don’t have much room for anyone else in their lives.

    Lulz. Wonder where Holly is.

    I ID as a gamer, though my cred is seriously slipping – the last two years, I’ve essentially done nothing but work, so I don’t game like I used to.

    Started when I was 6, on Dad’s SNES w/ the Gold Cartridge Zelda, and kept going from there. Milestones: long weekends spent playing Tekken 2/3/Tag, Oddworld, and Doom with my cousins in my Dad’s basement; beating Tomb Raider 2 with the help of my bestie at the time and a strategy guide; endless rounds of Sonic; arcades, when they still existed.

    I started dating what folks would term as a hardcore gamer when I was 16, and leveled up – he had all consoles plus two PCs equipped for gaming, and introduced me to RPGs, Civ games (ah, Age of Empires), and FPS. I still suck at FPS because I don’t have the needed hand eye coordination – I prefer games where I don’t need lightening fast reflexes to survive. But I coveted Perfect Dark, so I almost learned to play because of that. Later, I had the same prob playing mirror’s edge. (For some reason, my slower reaction time doesn’t hurt me in fighters like Soulblades or Tekken, but that’s probably because it’s the dual navigation – one stick to move, one stick to look – thing I have issues with).

    Fave games in no particular order:

    *Shadow Hearts Covenant
    * Kingdom Hearts
    * Final Fantasy X and X-2
    * Age of Empires: Conquers Expansion
    * Tekken 2 (ah, memories)
    *Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

    However, being a freelancer takes a toll on gaming. This year, I’ve invested tons more time into things I am working on (and, uh, getting into a regular yoga practice) so my game time evaporated. I think all I’ve played is Little Big Planet; Epic Mickey; and a few casual games.

    I started gaming way before developing a racial and gender politic, so I identify really strongly with that community despite all the racist, sexist, homophobic shit. What always irks me is that game devs have the opportunity to create any world they want, and have years of cultural critique of film, lit, and TV, and they *still* make the same freaking mistakes over and over.

    On the casual/hardcore divide – it’s bullshit and it’s bad for you. If you only follow money, the future of the industry is casual, facebook and cell phone based games that appeal to a wide demo of people and are cheaply made. The so called hardcore gamer stereotype aren’t propping up the industry anymore. Wrapped in that tension are the broader questions about if games are considered art or high entertainment and what roles they play in our entertainment mix and our society. I’m not concerned with policing the boundaries of gaming – I want people to realize that games are fun, and it should be a space for everyone.

    I write about gaming tons, because the potential fascinates me – I’m really into projects that are about gender or racial divides in development and CS and how games can help solve those problems. But unfortunately, the more I write, the less I play these days, so I have to resolve that at some point.

    Fave gamer hangouts:

    The Border House
    Girl in the Machine (gone sadly, but the archives are amazing)
    Kill Screen (Jamin is kicking ass with his games-culture mag; one of his contribs, when writing about issues with gender roles and gamer-gamer relationships summarized her frustration as “Did anyone ask Master Chief if he did the fucking dishes?” which I died at, since I could totally relate to.)

    And, not to be overly self-promotey, but me and Holly (and N’Gai Croal) also did a panel at SXSW on games, race, gender, and culture, slides are up here:

    http://latoyapeterson.com/presentations/social-justice-and-video-games/

  91. Vail
    Vail August 26, 2011 at 9:28 am |

    For those who hate the armor in fantasy games this video is for you
    http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6550847/female-armor-sucks

  92. stonebiscuit
    stonebiscuit August 26, 2011 at 11:09 am |

    Like the OP, I prefer games that let me choose to play a female character. The more character customization I can get, the happier I am (hellooooo Oblivion). Beyond that, though, I want the female option to be treated with the same respect and thought as the male option, visually–I feel like Fable did a good job of this, but female Noble 6 in Halo: Reach (which I otherwise loved) always stood with her hip cocked out all sexy-like, and it DROVE ME NUTS. As a caveat, if I can’t have a female protag, I’d like a male protag I can relate to and/or inappropriately crush on (see: Auditore, Ezzio).

    Other than that, I’m a story junkie. I want a story I can really sink my teeth into and get invested in. If I start to cry at some point, so much the better. I both willing and able to suspend my disbelief at the drop of a hat, so I wouldn’t think this would be too difficult. Alas, it must be, because nine times out of ten I find myself staring at video games going “what is this shit and why do I care?” (oh hi, Force Unleashed II, didn’t see you there).

    I’m a skittish person, and FPS make me nervous, so I tend to avoid them. Generally I like to be able to see a lot more of what’s going on around me. I will play them if the story grabs me (I enjoyed the hell out of Halo: Reach, for instance, but I couldn’t get into Halo 3: ODST. Also, I hate driving the motherfucking Warthogs. HATE IT). I love games strategy games, either turn-based or real-time and RPGs. And I love, love, LOVE wandering around Renaissance Italy with a swishy cape. Mostly, I like video games to make me feel awesome.

    Favorite games include: Oblivion, Fable (except what was with the huge letdown of the ending of Fable III? It started with so much promise!), the Assassin’s Creed series, Civilization: Revolution, Halo: Reach and Halo Wars, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, and most anything from the Legend of Zelda franchise.

  93. stonebiscuit
    stonebiscuit August 26, 2011 at 11:12 am |

    I feel I should add that being able to exercise phenomenal cosmic power in the pursuit of wanton destruction is a huge factor in whether or not I like a game. Force Lightning is the reason I’ve played Force Unleashed three times through. If the protag of Assassin’s Creed 3 was a female assassin with great hair and Force powers, I could die happy.

  94. shfree
    shfree August 26, 2011 at 11:27 am |

    John:
    I work full time and I’m married with children, that’s why I don’t play video games.The video gamer tends to be solipsistic, they don’t have much room for anyone else in their lives.

    Yes, because gamer=dude locked in room 24/7 playing FPSs online.

  95. shfree
    shfree August 26, 2011 at 11:34 am |

    D’oh, I forgot my sarcasm tags on my last post!

  96. stonebiscuit
    stonebiscuit August 26, 2011 at 11:38 am |

    Almost forgot a favorite: Tomb Raider: Legend. I liked it, but one particular scene pushed it over the top for me. Lara is at a fancy party, so she’s all gussied up, high heels, dress, etc. All of a sudden, gunmen invade and all hell breaks loose. Lara ducks behind the bar for shelter, where she proceeds to pull her guns out of her purse, take off her high heeled shoes, and pull her hair back into a ponytail. My heart grew three sizes that day at the sight of a female action star doing something so damned sensible in the face of danger. Unfortunately, I never liked any other TR game, but I will forever remember Legend fondly.

  97. Iany
    Iany August 26, 2011 at 12:54 pm |

    Brandon:
    Men typically like to compete and do a lot of trash talking…it’s nothing more than false bravado. Hell, even I am guilty of yelling “I kicked your ass” after I came in number 1 in kills. We like to rub it in. The whole “salt in the wound” thing. It’s a form of male-bonding.

    I refuse to believe men are all stupid assholes. I have male gamer friends who don’t do that, who act in a mature way. Hell, I would joke like that maybe, WITH MY FRIENDS, not with strangers on the server who want me to know my place (women shouldn’t play, except maybe the really talented, hot ones, that they see on shows or comics).

    I should clarify what I said earlier, some women already have reasons to play and do (they are just good at FPS’s and/or they enjoy them). I would like to try to learn but not if I’m going to get called a whore for trying. I shouldn’t have to suck it up just to learn how to play A GAME. When I’ve tried MMO games, once or twice, I noticed far less smack talk, because those people were having fun and not turning into meme-faces.

    For now I will stick to Bioshock and Portal, and practice my aim.

  98. Iany
    Iany August 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    I’d also like to add, Brandon, that some gamers are queer or assexual and still have valid opinions on games past “MAH BOI PLAYS” and “I don’t like games.” There are possibly some blokes who don’t like how much their spouse plays.

    Stop writing us out of your narrative because you don’t have girl-gamer friends!

  99. shfree
    shfree August 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm |

    Sigh, all this game talk, and my shiny new monitor (to replace the old one that died) means that it is time to go kill some more darkspawn. Bloodily.

  100. cartooncoyote
    cartooncoyote August 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm |

    What do I love about video gaming? The ability to get lost for hours upon hours and not even give a damn. I have fond memories of starting to play Resident Evil 4 (on the NGC after I got home from the afternoon shift) at 1am and not being able to stop for anything other than bathroom breaks all the way until 2pm. (Yes, I am single without kids, “John”. And I don’t think you really know what ‘solipsistic’ means, other than “a cool word from last month’s Reader’s Digest ‘Enrich Your Word Power'”.) I also loved that RE4 (all of them, actually, but that was the best) and Dead Space (1 and 2) scared the living shit out of me; I hope I NEVER am referred to a specialist MD with the name “Salvador” or else I won’t stop shaking the whole time! I also love epic sagas like God Of War. Blood? Yes, please–lashings of it. I thank you!

    I HATE games with storylines that DON’T include subtitle options, especially since I’m hearing-impaired.

    To bring up Resident Evil again, what does anyone here think of the playable female characters in that series, such as Jill Valentine or (my favourite) Sheva Alomar?

  101. Brandon
    Brandon August 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm |

    FashionablyEvil: The point.You are missing it.

    Since everyone here has made multiple points. Which point are you talking about?

    Kristen J:
    @Brandon,

    OMIGOD…I think you hit sexist bingo!Congratulations.One more incorrect trope about women and you win a big foam finger…which we all know what those are good for.

    What incorrect trope was that? That I made a simple observation that women tend to either love video games or hate them with very little middle ground.

    I don’t know what women you are hanging out with…but the ones I hang out with abhor video games. They see them as childhood toys that their boyfriends play. I don’t know if they hate the actual video game itself or the fact that she is getting less attention from the boyfriend since he is using lots of his free time to kick ass at some God of War.

    Very rarely do I come across a woman that has a take it or leave it attitude about gaming. Either they are begging me to play them or they crinkle up their noses in disgust.

  102. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm |

    Brandon: Since everyone here has made multiple points. Which point are you talking about?What incorrect trope was that? That I made a simple observation that women tend to either love video games or hate them with very little middle ground. I don’t know what women you are hanging out with…but the ones I hang out with abhor video games. They see them as childhood toys that their boyfriends play. I don’t know if they hate the actual video game itself or the fact that she is getting less attention from the boyfriend since he is using lots of his free time to kick ass at some God of War.Very rarely do I come across a woman that has a take it or leave it attitude about gaming. Either they are begging me to play them or they crinkle up their noses in disgust.

    Yeah, all you did was tell a bunch of women who love video games that women don’t love video games. What’s wrong with that?

  103. Brandon
    Brandon August 26, 2011 at 8:41 pm |

    Angel H.: Yeah, all you did was tell a bunch of women who love video games that women don’t love video games. What’s wrong with that?

    Um…no. I said that women tend to take the extremes when it comes to video games. Obviously most of the commenters here fall on the “love” side of video games.

  104. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 26, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

    Brandon: Um…no. I said that women tend to take the extremes when it comes to video games. Obviously most of the commenters here fall on the “love” side of video games.

    It’s ridiculous for a man to tell a group of women that “women tend to” do whatever. Don’t you think we would know better? This is textbook mansplaining.

  105. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm |

    [hit submit too soon]

    If you want to talk about the women in your life, fine. But don’t say shit like, “I don’t know what women you are hanging out with” as if we’re some weird anomaly or we don’t know what we’re talking about.

  106. Brandon
    Brandon August 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    [Mod note: quintessential mansplaining follows. Left for FNNT value.]

    @Angel: Oh no…mansplaining. Let’s get one thing straight. I am not telling you are wrong nor am I trying to say your experiences aren’t important or valid. I am doing nothing more than stating an opinion from the 30 years that I have been alive. That is it. It is just my observations on life.

    Mansplaining is nothing more than a thought terminating cliche in the same vein as mangina (another stupid word). It is just a way for the brain to shut down when faced with ideas it doesn’t approve of. Basically a defense mechanism.

    [Remainder of comment deleted. -Mod]

  107. evil fizz
    evil fizz August 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm | *

    Mansplaining is nothing more than a thought terminating cliche in the same vein as mangina (another stupid word). It is just a way for the brain to shut down when faced with ideas it doesn’t approve of. Basically a defense mechanism.

    You know, Brandon, this is really fucking tiresome. And I know it’s been addressed before, in part because you like to whine about how you’ve been censored. Take your ball and go home.

  108. Sarah
    Sarah August 27, 2011 at 2:08 am |

    I LOVE first person shooters. MY all time favourite game is still Perfect Dark for the N64. She was kick ass, it had a great story line, and she wasn’t wearing impractically sexy outfits for her job.

    The Xbox 360 reboot sexed her all up and it didn’t do as well commercially- perhaps they might examine why?

  109. Li
    Li August 27, 2011 at 10:00 am |

    Oooh, I loved Perfect Dark. Which, also notably, had an African American PoTUS a good year before 24.

    I feel I defs need to do a shout out to Dragon Age 2, which has several excellent women characters (one of whom is voice by Eve fricken Myles) and the choice of protagonist gender (which doesn’t affect any of your romance or story options).

  110. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig August 27, 2011 at 11:04 am |

    Hmm, once I get more money, I might consider buying Dragon Age 2. When it comes to games, I’m all about the swords. My only critique of the Zelda games is that sometimes they’re too clever for anyone’s good (has been stuck in Spirit Tracks for forever.)

  111. Vail
    Vail August 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    One thing I would like to see more of in video games is Beefcake. I don’t mind seeing Cheesecake if there is an equal amount of Beefcake. For example take Age of Conan which was rated for mature audiences. There was of course a boob bar (how big or small you could make your boobs) but no “package” bar for the men. In fact while women could go around shirtless in all their boob glory, the men were completely neutered. I mean they actually had bandages wrapping their crotches with no man hump. Now the fun part of Conan movie (at least in my opinion) was a very muscular guy running around in a fur loincloth. Nope, not in the game, they had their tushes well covered up (in fact covered to their knees. In the forums one man asked if there was a way to turn off the boobage (he had small children around and wanted to PG it). Outrage ensued as other males freaked out that some people couldn’t handle boobs and how in France etc. people were so much more mature. Then the women started asking for a bit more male flesh to be shown. Responses pored in “OMG I don’t want to see some guys junk” or “why would I want to be looking at guys bare ass all the time.” Isn’t it amazing how boobs are the sign of freedom from the morality police and yet a guys ass in a thong is suddenly the end of society as we know it?

  112. shfree
    shfree August 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    @Vail

    I hear you on the double standard issue with the naked, but frankly, not out of prudishness, but computerized nakey flesh gives me the willies. There are a few unavoidable characters in loincloths scenes in DragonAge, and because the body phenotypes are exactly the same, depending on whether or not someone is an elf, human or dwarf, the lack of variance is really noticeable.

    In games that you are allowed to dink around with appearance, I really wish they would let you play with body phenotype. They did do that in NWN2, however in DragonAge everyone is the same size, and I do think that is a failing.

  113. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig August 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm |

    Kristen J: I’m way too poor to afford an XBox. I prefer to play handhelds, Gamecubes, or PC games, and I don’t have a lot of time for any games right now. Plus, the Xbox doesn’t have that many games I’m interested in playing.

  114. Raja
    Raja August 28, 2011 at 12:12 am |

    Has anyone played The Witcher 1 & 2? I heard they are both pretty good.

  115. Lyndsey Reynolds
    Lyndsey Reynolds August 29, 2011 at 9:03 pm |

    I play videogames because they allow me to be someone other than me. That is not to say that my real life is awful. But real life has no dragons for me to slay. I cannot set people on fire with my mind in real life (thank goodness, or there’d be a lot of toasty jerks walking around). I also play to be entertained by a good story. I don’t have much free time and I must budget it between reading/gaming, so any game that I choose to play must have a good story and compelling characters. One of my favourite games is Dragon Age: Origins because of its versatility in character and story options. I also love DA:O because armour looks the same on male and female characters! It has an awesome story. I love RPing as characters from different backgrounds, and using a specific background as a justification for why I would do something. Heavy Rain was fantastic. Metal Gear Solid has been a favourite series of mine because HOLY SHIT STORY. Does MGS have a story tell. I also love MGS for how relevant it is to real life. Two amazing, under-the-radar games are Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. I’ve never felt such an emotional connection to a game like I did with Ico and SotC.
    With regards to FPS games, I like them. I love watching people play them and I think they provide for a great social experience when people DON’T TAKE THEM TOO SERIOUSLY. I’m actually physically incapable of playing FPS games because there is a severe disconnect in my brain that will not allow me to understand the operation of two joysticks, one to aim and one to move. I’m just spastic. I think I’m not dedicated to learning how to play FPS because I’ve yet to find an FPS game with a story and characters that interest me and make me want to care.

  116. Lyndsey Reynolds
    Lyndsey Reynolds August 29, 2011 at 9:11 pm |

    @Vail Absolutely love your presentation of the argument for equal nakedness.

    @Shfree Not knocking you, just wanted to say that I find your squick caused by computerized nakedness to be funny. I do agree with your complaint about DA:O body types. I wish my female elves did not look like prepubescent boys. And I wish I could make a female human warrior who is equal parts muscle and curves. I don’t know if this is shortsightedness on the developers part or if the software was just not equipped to handle the possibility of infinite different phenotypes. Given how fair the creators have been with all other options, I’m inclined to believe the latter explanation.

  117. shfree
    shfree August 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm |

    @Lyndsey Reynolds

    SPOILERS FOR DRAGON AGE ORIGINS

    Maybe it is just because the 3D dead-eyed modeling is often so…creepy, and when you have a limited number of phenotypes everyone looks the same. Like in So Alistair in his loincloth looked the same as the guy you pull out of Howe’s torture dungeon, and your character’s body looks the same as Morrigan’s, in that weird underwear, plus the sex scenes *shudders*. Everyone was just awkward–limbs all over the place, and with Alistair’s, he looked like he was going to eat my character’s face. (Technically they shouldn’t have been wearing underwear for that, and frankly, I would have felt better if they weren’t, hatred for nakey computerized flesh or not. I live for logic) And don’t get me started on that Alistair/Morrigan “smexy” cutscene, I felt like I had to watch it through my fingers, it was so squicky. And Dragon Age has excellent 3D modelling, and yet I still just didn’t need to see Alistair’s package, thankyouverymuch, just like I don’t need to see my character’s ass. Yes, I still resent being stripped and not given a tunic to wear in the prison.

    Anyway, still an awesome game, and I’ve been playing it all weekend.

  118. shfree
    shfree August 29, 2011 at 11:49 pm |

    Ack, the second sentence should read “Like in Dragon Age Alistair…” and not whatever goofiness I was trying to do in multiple windows at the time, apparently.

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