Oh, 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.