Who are your most beloved video game characters in history? Really think about that. Which one grabbed you and made you want to play out their story to its fullest? Or made you want to do something daring? Or made you want to…..cosplay…?
I noticed something about myself the other night while attempting feverishly to end the madness that is Alien: Isolation. The protagonist is Amanda Ripley, a woman thrust into a frikkin terrifying situation she must use her wits to survive.
Then I went and jumped on an oldie…Tomb Raider. The 2013 version. The GOOD version. Yeah I said it. Lara Croft had been redesigned as a girl thrust into a perilous situation in which she must survive. With no tools and no help. For those who enjoy slower paced action, think to Clementine the protagonist of all those Walking Dead games. She’s a little girl. Thrust into a situation with no tools and no help. With zombies.
There’s a trend going on in gaming these days. If you keep up with the news you’d know that the scandal that wasn’t really a scandal, Gamergate, brought considerable attention to the gamersphere in terms of gender equality and whatnot.
Video games have always had female characters. They’ve always had strong female characters. But for the past thirty or so years gaming has been a primarily male defined activity. The gaming industry understands this and markets accordingly to its primary audience. Lara Croft has big boobs. Nariko from Heavenly Sword is nearly naked throughout the entire game. Bayonetta has Bayonetta boobs.
Samus Aran is…silent. But fairly recently the whole concept of the buxom blonde with guns and an edgy attitude is starting to balance out. The changes have been gradual and almost panic driven. Once the Call of Duty guys realized that chicks actually play their games, they used Call of Duty: Ghosts as a vehicle to allow gamers the chance to play as female operators in multiplayer. An outcry of fans of the Halo franchise forced the powers that be to make a female lead named Kat for their Reach entry. Hasn’t it been too long though?
Have I just been under my liberal gaming rock for too long? Did I miss a decade or two? Why is this just now happening? Why did it take until 2013 for developers to give me a game where my sidekick is a tough chick that tosses me ammo instead of constantly needing rescuing (thank you Bioshock). Why did it take a world famous heroine so long to lose a few cup sizes and gain intelligence and spirit? I mean, I know the answers but I just don’t want to believe them.
The video game industry is first and foremost an industry; it’s built around turning a profit on a product and for the longest time, women were not a selling point. Girls just didn’t play games like boys did so there was no incentive to put characters in games that could serve as role models for young girls.
Only recently did new gaming liberalism start to take hold. The culture around gaming is sort of a damaging one. It makes up its rules as it goes along because in all reality it is a rather new medium. A majority of the CEO’s of major gaming publishers are in fact older than video games themselves. Like the parents of many gamers.
The goal of the industry should never be to allow the alienation of an entire consumer base just to make a little extra dough. If we’re making up the rules as we go along then we should make up rules about gender equality in gaming.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no proto feminist. I just know a wealth of gamers that are female out there that would like to see a few more female protagonists. I think we’d do a little bit better if we didn’t accept a culture that believed cosplay was entirely about how little clothing a chick had to wear. Dress like Jill Valentine then we can talk. The culture will get better with time. But only after we begin to see sister gamers as a necessity in gaming rather than just hangers on.