I love games. Console, PC, what-have-you. I’ll even go in for the shitty portable game apps at times (though yeah, there’s some great ones too). As a hobby, it’s sat side-by-side with my writing for many years, and as you’ve probably seen from previous posts (unless you’re brand new here), I’ve been influenced by games to a great degree.
Mass Effect and Quest for Glory are up there as a series for me, right alongside long-time favourites of Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings. No big surprises there, it’s all pretty geeky.
I’m pretty antisocial in gaming terms, though. When I used to play WoW, I mostly solo’d content because I didn’t want to interact with people all that much (people are generally dickbags, especially online), and with the exception of Mass Effect 3 and some early fun on some Xbox racing game where people were strangely nice, I didn’t do the online thing. I did a little for some other games, Jedi Knight and Starcraft 2 are about the only others, but only the first was really a continuous thing where I played with other people. I’m a gamer, but I don’t consider myself part of any big f**koff gaming community. I did once. I’ve mentioned Lionhead’s The Movies before. That’s it, and the online component was basically a piss-poor attempt at youtube for movies made with the game, and an associated forum. It’s dead now, whatever.
Part of it’s my own fault. Not because I’m quiet on the issues (which I am because I’m not a game reviewer, developer, commentator or anything resembling someone that has one iota of influence), but because I bother checking up on what the issues are. This week there was the Zombie Bait debacle, and today there’s a kerfuffle about Cyberpunk 2077. One is exploitative, sexist, and derisive toward women. The other is not, and apparently doesn’t sexualise women. I understand that the zombie torso thing is bullshit and should not exist. I don’t understand why the other gets a free pass. I watched the trailer and thought it was overly sexy, but today the game-industry commenters I tend to read have decided that being against exploitation today is now slut-shaming.
I love games like Mass Effect, though it had its own issues with the overhaul of Ashley’s appearance in Mass Effect 3 (for those that had her still alive), and the lousy casual wear options afforded to Femshep. I think Far Cry 2 handled female characters as neatly as they did male characters, in that there was no special “hey, check it out. it’s a woman!” nudge-wink bullshit. They were just characters that belonged there, even if you couldn’t play as one of them.
It’s a problem with society itself, and gaming is just a microcosm of the bullshit that goes on in the rest of the world, but it annoys the hell out of me. There’s no need for games to reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator. I see people say on one day that games/shooters need to stop appealing to macho self-fulfillment fantasies, and on the next that specifically catering to women is offensive, and THEN that treating men and women equally is ALSO offensive because it’s negating the individual qualities that each has. I can only speak from my own experiences.
I’m married to a woman, who plays games. She also likes traditional girly things, like makeup – it’s almost like people can have diverse interests. Up until very recently, she hadn’t tried The Sims (because as every bloody idiot seems to suggest, only women play The Sims, and the only game women play is The Sims. I’VE played it more than her). I come home, and I’ll find her playing Doom 2, Zelda, or Dishonored, or Fable. There’s no “oh, that’s a guy’s game.” We play a shitload of co-op games together, suffering through the atrocious acting to be found in LOTR: War in the North, and the brotastic dude-shooter Gears of War series. There is plenty special about my wife, but the fact that she is a girl and plays video games is not one of them.
Yes, the marketing companies need to pull their goddamned heads out of their asses and stop either pushing T&A into every game poster, cover and memorabilia, and stop assuming that women don’t play these things just because there’s no pink frills on the main character’s outfit. We (as gaming public, including you that report each issue) need to be consistent about what you say is good or bad, and be consistent about why – considering how much scrutiny the game industry continues to comes under as it becomes more of a mainstream form of entertainment.