Deconstructing Weak-Ass Arguments about gaming on the Internets #48

WHATEVER NERDSIf you are as nerdy as me, you have no doubt gone about the web and read a plethora of girl gamer blogs, sites that have four posts on them, (most of which are copy and paste Etsy rummages from the excellent Wonderland) the latest post is about four months old, the comments boxes are largely empty and the only thought out article is one about “There are no strong female characters in video games”. Today I’ll be arguing that this is a bogus statement.

This argument isn’t new but the release of Super Princess Peach prompted a revival in the “computer games femmes are often portrayed as weak argument” by male and female gamers alike. Now it seems that any female gamer wanting to say something on the internets has to have written something like this in order to demonstrate that they really care or have something of worth to say about it.

Personally, given the choice I will play as a female character most of the time. They tend to be more interesting and less generic than male characters but I’m not making a statement about anything. My playing as a female character is no more interesting or noteworthy than the fact that in FPSs I’ll play with grenades or a grenade launcher more than any other weapon. It’s just the way I play.

As for strong female characters, (I’m not going to be so insidious as to say role models), some of the greatest games of all time have decent female leads or main characters: Rebecca, Claire, Ripley, Regina, Jade, Samus, Garnet, Koudelka, Nadia, Jill, Heather, Joanna, Lara and D’arci Stern are a few that spring to mind. At this point it’s customary to bring looks into the argument and say something about how female characters are only viewed as strong because they are sexy or they conform to the “Hollywood pedalled ideal of big tits, small waist and eyes as big as the moon”. Well that is true but it isn’t specific to female characters. Look at male characters. With minor exceptions most are generic hotties, which look scarily like the Diet Coke boy from the TV ads.

The female characters often tend to be more interesting/strong across games too; in as much as you can be a strong or interesting character in a game where zombies have taken over the world is the central premise. Men are often one dimensional characters also. By interesting I don’t mean, they have 20+ pre-recorded Bruce Campbell soundbites. Cases in point: WARNING SPOILERS

Harry Mason: Spends most of the game asking himself idiotic questions “Where’s Cheryl”. “What is it?” Oh yeah, he also dies.

Leon: Leon spends most of Resident Evil 2 trying to play the hero and protect and escape with Claire/Sherry/Ada, much to his frustration. He even asks himself at one point “Why does no-one listen to me”. Ah, diddums. Oh and even then Ada saves his life at least 4 times.

Chris: Yes! At last a decent 3 dimensional male character. He gets to be able to take more bites to the face but Jill can use a lock pick and Rebecca can play the piano. Wow Chris, you are a valuable asset to the S.T.A.R.S team.

Steve (Code Veronica): Dies.

Cloud: Is properly emotionally repressed and emotionally immature. The bit where he is in a wheelchair and can’t say anything is hardly noticeable.

Squall: The original …… boy who is so backward he can’t even answer Quistis when she hits on him and who takes something like 100 hours to even hint to Rinoa that he might be interested in her.

Gordon Freeman: Captain charisma himself. I think he was Squall’s role model when he was growing up.

Kurtis Trent: (Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness): Dies

Pig Boy from Beyond Good and Evil: Is literally a PIG. Yes, the symbolism is pixel deep.

Sam Fisher: They call him bland……James bland.

Frank West: See this brilliant piece of writing here. You should be able to do that in the game. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you have to fight things. More cowardice should be allowed in video games. I know I wouldn’t go into the mall why should I be forced as a man?

Crash Bandicoot: Ok, sticking with the animal theme. He’s next to mute where as Coco is both intelligent and can speak.

Phoenix Wright: Wouldn’t be able to solve a single case without the help from his numerous female colleagues. Those both alive and dead.

Mario: The original male protagonist. 281 games and still the best he can come up with is “It’s a me! Mario”. Also, he’s slightly chubby as well so I might get on my high horse and denounce Nintendo of being hardcore militant feminists. What kind of ideal do they give males who use videogames as their sole source for influence and role models to aspire to??

Pikachu: (specifically the one from the TV show/Pokemon Yellow).Well, I’m not convinced the Pikachu is male anyway. I’m sure that Pokemon purists can quote lines from the games/series to say otherwise but I’m not going to believe what fictional characters say of other fictional characters. Pikachu has a women’s voice. There is no point here.

Snake: The original grunty man’s man. We’re busting no stereotypes with Snake. The only time he shows any emotion other than testosterone is when he’s in his box in Snake Eater.

Link: He might be an exception had he been instilled with any kind of character whatsoever. As it stands he shows the same joy at saving the Hyrule/Zelda etc. as he does the first time he picks up a rupee. I think Drawn Together’s interpretation of Link might be the most accurate.

Zangief: Well there is an exception to every rule I guess.

Ironically, the only game that lets me play as an anaemic, evil, foul-mouthed, short of breath, lazy, weedy geek male (your average male) is GTA San Andreas. Aha! Oh, but of course you play as a male so we lazily lump that in the sexist bin with Tom Clancy’s latest Big Balls in Big Balsiztan 2: Cocking Anti American Evil in the Wrong ‘un With Our Huge Army Wangs Like Real Men. (BBiBB2:CAAEitW’uWOHAWLRM).

I can understand some of the frustrations of MMORPG players who want their female characters to be on the other side of slutty. However, busty, leggy, naked females have been a key part of fantasy as a whole genre since the beginning. Without busty, leggy, naked females who knows where the fantasy genre would even be these days. Without thousands of prepubescent geeky teenagers getting their cheap thrills from the box art of D&D there probably wouldn’t be a WoW today. Getting rid of the injustice inherent to the system might be a tough nut to crack.

So in summation, I’ve barely started really but I think it’s more balanced thought than some other authors have given the subject. We can all pick and choose examples to use to unfairly support some bias or agenda we might have. In all honesty I think it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. Either way computer games, blogs and the internet is for nerds so whatever, nerds. I’m off to take three guys in my butt whilst getting suffocated with big fat wet front flaps smothering my face whilst playing golf on a skyscraper on my friend’s secret island in the sun with my millionaire friends and my 18 supermodel girlfriends whilst drinking champagne from poor people’s empty skulls and ‘dry hump dancing’ as Elton John puts more money in my thong, so enjoy struggling on the third boss nerds. Fucking nerds.

P.S. Note to pseudo-academics, feel free to steal these examples and use them in your latest pathetic study of ideas of gender in video games or some other such pop culture twaddle because I know you can’t be bothered to do any real research but I’m fed up of reading “academic” publications on videogames that draw solely on your experience of that time you played Myst whilst you were in college and what you read when you googled “Girl Gamer”. Just make sure that the next time one of your students is giving you head for extra marks, get him/her to call you Cunzy1 1 x x

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