Thursday, July 3, 2014

Confessions of a Girl Gamer

I’m probably going to damn myself to a life of ostracism by confessing this, but what the hell: I am a gamer. I love video games, I play video games, I have played video games since I was a little kid in the Nintendo age of the late 80s early 90s. I thought I would recant my experience in the gamer world.

It all started with Mario and the original Nintendo. I remember logging hours into that game, trying my best to get to that very last level before I had to inevitably cut it off and go outside—my mother was very strict about TV time and outside time and for that I thank her. Then came the wonderful PSOne and I’ve continued my love affair with the Playstation franchise ever since. I spent hours playing classics like Spyro the dragon, Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, and Ape Escape. I absolutely loved being taken away to these other magical worlds where I could do anything.

Then there was Tomb Raider. And it was then that my perspective on gaming changed.

I was fascinated by Lara Croft, her agility, her smarts, her badass guns; I loved her. It wasn’t until I was really into the franchise when I asked myself a very important question: Where are all of the female characters in games? Why am I always stuck with a strictly male character?

It wasn’t until I was much older when it really started to grind my gears. I went on to get a Playstation 2, and though there were more Tomb Raider games for it, it seemed as though Lara Croft was the only game in town for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tomb Raider (except for the shorts…come on now who the hell is exploring tombs in short shorts?!), but once I beat it there was really nothing left for me to do but go back to God of War and a male forerunner. I felt as though I was the only girl in the world who played video games and there was something wrong with that. I loved them, but I felt isolated because I wasn’t really being represented as a female.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. A recent report stated that nearly 50% of the gaming population is female, that’s almost half for those of you who aren’t good with percentages. However a more troubling percentage enters my mind: 3% of all the decisions made on how women are represented in the media are made by women—that means that 97% of those decisions fall to men. That’s staggering, even in the 21st century.

Then you have reasons like the one Ubisoft gave, who when asked why there were no female assassins in their new Assassins Creed game, basically said that making female characters is way too hard.
Um. What? That sounds like a cop-out to me…totally calling bullshit on this one.

Then they had the nerve to say about their new Far Cry game that there ‘are tons of women in it!’

Really? So how come we don’t have a playable one? How come you, Ubisoft, haven’t given us a playable female character in a Far Cry game? Oh wait…it’s too hard to make one; Even though the Far Cry franchise has historically been a first-person shooter and ALL YOU SEE IS THEIR HANDS.

It’s either one extreme or the other it seems in the gaming industry. You have one developer who says “Making female characters is too hard!” or “Nobody will want to play as a female character!” Then you have some other douche bag saying “Look at all of our strong female characters! They’re scantily clad and have tits the size of a bowling ball but they have great personalities!”

Seriously? Can’t a girl just have a strong, normally dressed, kick ass female lead?

All hope is not lost though. The past few years have brought us a revamped Tomb Raider (who FINALLY DRESSES LIKE A NORMAL WOMAN), Fem Shep in Mass Effect, Gravity Rush, The Last of Us, and most recently First Light, a DLC based off of the Infamous Second Son game. I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting at the moment, but I still have an issue: It shouldn’t be that easy to list games with female leads. I should really have to struggle because of the number, but alas it’s still easy. Now naming a game with a buff white guy? Sheesh do you want the short list or the long?

Why are there so few female leads in video games? It’s a question I’m going to keep asking until I see results. As a female gamer, and part of a large community of female gamers, I feel that I should be represented in a positive way like any other sort of media. That’s what this is all about, I’m not asking for a major change here. It’s not that hard to write a female lead, nor is it that hard to make her compelling. So I’ll ask again: Why?