18 April, 2007

A high-elf should not stoop low enough to kiss mere mortal man

A few articles have been written about the "girl gamer phenomenon" but overwhelmingly the market is male and with most games there's little surprise. I've been playing games for as long as I can remember but as graphics have improved, female characters have become more and more of a turn off. The clothes suck. In the vast majority of games, female characters look like something out of an anime porno. But more than the clothes, the characters themselves suck. Male characters get a storyline, they get emotions. Female characters are too often defined by their relationship to the main (male) characters. A female character is one of the male character's girlfriend or exists to become the girlfriend. Her emotions surround her feelings towards the male character(s). She's there for support but not for the glory or the victory. And then the "girl gamer" crap started so the industry made some games for "girls." Example one: Barbie Horse Adventure, 'nuff said. Of course not all games that have appealed to women are bad. The Sims, Animal Crossing are fabulous games, well made and fun for everyone. They also don't have a storyline except for one that the player makes and lets players customise characters which means we're not stuck with an avatar of giant-breasted elf wearing a thong and fawning over the main (male) character. I think part of the reason that games like Final Fantasy and GTA don't appeal to a lot women is that the avatars suck or the only part that girls get to play as/see is someone's "ho." When I get a fantasy game, I want to pick up my sword/bow/wand/etc. and start kicking ass, exploring the environment, not flirting with the ugly guy I'm supposed to be in love with. A lot of people identify with characters that resemble them, but video game female characters do not resemble the vast majority of women or those that play games. So video game designers, here's my appeal. Women make up more than half the country - this is a huge demographic - exploit it, please! 1) Make some good female characters who have an actual part in the game and are not merely romantic interest/eye-candy (and preferably wearing something that one can imagine fighting in) . 2) Make good games. 3) Put the good female characters in the good games. 4) Don't make things pink. When I see pink - I see crappy-attempt-at-selling-lame-product-to-women-by-changing-the-colour and I avoid like the left-over children of Ungoliant.

Of course not all games are like this. Most surprisingly the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series has been a welcome change for me (that and its based on one of the best novels of all time and a fascinating chunk of history). Surprising because it is set in a period of history that was extremely patriarchal. In RotTK, you can make female characters have the same capacity as the male characters. Which means that my girl avatar can outsmart Cao Cao, kill Lu Bu in a duel and conquer all of China and in no way is her story defined by her romantic entanglements to the male characters. Dynasty Warriors does some of the same, the existing female characters suck but historically-speaking they are supposed to suck, and the clothes are a bit impractical but they can still wipe out the enemy well enough and you can create some seriously sweet characters.

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