Tuesday, June 11, 2013

These People Don't Represent Us

While I don't believe Anita Sarkeesian - the pop culture blogger for Feminist Frequency - is a flawless crusader, I certainly don't believe she deserved the nastiness thrown at her. She fights a battle the deserves as much traction as it can, and that's female equality in video games. While I don't believe, necessarily, in the retiring of certain storytelling tropes - see Damsel in Distress, Damsel in the Fridge - as I believe they are important for some gamers to live out hero fantasies, I understand what she is saying and I support it.

Recently, at E3, there were more presentations for the Xbox One. The internet is still underwhelmed with this new beast for many reasons that aren't for this article. If you want to see some critique, it's literally all over the web. Have at. Sarkeesian had a problem with the fact that, once again, there were no games with female lead protagonists for this next generation of gaming. What followed was an onslaught so nasty it would make anyone cringe. Tweeters told her to "shut up", that she was a "cunt" and that "what did [she] expect, a cooking and cleaning game?" - are you fucking kidding me?

No, really, is this some elaborate ruse that I'm not in on? Because fuck.

She's right, you know. Sarkeesian's right. While we may have games with playable leads such as Lilith, Maya and Gaige (Borderlands, Borderlands 2), the unceremoniously named FemShep - short for Female Shepard - from the Mass Effect trilogy, Samus Aran from the Metroid series, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft, who are unabashedly awesome characters in their own rights, there are by no means enough. Most of them are over-breasted, frighteningly-skinny-waisted ridiculous creations in games with titles like Wet, DoA Beach Volleyball and Lollipop Chainsaw. DoABV is an obvious fan service game that helps to perpetrate that gaming is a Boy's Only club and that ladies aren't welcome, while Wet assures us it's titled as such for the reference to an assassin doing 'wetwork' but let's face it, there's no way it would have a male protagonist, would it?

Now, there are some new ones coming out, like Mirror's Edge 2, Dreamfall Chapters, Beyond: Two Souls, Remember Me and Sanctum 2, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that the default video game hero isn't still a roguishly handsome, hulky, straight, white male with a bit of stubble and longish hair and a gruff voice. It's terrifying how many games' protagonists that represents. That does not take away that those games are good. I am not saying that. But we need to mix it up a little. Maybe the fact that we have a "default" hero at all is the problem.

Where are the gay heroes? The black heroes? Native Americans? Jews? I would sure love to play a gay, Jewish, black lady.


Special thanks to Caitlin Welsh for reading this and sub-editing it so I didn't sound like (too much of) a jackass.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Back From The Neverhood: Armikrog

I've been playing video games for a long time. Since our family first got a household computer, my brother and I have been playing games on it. We never had a console until Christmas 2001 saw my parents give in and buy us (me) an Xbox. However, I will always look fondly back at those days spent playing those games on the computer, installed in blocks of anywhere from one to six floppy diskettes. Commander Keen, Treasure Mountain, Gizmos and Gadgets, Operation Neptune and many, many more.

Then there came the CD games. Wow. CD-ROM's. They were something else. The games got bigger, better, more intricate. One game that I will always treasure for its oddness and its beauty is the 1996 release The Neverhood, from the creator of Earthworm Jim, Doug TenNapel. This game was a claymation, point and click adventure game that was funny, bizarre, beautiful and difficult. It was a puzzle solver with as much humour and challenge as the first Portal installment. We spent hours on that game, playing it over and over again because the characters like Klaymen, Hoborg and Klogg were so much fun.

That is why I practically screamed with excitement when I saw that the creators of The Neverhood had started a Kickstarter campaign to make a "spiritual successor" to The Neverhood. As if Skullmonkeys hadn't happened.

If you watch the Kickstarter video - and I highly recommend you do - this game looks just as fun and even more bizarre, using the same wonderful claymation techniques that made The Neverhood so awesome. And the voice talent! Veronica Belmont! Jon Heder! ROB PAULSEN! COME ON!

There are some really great rewards on this one, including copies of the game, t-shirts, art books, comic books, soundtracks and - if you've got the dough - a credit in the game as either a thank you or "additional animation". Because they teach you how to animate and then let you animate on the game!

I've pledged and I hope you will, too. Let's get these guys up and rolling!