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.


  1. I completely agree with your arguments, however I believe you should check your examples, as I feel I need to stand up for Lollipop Chainsaw as more of a parody. Yes I know a badly made parody can do much more harm for a cause than good, but I sincerely hope that the mockery of the game was not lost by the masses.

    1. A fair point and I am willing to concede that. However, I don't think it did much to help the progress of female protagonists in video games. I desperately hope, though, that you're right and the mockery wasn't lost on people.