|Frankly, I want my avatar to look more like this ...|
The argument about how women should be portrayed in video games rages inexplicably on. Speaking as someone who writes these things for money, not systematically alienating half the human population and almost half of actual gamers is just good business.
Happily, progress is being made. There have been quite a few games out this year, indie and AAA, that prominently feature interesting women as main characters and supporting cast. (e.g. Gone Home. Last of Us. Tomb Raider. Bioshock: Infinite, sorta.)
We're getting there. Fossilized designs like Grand Theft Auto V are increasingly out of place. But angry young men on forums make it seem like there's an actual controversy, so on we go.
It's all kind of a waste, because, as far as I'm concerned, the interview that should settle the argument decisively came out in September, and it didn't get nearly as much attention as it should have.
It's an interview with two female soldiers, one who served in Afghanistan and one who served in Iraq, about how women are portrayed in gunshooters.
It's full of great quotes, but here's a nice one, talking about Call of Duty (which only finally put in playable female soldiers in the newest title) ...
It's because you have men who are designing these games in the first place. Put me, or any of the women who have served in charge of a shooter that includes women as the main protagonists. You can bet that you'll get a character who is far more concerned about her kill streak than she is her makeup or how she looks. And you can believe she wouldn't be running around in a bikini either. Save that for Dead or Alive where the women don't do any real combat, and flounce around with their tits bouncing like they are in a rodeo.
I think that this should be the beginning of the end of the conversation. Here's why.
|... than this.|
Soldiers and Video Games, The Basics
Bear in mind here that video games are insanely popular among soldiers overseas, as they provide a reliable distraction during the inevitable seemingly infinite hours of boredom and inactivity.
I have received so many e-mails from soldiers who wanted to get my games up and running before they leave on a long deployment. Of course, I find it impossible to reject requests like that.
The Last Stand of Principle
Of course, in our society, pretty much any moral principle can instantly be abandoned if the money is right. In the video game industry, it's gotten to the point where anyone’s appeal to basic ethics is generally treated with open mockery. (How many huge games in the last year or two shipped in a basically non-functional state?)
There is one principle, however, that is almost never questioned by the sane: The people who chose to sacrifice years of their lives (and perhaps their entire life) to defend their countries deserve respect.
The people willing to die for us should be honored for that. Must it be said that this is still true when they are women?
|From the upcoming game, Warface. This is a PR image. Everything about it was carefully planned. What does it want to say, and what does it want to teach? (Answer below.)|
So Here Is The Absolute Minimum That Is Required
One. If it's a game about soldiers, female avatars should be available whenever possible. With a AAA budget, there is NO excuse to not have this in the multiplayer. You can afford it.
Two. Women soldiers should look like soldiers. When someone goes overseas and gives up years of her life in public service, she should not see that her culture regards woman warriors as a bunch of mindless sex dolls.
I mean, right?
And let's be clear. I know game devs. I've been around them for decades. They are mostly doughy, deskbound guys who never came within a thousand miles of serving in the military. That these guys are insulting the women doing the tough job so few of them signed up for is truly galling.
|Answer: Thank you for your service.|
And It Matters
Culture matters. I mean there's not a question, right? The images we surround ourselves with affect us. Why are such massive fortunes spent on advertising? You think they don't affect people? Corporations like wasting money?
(And don't kid yourself. There is a wealth of research that says that ads do affect you, even when you don't realize it.)
We absorb the media around us, and it shapes us. Nobody plays these games more than kids, and kids learn.
So ask yourself the question. What do you want young people to learn? Not what it is easiest or most profitable to teach them. Ask what we want. What is best for the country. What is just. What is right.
I'm no white knight. The women in the interview don't need my help or my pity. They do, however, deserve respect. Depicting soldiers as soldiers, man or woman, seems like a tiny, reasonable way to start.
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