Male vs Female. Devs vs Gamers. Mainstream vs Gaming... Oh It Is ON!

The gaming industry has only heated up the debate on violence, sex and female representation. What's it going to take to cool off all the arguments?

The gaming community, well actually the world as a whole, has been focused on sexuality, gore, and the overall direction of the gaming industry. And of course: how we act online.

Isn't it time we all just took a chill pill? maybe go to bar, grab some brews and watch some hockey eh?

Ok... maybe it's a little too Canadian, but really, it's also kind of true.

Maybe all we need is to just go relax a bit and come back to these topics with a friendlier mindset. If only it were so simple.

Understandably, gamers need to do some venting. After all - we feel ripped off.

Devs creating shorter games to sell more "DLC" and scrape more money out of gamers is a topic that hits our wallets, and seeing as we live in a money-based society it's a topic no one takes lightly.

Case in point, Namco's Tales of [Insert possibly made up word here] series. Tales of Symphonia, had a slew of extra costumes that you earned by doing extra side quests, not only did you unlock extra styles for your characters you got to experience some fun filled times and this was all included with the purchase of the game. Now fast forward to 2013 and Tales of Xilla. It's still a great game, but their are no unlockable costumes. Instead you can get adornments to add a little flair to your character, but if you want the swimsuit costume you have to go to the online store and purchase it.

Not only are you paying for something you used to get for free, now there's also no funny cliché swim scene where the main male lead gets caught peeping after agreeing to the plan of his more perverted teammate (or what have you).

Speaking of Swimsuits... Let's talk about media, kids, and body image.

every other form of media has been giving kids stupid ideas way longer than video games and we've just come to accept it
The media and the children.

The industry as a whole is under constant scrutiny for relying on overly chiseled male leads and females that make the sports illustrated swimsuit calendar look like a department store catalogue in comparison. There are also all these claims that every time "jimmy" does something horrible, like killing the neighbors cat, that it's somehow the fault of video games. My official answer to that is that every other form of media has been giving kids stupid ideas way longer than video games and we've just come to accept it. There are a multitude of reasons why "Jimmy" did what he did, maybe we should focusing on helping the kid instead of using the video game industry as a scapegoat.

Now back to the scantily clad females.

Gamers are slowly showing that we want to see more practical attire on our female characters and the devs are listening. However this isn't going to magically change overnight, sex sells. So how do you guarantee a certain amount of sales? Target a bunch of teenage boys with raging hormones who are going to do unmentionable things while fantasizing about said scantily females. Is it fair... honestly yes. Is it disturbing? Hell yeah. But it's also a formula that's works, and usually if something works, we typically don't try to change it.

We gamers aren't helping
this problem is not exclusive to the gaming industry... it's present everywhere.

I support, and encourage others regardless of gender to support the notion of having better clothed females in video games. However, I also think that although small in comparison there are still women that use their sexuality to get ahead in gaming, wether it be to distract some poor shmuck while lining him up for a quick shot to the head with a sniper rifle, or using it to get some "phat loot" in a MMO and having a caravan of guys do all the work for them. However this problem is not exclusive to the gaming industry... it's present everywhere.

Harrasment - it's not just a female problem.

If your going to play an online game, harrasment is a given, I agree that it shouldn't be - but it is.

It doesn't matter if you playing World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Halo or Call of Duty. Feeling protected by this small window frame we call a monitor, and this preconception that "it's just a game" has enabled billions of people to say utterly stupid, cowardly, degrading, and sometimes just horrible things to other people.

The catch 22 here is that when a guy is online telling some poor girl about his wang, he could be self medicating because his girlfriend left him and he's trying to validate his existence (although usually he's just being an ... let's not finish that sentence). Unfortunately humans are very self-centered so we don't stop to think about how our actions are going to affect the recipient but instead on how these actions make us feel better. Who knows - that angry, stream of cuss words you just got through teamchat in Halo might just be because that guy just spent eight hours getting reamed out by his boss.

In any case, you need to have some pretty thick skin to put yourself out into the online world, again this problem isn't limited to gaming. Go look at social media; how many poor kids have committed suicide due to online bullying?

Don't answer that, because the answer should be zero, but we all know it's not.

Designing Leading Ladies for Games: Sometimes you just can't win!

I recently made a comment on another post about just how hard it is to write a female lead, I dabble a bit in writing a fanfiction novel in my spare time and it features a main female lead character and a large cast of strong women. I based it off my time playing Final Fantasy XI. I've tossed dozens of chapters, thousands of words because after re-reading through, it made some of the characters come of as either too "girly" or vice-versa "too manly". It's really difficult to hit that sweet spot when it comes to working with a female lead, especially if you want to draw off of classic works, most of which focus on a male lead.

Its just easier and faster to write a story for a male lead, because really, can a man be "too manly" or "too girly?" Yes, but its a lot harder to do.

Designing a lead female that will come off as "acceptable" is a very complex and perplexing thing to do.

I think Milla Maxwell makes a good example, she's strong-willed, seems wise beyond her years, however she has an over sized bust and wears an outfit showing a lot of skin and is seen more or less as a sexual stereotype. You'd have to actually play the game to find out how awesome of a character she really is, just looking at the box you see a busty blonde with a sword. If she had a smaller bust and more appropriate attire I think she could have been viewed as a way more appealing character to everyone.

So at the end of the day what does it all amount too?

Well I think that at the end of the day, while these issues are indeed something we need to keep in our minds and on the table for discussion. I hope, and the goal of this article is to get people to think about these issues seriously but also take a step back and take some of the raw emotion out of it. Take some time relax yourself from the issue and focus on enjoying games for what they are. We ARE making a difference, our voice's are being heard but these issues are present everywhere, not just in gaming and if we want to see a difference we have to realize the changes are going to be slow, but we need to keep speaking our minds, but be respectful to other gamers and devs alike and slowly these changes will happen. 

Published Feb. 24th 2014
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