Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Blog Banter: A Wish for 2009!

Posted by deckard47 on December 13, 2008

Welcome, welcome to Blog Banter, the monthly blogging extravaganza headed by bs angel! Blog Banter involves our cozy community of enthusiastic gaming bloggers, a common topic, and a week to post articles pertaining to said topic. The results are quite entertaining and can range from deeply insightful to ROFLMAO. Any questions about Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

So here’s the topic…

If you could ask for one thing this year from the gaming industry as a whole, what would it be and why?

This is actually an incredibly hard question, because I’d like to ask for a million things, some small, some large. I could ask for the misogyny, homophobia and racism in games to be cut out, something that would make a huge percentage of games much more playable. I could ask for developers to treat stories and writing as an element of game design (as they are starting to do), and not as an afterthought. I could also ask for games that focus on older, less cutting edge gameplay mechanics or tropes, games that aren’t afraid to live in the past. It’s ok for games to do this in some ways (the aforementioned cultural and sexual intolerance and bad writing), but not in other ways (deep, complicated stories like those found in Baldur’s Gate, overly complicated interfaces like those in System Shock 2 or Dues Ex).

So I want things to move forward, all while retaining what I enjoy about older games. Obviously the industry is way ahead of me, they just want to retain things I hate, and push things I care less about. We can keep Marcus, Dom, and Col Train (Really Epic? What decade is it?), but let’s not be too hasty with those non-hypersexualized women.

After careful and long consideration (almost two paragraphs worth), I think I’d like for the industry to be more self-aware. This would help address so many problems that plague us today, from those I mentioned, to how we’re perceived by non-gamers, to how we develop as an industry, as an art form, and as a community.

We need to realize that the people who we play games with and blog with and about are not necessarily the same person as us. Not everyone thinks that everything is just as awesome as we take it to be. If the video games industry can show itself to be a more tolerant, open, and inventive place, than I’m sure that its patrons will change with it.

This means everything. It means making it possible to play as characters that aren’t instantly gender identifiable, and if they are, that they be identifiable in ways that aren’t drawn from the peculiar minds of adolescent-seeming heterosexual white men. I mean, in Halo, a game featuring a completely opaque (please, he’s completely flat and boring) protagonist, we never had the option to play as a female Spartan. I know that people think that he has character, but he doesn’t, he’s a caricature, and a bad one at that. Why couldn’t they have included a badly written female Spartan character as well?

This could be such a good thing for the industry. Maybe if we thought more about these things, we wouldn’t have 50 Cent running around a “we swear it’s not based on Iraq” Middle Eastern country fighting “we swear they’re not insurgents like the real ones” Insurgents. The level of xenophobia, racism, and sexism in games is always startling to me, despite the fact that it is just mimicking the ways in which American culture is intolerant in general.

Some games and developers are making strides in these areas, slowly but surely. For a company that made the male protagonist-only Fable, Lionhead blew me away with Fable II. It may have been an mostly Whites-only game, but it let you have any kind of sexual relationship, marriage or otherwise, whenever you wanted (hey California, you just got beat by a game).

Games like Mirror’s Edge and Beyond Good and Evil prove that it’s possible to have less-sexualized, less status-quo “feminine” heroes be our protagonists (even if Faith was the protagonist of a badly told story). Strangely, having multiracial or non-White protagonists is the place where most games never tread. If they do, they often trade in the most blatant set of stereotypes possible. Still, it’s better than having no protagonists of color (just barely).

Of course, for every step we take in the right direction, we take 10 steps backward. We look uncritically (criminally so) at games like Resident Evil 5 and Grand Theft Auto IV, and we do so happily. We take Unreal Tournament’s Malcom, and no one really says much, aside from the idle joke about how he talks. The guys at Epic should watch Tropic Thunder, maybe.

So, industry, please, as this year draws to a close, look at yourself, and see how we view your games and you. Realize that you do some really fucked up shit, and that you get away with it because you rely on those with the most power in society to pay your bills. The video game industry is the fastest growing entertainment industry in the United States. The industry should hold itself accountable to all of its customers, not just the demographic that gives them the most money.
Other participants listed below!
What I want in 2009, The “Roxanne” Edition, Dear Gaming Industry, if the industry gave us all presents this Christmas, Demands for the industry, Santa, Don’t Bring Me Toys I Have To Share, All I Want for Christmas Is…, My Wish for the Year, Crossing Over, Checkpoint Unobtained. errr., Loading Requests, LISTEN BITCH!!!, One Wish, Dear Video Game Industry, More games like Portal and Braid, Imagine, Dear Video Game Industry, A Wish for 2009!


5 Responses to “Blog Banter: A Wish for 2009!”

  1. silvercube said

    I just read everyone’s articles that were published, and out of all them, I liked yours the best 🙂

    You seemed to have a lot of emotion in this piece, and that’s what gets to me.

    The day people view things like how you mentioned here may just be a day where it can apply for just about anything. Even racism and homophobia issues 🙂

    Have not just sympathy, but empathy – to really say “I am in your shoes”…

    In the meantime, I recommend everyone to watch some Care Bears. It does help ^_^

  2. Mizzy said

    Hey now, Mass Effect was nice way of making a non-hypersexualized woman (despite the tightness of the suit). You could still be a mean Renegade bitch to everyone and an awesome gunner. She could be any race you wanted, and even be ugly. But she would still be a hero. But yes, I agree with the fact that the industry doesn’t believe it can sell well unless a little T&A is given to the silly hormonal males.

  3. bs angel said

    That was a moving article. You brought a lot of things to my attention that I haven’t necessarily realized as I actively avoid some of those games (for the very reasons you mention). The changes you mention would definitely be good ones, and quite progressive ones at that. Maybe at some point, right? Strides of any size in those areas would be amazing.

  4. Angela said

    This is probably the best BB post this month!

    I agree with you completely. It would be great to see characters that step out of stereotypes. Sometimes, it really hurts to see characters portrayed a certain way.

  5. […] Dear Video Game Industry, More games like Portal and Braid, Imagine, Dear Video Game Industry, A Wish for 2009! You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

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