Jump to content

  • Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account

Interview with Ernest Adams on equality and diversity in the games industry


Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.

  • You cannot reply to this topic
51 replies to this topic

#1 Krissie   Members   -  Reputation: 103

Posted 08 April 2011 - 09:39 AM

OK, OK.... I'l be honest here, I'm pimping an article I've written on a blog. It's not exactly my normal behaviour, and I know it's the first time I've posted here, but this isn't as catchy as our Bioware/Straight Male Gamer article, but never the less it's just as valuable, and I genuinely believe it will be of interest to people here... but more to the point, is relevant to game devs, and I'd like to share what he has to say. I sincerely hope you don't mind my having posted like this.

http://www.nomorelost.org/2011/04/08/equality-in-the-gaming-industry-interview-with-ernest-adams/

Mr. Adams is founder of the International Game Developers' association, has helped put on the Game Developers conference, is a 22 year industry veteran, a writer, game designer, consultant, and fellow/professor at a number of european universities.

Sponsor:

#2 Fl4sh   Banned   -  Reputation: 30

Posted 08 April 2011 - 11:57 AM

So basically this is just talking about getting gay white people into the industry (assuming because the writer himself is white)? Boring...bring me something about race.
They hated on Jeezus, so you think I give a f***?!

#3 Krissie   Members   -  Reputation: 103

Posted 08 April 2011 - 12:14 PM

Not quite sure where you got that idea from. He's talking about a few things, and race doesn't enter into it in any way shape or form.

One thing is including options for LGBT people, where appropriate. Another is about women in the gaming world and the industry itself. Yet another is about accessibility in games for people with physical impairments and disabilities.

Given that at least 40% of gamers are in fact women, with 23% of the population having some form of physical impairment, I'd imagined that such issues would be of significance to game developers. My apologies if this is in some way not the case.... though I'm still unsure of where "getting gay white people into the industry" is assumed to be the full thrust of the article.

#4 Nathan Handley   Members   -  Reputation: 792

Posted 08 April 2011 - 12:18 PM

I'm going to respond here since you posted it here-- because otherwise this topic would get mod-locked and deleted as Spam. I do believe it's a good enough topic to discuss though.

To sum up my general opinion about the article and issue as a whole comes from a dichotomy of the "creative vision" and "capitalistic model":
A game company that functions as a means to provide goods for consumption with the goal of maximized profit, employment and target audience diversity should be (near) paramount.
A game company that functions as a creative expression outlet, diversity should not need to be a consideration.


I think there are game companies of varied types / sizes / and goals, and that needs to be considered. In its infancy, games were developed by smaller teams and more of dream-realization by the creators to build worlds, objectives, experiences, (so on) that they want to craft and send out for experience. Similar to a painting, or book. When it's just creative expression, considerations of diversity likely don't play too large, if any, in that process unless it just happens to fit under the vision of the creator. Throughout history, these types of considerations are either naturally present or specifically addressed in order to illustrate some sort of grand ideal.

However, the game industry is 'growing up' and becoming more commercial driven rather than expression driven. There are more people employed, more creative inputs, and greater risk and requirement of sales. Aside from small indie studios, a game is/will get funded if it fills a need rather than if it creates an experience. With this mentality, modern game development DOES need better diversity in both the construction makeup and targeting of material. While I think having so many artificial modifiers to the creative expression in order to appeal to a wider audience dilutes the idea, it's simply better commercially to do so. Mainstream Games are truly becoming more of a product and less of a creation. This is pretty evident in almost every new game that has only one gender or race for the lead character, simply scan review sites. The creator(s) are chastised for their choices with the projected idea that "You're not making what I want, you're making what you want. Stop it!".

I wouldn't classify a male (or small group of males) creating a story/game/experience from the perspective of a male and with a males goals in mind as anything negative, just as I wouldn't with a female writer who writes stories intended for a female audience. I wouldn't even go so far as to brush them with the "they lack enlightment" brush that Ernest Adams does. People generally wish to create stories that they like and can (quite possibly) identify with, and create because they want to create. The only "enlightenment" they may need would be that games are now an industry, and unbridled creativity should remain at the door.

Personally, I think diversity in the games industry should come from a different direction. I prefer a single person (or very small group of people) creates a more cohesive and directed story than created-by-committee. With that, to me it would make more sense to have different pillars of likewise development communities to fill these niche groups desires by effect rather than by design. So for example, if over half of gamers are women, then it makes sense that the games for women should be developed by women as they'd likely know best what to create and what they'd like. I do think that studio makeup should reflect audience makeup, but I don't think that all studios should try and market to everyone. Specilization is a powerful thing. Just look at Clamp for an example. I dare say that what may be hurting the industry is a lack of all-female development studios. In fact, I think that studios should vary wildly in their diversity (all male, part male part female, all female, race mixes and religion mixes similar) based on the types of games they like to make and who they like to target. This line of thinking is rather taboo and/or illegal-- and I'll likely get flamed for it.
_____

In short, I'm not a fan of rules around creativity or over-generalization in more modern games. Nor am I a fan of the vilification of some for creating worlds that don't appeal to everyone. I like a concise idea expressed with as few external modifying forces as possible in a game. I don't mind playing as a Female or Male character (Valkyrie Profile being my favorite game of all time, actually), as long as the games execution and perspectives are clear.

#5 Krissie   Members   -  Reputation: 103

Posted 08 April 2011 - 12:39 PM

I'm going to respond here since you posted it here-- because otherwise this topic would get mod-locked and deleted as Spam. I do believe it's a good enough topic to discuss though.
...

I don't mind playing as a Female or Male character (Valkyrie Profile being my favorite game of all time, actually), as long as the games execution and perspectives are clear.


I may not personally agree, but that's a rather well thought out reply. Thank you.

My personal feelings revolve around a social scientific concept of continuity and change. I see the dichotomy you speak of, but do not nessecarily see it as being entirely correct - for example, as you say it is indeed now an industry for better or for worse, and while diversity is clearly beneficial in capitalist terms with regards to appealing to as wide an audience as possible, I also believe it's of benefit to the industry in creative terms. There's always a new and original idea floating around out there somewhere and waiting to be seized upon, but as the industry has grown and grown, this pool of original ideas has become harder to reach out to - a 'norm' has developed, and while creativity flourishes within and around it, the wholly original concepts aren't quite as prevelant. So much has been done, that as people have ideas they have to ask themselves whether it's been done already. A surefire way around this problem is indeed an influx of new games developers with new perspectives and new ideas, be they LGBT, women, people with disabilities... anyone really from outside of the current assumed/percieved mainstream.

As to commercial diversity - I guess in the modern age, if it's a full scale game it's going to be expensive, and it's likely to need sales. While I would agree that no person of any group has the automatic 'right' to be included in games, I also find myself thinking that even in games aimed at a traditionally favoured audience can do very simple things to be made accessible and inclusive to a wider demographic, and consequently recieve greater following as a result, whether that's gay people, or people with some sort of impairment. I don't nessecarily see that such things need impact upon the creative decisions of a writer/developer at all, and indeed, could often only serve to provide benefit.

#6 Fl4sh   Banned   -  Reputation: 30

Posted 08 April 2011 - 01:26 PM

Not quite sure where you got that idea from. He's talking about a few things, and race doesn't enter into it in any way shape or form.



Everyone here lives in a multicultural society here? Yes or No?

So how can you put those groupings on disabled, gay, etc but not on race? On one hand it seems like you're saying: "we're all HUMEN BEENGS!!111!!...one UDER DA SUN!!!111".

On the other hand, you make distinctions. Posted Image

One thing is including options for LGBT people, where appropriate. Another is about women in the gaming world and the industry itself. Yet another is about accessibility in games for people with physical impairments and disabilities.



And what other groups?

But really, I understand how you think. LOL So I will leave it alone now.
They hated on Jeezus, so you think I give a f***?!

#7 Krissie   Members   -  Reputation: 103

Posted 08 April 2011 - 01:45 PM

I'm not sure that you do. The article is on an LGBT blog, yet is diverse enough to encorporate discussion of a number of other groups. The fact is, diversity applies to any given group - I speak of the ones I identify as being particularly talked about in the article, as being particularly large demographics to be dealing with. To speak of absolutely every group that exists in the world would be a monumental undertaking and would rather kill the object of the discussion.

#8 Nathan Handley   Members   -  Reputation: 792

Posted 08 April 2011 - 05:24 PM

I'm not sure that you do. The article is on an LGBT blog, yet is diverse enough to encorporate discussion of a number of other groups. The fact is, diversity applies to any given group - I speak of the ones I identify as being particularly talked about in the article, as being particularly large demographics to be dealing with. To speak of absolutely every group that exists in the world would be a monumental undertaking and would rather kill the object of the discussion.


While "Fl4sh" was quite a bit inelegant about his point, I can see where he (she?) is coming from. The topic header and summary here doesn't specifically call out sexual orientation as the scope of equality/diversity. You're right though, the link is clearly LGBT.

To the points you made, I completely see where you're coming from. Though I think I disagree on different issues than you do. I'd rather state that having norm (and gravitating to it) is fundamentally a problem. It's this homogenization within each game genera in order to facilitate a streamlined production-line of games that I disagree with. There are types of games that I think you're 100% right about on all accounts. An example would be, say, Dragon Age series. This is a game series in a 'choose-your-own' adventure series type story set-up western-style RPG that would lend well to such diversity in creation and aim. The players personal life is fairly unimportant compared to the world crisis. It's the push to make all, or rather, most games into the mould that I have exclaim with. Sometimes I like a sandbox story, but sometimes I like the story simply told (more asian-style RPG). My opinion above is that 'cover all the bases' style of game development with high diversity (this 'norm' you have pointed out, which is quite true), is becoming the safe standard in which game companies are willing to default to in order to maximise sales and exposure. The 'safe road' if you will.

I guess another way to put it, I'm worried that if we get comfortable in a norm- more provocative storytelling or game-play becomes too risky and less commonplace. And to an even stronger degree, author expression gets squelched in order to accommodate a repeating 'choose-your-own-adventure' experience. For example, prejudice is a powerful factor in almost everyone's life to the point of it's a base character building element; such as the woman in a patriarchy that rose up to save the world, the man that escapes the clutches of a life-dictating religion to expose the true intentions, or some other story of oppression and perseverance that would be considered 'too expensive' to do in high detail in an open-story style game or too provocative for the 'core audience'. For a character challenge to be optional or dynamic, is for it to not be meaningful to the grand scope.

I value storytelling in a game a bit too much. I wish to experience the game play, but be told the story. I do realise that I may be in a minority here.

#9 Splinter of Chaos   Members   -  Reputation: 239

Posted 08 April 2011 - 05:42 PM

I think this issue is a societal one. What would a game for women look like? Old perceptions of gender roles would suggest that it should be less violent, more pretty, and more accessible because women will become easily confused. According to commercials by Nintendo, they also like to giggle while playing, so it should be non-threatening. Women are starting to reject their historic role, but i don't think society has come to an understanding in this area.

So you might play a game with a female main character, but that game is probably marketed to men. The main character must meet male expectations of attractiveness in body and clothing. She will generally exhibit typical female traits. Dragon's Age might be an exception for all i know--never played it--but allowing the player to pick male or female to me suggests they went for very non-gender specific dialog, rather than delving into societal gender issues, which is to pretend they don't exist.

I think the perception that games are a mens club is hurtful to society and the integration of all genders in social activities. The game companies support this perception because it's safe because they will keep their current market and it doesn't seem like less women will play their games, not that i would know. It's not a problem when one studio does this, it's a problem when each one does it. The outrage against playing as a gay character seems to suggest gamers don't want it to change. It makes it seem like games are mere phantasys of male domination.

So i agree that game companies have evolved into profit-driven beings that don't really give a shit, but i think that's a rather bad thing. I also don't think the issue has anything to do with how game companies have to function, i think it relates to how they set them selves up in a fashion that they must hit the widest demographic possible in order to survive.

EDIT:

As to commercial diversity - I guess in the modern age, if it's a full scale game it's going to be expensive, and it's likely to need sales. While I would agree that no person of any group has the automatic 'right' to be included in games, I also find myself thinking that even in games aimed at a traditionally favoured audience can do very simple things to be made accessible and inclusive to a wider demographic, and consequently recieve greater following as a result, whether that's gay people, or people with some sort of impairment. I don't nessecarily see that such things need impact upon the creative decisions of a writer/developer at all, and indeed, could often only serve to provide benefit.


The problem is that being open to wider demographics seems to offend people who have no rational reason to take offence. That's why i say it's a societal problem. To further my argument above, probably the example i should have used, is what would a game designed for gay males look like? The question is what society thinks about homosexuals playing video games.

#10 Fl4sh   Banned   -  Reputation: 30

Posted 08 April 2011 - 06:51 PM

To further my argument above, probably the example i should have used, is what would a game designed for gay males look like?


I image something with bright colors, unicorns, rainbows, and pogo sticks.
They hated on Jeezus, so you think I give a f***?!

#11 owl   Banned   -  Reputation: 364

Posted 08 April 2011 - 07:10 PM


To further my argument above, probably the example i should have used, is what would a game designed for gay males look like?


I image something with bright colors, unicorns, rainbows, and pogo sticks.


If I had to bet I'd say it'd be more related to leather, cosmetics, male bodies and carrots.
I like the Walrus best.

#12 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10445

Posted 09 April 2011 - 10:53 AM

So you might play a game with a female main character, but that game is probably marketed to men. The main character must meet male expectations of attractiveness in body and clothing. She will generally exhibit typical female traits.

Where does an oddity like Mirror's Edge fit into that view? A strong, self-sufficient female lead, who while definitely beautiful, is not designed along typical male-oriented ideals of attractiveness...

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#13 Splinter of Chaos   Members   -  Reputation: 239

Posted 09 April 2011 - 01:52 PM


So you might play a game with a female main character, but that game is probably marketed to men. The main character must meet male expectations of attractiveness in body and clothing. She will generally exhibit typical female traits.

Where does an oddity like Mirror's Edge fit into that view? A strong, self-sufficient female lead, who while definitely beautiful, is not designed along typical male-oriented ideals of attractiveness...


What aspects of her are not to male specifications? Assuming you're right, i could use the "exception that proves the rule" argument or "one instance does not disprove a general trend". I only played a demo briefly and i'm going off of youtube footage, but here's what i see.

She wears a tank top, which i could argue is functional. When compared to Prince of Persia, she's not wearing anything particularly revealing. Uncharted, Tomb Raider, and Assassin's Creed are the only other games i can think up off the top of my head where the main character has similar abilities, but i can't show a trend if those are my only comparisons.

She seems "exotic". Maybe i'm just nit picking, but ethnicity is sometimes used to make a character more seductive. It also makes her abilities make more sense: "Americans aren't good at gymnastics, but Asians are excellent".

Her athletic abilities are typical female traits. Women are more agile, men are stronger. While i can say this is a general trait of women in media, the only comparable games i can think of are Prince of Persia, Uncharted, and Tomb Raider, so i can't say if it's a trait of this type of game. I can say that she's more agile than any of the other characters, though.

How a character is used in the plot is also something to take under serious consideration. Female character often have love interests with either a superior, meaning she is not as good as men (Metroid: Other M) , or with one of her subordinates (The Soloist), showing she's not all that tough. There's also often a breaking down point, where she's able to release all the tears she was holding back during the journey (V For Vendetta).

The character of Mirror's Edge looks like what i like to call the corporate model feminist. When ever i see a movie with a strong female role, like in the recent Sucker Punch and Your Highness, i think "this is a woman designed to be a positive role model for women, confidently proving herself better than men, showing that just because you're beautiful doesn't mean you're dum". Of course, if the writers are dum, there's really no hope and if she ain't pretty, people won't pay for it. At the reverse end of sexism against women, there's the idea that an average girl is not noteworthy, and not a main character. While saying "the main character is special and better than everyone else" is often redundant, one can still get away with having an attempted average every-man, like in Uncharted. Perhaps this is a double-edged sword of an argument because the moment a woman actually does something, she's no longer average in our perceptions.

I referred to wikipedia to analyze the plot, but i honestly couldn't find anything to go off of, so either there isn't anything or wiki doesn't talk about it. Since i don't have access to the game, i could only ask how it compares to what i've described above, but i hope i've at least proven that it's a complex issue and while we can see trends, i don't want to assign a binary to anything, sexist or not. It may also be impossible to make a game that is perfectly free of these trends and exhibiting one trend isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Also, i have trouble thinking of what makes a really good female role. Maybe because i think society has a ways to go before we can reinvent our gender identities. For one thing, as long as society tells me that to be a man is to be a brain dead muscle head firing a gun almost large enough to replace my genitalia (Spike TV, Gears of War, beer commercials), we're not there yet. But since i've spent this entire post talking about women in games, i think it's interesting that the Dragon Age controversy is over societal perceptions of male roles, so it's not like women are the only ones that are victims to sexism.

Funny enough, i talked to my mom about this and she mentioned that in the Sims you could have a gay character. I'm not familiar with Dragon Age, but can anyone explain why people are more outraged against DA? Maybe it's just a demographic thing, the Sims marketing towards women, ads suggesting you use the game to make the lives of those around you miserable (the passive aggressive behavior EA discovered women proffered, which is how i know they market women), and DA being on the straight male gamer's console, though i know nothing about the 360's demographics.

PS: I can at least say that for once, they dressed a "booth babe" in a humane fashion.
Posted Image

But seeing the contrast between a real life human and a digital beauty drives home an old feminist belief that's debatable on a few areas, but interesting: Men are so used to seeing these impossibly hot chicks, often digitally enhanced, that no real woman can compete with their expectations. This post is already longer than i wanted it and i could go on and on so i'm just gonna...

#14 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10445

Posted 10 April 2011 - 07:50 PM

The character of Mirror's Edge looks like what i like to call the corporate model feminist. When ever i see a movie with a strong female role, like in the recent Sucker Punch and Your Highness, i think "this is a woman designed to be a positive role model for women, confidently proving herself better than men, showing that just because you're beautiful doesn't mean you're dum". Of course, if the writers are dum, there's really no hope and if she ain't pretty, people won't pay for it. At the reverse end of sexism against women, there's the idea that an average girl is not noteworthy, and not a main character. While saying "the main character is special and better than everyone else" is often redundant, one can still get away with having an attempted average every-man, like in Uncharted. Perhaps this is a double-edged sword of an argument because the moment a woman actually does something, she's no longer average in our perceptions.

Yeah, that strikes me as a horrific double standard. Leading characters are meant to be exceptional - very rarely is a story told about an entirely average person (even if they seem average at the beginning of a story, they rarely end that way). To write off any exceptional female character as a feminist attempt to buck traditional gender roles, strikes me, quite frankly, as disgusting.

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#15 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 10 April 2011 - 08:31 PM


The character of Mirror's Edge looks like what i like to call the corporate model feminist. When ever i see a movie with a strong female role, like in the recent Sucker Punch and Your Highness, i think "this is a woman designed to be a positive role model for women, confidently proving herself better than men, showing that just because you're beautiful doesn't mean you're dum". Of course, if the writers are dum, there's really no hope and if she ain't pretty, people won't pay for it. At the reverse end of sexism against women, there's the idea that an average girl is not noteworthy, and not a main character. While saying "the main character is special and better than everyone else" is often redundant, one can still get away with having an attempted average every-man, like in Uncharted. Perhaps this is a double-edged sword of an argument because the moment a woman actually does something, she's no longer average in our perceptions.

Yeah, that strikes me as a horrific double standard. Leading characters are meant to be exceptional - very rarely is a story told about an entirely average person (even if they seem average at the beginning of a story, they rarely end that way). To write off any exceptional female character as a feminist attempt to buck traditional gender roles, strikes me, quite frankly, as disgusting.


are the guys you know not all 275 pounds of solid muscle with various blades and other weaponry stashed in their loincloths?

#16 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10445

Posted 10 April 2011 - 08:53 PM

are the guys you know not all 275 pounds of solid muscle with various blades and other weaponry stashed in their loincloths?


That seems to describe me well enough ;)

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#17 Splinter of Chaos   Members   -  Reputation: 239

Posted 10 April 2011 - 09:36 PM

Leading characters are meant to be exceptional ...



I would say that overly-exceptional characters are often poor story telling. Games lend themselves to poor story telling because the challenges you encounter (boss battles for example) don't require growth of the character, they require player skill. In other words, the main character can beat up anyone on the face of the planet at the beginning of the game if the player can so there's no point in developing the character. I can't remember a single good book i ever read about such a person.

To write off any exceptional female character as a feminist attempt to buck traditional gender roles, strikes me, quite frankly, as disgusting.



My point is not to write off exceptional female characters as anything, it's to be aware the societal trends and to look at the situation in context. I truly feel that many female roles in our popular media are subtle, but manipulative attempts to show feminist values while maintaining sexist overtones so we can feel like society is making progress in gender equality. I don't know if the character of Mirror's Edge should be viewed that way or not, i was hoping someone could read that paragraph and tell me if she fit the description. I didn't read anything on Wikipedia that suggested she fit my so-called corporate model feminist, i'm just not deciding Wiki's analysis was deep enough to conclude she isn't.

Rereading what you quoted of me, i realize that is not what i said. I was probably also analyzing Mirror's Edge from an overly cynical point of view to make my point, which made the argument weaker. For that, i apologize.

#18 Nathan Handley   Members   -  Reputation: 792

Posted 11 April 2011 - 07:59 AM

She seems "exotic". Maybe i'm just nit picking, but ethnicity is sometimes used to make a character more seductive. It also makes her abilities make more sense: "Americans aren't good at gymnastics, but Asians are excellent".

Sorry, but that actually comes of a bit racist. I'm more surprised with a predominate american-white commonality in lead role that exists today in general. When a character is either mixed or non-white, that shouldn't be an oddity.

Her athletic abilities are typical female traits. Women are more agile, men are stronger. While i can say this is a general trait of women in media, the only comparable games i can think of are Prince of Persia, Uncharted, and Tomb Raider, so i can't say if it's a trait of this type of game. I can say that she's more agile than any of the other characters, though.

Men can build muscle easier than women, and grow to be larger on average. When analysed for fitness efficiency, it would make sense for a woman to prioritise agility. I'd say that the media/social opinion was sculpted by... well... biology.

How a character is used in the plot is also something to take under serious consideration. Female character often have love interests with either a superior, meaning she is not as good as men (Metroid: Other M) , or with one of her subordinates (The Soloist), showing she's not all that tough. There's also often a breaking down point, where she's able to release all the tears she was holding back during the journey (V For Vendetta).

Aside from Metroid: Other M, the female is not the primary protagonist of the movies you listed. It's fairly standard story writing to have your central character be the pillar of strength but must rely on a secondary to compensate their character flaw(s). Methrod: Other M, I agree, was character assassination and should be smote. It goes both ways though-- look at almost any recent Disney film. Any movie with any female lead would have the male secondary protagonist as a bumbling buffoon that almost couldn't tie his shoes if it wasn't for the wisdom of the female. Now that I think about it, Disney has been doing that for male-lead movies as well over the past few years.

The character of Mirror's Edge looks like what i like to call the corporate model feminist. When ever i see a movie with a strong female role, like in the recent Sucker Punch and Your Highness, i think "this is a woman designed to be a positive role model for women, confidently proving herself better than men, showing that just because you're beautiful doesn't mean you're dum". Of course, if the writers are dum, there's really no hope and if she ain't pretty, people won't pay for it. At the reverse end of sexism against women, there's the idea that an average girl is not noteworthy, and not a main character. While saying "the main character is special and better than everyone else" is often redundant, one can still get away with having an attempted average every-man, like in Uncharted. Perhaps this is a double-edged sword of an argument because the moment a woman actually does something, she's no longer average in our perceptions.

I referred to wikipedia to analyze the plot, but i honestly couldn't find anything to go off of, so either there isn't anything or wiki doesn't talk about it. Since i don't have access to the game, i could only ask how it compares to what i've described above, but i hope i've at least proven that it's a complex issue and while we can see trends, i don't want to assign a binary to anything, sexist or not. It may also be impossible to make a game that is perfectly free of these trends and exhibiting one trend isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Also, i have trouble thinking of what makes a really good female role. Maybe because i think society has a ways to go before we can reinvent our gender identities. For one thing, as long as society tells me that to be a man is to be a brain dead muscle head firing a gun almost large enough to replace my genitalia (Spike TV, Gears of War, beer commercials), we're not there yet. But since i've spent this entire post talking about women in games, i think it's interesting that the Dragon Age controversy is over societal perceptions of male roles, so it's not like women are the only ones that are victims to sexism.


We're in an odd position in time. Lead characters, in general, are attractive characters with exaggerated strengths and exaggerated character flaws.
Here's what I see commonly from general populace when a female character is revealed in a game
- If she's pretty, that's wrong. She should look average.
- If she falters emotionally, that's an insult to women.
- If she falters strength, that's degrading to women and calling them weak.
- If she relies on anyone else for anything, that's an assault on her independence.
So on and so forth.

However, if a male lead falls into the above, that's fine. Rather... it is also seen as negative against women for reasons you even listed above! Since the male lead character had to lean on a female secondary to refine/control his flaws (V for Vendetta, The Soloist), it's twisted into an insult against her.

The reality is that main characters are idolised for having (extreme) perfections in many areas, and are defined by their character weaknesses. And in terms of physical appearance of their character, some women could look like some female characters from a movie/game, it would just be extremely hard for many and impossible for some. The same is true about men, however. In fact, men have that issue from two fronts. Their characters fall within a range of "unrealistically feminine" traits (Long hair, which many men can't do due to baldness, extreme slimness, etc) to "Unrealistically masculine" traits (300, Conan, Kratos, etc). Right now, women (generally) face just the "unrealistically feminine" side of that coin.

Women also have the expectation that the a male character in their preferred media is unrealistically attractive. This is easily viewable by simply walking down the romance section in a book store (almost every book has a 2% bodyfat sexy bodybuilder with shoulder-length full hair), or any number of female-lead romance movies where the male character is tall with dark hair and extremely fit from a wealthy house etc.

PS: I can at least say that for once, they dressed a "booth babe" in a humane fashion.

Humane? So walking a beach must be a crippling experience of inhumanity.

But seeing the contrast between a real life human and a digital beauty drives home an old feminist belief that's debatable on a few areas, but interesting: Men are so used to seeing these impossibly hot chicks, often digitally enhanced, that no real woman can compete with their expectations. This post is already longer than i wanted it and i could go on and on so i'm just gonna...

And men have to 'live up' to impossibly hot men with extreme responsibility and (usually) limitless resources. That's what makes them fantasy. If characters were simple to emulate, they'd be boring. Boring characters do work at times, depending on what the author is trying to sell. For example, Twilight. Belle is a pretty damned boring character, but Edward and Jacob are the two ends of the extreme spectrum of sexyness that she can pick-and-choose from. It's because of the superficial prizes that the reader can fantasize about that keeps the reader engaged.

#19 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 11 April 2011 - 08:25 AM


She seems "exotic". Maybe i'm just nit picking, but ethnicity is sometimes used to make a character more seductive. It also makes her abilities make more sense: "Americans aren't good at gymnastics, but Asians are excellent".

Sorry, but that actually comes of a bit racist. I'm more surprised with a predominate american-white commonality in lead role that exists today in general. When a character is either mixed or non-white, that shouldn't be an oddity.

I thought it was offensive because Americans have medaled in almost every individual and team event involved with olympic gymnastics in the last 20 years.

#20 Splinter of Chaos   Members   -  Reputation: 239

Posted 11 April 2011 - 01:15 PM

Wow, i feel my views are being taken very negatively, but how can i complain? I wanted discourse and then i got it I don't even remember (rereading my first post here) what got me on this topic...




She seems "exotic". Maybe i'm just nit picking, but ethnicity is sometimes used to make a character more seductive. It also makes her abilities make more sense: "Americans aren't good at gymnastics, but Asians are excellent".

Sorry, but that actually comes of a bit racist. I'm more surprised with a predominate american-white commonality in lead role that exists today in general. When a character is either mixed or non-white, that shouldn't be an oddity.

The reason i chose to bring this topic up is because there are a lot of people with asian fetishes, and a lot of people have this societal perception that all asians (not including middle easterners or Indians) know martial arts. The fetishism can easily be dismissed, but i noted it just so we can look at it from the perspective of societal trends. You can easily say not all asians know martial arts, but a significant number of people have asked my Chinese roommate if he knows Karate. It feels very consistent with societal views that this character be acrobatic, good in hand-to-hand combat, and sexy.

The non-white thing is not itself an issue, but it strikes me as more interesting because parkour, which the game is largely based around, is French. If she was French then rather than criticizing it, i'd applaud them for actually referencing the major influencing culture of the mechanics of the game. Not being able to play the game, i don't have any idea if her traits are indicative of anything that actually means something instead of just strengthening the game's appeal. For all i know the writer of the game was reflecting on his/her own heritage.

Men can build muscle easier than women, and grow to be larger on average. When analysed for fitness efficiency, it would make sense for a woman to prioritise agility. I'd say that the media/social opinion was sculpted by... well... biology.

The issue isn't that women can favor agility, it's that they have to in order to meet societal expectations. Just because you might never see a woman with huge muscles (who hasn't taken steroids) doesn't mean you can't find women in the world who poses strength that is impressive. Sure a main character should demonstrate a positive trait, but s/he doesn't have to be the strongest or most agile in the world to make the audience get a feel for him/her. The other thing is that fiction does not have to play by the rules of reality because of suspension of disbelief.

And again, i'm not saying making her agile means the developers are sexist, it's just important to look at that trait as a societal trend so we can view the situation in context.

We're in an odd position in time. Lead characters, in general, are attractive characters with exaggerated strengths and exaggerated character flaws.Here's what I see commonly from general populace when a female character is revealed in a game
- If she's pretty, that's wrong. She should look average.
- If she falters emotionally, that's an insult to women.
- If she falters strength, that's degrading to women and calling them weak.
- If she relies on anyone else for anything, that's an assault on her independence.
So on and so forth.

...<More good points.>...

I agree almost completely with that, but i go back to my argument about poor story telling and how good books rarely have main characters with ANY perfected traits. Though, as i said, it may be impossible to have a story where none of this happens. I just think we should be aware of the trends.

Women also have the expectation that the a male character in their preferred media is unrealistically attractive. This is easily viewable by simply walking down the romance section in a book store (almost every book has a 2% bodyfat sexy bodybuilder with shoulder-length full hair), or any number of female-lead romance movies where the male character is tall with dark hair and extremely fit from a wealthy house etc.

True, we do live in a society where even when there's an ugly character, it's called "Hollywood ugly". But you can have a game about a 200 pound space marine that's about as pretty as chewing tobacco. I have NEVER played a game with a playable female character who's nearly that heavy (at least to my memory). It's not sexist because a woman is perfectly fit, it's sexist when they have to be to meet societal expectations. With the example of Gears of War, by the time you've strapped on that much armor, and with the sci-fi theme you have to imagine they've mastered the technology to enhance muscles through cyborization (which to some degree is being done with current technology), it strikes me as plausible the game could have at least non-playable female marines. It's also plausible that in the future, congress might have actually decided to let homosexuals and women fight. Even if it's not plausible, we can have or suspension on disbelief.

Humane? So walking a beach must be a crippling experience of inhumanity.

I just meant she's dressed like a human being and not a plastic Barbie doll. I guess i don't understand what you mean by walking a beach... Could you explain?

And men have to 'live up' to impossibly hot men with extreme responsibility and (and usually) resources. That's what makes them fantasy. If characters were simple to emulate, they'd be boring. Boring characters do work at times, depending on what the author is trying to sell. For example, Twilight. Belle is a pretty damned boring character, but Edward and Jacob are the two ends of the extreme spectrum of sexyness that she can pick-and-choose from. It's because of the superficial prizes that the reader can fantasize about choosing between that keeps the reader engaged.

True, to fit some roles, especially lead roles, the men must look like god's Aryan prodigy. In that regard, going beyond sexism we have general prejudices towards ugly humans in this country. Moral people are hansom, villains, especially crooks, are sometimes portrayed with unappealing faces. But in the issue of sexism, i can give you examples of playable unattractive or overweight male characters and i challenge you to give me examples of playable unattractive or overweight female characters.

Gears of War (Overused example, i know.)
Team Fortress 2 (The heavy class.)
Unreal Tournament (I think they had something similar to TF2's heavy.)
Street Fighter (Rufus, the sumo guy)
BlazBlue (Iron Tager, Arakune)

I'm just gonna stop there.

Day of the Tentacles: I actually just found you an unattractive female character! While the game is composed of a male nerd and fat kid, there's also Laverne. There's still the argument that one example does not disprove a trend and blah blah blah. Tim Schaffer and Dave Grossman are also just awesome in making good games so you decide for yourself if this example is satisfactory. It's certainly not what i call mainstream.

A lot of my defensive arguments can just be summed up as "don't judge, but be aware".

How come they only have white leads in video games and movies and the black guy is always either a sidekick, cop, gangbanger, or homosexual?

Yeah, NPR once had a commentator saying that black people in our media have the "best friend disease". As if they can be loved in our hearts, but only as secondary interests. (I like Scrubs as an example for this.) I commented that we as a society need to reinvent our gender identities, but the same goes for what they call "race".

For example, i see Queen Latifah in a movie and she portrays a strong black woman, but with the usual stereotypes we associate with African Americans. In the example of Beauty Shop, not only does she seem to play a corporate model feminist who can run her shop, but who is still weak at the knees of the owner of the barber shop to the point it's embarrassing to watch, she also plays a corporate model African American in other movies like in Bringing Down the House or The Cookout (though i admit i didn't see the latter so i don't definitively know). You could actually call those movies progressive, but only when compared to movies 50 years ago. They support our current cultural standard beliefs of how black people behave on a day-to-day basis, including (for Bringing Down the House) throwing parties, gambling, and partaking in club culture. It was also discussed on NPR in an interview with her how in order to be allowed to make movies, she has to play to these stereotypes as an institutional requirement. In that regard, the corporate executives who decide whether to produce a movie or not are responsible as are we the people (me included) who support movies with these elements by paying to see them. She was questioned on whether she perhaps goes too far with stereotyping, or whether she does it as little as possible to get away with making a good film with a message. I can't remember the response, but you can decide on your own.

*sigh* I wonder if this will stir up more controversy or more alignment.




Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.



PARTNERS