the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Made for Men, By Men

Made for Men, By Men

I’ve played games for such a long time now that when I’m given the option to choose the sex of my character, 9 times out of 10 I go for the man. I just know from experience that if I choose the man, I’ll be able to make him look awesome, whereas if I chose the woman, I know she’ll end up looking like Schwarzenegger in a dress (Yes Fable 2, I’m looking at you.) But it’s more than that; I seem to expect the protagonists to be men. Years of gaming has hardwired me.

I recently started Mass Effect 1 and I wasn’t very far through it when my brother came in, looked at the screen and said: “Why is your Shepard a man?” to which I replied, “Isn’t everyone’s Shepard a man?” He looked at me like I was thick and sneeringly said, “Were you even awake when you put the disk in the machine? You could choose their gender and customise them too. You’re an idiot.”

I was surprised to say the least. I’d assumed that everyone got a male Commander Shepard and I hadn’t even registered that there was an element of choice. I pointed to the box cover art like a dying woman pointing out water, “But look Harry! My Commander Shepard is on the box! He must be the right one!” He shook his head pityingly and left to the shout of, “Read the back!”

CURSES.

 

It’s not that Commander Shepard: The Generic Man, isn’t spiffy, because I like him a lot but it did make me stop and think: why had I assumed I’d have to be a man? It isn’t completely the fault of video games; there’s nothing wrong with having a man as a protagonist. After all, you’ve only got 2 options to pick from. But the role of females in games seems to be something I assume is set in stone, which is a bit tragic really. Judging by the female netizen’s reaction to Mass Effect and it’s impressive customisability (that I have no idea about), the gender choice should be implemented wherever it is feasible to do so, because it’s amazing how it can draw in female gamers (and of course some guys, who merely enjoying looking at digital ass for twenty hours).

On the customisation side of things; in my opinion, developers haven’t quite got there in terms of making normal looking women. Fable 2 is the game I would cite for being one of the worst offenders. Their levelling up system failed women completely and made us look like steroid pumping she-males. But strength was important to me as a melee user so I kept using the heavy ass swords and watching her thighs grow until she could have given Chun Li a run for her money. When I held my new baby, it looked like a bridge troll accepting an infant sacrifice. When I coerced my strangely unenthusiastic husband to join me in the marital bed, I realised his apprehension was due to the fact that I was imminently about to crush him under my gigantic muscled bulk. It wasn’t my best look. I was going for ‘Tomb Raider’ but all I got was ‘Fridge Raider’.
And it was the same when I remember watching the Assassin’s Creed 2 trailer (http://bit.ly/166cC0). After I’d managed to collect the exploded parts of my cerebral cortex off the walls and retrieve my jaw from somewhere near the earth’s outer mantle, I found it amusing how the only part of it that didn’t look completely perfect was the courtesans, particularly their faces. My brother and I joked that it was because none of the developers had ever seen a women, which of course is *terribly* mean but it does seem to fit in line with my theory that the largely male game developer community haven’t quite nailed ‘the female’ (I did not intend for that to sound as sexual as it did. My subconscious needs to get out of the gutter.)
In games, women are all too often super sexy, with ridiculously impractical clothing. There’s nothing wrong with sexiness but women can be sexy for a multitude of reasons, not just because they have a skirt that shows off the curve of both arse cheeks. Developers have yet to grasp the many facets of female desirability. Proportions are always a bit out, boobs are always a bit too big and heels seem to be worn in ridiculous situations (Bear in mind that in real life, heels are always ridiculous.)
I’d like to play more characters that are realistic looking women and maybe, if there were more options in more games, I wouldn’t be assuming you had to be a man. Basically, I think developers need to employ me as their onsite Female Advisor, where I can sit back and bark orders on how most women don’t have lips like Jolie and how we’d never wear armour that makes our most vital organs easily accessible to any passing pointy object. I’d go freelance; tour the world; save millions of female gamers from annoying girl characters with whiny voices and perfectly coiffed hair after every battle.
But in the mean time, I’m going to go and play Mass Effect, and start wooing some chicks with Male Shepard. Using his manly brawn and my feminine insight, they’ll be putty in my hands in no time.

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