Out of all the derogatory terms used to describe those who are quick to call ‘SEXISM!’ or ‘OBJECTIFICATION!’ or ‘MISOGYNY!’ in defense of how women are portrayed in the video game industry, I only agree with one: the White Knight.
However, unlike the pithy, spineless ‘they still won’t fuck u lol‘s and ‘get the sand out of your mangina, fag‘s, I believe the White Knight argument, at its core, actually has merit: to ‘White Knight’ means to take up a cause or banner on behalf of another group one feels is being exploited or marginalized. The only way one would ever DO such a thing is if one assumes said group as being taken advantage of, or in other words, victimized.
I dunno about any other womenfolk, but I’m no victim. And certainly not of a fucking video game.
“B-b-b-but-but-but I’m not taking up a banner for anyone,” you may protest. “I just find tiny waists and huge tits and boys’ club behavior personally insulting.” Why? I can’t speak for anyone else, but my self-worth isn’t so fragile/wrapped up in outside sources that I get personally offended with petty shit like how my gender is portrayed in video games, movies, or music. I play video games as an escape, anyway—I don’t necessarily need my avatar to look like me. I belong to enough gamer forums to know that I’m far from the only one who feels this way. So try getting to the root of why it affects you before you go rallying anyone else to your cause. If gender-swapping the Donkey Kong and Legend of Zelda game sprites makes you feel empowered, that only leads this humble author to believe that your pro-fem platform is probably made of marshmallows and sunshine.
As of 2012, video games are a $70 billion industry. If that discretionary income is going to be spent anyway, why not put all that righteous piss and vinegar to good use, and put your money where your mouth is? Unless you live in an off-grid bomb shelter (how the hell are you reading this?), you’ve heard of Steam. Steam leveled the playing field, offering big names as well as indie titles on PC/Mac. You can even hook up a controller to your pornbox, if you require that element. Don’t like Steam? Fuck Steam. A 3-minute Google search brought me to http://www.indiegamereviewer.com/ where, I was immediately drawn to Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch (through it’s successor, Sacred Guns: The Angel and the Mermaid). Now, if I took my womynhood seriously, I would be furious with the premise of the game. Right out of the gate—crazy bitch girlfriend. But since I don’t have a +3 Branch of Entitlement jammed firmly up my axe wound, I find the concept hilarious and will buy both games just as soon as I can find where my wallet got buried. Because cats.
Personally, I’d love a strong female lead who isn’t a) hung up on a guy, b) being saved/escorted by a guy, c) is damaged/has daddy issues, and/or d) isn’t made of silicone and helium. But I’m not going to stop playing brilliantly made games in the meantime because I don’t agree with superficial elements of it. And I’m SURE as hell not going to climb on a soapbox and demand anyone else does the same. That takes a special kind of asshole.
If something as irreverent as a harpy-stomping achievement name gets your nipples all in a twist, maybe you shouldn’t play games like God of War: Ascension. It’s not like you went into it expecting Harvest Moon, for fuck’s sake. How many half-naked goat men, emotionally petty gods, and useless and/or cowardly soldiers do you have to brutally murder before you realize there’s not a good MALE role model in any of these games, either? Why is every hero still fitting the narrow-waist, from-lean-muscle-to-absolute-roidhead stereotype? Where’s the bald, pot-bellied superhero? Wait, he’s too busy being funny. Fat usually means funny, regardless of gender.
In gaming terms, the difference between “White Knight” and simply “Pussy”, for instance, is the Messiah complex the former all share. The irony is that instead of actually ‘saving’ anyone, this approach is blatantly self-serving and overwhelmingly ineffective. It calls attention to the disparity that still exists between male and female heroes truly worthy of the title, without offering any solution to the problem other than censorship of the male characters, or the game itself. As a Humanist, I find that a rather shitty option to trumpet.
I respect and appreciate the efforts of those women in the industry who are actually working to make the necessary changes. GDC 2013’s fem-centric “#1ReasonToBe” panel was a brilliant step in the right direction; six female powerhouses in gaming development stepped up to the plate and conveyed their reasons for being gamers and for creating games, giving inspirational (and sometimes sad) accounts of their experiences. Robin Hunickie of the Journey production team asserted that in order to affect change, you need to evangelize and catalyze—essentially, be the change you want to see. She threw down the gauntlet on women in the workplace by proclaiming that you are either bringing other women in, or you are in the way. Similarly, while I have a couple of female friends who won’t venture far beyond their precious simulators, those who are like “I dunno, whatever, sure” get a PS3 controller plunked in their hand and are transformed into Dovahkiin under my careful guidance. I do my part.
I’m not “brainwashed by the patriarchy” or “ungrateful for the sacrifices of my foremothers”, nor do I have dick envy or have anything against other women in general. I just seem to be a little more selective than most with which battles I fight, and when. [To be fair, I do play a lot of RTS’s.] In summation: If you really want to make a difference in how females are portrayed in video games, then put up or shut up. If you create little girls, make sure they’re exposed to computers, science, and engineering from a young age. Seek out, buy, and promote games that ARE worth your time. There’s plenty of them out there, if only you’d pull your head out of FemShep’s ass long enough to take a look.
I’m pretty sure the rest of us boorish assholes can wait.