More Gaming WTFkery

Just a few updates on some of things I ranted blogged about the other day. (Women in VG tropes and the violent portrayals of women posts…) And I apologize to my readers if you couldn’t care less about these things, but they are fairly important topics to me, so I’m going to continue talking about them.

So first up is the Lara Croft thing – another interview with the creators came out on Kotaku the other day – some of it was rehashed from the Penny Arcade interview where they noted how they were turning Lara into a cornered animal, breaking her down etc.

But in this latest interview, something really irritated me:

And executive producer Ron Rosenberg says you’ll want to keep her safe.

“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character,” Rosenberg told me at E3 last week when I asked if it was difficult to develop for a female protagonist.

“They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.'”

So is she still the hero? I asked Rosenberg if we should expect to look at Lara a little bit differently than we have in the past.

“She’s definitely the hero but— you’re kind of like her helper,” he said. “When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.”

And maybe that’s the main issue right there – the idea that the players don’t identify with Lara. Or maybe they’re not supposed to. Which, okay – male players who play a game like this, maybe they *don’t* identify. (And maybe it’s because in previous Tomb Raider games, Lara had the personality of wet paper sack. With huge tits. Kind of hard to identify with that.) Most men don’t worry about getting raped on a regular basis, either…so even if it makes them vaguely uncomfortable, they can turn off the game and go back to being a guy and la de dah.

For women, I imagine it’s a different story. For me personally, yes, I *do* self-insert into the video games I play. (Maybe not WoW. I usually just run around and kill things there. And try to avoid getting tea-bagged when I die. You stay classy, gamers.)It usually makes them that much better…but in this case? I’m going to have that much of a harder time with Lara – imagine what it might be like for an actual rape survivor?

But more importantly, where is this “You’ll want to protect her” BS coming from? Am I supposed to feel protective of Nathan Drake? Ezio? Indiana Jones?Max Payne? Adam Jensen?

I doubt it. I suspect that’s how they make it more palatable for male gamers. (No, no, it’s not about self-insertion! We’d never want to make you feel less manly by putting *you* in a rape situation! Your job is to BE manly and HELP Lara through these terrible moments that she faces. You know. Like a man. Except for those men in GTA3. The ones who kill the prostitutes after they have sex with them. But then, that’s manly too, isn’t it? )

Now maybe the gameplay will prove me wrong. I really hope so.  But I think what skeeves me the most is this whole concept of how difficult it is to write female characters. STOP WRITING FEMALE CHARACTERS. Write characters who are FEMALE. That’s the difference right there.

When you try to pigeon-hole a character into having certain traits simply because they are X (female, gay, black, whatever) you often end up with terrible cliches and stereotypical tropes. It’s true for writing stories and it’s true for games.  (Examples of games that do it right? Go check out The Longest Journey or Syberia – sure they aren’t the same sort of game, but both have women protags and they are done very well. They’re a little older, but gameplay is still fabulous if you like puzzle type games.)

Okay, on to Topic 2, which is a mini-update to the Kickstarter thing – which is really more to report that the harassment against the creator has grown to include vandalism of her Wikipedia page, among death threats, rape threats, etc. Additional articles on this here, here and here…and again sometimes the comments are the most telling thing of all. Why this sudden rash of hatred against someone for something they haven’t even DONE yet?

Why is it so offensive that someone might want to look at this topic?  At least wait until something has been produced and then formulate a rebuttal based on that. Moving straight into calling someone an “oven dodger” or a fat cunt right off the bat does NOTHING to improve your position.

Impotent rage everywhere, and it echoes a lot of what happened earlier this year with Jennifer Hepler, a writer over at Bioware. (I mention this only because I was partially involved in the Twitter asshattery that went down, but ended up having to block a bunch of people after getting attacked myself. I don’t mind arguments, but I’m not going to just sit and take abuse simply because you’re brimming with hate. When it devolves into comment Tourette’s, I’m done trying to engage.)

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7 Responses to More Gaming WTFkery

  1. I’m not certain, but perhaps they don’t want you to protect her because she’s female, but because this is a prequel and she’s a teenager in this one? Protect her because she’s a kid? Overall the Tomb Raider series has been made so that men can watch an unrealistic backside jump down a dark hallways. What impresses me about this title as that she has a realistic body and face. She looks like a young woman instead of a blow-up doll.

    But, like you said, we’ll have to wait and see until the game comes out. I won’t hold my breath that this will save their franchise.

    • allison says:

      I’m actually pretty happy with her design as well – it looks much more realistic (and someone I can identify with, as opposed to the previous blow-up doll model.)

      As far as the protection thing goes, I’m just going by the comment: ““When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.” It indicates to me that they’re seeing her as female, not just a young character, as opposed to them saying “you start to root for her in a way you might not root for an adult character.”

      And I’m all for seeing a character go through some dark things to become a hero, but I really resent the the rape trope as strong character building. Why wouldn’t seeing her friends get murdered be enough? If it were a male character, the murder/rape of his wife/gf/daughter/sister would be the item that would push him into moving forward (i.e. woman in the refrigerator trope).

  2. Bluey says:

    Thank YOU!

    I tell you, the whole “break her to make her into something MORE” thing bugs the hell out of me. As much as I love Joss Whedon’s writing style, I have serious issues with his treatment of the Black Widow character in the Avengers movie. It turns my stomach when he’s lauded as one of the few writers in Hollywood who writes strong female characters. ‘Cause honestly? He really seems to enjoy damaging those same characters in ways that he wouldn’t dare to do to the male ones.

    Tell me, have you seen this article yet?

    It’s remarkably accurate. And will likely not ever be read by those mouth breathing trolls that surface when any issue involving sex and games pops up. Unfortunately.

    • allison says:

      Oh yeah – I had read that one when it came out…and I also think it’s remarkably accurate. (Particularly that first one – about men thinking they’re “owed” the hot girl. Not every guy thinks that way, but I suspect that friendzone thing is exactly what happens a good deal of the time.)

      The Black Widow thing…I’m a little unsure of it. You’re right that Whedon tends to do this (as much as I loved Buffy, I always hated that Angel becoming Angelus was Buffy’s punishment for sleeping with him…particularly because it was almost always the girls that seemed to get punished for sex.) My take on the BW thing was that much/most of her “breakdown” with Loki was an act used to gather information. (Mewling quim and all… “Hello censors? He just called her a cunt.”)

      If you’re talking about the part where the Hulk attacks her and she ends up shutting down for a bit, yeah, that was pretty harsh, but she *did* manage to get back up and do her job when the time came.

  3. Hey Allison, have you seen this essay on Rape Culture in Gaming?

    I used to work in the games industry and my husband still does. It can be a difficult place to work when you’re definitely in the minority both in sex and opinion. Not all the developers cater to the 18-25 year old male but the ones who chase the almighty dollar and answer to the bottom line tend to.

    Makes you step back and think about how objectifying men is comparable or not and how they’re portrayed in books as well. But then I’m not sure they care as much when I see trailers for movies like Magic Mike. Ya know?

    • allison says:

      Actually – I did see that last night – it’s such an incredibly written piece. (I wish I had that sort of ability to make my points – I really do. Most of the time I’m feel like I’m just shouting “MYSOGENY BAD, GAH”). I’ve often thought about what it would be like to work in the gaming industry as a writer or what not, but I think one’s skin has to be very, very thick.

      • I think you definitely have to “get” the guy mentality to work in the industry and have a real love for games themselves. That’s not saying to excuse some of the stuff, but there’s a definite need to know where it’s coming from. I’ve always gotten along well with my guy friends and honestly the team I was on was, for the most part, like hanging out with a group of friends most of the time.

        That said, it’s also very easy to get the reputation as a real bitch just for defending your opinions and hard won experience. So yes, in any creative endeavor, thick skin is a must. =)

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