Video games and white undies
My grandmother once told me that when she was dating my grandfather ,who was an engineer, she wanted to learn how to be a draftswoman (the person who draws the plans. I think). However her father saw no use of her doing that, made fun of the idea and eventually persuaded her not to. I knew my grandmother in her 50’s-70’s and she was a force to be reckon. She did what she wanted and got what she wanted. She did not give a fuck. However, that point in her life was still a sore memory even 50 years later. That moment that she wanted something and couldn’t go for it (I say “couldn’t” and not “didn’t” because of the strong role of the father figure in the family during her’s time and my mother’s time).
I like to think that we are past that period in which making the most out of your life was not considered an important peruse for women. My mom, like hers, did what her parents wanted her to, but at least she learned from that experience and the only thing I was seriously discouraged from doing was becoming an architect (“you get yelled at all the time and never get paid”). I like to think that the world is progressing towards women not being overlooked, not being considered second class, not being told that they should act like this or not be like that. So what does that have to do with video games?
“They are strong and powerful but they pay for it by being naked” is a quote referring to women in horror movies from the 80’s and accompanied by an example of a woman kicking ass with her boobs out. So computer games might have more lead women in them than the sausage fest they used to be but are they treated the same? Looking back at some of the female characters that I felt I was fortunate enough to play as a teen (finding a game with a female lead was rare, and it might still be), I have some concerns regarding their choice of outfit:
“Dreamfall”: Supposed to be strong female who will save the world. Needs to do a lot of things while in her underwear. April Ryan also used to visit the other world in her undies.
“Indigo Prophecy”: Kick-ass detective by day, can’t afford a pair of PJ pants in the winter by night. She also has a shower scene. I guess in “Quantic Dream” they have a shower fetish? Will “Detroit” have a shower scene too?? How will that work with the main being a robot??? Would that end the game? Death by shower? Is this a way to answer the question “when does Jack Bauer go to the bathroom” by sending everyone to the showers (it IS next to the toilet)? Is this a holocaust reference?
“Heavy Rain”: I guess they got their PJ’s in the same place? Better than the known naked version after said shower scene.
Why not have a mission that needs to be solved by showing more skin.. isn’t she like clever and stuff and supposed to be using her brain for things? Can she please prove that by doing so?
Really? If you ever find yourself saying “now we need a close up of a naked female body part” please ask yourself why. What would be the added value to her character as a character. This is no way to make it seem like she is a threat to the player and she is the enemy. And just think about how a metal thing would actually feel.
Computer games tend sometime to ignore women as a possible consumer (we do consume, and we do learn, and that being strong also means being naked is not a thing I think should be on our curriculum. Some of us live in cold countries.) by either undressing them, omitting them or making them an object (“I’m so in love with her I’ll save her from damnation” doesn’t see her for the rest of the game, doesn’t care that she might have changed in more than 100 years). When women are naked for no reason plot wise, and if they could do the same being less naked, it feels a little like it is made to please a specific crowd. I paid for it, I want to be pleased as well and not raise my eyebrow in a manner that says “really? Can it be more obvious that a straight male was part of this thinking process?”.
“Why can’t I play a woman? That would be more interesting” said my brother as he was playing GTA5. And it probably would be because it is less common and therefor less explored. A world of possible stories just waiting to be told. How would a female character behave in the GTA5 world? Even if she is a prostitute or a stripper that would make sense within the rules of that world (meaning — a pass on being naked without my eyebrow raised) and would be quite interesting to explore. Making a regular type of NPC for GTA playable will upgrade that character from being an object (no different than a car in the game, or a lamp, even though they are supposed to represent a human) to having a voice (it is nice to look at naked women and can be unpleasant to hear their story… but it is way more interesting and has a lot more depth to it. Maybe a game with yoga as a mini game doesn’t need depth but maybe it would give you something else to do which is not yoga. Seriously. Yoga.).
Let’s talk about the time when women do have clothes on. I guess them not being naked doesn’t satisfy me I also like their actions to have a meaning behind it so after the white PJ parade here is the “stupid side quests that for some reason women characters do”:
“Still life”: why in between murder solving does she need to make cookies? It was also the hardest puzzle ever for no reason (I actually googled cookie recipes because I couldn’t get the hints. There was no way to solve it that was not trial and error), couldn’t be skipped and did not help progress the game what so ever. And this was after you needed to get coffee for your boss in order to talk with him. Are his hands not functioning? Doesn’t she has more important things to do like solve murders?
“Beyond: Two Souls”: Some more cooking puzzles! At least this one could be solved by ordering pizza. Let’s ignore the fact that it all was so she can get laid with the guy with the weirdest standards. If a guy came over and said “I don’t mind that your brother is watching us but your food sucks and your house is dirty — no sex for you!” I would say “I’m calling the police”.
Women can be way more interesting than this. And for most of the game they are and this is a very small portion of it. However, why is it there? Seriously I will believe you that it is a female character even if she doesn’t do things that are considered stereotypically female. These scenes made me cringe and feel a bit uneasy. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t do that level three times so I can get laid… but I can’t say it was fun. It was mostly because I wan’t going to fail at a non exciting task because of poor time management. I don’t think game developers want their audience to cringe or move uncomfortably in their seat. Maybe questions such as “would we do this if it was a male character?” or “I want to put something in that makes use of it’s gender but is it the best thing I could do?”. I guess someone asked that question and did come up with the rape scene in the same game. A way to use the characters age and gender in order to make the player fear for her and enhance the emotional connection.
I just hope that I won’t be like my grandmother thinking of how things could have been better while I’m walking my avatar nakedly through the world. I just wish that the future of games won’t disappoint me.
And with that note I should finish playing Rise of Tomb Raider and move on to Horizon Zero Dawn.