Friday, 29 November 2013
Friday Musings: Women in Games
I started writing this last week, when I read the Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Nathan Grayson's article Re: That Heroes Of The Storm Interview. It is an interesting piece worth reading, where the writer argues about highly sexualized females in games. The inspiration for the post gave him his interview with Dustin Browder, game Director of Heroes of the Storm. But as I continued with my writing I realised there is no point in writing a response to his post, because, well it is meaningless.
My own post in meantime continued to grow, so instead disagreeing with the author of the interview as I do, I will try and present the role women have in games. More than that, I will try to present my own view on their role in games. This might stir some reaction from people, some might disagree, other might vehemently oppose. Rare few might even agree with me. I would not have it any other way. I would not be able call myself a philosopher if I wrote this just to please the public eye.
But let us leave good old philosophical tradition, school of Cynicism, philosophical arrogance, and search for parrhesia for some other time. A secret desire of every philosopher is to become parrhesiastes. But the question, can you be parrhesiastes if you are willing to be one is to be answered some other time. Let us focus on women, and games.
All men are created equal. Before white knights and radical feminists jump at this, the word men, includes both genders. They are all created equal, but this is where equality ends. We are all equal in our frailty when we are brought to this world. From thereon, it is every man for himself. Blame it on the idiom, not me. We cannot choose, or maybe we can, but we cannot recall it, how, where or as what we are born. But it is expected of us, to still make the best out of it.
Plato argued in his Republic, that while every man. Yes, every man, but let us leave that aside even if in Plato's text this means only males. And even among males, only those that are free and have rights. Women in Plato's time did not have much rights. The best position had women in Sparta, as they were seen as mothers of the future warriors, thus they were given respect they were due. They had to maintain their physical condition. If anyone is unfamiliar with what that means, it is not diets, and all sorts of maintaining weight, it is through athletics.
Women in Sparta were training, running. For much of their childhood, they were treated same as the boys. Spartan men preferred to pick a wife based on her character and fitness, than on her dowry. Let us get back to Plato, before we lose ourselves in a kingdom where two kings ruled at the same time, and did so without disputing one another. Sparta, truly is a magnificent country.
Plato argued, and now I am repeating myself, that every man can do everything by himself. But this makes him poor. The man is wasting time. It is not the ability to do everything on your own that makes you prosper. If a man is to prosper, he needs to join with others. They need to divide the work among them. They need to specialise. Some are better crafters, other better farmers, one might be magnificent blacksmith, and so on. Everyone focuses just on one job. Nobody is jack of all trades.
And this can be applied even on today's society. Maybe today even more than in the past. Plato's polis was replaced by modern corporations, but everything else is the same. Everyone has their role to play, maybe this role is not one you chose, but it is one you are given. Even in theatre there is only one main character and twenty supporting ones. I could go on and on with this, but I would only go further and further from the topic I set to discuss.
There is no need for women in games to be represented to the same degree as men are. Yes they need to be better represented, but I would argue it is better not have something, than have something broken in a game. Let us just take for example cash shops in MMO games. If there is no cash shops, people will complain that game is grindy, and that it could have more things to do besides mindless slaughter of thousands upon thousands of rats. But if the game has cash shop, the focus will shift. People will not complain how grindy the game is, but how the developers are trying to abuse the goodwill of the players with the cash shop. How they want people to pay for something that is broken, and should be fixed, How they are exploiting the players with selling experience boosts and such.
This is why it is sometimes better not to have a female character, or protagonist if you know you cannot do it well. It is about the damage control. Some people might complain why there is no female character in the game, but nobody will rage over how exploitative the studio is toward females, or how badly female protagonist is written.
I also dislike the depiction of women in fantasy games. I hate what developers do with armours when women wear them. My soul is torn apart every single time I see a stupid design of an armour that is meant only to sexualise the woman wearing it. And "this is fantasy, not reality" is no argument at all. Just because you can throw fireball in that world, does not mean that somebody fell on his head and thought it was good idea to leave the thighs and breastbone area wide open for women models, while covering the men properly.
There is also the matter that women must look different in armour than man. Armour is military. Military does not give a damn about what women look like. They are given same equipment as men. A woman in armour will look no different than a man would. No, there is no special armour to cover her breasts in a manner that would still make it possible to differentiate between the two. If anything, armour should be blurring the lines, making it impossible to differentiate between man and woman in it.
It irks me, drives me crazy when I see shit like that. The hole in the middle of an armour is a weakspot of an armour. Because of that, armour is not an armour any longer, it is just a deadweight that prevents you from escaping the danger. Not to mention high heels. Or the two paired. Now I will admit I like some parts of liberty the developers take with armours in games. For starters, I always hide the helmet on my character. I like seeing his face, even though most of the time I am watching the back of his head.
What bothers me, is the dual nature of people. It is hypocrisy. How can someone, who claims to fight for equality criticise a game like X Blades, but not criticise God of War? Why is it not acceptable to have a female protagonist in skimpy clothes, but it is perfectly fine when Kratos prances around only in his skirt? Where is equality here? How come we do not hear about the oversexualised male characters in games? There are to be sure many, if not most of them.
Why is it fine for male characters to be hypersexualised, but not acceptable for women? Where is equality here? Where is the connection between the average gamer, or for that average person and the bloody mountain of muscles that are your stock heroes in games? Why is it perfectly fine to objectify a man's body, but a heresy to do the same with woman?
Nathan Grayson pushed Browder into defencive because he was looking for a fight. Browder opted not to give him anything to bite at, and so Grayson took what he could get. How can Browder dare say that women equality is a topic for presidency debate, is what reads from Grayson's article. Grayson was the one who blew it out of proportion. I would always argue that games are art. More likely, games are a medium that has a potential to become art. But just because a game can be art, does not mean every game is art. And this is what Browder tells him. That they make games to entertain. If you do not like it, do not play it.
Take the same approach you do with other forms of art. Dismiss it and move on. Do not brood over it. A person would think that after two thousand years women would be glad that for once, they are the focus of all our attention. That we as society admire them and want to know them. In art for more than two thousand years it was a man's body that was thought as ideal. It was man's body that was drawn everywhere, and made into statues. Why is it so wrong to objectify a woman after more than two thousand years of objectification of man?
Let us focus on the real problem in games, one that affects ten percent of all humans, by that I would think at least ten percent of the gamers as well. When will I be able to hold a sword or a gun in your average MOBA, RPG, or FPS in a left hand. I am sick and tired of having a weapon pushed in my right hand. This is obvious tyranny and discrimination against lefthanders. And nobody even gives a flying finger about it. I want more lefthanders in my games.
If you think the last paragraph was silly, ask yourself why is argument about equality about women in games not silly as well.