Lagging Behind on the Leading Ladies: The Social Factors

Intro

Business Factors

Creative Factors

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Gotta admit, I’ve been putting this one off for a while. Part of it’s the fact that, although I’ve been watching for a long time and done some work on the fringe, I don’t have the same type of background for discussing the social factors as I do the business and creative factors on female representation in video games. But most of it’s the fact that this part of the subject is particularly depressing, and I don’t like having to face it.

Here’s the deal; we, as humans, are just bad to each other. And we don’t even think about it. We’re a society that’s been built on social groups, and the belief that our social group is better than everyone else’s We’ve stepped into an era where surrounding us with people just like us is not important anymore, but we still hold to that old tribal thinking.

And every group does it. In the west, we often point the blame at the WASP men because that’s the easiest and the socially safest, but in countries where other races are in power, they do the exact same thing. Same in micro-cultures were women hold the power. It’s the unfortunate interaction of people’s habits of attempting to mentally understand something completely the moment it’s introduced and so filling in their concept of a person based on stereotypes of the most obvious features until further information is gained and of thinking of themselves and the people like them or in their groups as inherently superior to all others.

Us vs. Them. It’s one of the most addictive ways of thinking, yet one that leads to ugliness in life like few others. Us vs. Them is the enemy. And if we want to start treating each other well, we need to identify and eliminate it wherever it comes up, and whether it benefits our group or not.

But that is a large task. It starts with understanding, in small pieces. So, in pursuit of that understanding, let’s take a look at one facet among thousands of that comprise of this, and dig into some of the social challenges of having women as the main protagonist in video games.

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Leaving Love Behind: Aromantic Characters in Video Games

It was Valentine’s Day earlier this week. Valentine’s is kind of a crock, isn’t it? Who is it even good for anymore? Single people hate it, because it reminds them of their status and implies there’s something wrong with that. It sets attached people up for disappointment, condition them to expect great experiences provided by their partners with no effort required on their part, that both partners can’t reach and get burned by. I think it might be worst of all, though, for people like me. I know there are a lot of you out there who ache for someone to have on Valentine’s Day. And I’m sorry. I don’t do it on purpose, but it happens because of me all the same. It might be true that there’s someone out there for everyone, but come Valentine’s season, all the someones come knocking down my door. The reason you’re single right now is statistically likely to be because your destined mate just won’t leave me alone.

Valentine’s. It does things to people. And apparently that makes them come here and beg me for dates. And I’m a lot of man with a lot of love to go around, but even I have my limits. I’ve been booked solid for a week plus with admirers, and I’ve still got a ways to go. This is awful. I don’t have time anymore. Things are starting to get sore. And everyone always expects me to pay. Valentine’s sucks.

Let’s make ourselves feel better by celebrating the characters in games who have stepped away from that. Both sexuality and romance are not nearly as universal in video game stories as they are in other mediums. But that makes it all the more unique when you do find someone who clearly occupies the neutral ground in those regards. Let’s hear it for those who stand apart from that whole structure entirely.

Terra-Final Fantasy VI

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FFVI’s first leading lady has had a complicated development. A product of forbidden love herself, then kidnapped and raised as a living weapon/possible mindslave, before her memory is stripped. So, come game time, she doesn’t know who she is and what she’s about. Has trouble with navigating a lot of feelings, the one she seems to have the hardest grip on being love.

Seems like it might be leading up to her coming to herself as a man sweeps her off her feet. Maybe it would be that charming king that shows an obvious interest in her and gets her connected with the main crux of the conflict. Or maybe it would be that noble and honest enemy general she has a moonlit heart-to-heart moment with during a rare period of peace. Or maybe it would be that dashing rogue with a penchant for saving damsels that 90% of boys named after themselves because he was the first male character to show up in the game. It really seems the games moving that way in a lot of points.

But no. She does grow into herself over the course of the game, finding more about who she is and how she should feel. She even finds love. But it’s a maternal love, for some orphans she rescues and takes care of. In spite of more than a few men pursuing her, she shows absolutely no interest in romance of any kind.

Agent 47-Hitman

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Agent 47 always finds himself surrounded by sexually-charged people. Apparently, it just makes it easier for him to infiltrate and do his work. He’s a man that’s only ever focused on one thing, though, and love has no place in that. In fact, although he’s usually implacable, romantic overtures towards him are one of the few things that consistently draw an emotional reaction.

Which makes for a pretty interesting dichotomy with his game world. Hitman’s settings get progressively oversexed, to the point where they start bringing in the battle fetish-nuns a few games ago and that’s apparently a normal thing for them. And 47 wants absolutely no part of that. He stands apart.

Cole-Dragon Age

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Sure, you can ruin this if you want, but as a spirit largely unintegrated into normal human society, Cole just shows no interest in romancing anyone. That’s just not how he makes relationships. Throw him in a situation where he’s almost guaranteed to get some, he’ll just end up solving people’s problems and making friends, and leaving it at that. Unless you push him towards being more human, topics of love are just lost on him.

Garret-Thief

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Like 47, he’s just dedicated to his job. Of being a thief. The IRS has a hard time taxing it. Matters of romance are a distraction from him being the thievingest thief he can be, and he doesn’t stand for it. He does empathize with women, show concern for them, but never any romantic interest.

Ivy-Soul Calibur

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Yes. The woman showing up on so many sexiest character lists just doesn’t have any interest in sharing herself with anyone else that way. Sorry to burst your bubble. She just likes dressing that way for her own sake. And that’s fine.

So officially, this is out of necessity. Ivy’s the latest as part of a cursed bloodline, and doesn’t want to risk passing that along. Even before she found out about that though, she never particularly showed any interest in romance. One of those who just always seemed to have something more important going on.

Which is not to say she doesn’t value love or relationships. She had a very strong bond with her father. There’s just many different types of love, and she’s never had an interest in partaking in the romantic.

The Salarians-Mass Effect

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As a whole. An entire species. None of them care about that mushy stuff.

If you want to make something seem really alien, show them as having an unusual sexuality. It’s bizarre when you think about it, but sex and love are such a huge part of our individual identities, that showing a culture with very different sexual habits immediately and strongly sets them askance. Sure, the Salarians look like walking crab pincers and have the lifespan of a dog but it’s not until you find out that courtship for them is all about business relationships and nothing else that they start seeming really weird.

Again, it’s not that you don’t see them forming bonds, connections, relationships, etc. It’s just that almost none of them, are romantic in nature. And I bet they don’t have a Valentine’s Day. So lets all go vacation on their planet February of next year.

Fallout: The End…

Last Time on Fallout Girl, we were faced with some dick asking us to kill some jerks, and you guys rightfully said no. Let’s see how that all ends up, shall we?

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So out in the streets outside the watershed, we run across Larry here, the first of the Super Mutants stationed here in the Necropolis. He doesn’t bother us as we approach, instead mentioning something about ‘the boss’. I’m actually not sure who he refers to here. Played it a couple times, and there’s a couple of people he could call ‘the boss’, some of whom might actually hit you.

The first one is inside the watershed here. Harry. They’ve got theme naming. Harry spots Athena coming up, dressed in a very flattering set of bloodstained spiked metal armor, face flushed and jaw clenched from the frustration of having to deal with a total dick, killing machine in her hand. He sees how pretty she is. He tells her so.

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Athena could respond by smacking his face across the room, but we’re going nonviolent here, so she chokes back the bile and butters him up instead. We get our first real look at Super Mutants here. They’re much larger, uglier, and dumber versions of humans. Have difficulty talking, parts of their bodies so overgrown they have to hold them up with straps. Thinking’s a bit of a problem for them. Harry here, he realizes she’s a normal human, says that he’s supposed to take normal humans to “Lou Tenant”, but doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her so he lets her through, but tells her to be quick about it.

Most of the time, gender doesn’t matter in the original Fallout. This is one of the few times it does. Male characters, or female characters with less charisma than Athena, have to convince Harry that they’re actually robots instead of humans to get through there. Fail the speech check, you get a fight, which, once again, is probably the second most consistent companion-killer in the game. You can also choose to let Harry take you to his leader and end up with an early look at an end-game area and boss, but that also ends with all your stuff being taken away from you, with you locked up in a cell, surrounded by a whole bunch of better-armed version of these guys. Something of a challenge option for stealth-based characters, certain doom for all other builds. Recent success notwithstanding, Athena is not a stealth-based character. Let’s take the road better-traveled.

Anyways, Harry lets us through. Next room over in the water shed is the broken water pump we were informed of previously. If you need a refresher, the Necropolis has two sources of water, this water pump, and the computerized water-filtration system that probably has the water chip we’re looking for. The pump’s not working, so they’re completely reliant on the thing we need to render inoperable to save our people.

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In the back is a ghoul that’s locked up for reasons. We’ve got no real reason to do this, but after joining the circle of thieves, Athena’s starting to get a real itch to practice her skills. Just for fun, she picks his cell door open. In return, the ghoul tells us a bunch of stuff we already know. Ok. It also mentions something about some wild glowing ghouls downstairs. Continue reading