Females in Video Games (And a Random Rant!)

As I was writing my Game Selection Paper, I was thinking about the tripartite identity mentioned by Gee and by Professor Fishman in lecture, about the identity of the player in the real world, the character in the virtual world, and the blending of the character and the player into an integrated identity. I chose a role-playing game for my video game for class, and one of the things that I am most interested to learn this semester is how developing the blended identity between the player and the character in the game facilitates learning and motivates the player to try new challenges in the game and encourages the player to play the game differently. However, I realized that this is going to be a slight challenge in the game that I chose for class. Although I have played other characters in similar games with the same challenge and have still formed a connection with the character, the main character in the game that I chose, Final Fantasy Tactics, is male. I am female, and I wonder how this impacts my connection with the character. Would I be able to connect with the character on a different level if the character was the same gender as me? It will be interesting to consider how I may have played the game differently this semester if the main character was female.

Considering how I connected with a character in a video game who is a different gender with me made me consider gender dynamics in video games in general. Although the number of females playing video games is only slightly smaller than the number of males playing video games in general, many gamers assume that other games are mostly male. One of my favorite games currently is Minecraft. (To read more about Minecraft and consider getting it because it is awesome and will take up all of your freetime, visit: http://www.minecraft.net/). I was on a forum about Minecraft and was discussing one of my current projects with another player. At one point, I mentioned that my boyfriend was helping me to design the roof for the giant cathedral that I was building, and the player paused for a moment before typing, “Wait…you’re gay?” According to current research, only ten percent of the population is homosexual; fifty percent of the population is female. Why did he pick the less likely of the two options? One of my closest female friends is an avid World of Warcraft player and she has stopped telling other people that she is interacting with that she is female because she either gets, “Wow! You must be really good if you are a girl and play this,” “You must be pretty bad. Girls aren’t good at WOW. You shouldn’t raid with us,” or receives an offer for a date or a certain popular derogatory message (I imagine many people are aware of the phrase that I am thinking of.) Even video game designers appear to assume that most gamers are male when designing protagonists. There are few powerful, independent female protagonists in video games. The main example that I can think of is Samus Aran from Metroid. Although women do exist as main characters in other video games, such as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and Alex Roivas from Eternal Darkness, these women are often highly sexualized and may not have well-developed, independent characters. As a female gamer, I would like to have more independent, powerful women to play as and experience games through. Does anyone see a shift in this perception of female gamers occurring? Does anyone have any recommendations of games with a strong female protagonist that I could try? Does anyone have any other feelings on this subject?

Although this is not exactly video game related, I believe that this two blog posts from Epbot (one of my favorite blogs; the woman who writes it is so spirited and funny!) is also highly appropriate to this topic:

http://www.epbot.com/2011/12/three-cheers-for-little-girl-spock.html

http://www.epbot.com/2010/11/geek-girls-activate.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+epbot%2FfOpU+%28EPBOT%29

I don’t understand why there are people who tease others for their choices in entertainment or in their interests. Whether it is as a female gamer, a girl who wishes to dress up as Spock for Halloween, a boy who decides that he wants to dance ballet, or anyone else who chooses to defy societal norms is alright. Sorry that this post started as “I want more strong female protagonists in gaming!” and ended as “Let’s accept and support everyone!” I think that this is an important message that this class will teach us, though. We are attempting to understand and potentially pioneer a new method of learning. There will be stigma associated with it, just as there is currently stigma to a certain extent against females who play video games, but we must work through the stigma and fight for what we believe works and is important. This is an important lesson in perseverance, whether in learning, in changing the world, or just in finally beating the final boss of that one horribly hard game.

What ever happened to the good ol’ days?

The new era of gaming has been set upon us, one that has broken all the other rules of gaming since I’ve known it. Flashback to the 1990’s, the game systems that were out were the playstation, sega genesis and the N64, Xbox was not even created yet. Times were good, playstation had the Final Fantasy games in their pocket, Grandtheft Auto, and of course Spyro! Sega had their trademark Sonic while N64 had Mario. Then the next gen of systems came out; Playstation 2, Dreamcast and the Gamecube. Dreamcast tries a revolutionary thing, they try to do online gaming. Sega had the idea of uniting everyone through the interenet and take gaming to a whole new level. One where people can play with and against each other from the comfort of their own home. Unfortunately the world was just not ready for this advancement because normal people did not have cable internet and dial-up was just not able to handle gaming. This cost Sega dearly as the company went bankrupt.

Around the same time Xbox hits the market and also shakes up the world of gaming. Xbox gave rise to the Halo series and it rose to the top ranks with a single game under its wing. Xbox was marketed to older teens and adults, much like the Playstation was, while the gamecube was marketed toward younger children. Xbox started to give playstation a run for their money when they started taking titles from them such as GTA and spyro and eventually even final fantasy, all the while still able to keep Halo as their exclusive.

Flashforward and here we are today. A new generation of systems has come about us; The Xbox 360, Wii and PS3.The time was finally right and online gaming has been taken to new heights. Not only can you play online with each other but you can play gameshows from your console, even play motion sensor games with friends online! What a crazy world this has become eh? Prior to this new generation of consoles, gaming systems were only expected to stay current for about 4 years, during this time the gaming companies would be looking for new ways to improve their systems and come out with the next console with better graphics, better processors and pretty much better everything. The new consoles however are expected to be able to last up to 15 years meaning that we probably wont be seeing a new system come out until around 2015-2020. With the new ability to play on the internet companies can just update the systems with new patches, even games can fix bugs and glitches via the internet.

What I find most concerning is the fact that gaming seems to be taken to a new level of reclusiveness. It used to be that you would invite a friend or two over to play video games. You could play against each other in sports of shooter games or you could take turns playing RPGs and so on. With the new rise of online gaming I hear a lot of “oh, I’ll just see you online” when I aske friends to come over to play video games. There is a certain feeling that you get when two people are actually in a room playing together but now it just seems like people want to stay in the comfort of their own homes to play. It seems that with the new rise of party chatting and online playing things have been shaken up a lot. Not only are things different between playing with friends but it is also different because you are playing against people that you cannot see. This gives rise to the people who I call E-thugs; the people who are tough only in online settings. This is the kind of person that will trash talk your ear off even though you are doing multiples better than him, the person that everyone time they kill you or score on you will call you a noob and tell you that you suck. Sure you can block this guy but what about all the other thousands of people that you meet that are like this?

I used to play in tournaments for Halo 3 and when I was at the tournaments people treated each other with respect. Often times I wondered if these guys would be different if we were only playing online and had no face to face interaction, are these the guys that shove every kill down the throats of people less skilled than themselves?

With the new rise of video games comes a whole new set of problems. I am always respectful when I play competitive games. Whether I win or lose I always commend people on their wins, I am always the guy that says “Oh man that was an amazing shot that you had on me.” but more times than not, the courtesy is never returned. The new era of games is upon us and I say that new is not always better.

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