Something Entirely Unique In Gameplay


I play video games with my chil­dren.  I think it is impor­tant that I do, that way I know what they are play­ing and think­ing and what inter­ests them.  We talk about the games and togeth­er decide what is appro­pri­ate.  We also have fun.  While I play games, I am no gamer, which means I pret­ty much suck, but that has nev­er stopped me.

I pre­fer first per­son shoot­er type games with unique sto­ry lines and non-default tit­u­lar char­ac­ters.  In fact, few things annoy me as much as being forced to play as the default white guy.  Actu­al­ly, no one can force me, I’ve just decid­ed that I no longer will.  I appre­ci­ate games that allow me to cus­tomize my char­ac­ter.  EVE, a new online game sounds pret­ty inter­est­ing and cus­tomiza­tion seems lim­it­less, but alas, my three year old lap­top can’t han­dle the graph­ics so that game is off my list.  I still haven’t com­plet­ed Mass Effect.  The sto­ry­line is com­plex and smart.  There is a chal­leng­ing lit­tle mys­tery that keeps you intrigued and inter­est­ed.  Even bet­ter, Com­man­der Shep­herd, the main char­ac­ter, can be cus­tomized as a male or female.

I imag­ine that the cost in time and and dol­lars is far greater when it comes to games that allow cus­tomiza­tion, which would no doubt influ­ence the cre­ation of such games.  Addi­tion­al­ly, it may be crit­i­cal to the plot of the game that the char­ac­ter not be cus­tomiz­able.  I can under­stand this, but I am averse to the same old tropes…muscle bound white guy with atti­tude rides in to save the day.   It’s just that it’s been done, over and over and over again.

There is one game that is a favorite among the women in my house.  Mirror’s Edge.

This game is sheer beau­ty to behold with its sweep­ing clean lines and bright pri­ma­ry col­ors.  The art is sim­ply stun­ning and you prob­a­bly won’t see any­thing remote­ly like it in anoth­er game.  The plot is unique to games but is one we know well from books.  Think Orwell’s 1984, or Bradbury’s Fahren­heit 451.

Mirror’s Edge takes place in an unnamed dystopi­an city[21] where life is com­fort­able and crime almost non-exis­tent. But the city’s state of bliss is the achieve­ment of a dom­i­neer­ing and total­i­tar­i­an regime[22]which mon­i­tors all com­mu­ni­ca­tion, con­trols the media, has poli­cies which include the out­right ille­gal­i­sa­tion of smok­ing, and, it is strong­ly implied, oper­ates sham tri­als and a sham democ­ra­cy. Eigh­teen years before the events of the game they had opened fire on a protest against their rule, killing many civil­ians… (Wikipedia)

The tit­u­lar char­ac­ter, a woman named Faith, is a run­ner.  By run­ner, I mean to say that she spir­its around her city using amaz­ing park­our moves.  Check it out.

She is noth­ing to joke with.  She can fight, dodge, and deal like the best of them.  Besides the fact that Faith is a woman, a char­ac­ter­is­tic not all that uncom­mon in games, she does have three very unique qual­i­ties you’d be hard pressed to find in games today.

  1. Faith isn’t hyper-sex­u­al­ized and dressed in a com­bat biki­ni or strate­gi­cal­ly ripped, body hug­ging gear that ignites the fan­tasies of young men and anorex­ia in young women.
  2. Faith isn’t com­ic relief, the ditz in need of sav­ing, or the side­kick.
  3. Faith is Asian.

Why does it make a dif­fer­ence?  I sup­pose for some peo­ple it doesn’t, but for peo­ple like me and my daugh­ters it makes a world of dif­fer­ence.  Why should we feel con­sis­tent­ly mar­gin­al­ized by our lit­er­a­ture and our art and our games?  Let me rephrase that.  Lit­er­a­ture, art and games that con­sis­tent­ly mar­gin­al­ize us don’t belong to us, the us that wants to see char­ac­ters that are whole well drawn rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the real peo­ple who live in this world.  We aren’t all white, or men, or hoochie war­rior hoes, or com­fort­able stereo­types.

I would posit that such homo­ge­neous rep­re­sen­ta­tions don’t just harm the mar­gin­al­ized, but they also harm those who exist as mem­bers of the accept­ed inner cir­cle.  How can we hope to con­nect with our fel­low human beings if we’ve man­aged to erase them from our col­lec­tive works of art and by exten­sion our con­scious­ness?

I high­ly doubt such exclu­sions are inten­tion­al (I pray they aren’t) but I do think that its prob­a­bly eas­i­er to pre­tend the oth­ers don’t exist.  That means less effort on the part of game devel­op­ers, right?  Well, if there are more peo­ple out there like me, that means less dol­lars in their pock­ets too, because I’m not buy­ing it.

  • I enjoyed Mirror’s Edge a lot. I didn’t fin­ish it, but that wasn’t the game’s fault. I haven’t played through a whole RPG in years; too many books yet to com­plete and those take pri­or­i­ty over most things. Still, the game is great. I’m glad to hear you liked it. And are a fel­low qua­si-gamer. ^_^
    — Jinn

  • Walshj99

    If you already know about this game, sor­ry for telling you some­thing you already know. But here goes:

    I know you pre­fer FPS but you (or your kids) may enjoy play­ing “Mor­rowind” from the Elder Scrolls series. It is a sin­gle-per­son open-world RPG, so you can’t play it with any­body else. Hav­ing said that, there is a lot to rec­om­mend about it:1. Mor­rowind came out in 2002, so it is like­ly to run on your laptop.2. Char­ac­ter-build­ing gives you many options for races (human and non-human both) and skill sets. And there is very lit­tle dif­fer­ence in the skills for female and male char­ac­ters. 3. With the excep­tion of one out-of-the-way bar , the women NPCs are not sex­u­al­ized at all. 4. The series has a deep sto­ry­line, which cen­ters around the pol­i­tics of race, class, reli­gion and economy.5. The fight­ing is a lot of fun. The fights are not a fre­quent as your typ­i­cal FPS but they still hap­pen a lot (and because it is an open-world for­mat, you can fight pret­ty much when­ev­er you choose). 6. The voice act­ing is out­stand­ing. 7. Did I men­tion it is open world? You can do the main quest or ignore it entire­ly and go wher­ev­er the hell you want. Any­way, there’s my 2 cents. You can down­load it from Steam or buy the CDs.

    • khaal­i­dah

      Hey there.  Thanks for drop­ping by.
      I’m not famil­iar with Mor­rowind, but one of m chil­dren plays Sky Rim, anoth­er of the Elder Scrolls games.  Thanks for the heads up.  I’m going to wiki the game to check out the sto­ry line.  Games with good clean STRONG female leads of depth are hard to come by, I think. I am jazzed though about the new Assassin’s Creed: Lib­er­a­tion. The main char­ac­ter is a strong tough fight­ing woman of African and Euro­pean decent in the south dur­ing slav­ery. Inter­est­ing twist, right?

      • Walshj99

        I saw that!! There was a write-up on Boing Boing or Red­dit gam­ing or The Mary Sue one of the oth­er myr­i­ad  geek blogs I read.  Ave­line looks like a total bada**.  I think it is only com­ing out for the Vita, which nei­ther of my kids have (and which I’m not inclined to pur­chase at the mo). 

        I have not played Skyrim, although the graph­ics look astound­ing. My com­put­er is too old to run it. I have, how­ev­er, seen this: 

  • sto­ries­by­williams

    Aha, that’s Park­our! Oth­er­wise known as “freerun­ning”. I hope you didn’t know that, cuz oth­er­wise I’m telling you stuff you already know. Also, great post and a very valid point. I remem­ber see­ing a study on this that said that while hero­ines were grow­ing as a per­cent­age of gam­ing, they weren’t exact­ly your typ­i­cal good role mod­els. All were hyper­sex­u­al­ized, vix­ens, maneaters, and or/a com­bi­na­tion there­of.

    • khaal­i­dah

      Thanks for drop­ping in. Parkour…yes I knew that.  And I love to see peo­ple doing it.  Awe­some stuff.  Wish I could do it.
      I do think that women are not well rep­re­sent­ed, but I think it is also up to us (women) to change that.