Something Entirely Unique In Gameplay

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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.