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.