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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Anita Sarkeesian is Saving Gaming (By Being A Terrible Person)

Being a video gamer comes with a degree of defensiveness like liking anime or really anything society wouldn't consider the norm. On the one hand you love this thing and want others to love it too while on the other you know people will outright dismiss what you love and that can come with some mixed emotions. While detaching yourself to be able to take 'criticisms' is the best option its difficult to maintain. My mom and I disagree on this wholly. I use my time to play games while she says that I should be improving myself. I want to unwind and she wants me to do work. As hard as I try, sometimes I just snap back if only to end the conversation quicker.
But this isn't about me, rather a figure more caustic than my mom when it comes to the subject of video games. Anita Sarkeesian is pretty well known by this point but basically her story is that she became internet famous for 'discussing' women in video games. She blew up a few years ago and has kind of died down since. The White Knights of the internet have stopped defending her after more about her was revealed, specifically how she doesn't play games at all yet feels she can commentate on them. While I will hold my peace on her, at least for now, her videos are actually pretty intelligent and touch on some things I would consider to be good topics. While women in video games isn't a new concept their presence could use a bit of an update. While we have our now fair share of action heroines and complex female characters not simply there for sexual purposes we still have a bit of a ways to go.
The last thing I heard about her was before the release of Overwatch. She complained that there weren't enough females with diverse body types. Blizzard responded with the news that Zarya would be added to the roster and thanked her for her comment in so many words. Zarya is a... full figured woman. She's bad ass, strong and not overly sexualized. While I'm entirely sure she was planned to be launched with the game at the beginning Blizzard's response was spot on, which brings me to what I'm actually talking about. Demagogues (the people who speak the loudest) unfortunately will always be heard. Using what little fame she had she directed it to a problem and the problem was... 'solved'. This kind of thinking is like if you yell at a politician long enough they'll have to listen to you and solve your problem. The more people who join in the better.
Since Ms. Sarkeesian has been introduced to the world there has been a steady albeit slow up rise in female characters being put front and center or at least nearby their male counterparts in some equal capacity. Call of Duty Black Ops 3 released with the idea you could create your own character, male or female, to play in the world they had created. I just got an issue of Game Informer magazine in the mail not too long ago and the cover was for the new Call of Duty with both a male and female character each sharing a proportionate amount of space together. No one being greater or lesser than the other. While its not entirely thanks to her the market has now become more inclusive of the opposite sex when it comes to featuring roles, at the very least on the surface level. The new Mass Effect trailer released with, presumably, the female default character and no main male character. At least none that has been confirmed. This is a step forward from Mass Effect 3's cover which had a flip able cover between the two faces of Shepherd but featured Male Shep in all of the ads.
Part of the criticisms against gaming is the lack of complex female characters. While we haven't seen much of female villains (I believe the villain in the new Doom game is a lady) we're still taking great steps in the right direction. Each new step we take cuts down another one of these arguments that people use to cut down gaming as a whole. Not every game is a violent shooter, games can have complex narratives and now a balancing point for each gender is being struck. The new TellTale Walking Dead game is set to come out soon with Clementine still as the main character like the previous game. As little as you may like the woman she has brought forth a pretty decent dialogue. While places like Japan do have their own female driven games in greater supply than pretty much everywhere else (despite the sexual content they may contain) now American developers are getting in the groove with this. I remember not too long ago Ubisoft said there wouldn't be any female co-op characters in Assassin's Creed Unity because they "-couldn't get the character models to work with a feminine figure" (which is total bs btw) and then they released Assassin's Creed Syndicate which featured a brother and sister duo who were both playable from the start and the female twin, Evie, was almost completely non sexualized in favor of creating an interesting character.
To make an antivenom first you need the venom. Something caustic and pretty bad, but what can come out of it will be more beneficial than was before the venom itself.

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