Nerd Fallout – In-Depth: No Female Heroes At Activision?

It doesn’t take much to stir up the bee’s nest that is the core-gamer population. Changing a beloved series game play mechanic  – NERD RAGE. Giving a game a bad review – NERD RAGE. Pointing out a social injustice in the gaming community – NERD RAGE.  Like Jacob would say, “Nerds are angry people.”

What made some gamers cry in electronic fury this time?

Ladies and Gentlemen of the court, let me point you to Exibit A: Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander’s new article – In-Depth: No Female Heroes At Activision?

In that article, Leigh Alexander, and I quote “looks at the apparent recasting of a female protagonist to male in what would become Activision’s True Crime 3, asking whether this is symptomatic of larger issues around focus testing and female character representation in the industry.

It’s an interesting read, and one I fully advise you read before continuing on to our main event.

In-Depth: No Female Heroes At Activision? By Leigh Alexander – Gamasutra

Alrighty then! So what did our lovely majority of commenters have to say about this  provocative  issue? (Or non-issue according to some.) Well lucky for you, I’ve selected a choice few in this blog post and divided them up according to their overall quality, and how much Advil I had to take before the voices went away.

First because I’m a closeted masochist, here’s The Bad:

– – – – – – – – – –

“Females are inferior to males. It’s got a long history in the world. Get over it.”

“I could maybe, just maybe, see myself playing as a female, but only if her female weaknesses were emphasized, rather than the usual “shes a butt kicker every bit as good as the guys” nonsense. For example, it might be cool to play as a female that cant possibly win any physical fight in the game world, and even gets the crap kicked out of her, but must find other ways to win or survive. That type of thing might be intriguing. Never been tried though as far as I know.”

– – – – – – – – – –

“Fact is hardcore gaming is a mostly young, male, testosterone laden pursuit, and the games reflect it. That’s just the way it is, no use writing liberal college essays crying about it.

Sure, women ARE weaker and inferior, but I wont be mean and continue shattering your dreams here by expounding on that LOL.”

– – – – – – – – – –

“Dumb feminist is being dumb.

95% of the people who play action games are men. Publishers like to make money. Deal with it.”

– – – – – – – – – –

“Get this Politically Correct crap outta here- this report has an undercurrent that implies without an equal amount of feminine (and political?)representation in gaming, we will never achieve the next level of consciousness! And Activision should be ashamed! Well, it shouldn’t.

So Activision currently trends more towards male leads. So what? Why shouldn’t they have the (right) to choose what goes in their game (which they pay for)? Or should we tell the Auto Industry what to engineer and how- or Pro Ballers when and what to swing at, or control what people buy and how? Yeah; thought not.

Now, trending to male leads isn’t a concious effort to devalue or supress anyone. But if it offends you as a consumer- don’t buy the game. If it offends you as a developer, go work somewhere else. Simple as that.”

– – – – – – – – – –

Gotta love that boot-strap mentality! Yeah, deal with it!

Finally, here is The Good:

“It’s strange how harshly some people in this industry react to the idea of better representation of women in gaming. And while sexism obviously exists in pretty much every walk of life, it seems to be a pretty depressingly common problem in the video game industry. Worse than any other industry I’ve ever worked in by far. I’ve never understood the bizarrely hyperbolic reaction of some men to any mention of increased representation for women, like it’s some kind of attack on them. But I think it’s often (not always) indicative of broader views about the roles of men and women and the desire of some men to maintain positions of power.

Here’s an example of an incident that I witnessed among some co-workers:
Two men and a woman were sitting around discussing Rock Band, and the woman said that she wished there were more songs sung by women in the game. As anyone who has ever played Rock Band with women would know, the reason for this is obvious – because it’s often difficult for women to sing songs written for a male vocal range (and vice versa). But as soon as this woman said she wished there were more songs that women could sing in Rock Band, she was immediately met with cries of “Whoa! What the hell, are you some kind of feminist or something?” When she tried to explain exactly what I just said about vocal ranges, she was immediately cut-off and told that she should go make a sandwich.

Those two reactions are entirely related. The exaggerated response to the very idea that women might want to be more involved and the blatant sexism of cutting her off and telling her to go make a sandwich come very much from the same place. I really wish that I’d never seen another similar incident in this industry, but sadly I have. There are plenty of great people in this industry, but the depressing truth is that there’s also a hell of a lot of sexism, and yes, it is a problem that needs to be dealt with.”

– – – – – – – – – –

“Nobody is talking about “rights,” here. This article is about an allegation of a policy at a company. Do you really think that should be off-limits for reporting?

I’m really amazed that some people here are so defensive and protective of a major publisher’s creative decisions in this way. Of course they have the legal right to do whatever they wish within the law. That doesn’t mean those decisions aren’t subject to reporting and discussion.

People seem to be equating the existence of this article to quotas and affirmative action. Do you think Gamasutra or the article’s author are demanding legislation on this? There’s a difference between “telling the auto industry what to engineer” through force of law, and publishing an article about whether the auto industry is basing decisions on poor judgment.

For that matter, do you hold up the auto industry as a sterling example of making wise broad-reaching decisions, either within a pure market context or otherwise? Maybe the auto industry could have done with listening to some other opinions.”

– – – – – – – – – –

“There’s something delightfully amusing to me, as a female gamer, to see how many men come storming into articles like this that question the lack of diversity in gaming protagonists. They will inevitably berate the author and any others who might also have the same questions for trying to “impose our views” or “get political”, then claim the protagonist’s gender “shouldn’t matter”.

Well then geniuses, if it doesn’t matter so much, why do you get so defensive every time the subject comes up?

Here’s another good question – how come when games with white guys don’t sell, nobody ever goes “Well duh, it’s because it’s a white guy. We need to diversify!”? But if a game with a minority lead fails, the first thought is “Duh, it’s because we should have put a white guy in it!”?

Think hard about these questions. The industry is never going to lose it’s “boys club” rep as long as it sticks with its current status quo.”

– – – – – – – – – –

“I love how people are putting this down to an attempt to appeal to “political correctness” rather than, you know, an attempt to acknowledge that women can be the lead characters; that women can enact stories, that women can be forces of movement rather than forces of passivity.

That women aren’t just love interests and aren’t just targets and aren’t just motivation and aren’t just, in other words, the ‘driving forces’ for male characters: that they’re individuals with motivations and actions of their own, and that stories can and should be written to reflect this fact because these stories are out there, waiting to be told, instead of retelling the same things over and over with those “male steroid shooters”.”

– – – – – – – – –

“The irony of all of this is that nobody has the means to honestly show that the presence of a male lead character vs. a female does in fact appreciably impact sales in general. This is a bit like attributing rising climate temperatures to the decrease of pirates at sea.

I’m sure these types of decisions are made in good faith, insofar as they really do believe they are doing their best to maximize their profits. In the absence of really understanding what could be compelling about a game, they are resigned to mimic their personal favorite features of other bestselling games.

Let’s make money. I love making money. Why did we choose _this_ business to make money in? Why am I here doing this instead of manufacturing toilet paper or hula hoops?

At some point one has to ask and answer, when is a design decision worthwhile enough to be driven by some value besides the prospect of making more money?”

– – – – – – – – – –

Excellent. Nice show everyone. Some very well put arguments, and some… uh, not.

That does it this time for Nerd Fallout, but be sure when the next nerd rage surfaces like a great white shark upon a cage full of chicken, One Bored Gamer will be there to watch the fallout.

The majority of comments featured on Nerd Reaction came from both Gamasutra and NeoGaf, and do not reflect the opinions of the One Bored Gamer Staff and affiliates.

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