Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gender Neutral Games

There's something rather unique with Plants vs Zombies within that it is one of the few games that never asks you identify with a gender.

Most games don't ask, they just assume that you're male, or comfortable being identified that way, and the the story begins.

Now some of that has to do with the fact that not so long ago most of the individuals who played video games were male, so it wasn't seen as a problem to have most video game protagonist match their perceived players.  Hence why it takes until Pokemon LeafGreen and FireRed to be able to play as a female trainer in the Pokemon series.

But even now a days most games assume you're male or at least totally fine with playing a male character.  To be completely honest, that bugs the crap out of me.

If you look on the internet it actually bugs the crap out of a lot of people.  That particular aspect is not what I'm really interested in talking about today though, annoying though it is.

The situation I want to talk about is that video games are reinforcing gender stigma and double standards by asking each player their gender and then having that change game play.  One of the minor examples is from Animal Crossing where if you identify as a girl you can only wear a dress.  Boys also can only wear a shirt and pants

Oh great we're back in the 1950's, bravo.  It's not that asking for gender isn't a step forward, having the option to play as a female is quite a change actually.  However, quite often it causes as many awkward problems as it solves.  The certain type of armors female can wear has been spoken of many times on the internet.  

There's also something that's not very inclusive about demanding a gender from the player.  There those individuals that don't identify as one or the other, or there is just simple matter of being a girl wanting to play a girl but not wanting the male NPCs to hit on you.  Thank you very much I get enough of that unwanted attention in real life, I really don't want it in my fantasy one either.

The reason I bring this up is because I believe actively treating female identifying protagonist different reinforces aspects of video game culture that often makes females free unwelcome.  

There is an argument for the difference in gender treatment known as "story integrity," meaning that the story is dependent on the character's gender and must be changed if the gender changes.  My response to that is, really?  The story of a video game is THAT dependent on the main character's gender?  WHY?  Explain it to me, slowly if you think it will help, why that character absolutely has to be a male or must be treated different if it's a female?  

Is it cause they have to rescue a princess and it must love interest?  Because girls never have love interests that are also girls, nope that like never happens.

Is it cause the main character has to be believable strong?  Because girls are not as strong as men, none of them, there are no exceptions to that rule.  Every single woman is weaker than every single man.  

Is it cause of historical integrity?  Because that game was already so historical accurate.  You could always jump off a cathedrals and have no damage as long as you landed in a haystack.  

Is it cause programmers would require so much time to actual render a female character?  Maybe, they probably haven't seen a real female in a while, at least not that I can tell from looking at their games.

So yay Plants vs. Zombies for not asking my gender, and for not having Crazy Dave hit on me if I identified as a girl.

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