Posted by JadeGL (866 posts) -

“What’s your favorite game?”

That question, whether asked in a face-to-face encounter, or online in a forum thread, is a constant in the lives of people who play video games. We judge each other based on what games we say we love. We praise people we agree with and ignore or admonish those who don’t share our opinion. Sometimes we even get into the really interesting bits, the reasons why people love the games they love.

To explain how I feel about games and gaming culture today, I went back and reevaluated just what my favorite game is and why. I mulled over how games affected me. I even tried to pinpoint the events surrounding my first experiences with the game, and I tried to see if things beyond the game itself had changed my perceptions.

My favorite game, one that I always return to, is Super Mario Bros. 2. Logically, I understand that it is not as revolutionary as the first or third games in the series, but it made a huge impact on the younger me. It showed me something that I didn’t think was possible at the time. It showed me that I could be a female protagonist in a game, and it showed me that a female protagonist was just as capable, maybe ever more so, than her male counterparts.

What an amazing thought that was! At 6 years old, I was too young to have known about movies like Alien. My morning cartoons were filled Ninja Turtles and GI Joes. And my games, the games that I had loved since my brothers had first helped me get them running on the Commodore 64, had been filled with burly barbarians and scantily clad slave girls, knights defeating evil wizards, and plumbers braving evil mushrooms and turtles to save a waiting princess. All of these things had been shaping my life. To that point, my heroes had been men and the people who needed saving had been women. That’s not a complaint, it was just the way it was.

A formative moment for a young girl.

Then, my father borrowed Super Mario Bros. 2 at some point in 1989 from a family friend. I can’t pinpoint when, but I remember holding the cartridge in my hand. The label had an exciting shot of Mario jumping against a sky blue background, turnip in hand and a smile on his face. I put the cartridge into the NES and after pressing start, I got a screen that prompted me to select my character. And that’s when I first really remember being able to choose to be girl.

I now realize that this was something that would forever change my expectations of games. Not only could I choose to be a girl, but the girl was doing everything that the guys were doing, and she even had her own gameplay benefits. She may have been slower pulling up vegetables, but her floating jump was great for passing over large gaps. I found myself, after I was introduced to this game, gravitating towards other games where the player could choose to be either a boy or a girl. Alien Syndrome, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Mario Kart, Diablo, Diablo II, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and on and on. While I also played games with only male protagonists, my favorites allowed for the choice most of the time to be a female character.

Now, I know that people will be asking how this applies to the controversies we are seeing more and more of today. I will begin by saying most of the things that have come up don’t bother me. In fact, I didn’t really feel any need to speak up until the Dead Island Riptide Pre-order story hit over a year and a half ago.. It was a moment that crystallized a desire to put words to what I was feeling. At first, when I saw the piece and read about it at various gaming news sites, I thought it was pretty tasteless and wondered to myself why anyone would want something like that. I certainly didn’t, and I was trying to figure out just what was so off-putting about the whole thing. Then I read some of the comments on the story and I admit I was kind of astounded by how many people were defending it. A lot of people weren’t defending it by saying it was a perfectly fine pre-order bonus and saying that they wanted one. They were just saying that they may not like it, but someone might and we shouldn’t be upset that the people who made this made it in the first place. It was made to create controversy, a lot of commentators said, and I agreed. But that shouldn't have absolved the creators of their bad decision. It shouldn’t be a mulligan; it should have been talked about for any number of reasons.

Since that story, we've had Bros before Hoes, the Hotline Miami: Wrong Number rape scene being talked about and eventually amended, and conversations in the forums about myriad other stories, blogs, and video series. I've always tried to join these conversations as a participant who may have a slightly different point of view, someone who comes at it from a female perspective and also as a person that loves to play games so much that Diablo II seriously effected her GPA as a college freshman. All of these issues and stories are of varying degrees of importance to me. Some seem too silly to spend much time on, while others, usually ones that involve real people dealing with real issues such as treatment at gaming conventions, should be talked about and acknowledged as more than just someone complaining or trying to gain attention. It's a continuum of issues, and while we may not want to take time to sift through and talk about them all as they come, we shouldn't ignore them in their totality either.

I can sympathize with the desire to defend games and gaming culture. I remember vividly the shootings at Columbine and how I felt being a junior in high school at the time, and how I was angry when certain media talking heads tried to blame music or Doom. I remember the surreal happenings surrounding the first Mass Effect and how certain conservative bloggers were calling it a sex simulator and how Fox News was airing that as fact, and again how mad I was. These are the things we should, as reasonable people and people who play games, be pushing back against. These instances were obvious attacks on video games by people looking for an easy talking point instead of looking at broader and more complicated issues. But those serious and egregious allegations, which later proved to be invalidated, should not harden our minds to real and concerning issues that come up from within the gaming industry and culture. It isn’t kill or be killed, totally black and totally white, it’s shades of gray. We can all have different opinions at the end of the day and we should be talk about them, even if we can only agree to disagree.

So, I go back and think about those first years when I was just being exposed to games and I realize that everything I have seen and played has changed me, but also how a changed me has come back to games. The girl who grew up coveting the Atari 2600 that was locked away in her older brother's room has become an adult with a disposable income, an abiding love of games, and a desire to have those games speak to her. For the most part, the games are beginning to deliver on that decades old promise. It's the stuff around and outside that lags behind sometimes.

Moderator Online
#1 Edited by ThunderSlash (1725 posts) -

I went to check out the Mass Effect thing you were talking about and... oh boy this is it isn't it?

"Se"XBox? Really?!

Also, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is dope and I'm surprised at how it's not considered a classic.

#2 Edited by Aetheldod (3579 posts) -

@jadegl: Well yeah you have the right to talk about things , but many a times people just see the top and dont try to really study what they are arguing and just put the blame on something ... as an example lets use Dragons Crown , I will talk briefly about the amazon , she has little to no armour and people will only say that her appearence is only and ONLY for gwaking , but if they did study the game will find out that how she dresses conveys crucial information about gameplay mechanics , like what you may ask? Well she has terrible defense as the other non warrior classes , she is the nimblest of them all (when you use her combo she attacks faster and faster with time) also she is a high risk/reward character , and as you see her in the game you can see all this information , also lets add the lore etc. So it becomes more complex and not as just one way street as the detractors make it out to be. ....

As a side note I did also used the princess in Super Mario Bross 2... I mean she could fly , thats the best ability on a platformer in my books. But yeah you are right that riptide bust was a terrible idea and it indeed did not add anything to the game , lore etc.

But also I as many other should try harder to hear others (and their opinions ) as we would want te be heard ouselves , and I think that isnt much to ask truly , even if sometimes the opinion seems ridiculous or inexplicable to us , as sometimes it is the other way around.

#3 Edited by TruthTellah (9073 posts) -

Thanks for sharing this, @jadegl. If I remember correctly, SMB2 was also my first game to be able to choose to play as a girl in a game. Metroid may have predated it, but in that, you happened to be a girl at the end. Being able to choose to be a girl with her own strengths and weaknesses next to the guys illustrated in some basic way how you can be different but still just as good.

I've always appreciated games that offer strong female characters and options, and I'm encouraged by how many games nowadays do offer some decent female representation. Games are silly and fun, but they also impact us in many ways. I think that's likely why I care so much about them and choose to spend time at a place like this. There's a personal impact, especially from when you were young; though, it remains a consistent factor in my life even to this day.

Our different perspectives on every aspect of gaming are important, and to me, such discussions continue to enrich my appreciation of games and the community surrounding them. As you said, games are becoming even better in many ways, and I have seen growing interest and passion in many gamers to help improve things around and outside games, as well. I hope that young gamers in the future will have an even more positive impact from the games and community that will be in their lives.

#4 Posted by cmblasko (1233 posts) -
@jadegl said:

...as a person that loves to play games so much that Diablo II seriously effected her GPA as a college freshman.

That makes two of us!

I don't really have much to add but I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this.

#5 Posted by joshwent (2205 posts) -

Always love hearing your perspective, Jade.

Peach was always the clearly best SMB2 character. For me it was more her rad hover jump than her being a pink-tinted mirror in which I as a young girl could have her desires for power and adventure met head on rather than filtering my fantasies through a male shaped hole... but still, clearly the best. ;)

#6 Posted by MEATBALL (3239 posts) -

I don't have much to add, just wanted to say I enjoyed reading this blog.

#7 Edited by CorruptedEvil (3287 posts) -

Good blog.

I personally couldn't care less what gender or race characters in games are as long as they are interesting and well written.

#8 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11734 posts) -

I enjoyed reading this. Also everyone knows that Princess Toadstool is the best Mario 2 character.

#9 Posted by believer258 (11905 posts) -

@joshwent said:

Always love hearing your perspective, Jade.

Yeah, I always find myself stopping to read a post by you, JadeGL.

#10 Posted by Slag (4362 posts) -

@jadegl:

Thank you for sharing this JadeGL.

Representation is important in games, but unless people hear it from somebody to whom it really made a difference it's easy to pretend it doesn't matter. I think there's a lot of people on this site who probably feel the way you do, but for one reason or another don't want to share their feelings about it. You sharing your thoughts as you often do, helps a lot.

SMB2 was a landmark game in my childhood too, my closest gaming playmates (save my neighbor) as a kid were primarily female and that was a game we liked to play because Peach was in the game for that very reason. There wasn't a whole lot of options with female protagonists back then, so we picked that game a lot. And frankly they ended up eventually drifting out of the hobby, partially because they never did get many games that gave them that choice.

#11 Posted by SpaceInsomniac (3728 posts) -

@jadegl said:

It isn’t kill or be killed, totally black and totally white, it’s shades of gray. We can all have different opinions at the end of the day and we should be talk about them, even if we can only agree to disagree.

I couldn't agree more. If everyone felt that way, I think there would be a lot less anger on both sides of the issue. I originally saw the thread title on mobile where it doesn't show you who posted before you click the thread, and I had hoped this would be you taking up the advice you were given to write your longer posts as blog entries. I forgot who suggested that, but I'm happy to see that you did. Good post.

As to the subject of Super Mario Bros. 2, I wish I could remember picking Princess Toadstool for the first time, but all I can remember is never playing as anyone but her and Luigi. Although I only used Luigi when I wanted something different. Mario couldn't jump very high, and Toad was even worse, but the Princess was awesome. Despite me being only a 10 year old boy at the time, I never went through a "girls are gross" phase. I also remember thinking it was really cool when I found out that Samus was a girl. It probably helps that a couple of my earliest friends were girls, and one of them played as many video games as I did.

#12 Posted by GunstarRed (5180 posts) -

My older sister had this weird Mario or nothing rule when it came to SMB2. I have no idea why she hated Princess Peach so much.

#13 Posted by Humanity (9234 posts) -

@jadegl: As a person that "defended" the Dead Island statue I still stand by that decision. I personally probably wouldn't want it, not because it's distasteful or crude but simply because I don't really collect that sort of stuff. At the same time I know a lot of people that like gaming collectibles would probably think it's pretty novel. I don't think the creators made a "bad decision" they need to be absolved from. I suppose the difference is that as a male my views on it range from "whatever" to "dumb" and not distasteful or misogynistic.

#14 Edited by JadeGL (866 posts) -

@thunderslash: Yeah it was just as bad as it was happening. I have never been so annoyed by a manufactured news story, mainly because it hit close to home. The romance scenes in Mass Effect are PG-13 quality at best, so acting like it was some porn or something was mind-boggling.

@aetheldod: Dragon's Crown is an interesting case. I think the art is beautifully rendered and I like the look, for the most part. What turned me off to the game were two things, namely the animations which I found way too over the top and the ability to do this in the game, which I found very weird and wasn't something I would want to do whether the character was male or female. So, while I think that the game is gorgeous to look at with solid gameplay, I think talking about some of the more problematic issues is fine. I wouldn't stoop to name calling the developer or people who enjoy the game, though. There was a thread a while back, I even revisited it recently when I was looking through my post history, that discussed this and I was very clear in saying that it may not be for me and I would continue to say so, but that I don't think the people who made it or play it are bad people/sexist/etc.

@truthtellah: The biggest point of what I wrote is that I wanted to explain why I feel the need to post on many similar topics. A large thing is that I have an emotional investment that I admit to very openly. Many things that some take for granted are things that make a game a must play or purchase for me, including if I can play as a girl. It's by no means a deal breaker, but it is steadily becoming something that will make me take notice of a game. Thanks for reading, I appreciate the comments!

@cmblasko: It's cool! Diablo II was a game that took up way too much of my time for way too long. I wasn't put on academic probation or anything, but it was my worst semester at school by far. Or secret best semester, since I was playing Diablo II every day. YMMV

@joshwent: Thanks very much! Peach was the best. I think it was the fact that she had the coolest jump, to me, and the fact that I was so happy that she went from being the person who needed saving in the first game to a full equal member of the team in the second game. Like I said, it was some mind-blowing stuff to me at that age.

@slag:Thanks for reading, I appreciate everyone taking the time to read it! I always feel like I want to speak up in threads so that people realize that yes, it's not the most important thing ever, but for a part of the audience, seeing themselves reflected is an important desire when playing games. It's never prevented me from playing games (Halo, Gears of War, Bioshock are all favorites of mine) but it make same very happy to be able to fulfill that desire if I can.

@spaceinsomniac: Thanks for reading. You always pop into threads and we have good conversations, even if we have different ideas! I think you've helped me see a lot of different sides to issues and helped me be a better writer on top of that, along with a few other GB users. So thank you!

@gunstarred: I had a weird anti Mario thing. If I tried any other character besides Peach, which was rare, I would go with Luigi. I guess everyone has their quirks. :D

@humanity: I defend their right to do what they wanted to do, I don't think it was very smart. I critiqued it for a variety of reasons, none of which were "It's sexist/misogynistic" at the time. I felt it was not a successful parody first and foremost, and I didn't like what I felt like it was saying about the people buying the games. Namely, that I felt like it was saying something about how the people coming up with the statue viewed us more than it was them saying something about themselves and their views of women. This was my on of my most concise posts on the issue, I believe, though I wrote many posts on it at the time trying to articulate my issues and what I was seeing from my perspective.

I don't get offended too often about much at all. I think some things are in bad taste, I wouldn't watch a movie like Hostel for instance, or Human Centipede, but I choose not to watch it instead of dwelling on it. I know what I like and what I don't like, so I make sure I stick to that kind of stuff. I go outside my comfort zone to try new things, of course, but if I see or hear about something and know it is going to bother me to my very core, I choose to skip it. Why? Because I am an adult and I know that my opinion of something, or my reaction to something, doesn't mean that that something should disappear for everyone.

That's totally different than explaining why I find this statue to be creepy. The entire process, from someone getting the idea or a group brainstorming this idea, to the meetings it took to make it a reality, to the final product just blows my mind. And I am cynical, so it shouldn't blow my mind, but it does.

I care, in the end, because I love games and gaming and I like being a part of the larger community. Most times sexism is brought up, I don't even pay attention because I think that there is overreaction to certain stories and events. The Pax East thing last year was something that I didn't even realize was a thing until I got home and read about it, and then it seemed like such a non-issue. I mean, it was a lady dressed as a video game character, no big deal. I thought that was something that was blown out of proportion, so I understand that side of the argument because I've been on that side of the argument! Then something like this pops up and, for an instant, I wonder what is so damn wrong about just saying "Hey, this is kind of fucked up, right?" because it is. And it's messed up for many reasons. The choice to make the statue Male or Female is part of it, but also the violence of it, and what it says about how people selling games view the people who buy games. And those are all issues worth exploring.

Moderator Online
#15 Edited by conmulligan (487 posts) -

Thanks for sharing this, @jadegl. The case for better representation is so much more compelling when it comes from someone who's been positively affected by it.

I'm 100% for more inclusive games on an intellectual level, but I also have my own selfish reasons, which is a general fatigue with having to play the same facsimiled character in most AAA games. Having broader representation is not just the right thing to do, but it's also a creatively more interesting choice.

#16 Posted by Brodehouse (9949 posts) -

My first game where I played as a girl was Friday the 13th. I think Brenda runs faster than everyone else.

Online
#17 Posted by Oldirtybearon (4799 posts) -

@brodehouse said:

My first game where I played as a girl was Friday the 13th. I think Brenda runs faster than everyone else.

The black guy jumps higher than anyone else, too.

Online
#18 Posted by JasonR86 (9705 posts) -

@jadegl:

Great post. The two moments that come to mind for me that are similar, but not in a game, was when I saw Alien and Terminator two. Both leads were women who weren't sexualized, weren't helpless, were strong, and independent. As a guy, another part of those movies I noticed were how the male protagonists treated the two leads. They treated them like everyone else. They all knew their strengths and weakness and reacted accordingly. I'd like to think that's how I treat people as well.

In a game, I think the first game that did this was Phantasy Star 1. The lead was a woman who was going after the being that killed her brother. That was awesome for me as a kid because it was always the opposite. PS 4 did some cool things with gender too. The lead for a quarter of that game was a woman who was training a younger male character. At the 1/4 mark they fight the main antagonist, the young male character is about to be killed, and the femal lead pushes him out of the way to take the hit dying in the process.

#19 Posted by Levius (1131 posts) -

I have always found the representation thing super interesting. As a white male who is closely represented in most media, I have never considered who I am playing as in a game. Even now, while I understand the idea on an intellectual level, the idea of a character representation doesn't naturally come to mind when I think about the games I play. Hell, occasionally when I read an article on something like diversity, there is that contrarian "kick" of "come on that isn't important" or "that's just tokenism". These are pretty obnoxious thoughts, and I have to take a minute to consider and see the argument clearly. When you never have to deal with an issue, it's really easily to minimise or discount that said issue, especially on something as dehumanising as the internet. I guess like many people, it's something I have to work on.

Online
#20 Posted by Yummylee (21636 posts) -

Great read! And I must echo the comments in here that you're one of the few users that I'm always interested in reading what you have to say. It's just a shame you don't post more often! But then, quality over quantity and all that :P

Funnily enough because most of my childhood was situated around series like Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, Tekken, Fear Effect, Burning Rangers, Streets of Rage and so on, any sort of gender bias never even really occurred to me. I was also a kid so, such issues naturally probably wouldn't have entered my mind to begin with. Though as the years went by it was never something I thought too hard about, until of course 2011 (I think?) where discussions pertaining to such subjects began cropping up all over the place. I won't deny, however, that it has gotten to be a little exhausting sometimes witnessing sexist/misogynist accusation after accusation, some of which I still believe are completely overblown and unnecessary. The God of War Ascension trophy debacle in particular I thought was completely unfounded.

Despite that, I'm glad to see these discussions are happening, and I'm glad that for as agonising as they can be sometimes, the fact that I've even begun to think and more carefully consider such issues in the first place is a great step towards me growing and maturing as a person. It's not like I've suddenly gone back, combing through all of my favourite games on the hunt for teh sexism, but I'm at least a lot more aware, and most importantly empathetic, of the topics at hand.

I must admit that I'm not especially easy to offend with regards to that sort of stuff, which is kind of a typical response from most guys I imagine really. The Dead Island statue, while I could certainly see why some would find it troubling, I thought was hilariously stupid and made a joke that I was... well, my specific reaction was ''I'll be in my bunk'', followed by a gif from American Psycho. That said, I wasn't going to lambaste anyone who didn't take it quite like I did.

Though I also must admit that even I can sometimes get offended by the insulting amount of pandering fanservice that arises in something like, say, the Senran Kagura games. I also thought the awkward and needlessly erotic Deborah Harper boss battle in RE6 was a bit much... But then that's just one of many problems I had with that game of course.

Now I wouldn't dare attempt to paint this as being on the same level, but I'm a rather petite fellow. I'm not a dwarf or anything, but I'm 5ft... well, that's it. I'm 5ft nuttin. And while when it comes to character creation I'm usually all over the place, I do often appreciate it when games allow you to adjust height or play as a smaller character. It's particularly why I'm so fond of playing as Dwarfs in fantasy games; my first of many playthroughs of Dragon Age: Origins was with the Dwarven Noble Origin. Which, as it turns out, is also easily the best one! So, on that note I can certainly understand when someone feels like they're being... left out, so to speak.

Anywhoo I'm beginning to ramble here, so I'll end it with more appraisal of your blog, and I hope that you'll be inclined to write more often in the future! Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with what you have to say, you put yourself out there much more rationally and understanding than most, as opposed to a lot of the sarcasm and passive-aggressiveness I've spotted on both sides of the arguments.

Online
#21 Posted by seveword (154 posts) -

Good read, @jadegl. I actually preferred Toad in SMB2, for his speedy approach, but I always picked Peach when Toad couldn't cut it. I also prefer her (top 5) in Smash Bros, she's only behind Shy Guy or Koopa Troopa in Mario Kart/Tennis, and in general if I have the option to do so, I pick her as well as anybody else. I grew up on Mario games, so she was always just as close in terms of my character-picking progression as Mario or Luigi.

In regards to the rest of your writing: I play the games that I want to play, for the reasons I want to play them, and most of the time I skip the internet when forming my opinions - I think even the Giant Bomb guys are dead-ass wrong on some games sometimes, despite me agreeing with them fairly regularly. Thus, I am often left in the dust when it comes to most of these debates and controversies, and in general I don't much care - it's hard enough to live my own life, so vicariously living through internet discussion is low on my list of priorities. That said, I agree with you on what you've said and hope that eventually the climate of video games discussion becomes a little more adult as a whole.

#22 Posted by Hailinel (24779 posts) -

I enjoyed reading this. Also everyone knows that Princess Toadstool Peach is the best Mario 2 character.

Fixed, but agreed on all counts.

Online
#23 Edited by JadeGL (866 posts) -

@conmulligan: I agree with the idea of playing not just a choice between girls or boys, but also having more diverse options within that. Different looking men with different personalities would be good too. I love the Nathan Drake-type, but that character is a relatively common archetype (Han Solo, Rogue with a heart of gold, etc) so seeing even a different type of guy is interesting to me. Even what Rockstar did with GTA V was interesting in that they gave you three men, all at different points in their lives and dealing with different issues and goals. Sure it could have been even more diverse, I suppose, but it was good to see three unique characters starring in that game.

Yeah, no thanks... Maybe later...

@brodehouse:@oldirtybearon: That's really cool. I played a Commodore 64 version of that game, but I was remember being really scared by the still images that they showed when someone died that I didn't even get far enough into the game to determine who had better stats, run speed, jumping. Yeah, I just put up a screen shot from the Commodore 64 version and that was enough to make a younger me nope the hell right out of that game. It's cool to hear that it had mechanics like that, even if I didn't get a chance to experience them fully.

@jasonr86: Seeing Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 was a big moment for me, as well as seeing characters like Storm and Rogue in comic books and on the X-Men cartoon. They were powerful, interesting, fun characters. I didn't see Alien until more recently, but Ripley was great. I appreciate when a movie or a game has a character that isn't female first, but character first. It's why I love Commander Shepard so much. Yes, I find femininity in her, but she's a bad ass soldier first. I even liked the women in Gears of War 3. They seemed to be front line soldiers first, then women. It made sense in that place that they would be so hardened and so equal to their male counterparts. I really find stuff like that refreshing. But I don't mind feminine either. I just don't want it to be their only character trait.

@amatureidiot: I think I have things to work on too. I have admitted in other threads that I find myself sometimes "siding" with female characters more readily, even if there is no real reason to do so besides me being the same gender. Also, I think that I find myself having similar internal dialogues about whether having a female option or a female character is just pandering, and then I have to wonder where those thoughts come from? I think it's a hardwired thing that even girls who plays games need to look at closely. It's a balance. I never consider the playable gender a thing that makes a game bad or good, it just piques my interest more as I grow older and more confident in what I like and want to see in games that I play. It's a hard idea to articulate. But thank you for your post.

@yummylee: Thanks so much! I will definitely try to post more. I found some old pieces and ideas on my Google Drive that I have been messing around with, one was concerning romance in games and how I have been having more fun with emergent romance, or romance that seems to not be intentional or even considered by the developer, versus the carefully crafted romance stories in something like Mass Effect or even the Uncharted Series. It's a wacky idea, but I have examples and stuff that I have been playing with and trying to write about. So I expect to do more in the future!

Feeling left out is never fun, although I can say that I don't take it personally. I know that certain things must sell games and there are studies and marketing that point to certain archetypes being what people want to see and play as. Thank you for opening up and sharing. I know that when I create a character, I try to make it look pretty close to me, but trying to crank down the bust size on character models in usually not an option, and I know that I tend to make myself taller and slimmer, but not crazily so. But I try to stay pretty close to reality. I even put glasses on my Saint's Row The Third character. It's hard to try and balance what I am with what I want to be in a game.

@seveword: That's my one hope, that the negativity will kind of slough away and we'll just be left with frank discussion. I want to make sure that I don't add to any negativity as well, so I always try to start in the middle or near a middle and feel out the issue. Writing helps crystallize ideas. I would probably dive in less if I felt it wasn't important in some way, but to me it is important. And I love the community here and the GB crew, so it's like I'm trying to come and have a talk with my buddies. And sometimes those talks get heated, but we usually end up cool at the end. And I don't agree with the guys all the time either. I will never forgive Jeff for being so down on ME3 multiplayer. He was just wrong on that... sigh...

I tend to pick Peach in Mario Kart, although I have been picking Shy Guy in Mario Kart 8. Hey, for all we know he could be a she, or have no gender at all (I'm putting way too much thought into this)... I also have been using Toadette quite a bit, and Wario if I want a heavier person in the cart.

@hailinel: The Peach / Toadstool thing always confused the hell out of me as a kid. In fact, I just started reading her Wikipedia page because I was curious, and got into some theory that she is half-toad... toadstool, whatever. It's fun to read that kind of stuff.

Moderator Online
#24 Edited by Brodehouse (9949 posts) -

@jadegl said:

@brodehouse:@oldirtybearon:

I'm less grossed out by the mango salsa running down dude's face and more concerned about this strange foot-like appendage he has growing out of his neck. Jason is clearly just saving this guy from a wasting death from late stage metastasized cancer.

Online
#25 Posted by Sinusoidal (1493 posts) -

Thanks for this. I'm just happy to see some reasonable discussion on a topic that more often than not blows up into a maelstrom of hate filled vitriol.

We need more focus on what the industry gets right and less railing against the lowest-common-denominator-appealing, B-level, cheap titillation. Better representation of women in video games will come from more women getting into video games, not from censorship.

Peach clearly is the best character in SMB2.

#26 Posted by Slag (4362 posts) -

@jadegl said:

@slag:Thanks for reading, I appreciate everyone taking the time to read it! I always feel like I want to speak up in threads so that people realize that yes, it's not the most important thing ever, but for a part of the audience, seeing themselves reflected is an important desire when playing games. It's never prevented me from playing games (Halo, Gears of War, Bioshock are all favorites of mine) but it make same very happy to be able to fulfill that desire if I can.

Anytime JadeGL, thanks again for writing this and I hope you write more often if you have something to say. Awesome people like yourself are why I spend time here.

#27 Edited by JadeGL (866 posts) -

@sinusoidal: I was actually thinking of trying to focus on some things that are more positive, especially in the the pieces I am choosing to write. I think that a good way to get a point across is to be open and try to put a spin on it that looks at the good things I see happening in and around games.

Speaking about women getting into games, I wish that when I was younger, programming, math and science had been pushed more on me as a student. I had the attitude that I just wasn't a good student where those subjects were concerned, even when I did well enough to get good grades in High School. I was artsy and obsessed with reading and writing, so I thought that that was what I was good at. And I loved games for that entire time but I never thought that making them or having a career where games played a large part was a viable option. I hope that is changing now and kids who like games are being guided to careers where they can make the things they love, if they want to.

Moderator Online
#28 Edited by AMyggen (3040 posts) -

@jadegl: Great piece. I'm of the mindset that being critical of games is what will push games forward as a medium, so I love this kind of stuff. I'm a gay dude myself and would love to see that culture (for lack of a better word) be more reflected in the medium, and I sometimes get depressed by the reaction to these kinds of feelings among certain gamers (the reaction in the comments under this article is a good example, and makes me appreciate Rorie and the mods on here even more). I love games and the "gaming culture" in general, but the reaction a lot of people have every time social issues are brought up makes me a bit sad.

It just seems like every time more "serious" issues surrounding games are brought up, the extremists take over the discussion and ruin it for everybody.

#29 Posted by JadeGL (866 posts) -

@amyggen: I agree with your sentiment. I see no problem with critical looks at games, whether it's how it handles a social issues, treatment of minority groups, politics etc. I find it just as natural as critiquing a game for it's graphics, sound design or mechanics. I think that when games become closer to things like film and literature, we see more discussion treating them similarly. I see it as a natural growth of the medium, and it's good to see people talking about difficult subjects and it's good for games to make people think about difficult subjects. I hope that I can make my points while still having a positive outlook!

Some of the comments on that article are pretty vile. I mean, how is putting romance options for everyone who may play the game, gay or straight, an agenda? I know that comments on articles are usually not a great example of the overall community and how they feel about a certain issue, but it really stinks that someone just looking at this story online would see some of those comments and think that those posters speak for the gaming community at large. That's my main reason for speaking up when I do. I want to make sure that people realize that there are all kinds of voices and all kinds of ideas and that the especially trolly ones don't speak for all of us.

Moderator Online
#30 Posted by Baal_Sagoth (1260 posts) -

First of all, very nice text. I enjoyed reading that quite a bit. Not entirely surprising since you frequently did well in many of those discussions even with how heated those got at times.

But one thing really stood out to me in this thread. So I wanted to chime in on that (I can't and won't talk about all the interesting points mentioned here so I'm just going to quote that one paragraph in hopes of not missing crucial context. If I fail please do call attention to that):

@jadegl said:

Feeling left out is never fun, although I can say that I don't take it personally. I know that certain things must sell games and there are studies and marketing that point to certain archetypes being what people want to see and play as. Thank you for opening up and sharing. I know that when I create a character, I try to make it look pretty close to me, but trying to crank down the bust size on character models in usually not an option, and I know that I tend to make myself taller and slimmer, but not crazily so. But I try to stay pretty close to reality. I even put glasses on my Saint's Row The Third character. It's hard to try and balance what I am with what I want to be in a game.

That sentiment seems to be where my disconnect with a lot of the discussion about representation comes from. I don't really understand why people mix reality and very much fictional media like that. Especially in mainstream games, which incite these discussions much more frequently, the cast of characters is mostly staffed with unusually capable, attractive, resilient and quite simply ridiculously powerful people. So most, if not all, of us are not represented in such games to begin with in any meaningful way. We're all "being left out". It's a fantasy and that might be good or bad or just neutral but it's not healthy to mix or confuse any of that with your real life in a direct fashion either way. Now, I'm all for having role models and extracting abstract knowledge out of fictional media but to do that you already have to undergo a process of careful interpretation and translation or risk disastrous consequences for your real life.

I've got no place in the leading roles of most of the fictional universes I love to inhabit by proxy because, "realistically" I'd probably be the peasant whining about his stolen supplies, some random thug butchered in the street who didn't know who he was messing with, the loopy alchemist trading all day or something like that. I feel represented by characters like Planescape's Nameless One because of his existential crisis and his search for meaning and perspective, I consider Dana Scully to be a huge role model because of her bone-headed scepticism and dedication to rational thinking, I love Lara Croft's attitude because of its 'no-nonsense' and 'do or die' qualities and so forth. Not because I project myself onto those characters in full. If I had been in Lara's situation in the new TR I'd have drowned on that ship or I wouldn't have been in that situation to begin with because I'd probably been up to too much bullshit to become some ace student like her.

Even the characters I identify with to a high degree have much, much more differences to my actual self than commonalities with it. I'm really not sure why a healthy amount of players find something comparatively minor like skin color or gender inhibts their identification so much more than all the other differences we have to fictional characters. Though I'm not saying that is a good reason to ignore it all. I might just subconciously supress my one true desire to actually be an adorable Khajiit girl with all the Skooma to party for days though.

#31 Edited by JadeGL (866 posts) -

@baal_sagoth: That's an interesting point, and one that I see echoed in threads talking about representation in games. I find that I have, for most of my life, been playing as people very unlike me, which is fine. I have no problem strapping on a gun as Master Chief, or slicing people to ribbons as Lu Bu, or punching my way through Foot Clan soldiers as a Ninja Turtle. Most games that are on my list of "favorites" have protagonists that are totally outside my life experiences, which is good. I don't necessarily want to be everyone that I play. I don't want to be Doom Guy, or Booker Dewitt, or Link. I want to experience their worlds and stories.

On the other hand, a lot of the games I play now are games where I can make my characters and play them as I see fit. I prefer this type of game. I have always enjoyed RPGs, but my interest in them in the past few years has really increased quite a lot. I think, with games like KOTOR, Mass Effect, and MMOs like City of Heroes, I realized that I liked playing games where I can make my character look the way I want to look, fight the way I want to fight, and interface with the world in a way that fits my moral and ethical tenets. Now, I know that most people may not view games of this type played as this way a type of escapism, but I really enjoy losing myself in a game and playing a role that is like me, just a bit more of a fantasy. Maybe some may view this as boring or as a hindrance to real fun, but I love it.

But, even if I play Fallout 3 or Skyrim as a goody goody, I still will play games that let me be a real horrible person too, and that is far outside my comfort zone. I love Hotline Miami, and I know that I'm not inhabiting this killer when I play it, so having fun with that game is easy. With something like Amnesia, the character is a real nasty piece of work, which you find out through gameplay, but that didn't change my enjoyment of that game either. I can disconnect myself from games too. I just prefer, at this time in my life, being a character and playing a game that lets me do that.

It's an interesting discussion, to be sure. I will admit that my way of playing is probably outside the norm for a lot of people, and that's probably where some of the disconnect, when these stories come up, arises in the community. But games are a big medium and they can account for everyone and every play style, I believe.

Moderator Online
#32 Posted by pyromagnestir (4324 posts) -

I'm really not sure why a healthy amount of players find something comparatively minor like skin color or gender inhibts their identification so much more than all the other differences we have to fictional characters.

Lots of people like having some aspect they can relate to in whatever it is they're into. I'm willing to guess that for a lot of people skin color, sexuality, and gender may not be the highest things on the list if you asked, but the world of video games has been largely dominated by a certain straight white male archetype so when something pops up other people can relate to on that level they're probably reminded that "Oh yeah, having a character that looks or is like me in that way is nice and adds to the experience." While it seems a lot of folks who are so accustomed to being represented on those basic levels are like "I don't get it, what's the big deal?"

As humans we like to be part of a group with people we feel comfortable with, it's a basic desire. Part of that has always and will always be finding people who look like us or are like us. That that carries over into entertainment we enjoy on some level isn't surprising, it's expected.

#33 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3091 posts) -

It's always interesting for me to see what characters people relate to when they're playing through games; it's also really shocking that so many people pick the main character of the game. I've always seen more of myself in the side characters, and have often though about writing a blog entry to try and explain why I relate the most to a certain character in Persona 4. Spoilers: It's Mitsuo.

#34 Edited by JadeGL (866 posts) -

@brodehouse: Dude, don't joke about that picture. To a younger me that was horrific and scarring. Not only that, but I think the game also played a discordant noise/sound when it happened, so the combination of picture with sound was terrifying. Enough to keep me far away from the game, even if it gave me a chance to play a female character! :D

But looking at it now I can see that the idea of being terrified by that graphic is totally ridiculous.

Moderator Online
#35 Posted by Baal_Sagoth (1260 posts) -

@jadegl: Oh, absolutely! Bring on all the games, for everyone. I'm a massive fan of video games and sink crazy amounts of time into them but probably don't give a shit about 95% of them already. Not out of spite or ignorance but neccessity. There's only so much time in a day. Increasing the volume of games that might not appeal to me is a drop in the ocean at this point anyway. I just get weirded out when the few select games I do like get shit by people for happening to be what they are when that time might be better spent highlighting games those people enjoy more. I just get the impression that some people (most definitely not you) are quick to trash games and sensationalize issues wherever possible but very slow to put in the work and find games that are for them. Games are pretty fucking diverse already, but obviously not in the most mainstreamy, expensive segments. Those games are playing it safe and keep it nice, boring and stereotypical because it seems to finacially work for them for now (certainly not because I'm throwing a lot of money at it).

@pyromagnestir: Well, my world of video games is dominated by games that don't have me playing a character at all (Strategy), games that give you lots and lots of options about what you want to play (certain RPGs), games that don't feature human beings at all (a lot of Fantasy/SciFi stuff) and not a single fucking game that actually has a character that completely mirrors my ethnicity, gender and sex. So, sorry, but I'm not "accustomed to being represented on those basic levels" and that's just not at all what I'm looking for in games anyway. That kind of lowest common denominator pandering is exactly why I'm very happy in the fringes of gaming for the most part. I'm bored of those mainstream stereotypes and find it infuriating to be told what I like, buy or want out of games because my skin happens to be white. Especially when those assumptions are so hilariously incorrect.

#36 Edited by Yummylee (21636 posts) -

@jadegl said:

@yummylee: Thanks so much! I will definitely try to post more. I found some old pieces and ideas on my Google Drive that I have been messing around with, one was concerning romance in games and how I have been having more fun with emergent romance, or romance that seems to not be intentional or even considered by the developer, versus the carefully crafted romance stories in something like Mass Effect or even the Uncharted Series. It's a wacky idea, but I have examples and stuff that I have been playing with and trying to write about. So I expect to do more in the future!

Feeling left out is never fun, although I can say that I don't take it personally. I know that certain things must sell games and there are studies and marketing that point to certain archetypes being what people want to see and play as. Thank you for opening up and sharing. I know that when I create a character, I try to make it look pretty close to me, but trying to crank down the bust size on character models in usually not an option, and I know that I tend to make myself taller and slimmer, but not crazily so. But I try to stay pretty close to reality. I even put glasses on my Saint's Row The Third character. It's hard to try and balance what I am with what I want to be in a game.

I look forward to reading it!

And when it comes to character creation I don't typically create characters that look like me. In fact it will often vary per game as to how I like to design my characters when given the choice, though the example of me being Pro Dwarf in fantasy games is undoubtedly spurned on from my own bias :P Plus in Dragon Age in particular the dwarves easily feature some of the most interesting lore! Though with stuff like Saints Row in particular, while I do tend to make my character look... grounded (so, no chrome skin or anything like that), their designs tend to vary. Plus I've commonly enjoying playing through Saints Row multiple times, which gives me more chances to flex my creativity and see what other characters I can conjure up. One of my female Bosses in SRTT was made to look like some sort of stereotypical ''Hollywood Movie Hacker from the 90s'' sort of archetype, with the green anime hair, cargo trousers, and so on :P I also created what basically amounted to video game Queen Latifah in Saints Row 2.

One thing I have noticed lately when creating male characters is that I like to make 'em middle-aged, usually looking like they're in their mid 40s to early 50s. I guess I have a thing for the ''grizzled veteran'' look, with the grey hair, the weathered eyes, and a nice bushy beard. Though I would imagine I'm not alone in that and it's possibly rather common even. We tend to equate older characters with wisdom, and in hostile environments in particular it proves that this character must be pretty capable and something of a badass to have survived this long. That's not always the case, but it's a pattern that I have picked up on lately.

My female characters don't quite share as recurrent of a design, besides maybe ponytails... Also whenever a game lets me give a character yellow or purple eye colour, then that's a sure bet as well!

Online
#37 Edited by Aronleon (769 posts) -

This was a very good read, its always great and informative to read diferent points of view when it comes to games and they options they offer.

#38 Edited by JadeGL (866 posts) -

@pyromagnestir: I would agree with that. It's like when I watch a movie or read a story that's set in Maine, which is my home state. I immediately kind of become interested in the story, maybe even more so than I would if it was the same basic characters and ideas, but set in Florida or Texas. Or when a character has Irish heritage, which I have. Or when I can play as a woman, which I am. They're all little things that can make me relate to a character in a way that might not be possible if they didn't have that added element of familiarity. But, this isn't something that I need or that always works. It's just nice to see people of all types of different backgrounds and if I can relate to some aspect of those backgrounds personally it adds a little weight to it, in my mind.

@make_me_mad: That's a good point! In games where I play a specific character, I tend to really relate to the other characters, or make decisions based on what I think those characters would want, even more so than who I am playing in a lot of ways. When I watched my husband play Uncharted, I found myself becoming more sympathetic to Sully and Elena. I think it was partly because as an outsider, I could see that Nathan was making decisions that could hurt the other two, especially in the third game, and I felt bad that I was seeing this happen, though there was nothing I, as a viewer, or the player, could do. In a similar way, I played through most of Deus Ex: Human Revolution using non-lethal means (except for the prologue) until I came to the part where you crash and your pilot, Faridah Malik, is injured and needs to be helped. You can either let her succumb to the wounds if you can't deal with the ambush quickly enough, or you can persevere and protect her. I attempted non-lethal means but was unsuccessful, so I literally gave up and went totally lethal so that I could save Mailk. It wasn't even a romantic thing, I just really liked that character and I wanted to do everything I could to help her, even if it meant breaking some gameplay rules that I had put on myself so far in my playthrough. I didn't even really like Adam Jensen much as I played through the game, although I changed my opinion as I went, but that other character was someone that I really was drawn to as I played.

Moderator Online
#39 Edited by pyromagnestir (4324 posts) -

@jadegl:

Definitely, I read a book a while back where one of the characters was from Lowell Mass, the city I was born in, and another went to the college I'm going to, and for a lot of people those details probably didn't add anything at all and perhaps even seemed unnecessary but for me it really was some neat little detail that added an extra connection to the characters in a story I was already enjoying. As you say it isn't necessary to enjoy something and doesn't always work but when a particular detail does hit you for one reason or another it's nice.

#40 Posted by Shindig (351 posts) -

Its more about places than people for me but that's probably because there's no Geordie protagonists in games. I still want to get a copy of Driver just for the Newcastle level.

I have walked these streets. Shame they blocked off my hometown of Gateshead. I'd also love to know how Newcastle wound up in The Last Guy.

#41 Edited by Pr1mus (3907 posts) -
@yummylee said:

One thing I have noticed lately when creating male characters is that I like to make 'em middle-aged, usually looking like they're in their mid 40s to early 50s. I guess I have a thing for the ''grizzled veteran'' look, with the grey hair, the weathered eyes, and a nice bushy beard. Though I would imagine I'm not alone in that and it's possibly rather common even. We tend to equate older characters with wisdom, and in hostile environments in particular it proves that this character must be pretty capable and something of a badass to have survived this long. That's not always the case, but it's a pattern that I have picked up on lately.

I do this almost all the time now. It started when i hit around 30 and started seeing grey hair in my beard! In SR3 i decided to basically do Sully from Uncharted. I mean, if i'm going to start looking old soon even though i'm just 31 i hope can look like Sully!

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=12190305

#42 Edited by JadeGL (866 posts) -

@pr1mus: I wish I could be so confident! I always manage to make my female characters have pretty brown or red hair, no white or grey at all. In real life, I have quite a bit of grey hair popping up, especially right in the front where I part my bangs. It's a sore spot for me, but there's nothing to do about it besides dye it. It's all genetic anyway, and I expected it since my father went grey pretty early in life. I guess with guys it's much easier to age gracefully, though, and grey hair can be actually quite attractive. With women I feel like it just makes me look hella old. But that's just the societal expectations of what makes for an attractive female making me feel like crap, I suppose!!!! :D

Seriously, I'm not complaining, I just find it really interesting that you choose to make your guys look more grizzled and older, while I try to make my female characters look perpetually 25.

Funny thing is, I also put makeup on my characters, and I don't wear makeup at all, for the most part. So I don't know why I do that really. :/

Moderator Online
#43 Posted by jaycrockett (451 posts) -

@jadegl said:

@brodehouse: Dude, don't joke about that picture. To a younger me that was horrific and scarring. Not only that, but I think the game also played a discordant noise/sound when it happened, so the combination of picture with sound was terrifying. Enough to keep me far away from the game, even if it gave me a chance to play a female character! :D

But looking at it now I can see that the idea of being terrified by that graphic is totally ridiculous.

That game totally terrified me too! When you walk onto a screen where someone had been killed, randomly it would show that picture and play a horrible scream. Granted I was like 11, but I still remember it.

#44 Posted by Shindig (351 posts) -

This makes me very depressed.

#45 Posted by SpaceInsomniac (3728 posts) -

@shindig said:

Its more about places than people for me but that's probably because there's no Geordie protagonists in games.

Getting a bit off-topic here, and it's not quite the same thing, but Saints Row 2 featured an option for a British voice that wasn't quite the upper-class posh Brit that most media features.

The same can be said for a lot of regional dialects, though. For example, I don't think I've ever played a game starting a character with a heavy southern US accent.

#46 Posted by Yummylee (21636 posts) -

@spaceinsomniac: You haven't played L4D2? Also, that's an English cockney accent, which is basically the most common English archetype next to the snooty, upper class English.

Online
#47 Posted by Shindig (351 posts) -

Nah, cockney's too much of a cop-out. Thinking on it, to get a more regional Brit you have to go to the realm of actual celebrity voice actors.
People like Sean Ryder (Mancunian) and Stephen Merchant (Cornish).

Wait. I remember a geordie voice actor. The race engineer from F1 2010.