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#1 Edited by amir90 (2178 posts) -

Hey fellow bombers!

I usually lurk on forums regarding "gender issues" in video games (with some few exceptions), however, this is something I want to openly discuss.

Does a game need to include both genders (or even iregular gender identies) for a story to be good? Does the quality of the story in a video game get determined by the genders presented, or their roles in the games? It wouldn't of course make much sense if you had a game based around women's rights, and not have any female character important or even presented.

What sparked my curoristy about this topic, was a reference to a tweet by totalbiscuit made awhile back.

He could of course be trolling, but his replies on this tweet doesn't point that way.

Leaving totalbiscuit out of it (I just wanted to be honest about where I got the idea about gender and storytelling), what do you guys personally think?

Wouldn't using this logic make other great entertainment pieces (imho) like Shawshank Redemption and Saving Private Ryan a shitty story?

What about the show supernatural? It has had very few main characters that are female, and those who appeared the most in the show, were evil demons (or other nonhuman beings). I would guess that is a pretty shitty story by using the same logic as above?

If I am not being clear on my position, just ask.

I am actually trying to understand this way of thinking.

I am sorry for any horrible grammar made on my part.

#3 Posted by JasonR86 (9763 posts) -

It depends on the story being told. For me, I'm not particularly interested in stories where it makes sense to have only one gender represented. But to say all stories need both genders present limits what you can do with stories.

#4 Posted by Hero_Swe (1188 posts) -

Once again. NNNNNNNNNo. Can we just end the topic here?

#5 Posted by Nightriff (5245 posts) -

I say that is a hasty generalization, saying that a story can only be good if it has female characters, other than that it is shitty. I'm really, really sick of this topic in general. I want well written, female characters but if a game doesn't have them it doesn't make it a bad game. As others have said, forcing people to write female characters isn't going to give us good, thoughtful female characters, but one dimensional forgettable ones.

#6 Edited by Darji (5294 posts) -

@amir90: The same guy who called Brothers a Tale of Two Sons a masterpiece in terms of storytelling and best story of 2013. I normally Like TotalBiscuits views but this was just stupid. To tell a great story you do not need both genders or different races. You need emotions and humanity.

Just like Brothers does not need different genders The Last of Us DLC also does not need different Genders to tell a great story.

#7 Edited by Brodehouse (10106 posts) -

This just in, Glengarry Glen Ross telling a pretty shitty story due to lack of female characters.

Well, to be fair, it is. Though I think that's actually the point.

Were there any female characters in The Road? All I saw was Viggo, his kid and a bunch of male raiders and then I fell asleep in the theater.

#8 Posted by JasonR86 (9763 posts) -

@brodehouse:

I will cut you man The Road is fucking great!

#9 Posted by Brodehouse (10106 posts) -

@jasonr86 said:

@brodehouse:

I will cut you man The Road is fucking great!

It wasn't necessarily because it was boring! It was late.

Are there women in it?

#10 Posted by Fredchuckdave (6002 posts) -

@brodehouse: His wife is fairly important in the book. In post apocalyptic scenarios all women are murdered and those that aren't become ridiculously murderous psychos like Ellie in The Last of Us.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has literally no female speaking roles and is regarded as one of the finest films ever created.

#11 Edited by Animasta (14718 posts) -

male protags are too prevalent, all there is to it. All the people saying they want well written stories with them in it instead... I mean really? who cares if they insert a female protagonist in a not as well written story?

#12 Posted by Fear_the_Booboo (580 posts) -

I think story shouldn't need any woman character to be good. A male-centric story can be good and can be not sexist.

Look, I'm pro-feminist. I've read Judith Butler and loved it and I think that Jeanne Dielman (a feminist movie) is one of the best film ever made. The hate women gets in the gaming industry is disgusting and way worse than what the guys get. That said, if it makes sense in a social-historical point of view to have no girl character, it should be ok. Gone Home puts the emphasis on the girls, so why should it be a problem to have only boys or men? I disagree with TotalBiscuit on that point.

That being said, girl-centric stories are so freaking rare compared to guys-centric story. I don't think any specific game is the problem, but I think that generally, videogames are themselves problematic. We are getting better, but we're far from being to an "equal" point, which is disappointing.

At the end of it, if the industry wasn't sexist against women, we wouldn't have any problem with guy-centric story, because they would not feel overwhelming compared to the rest of the gaming industry. Right now, it feels like most games are guy-centric, which is a problem I feel.

#13 Edited by Veektarius (4983 posts) -

The Man with No Name trilogy has no important female characters across three movies. L.A. Confidential has just one supporting female character (mostly used as a plot device) against an ensemble cast of males. Are there any women in Black Hawk Down? I don't think so.

These are mostly settings where women's roles would be marginal if portrayed accurately, though. I legitimately think that GTA should do better, given its setting and subject matter. Most gangster movies have important supporting female roles, even if they're rarely leads.

I should probably note that I think that GTA is god-awful at characterization of supporting characters, though, so if you asked me whether I thought they should have more support characters who aren't annoying pricks, I'd give you the same answer.

#14 Posted by JadeGL (946 posts) -

It obviously depends on the story that you are telling. I have read many novels where the male characters are nonexistent or minimized to such a degree as to be the equivalent of set dressing, not actual characters with goals and desires like the female characters.

In GTA V, the story that they are telling is a male centered story and the issues that the protagonists are dealing with are concerning things like manhood, what it is to be a man in society, and also being able to take care of people in their lives, loyalty to family versus loyalty to friends. While similar stories can be told with female characters, this story was told with three very specific male characters. Would I like to see a GTA take on a female protagonist? Heck yeah! Do I expect it in the future? Sure, I think it's likely it will happen someday, maybe sooner rather than later. Do I think that the creators should shoehorn a female character/protagonist into a game they're already making such as GTA V? No, that would be unreasonable.

I won't begrudge TB his opinion, and I think some of the female characters could have been handled better in GTA V, or at least made to be more than shrill cardboard cutouts. But I don't think the story needs them and I don't think that anyone should feel pressure to accommodate a critic's desire for more nuanced roles in games. I also think that the people who make games should realize that creating flat female characters, or flat characters in general, is something that a critic or fan has a right to critique.

Moderator
#15 Posted by JasonR86 (9763 posts) -
#16 Posted by lilyWhite (29 posts) -

As a woman, I wonder if the same logic would apply in the opposite situation—that having no "worthwhile" male characters would make a story "shitty". (As a writer who has written a trilogy where plot reasons mean that there's a grand total of one major male character—and only in the latter two stories—I certainly don't think so.)

#17 Edited by MikeFerrari7 (211 posts) -

I think however the creator envisioned it, is how it should be. Take the Last of Us for example. I think it would still be a great story if it were a Father/Son scenario, and not a Father/Daughter one. I also think if Tess and Joel were swapped, and it was a Mother/Daughter or Mother/Son story it would still be as amazing as it is. I think most of these gender fueled issues with games is needless. Yeah, in the upcoming Metal Gear there's a girl with big breasts wearing a napkin for a shirt. But there are also plenty of muscular, handsome, male model esque protagonist out there too. It's not fair for just one side to have an issue with how they are represented in games.

Not to mention, we are so into portraying women properly in games, but seem to ignore the fact that here are tons of meathead, dumb, and just overall horribly portrayed males in games.

#18 Edited by ZolRoyce (769 posts) -

The movie The Thing had an all male cast, it is a fucking great movie.

The movie Descent had an all female cast, it is a fucking great movie.

Also Rockstar are the same people who created Bonnie McFarlane, one of the best supporting female roles in video games, fact.

#19 Posted by alwaysbebombing (1627 posts) -

Put simply. A story is dependent on the skill of the writer. Not the gender of the characters.

#20 Edited by ArtisanBreads (3971 posts) -

Being of a "complete" or "balanced" perspective has ZERO to do with good story telling and what makes art. In fact it's usually the opposite, though some stuff has a more complete perspective and still has something to say. But to say that's a requirement is ridiculous.

Looking forward to "Total Biscuits" story based videogame to come out since he seems to really "get it" and could probably right a great story where some characters happen to be women.

#21 Posted by goreyfantod (148 posts) -

I think TotalBiscuit is correct about this one.

The OP has compared GTA5 to, "Shawshank Redemption," and "Saving Private Ryan." Setting aside the fact that this is comparing narratives in entirely different mediums & genres, the two films listed are historical pieces set in gender-limited circumstances loosely based on reality. The U.S. military and prisons were gender-segregated during the time periods portrayed in the films, so unless the filmmakers were attempting to portray alternative histories, it's understandable that those two films would be made without female protagonists.

GTA5 is a work of pure fiction set in a modern American city and loosely based on contemporary reality with, arguably, a satirical bent. There's no good story-based reason to exclude women from the main narrative in GTA5. Given that GTA5's narrative attempts to provide commentary on class, ethnicity & American social mores, its portrayal of women has to be viewed in that context.

So, either the game creators are satirizing the American (and by extension, their own audience's), view of women or the creators are unwilling or unable to extend agency to female protagonists.

#22 Posted by SoldierG654342 (1805 posts) -

Asking if all stories must have men and women to be good is foolish, but I also think that the people citing examples of media with all male casts are also missing the point. What TotalBiscuit was saying is that if GTA V, in present a story taking place in a huge city, can't produce a single worthwhile (not necessarily playable or even principle) female character, then it's telling a bad story. And I more or less agree.

It's not a matter of representation, as there can certainly be great works that justify only having one sex in them, it's that they have an entire population of a major metropolitan city at their disposal and it would(? I havn't played it) be a huge bummer if all they can come up with is a bunch of dudes.

#23 Posted by believer258 (12100 posts) -

No story should include a female (or male, for that matter) character because of some arbitrary gender requirements. I'd rather see a good story with five well-realized main characters than the same story with four well-realized male characters and a shoehorned-in female character (who will likely be uninteresting at best and a bad representation of women at worst).

It's whatever the story calls for first (meaning, an all female cast in Saving Private Ryan wouldn't have made sense even if the creators wanted it), and whatever the story's creators want second. The people who made a big deal out of GTA V lacking female characters are desperate for attention and controversy and aren't worth paying attention to at all. Same goes for the people making a big deal out of Deep Down not having any female characters.

#24 Posted by CaLe (4039 posts) -

I know a woman so I feel comfortable speaking for all women when I say the story of a game isn't impacted one way or the other by such a trivial distinction. Men are basically women anyway, so if there's a worthwhile man in a game, you can just tell your brain that this man is a woman and you won't even know the difference.

#25 Edited by Brodehouse (10106 posts) -

The OP has compared GTA5 to, "Shawshank Redemption," and "Saving Private Ryan." Setting aside the fact that this is comparing narratives in entirely different mediums & genres, the two films listed are historical pieces set in gender-limited circumstances loosely based on reality. The U.S. military and prisons were gender-segregated during the time periods portrayed in the films, so unless the filmmakers were attempting to portray alternative histories, it's understandable that those two films would be made without female protagonists.

GTA5 is a work of pure fiction set in a modern American city and loosely based on contemporary reality with, arguably, a satirical bent. There's no good story-based reason to exclude women from the main narrative in GTA5. Given that GTA5's narrative attempts to provide commentary on class, ethnicity & American social mores, its portrayal of women has to be viewed in that context.

Was there a situation where you would have expected women to appear where they were absent? Do you feel the military or the prison system are drastically more male-dominated than organized crime? Is there some aspect of the lives of Trevor, Franklin and Michael where their interactions with women seemed out of place or not supported by the story? You excuse women not appearing in period pieces, but believe they should appear in a story centering around the lives of three modern criminals. Do you feel that modern criminals have some connection or relationship with women that past soldiers or prisoners would not?

Trevor, Franklin and Michael have the relationships with women that they have. I don't know why they need more of a 'story based reason' to make the game exactly as they made it.

Is there a good story based reason to exclude bankers from the main narrative? Is there a good story based reason to exclude Indian people from the main narrative?

#26 Edited by Counterclockwork87 (735 posts) -

No. That totalbiscuit tweet is idiotic by the way. By that notion Reservoir Dogs and 12 Angry Men are terrible films.

#27 Edited by SlashDance (1841 posts) -

There's no good story-based reason to exclude women from the main narrative in GTA5.

Did they do that? Off the top of my head, I count 4 female characters that are central to the main story. One of them being Tanisha, who may be the only reasonable person in this entire game.

There are definitely more men than women in the game, but they didn't quite go full Reservoir Dogs either.

#28 Posted by Zevvion (2263 posts) -

Put simply. A story is dependent on the skill of the writer. Not the gender of the characters.

Yes. As Ken Levine said in interviews with GiantBomb and GameSpot: a good writer is not looking to write about a male, female, transsexual, gay or any other character. They are just looking to create interesting characters. If it makes sense for that character to be female, then that character will be female. If it makes sense that the character is gay, then the character will be gay. In the case of Infinite it just made sense that Booker was a man. For that matter, it also just made sense that Elizabeth was a woman.

Just leave the writer to write. You can criticize the story, but I haven't seen a worthwhile example to criticize the choice of the gender. I didn't find it hard to believe Booker was male. I didn't find it hard to believe Elizabeth was female. I was actually pretty impressed how Tomb Raider, a game where one person murders 500 people to survive, made it make sense for me that she was female.

#29 Edited by GERALTITUDE (3511 posts) -

Some stories are only about women, some are only about men. Some are about both. Some are about those inbetween. Some aren't about men or women at all.

No story needs to be about all groups and no story needs has any obligation towards representation. Doesn't matter when/where it's placed or who it's about.

It's a sad train of thought that leads you to believing every work of fiction under the sun needs to incorporate all age groups/genders/races. This is the path that leads us to those old disgusting "Catholic Church" commercials that had the colours of the rainbow marketing logic.

Personally I thought GTA was a story about assholes and I'd say that the woman Trevor falls in love with is the only redeeming character. She's also funny. Everyone else is basically a piece of garbage. But they're a hilarious piece of garbage. Every man woman and child. In the end these cliche characters all turn to reveal more than 1 dimension, reminding us that as much as we hate people for being an image of something we don't like, they are still people, and we like them despite reason X, Y, Z.

And what is worthwhile? To who?

I thought the son and daughter were both pitch perfect parodies of modern nightmare teens. The boy is a fat stoner who only plays games and the daughter is a slutty barstar. Everyone plays a role. The more typical the role, the funnier the cliche. Both those roles are, to me, worthwhile, because in both cases, I ended up really liking the son and the daughter. I like them despite their cliche shittiness. And real talk: how many men aren't afraid their daughters will "end up" like the daugther in GTA? Yeah, guess fucking what, there's some real social commentary happening in GTA. Men don't like when their daughters are sexy, end of story. This is basically the entire relationship loop Michael has with her. Anyone watching True Detective see any parallels?? (oh no! your daughter had sex with two guys that makes her a *bad* slut! you failed as a father!) - only in one case a show is literally passing serious moral judgement and in another - the videogame - it's pointing fun at the fact we have this bullshit hang up in the first place.

So:

Long story short:

GTA5 writes a more mature perspective on women than True Detective, from your supposed holy grail HBO. Don't even get me started on the girlfriend plot in TD which is unbelievably disgusting (hey how can we get a girl with massive breasts nude as fast as possible in the first episode? How long do we need to keep her around for? Does it matter she's just thrown in here for the sake of titlation? Will anyone notice? SHHH don't say anything it's HBO, someone always defends us)

When I think about the girls I know and the conversations I've had with them about how their fathers treated them or reacted to this or that I feel GTA is a godsend. Between the torture scene and cliches if even 0.1% of people who play GTA understand it the world has become a better place.

#30 Posted by Counterclockwork87 (735 posts) -

There's an old screenwriter's saying ( or any writer for that matter), "write what you know." The simple truth is many games are made by males who are more comfortable writing males.

#31 Edited by EuanDewar (5094 posts) -

@brodehouse: Well I think the difference there would be that Glengarry Glen Ross is a two hour film with no female characters and GTA V is a however-many-hours game with a lot of female characters but none of them are, seemingly in the opinion of many people, very well written compared to their male counterparts. Not a lack of female characters but rather a perceived imbalance between the two.

I don't follow Totalbiscuit to know what he said after that original tweet but that would be my guess as to what he was going for.

#32 Posted by Clonedzero (4200 posts) -

No, that is a stupid thing to say. You can have a good story that focuses entirely on a group of men, same with a group of women. Forcing in women or men into a plot just to have them is probably the worst thing you can do. Its the same as saying you have to have a black guy in a movie to reach some arbitrary quota.

GTA5 is a game about 3 violent criminals in a hit-or-miss satirical backdrop of fictional LA. Are the three main characters male? Yup. But so what? Why do people insist it needs a strong female protagonist? If Michael was Michelle instead, but was still the violent abusive, angry, whoremongering criminal would that be a "positive female character". No. people would complain still.

#33 Posted by Darji (5294 posts) -

@brodehouse: Well I think the difference there would be that Glengarry Glen Ross is a two hour film with no female characters and GTA V is a however-many-hours game with a lot of female characters but none of them are, seemingly in the opinion of many people, very well written compared to their male counterparts.

IF you exclude all the gameplay stuff it is not much more than 2 hours.

#34 Posted by Ben_H (3411 posts) -

If a writer is forced to include someone (gender, race, whatever) just to fill some quota then it is no different than the old "token black guy" of the 1960s. It will just feel out of place and forced.

Is there an issue with there not being enough female characters in games? Probably. But forcing them into games just for the sake of being there does not accomplish anything. They need to be included in a more natural manner.

#35 Edited by EuanDewar (5094 posts) -

@darji: Ok but I would say that GTAV has more dialogue and meaningful character interaction in it's non-cutscene moments than a lot of games do in their cutscenes.

#36 Edited by ArtisanBreads (3971 posts) -

@brodehouse said:

@goreyfantod said:

The OP has compared GTA5 to, "Shawshank Redemption," and "Saving Private Ryan." Setting aside the fact that this is comparing narratives in entirely different mediums & genres, the two films listed are historical pieces set in gender-limited circumstances loosely based on reality. The U.S. military and prisons were gender-segregated during the time periods portrayed in the films, so unless the filmmakers were attempting to portray alternative histories, it's understandable that those two films would be made without female protagonists.

GTA5 is a work of pure fiction set in a modern American city and loosely based on contemporary reality with, arguably, a satirical bent. There's no good story-based reason to exclude women from the main narrative in GTA5. Given that GTA5's narrative attempts to provide commentary on class, ethnicity & American social mores, its portrayal of women has to be viewed in that context.

Was there a situation where you would have expected women to appear where they were absent? Do you feel the military or the prison system are drastically more male-dominated than organized crime? Is there some aspect of the lives of Trevor, Franklin and Michael where their interactions with women seemed out of place or not supported by the story? You excuse women not appearing in period pieces, but believe they should appear in a story centering around the lives of three modern criminals. Do you feel that modern criminals have some connection or relationship with women that past soldiers or prisoners would not?

Trevor, Franklin and Michael have the relationships with women that they have. I don't know why they need more of a 'story based reason' to make the game exactly as they made it.

Is there a good story based reason to exclude bankers from the main narrative? Is there a good story based reason to exclude Indian people from the main narrative?

Well put response, saved me some typing.

Reading some of this is just so strange. It's like attempts at censorship through public shaming or something.

These days the audience seems to think they know what's right to put in every story and creative work... well go make a game then, really. You "get it" where no one who makes games does, right? They talk as if the people who made GTA V are pigs who hate women or something. Like that has anything to do with making a story.

#37 Posted by BeachThunder (12294 posts) -

@amir90 said:
totalbiscuit

Ah, I think I found your problem.

#38 Posted by Darji (5294 posts) -

@darji: Ok but I would say that GTAV has more dialogue and meaningful character interaction in it's non-cutscene moments than a lot of games do in their cutscenes.

But the same can be said about books. There are tons of books which feature only one gender or even person and still can be great. Having only one gender, race or whatever does not make a story good or bad. These things should not matter at all. And If the creator or artist/writer wants to tell a story about manhood like in GTAV for example it is his right to do so. Is the Last of US DLC less great because it features only 2 girls? No it is not. It is their story just like it was their story in GTAV

#39 Edited by EuanDewar (5094 posts) -

@darji: I have literally no idea what you're replying to here. Like I didn't at any point say that having one gender makes a story bad. I didn't even state any opinion at all on the matter.

#40 Posted by Yummylee (22290 posts) -

@jadegl said:

It obviously depends on the story that you are telling. I have read many novels where the male characters are nonexistent or minimized to such a degree as to be the equivalent of set dressing, not actual characters with goals and desires like the female characters.

In GTA V, the story that they are telling is a male centered story and the issues that the protagonists are dealing with are concerning things like manhood, what it is to be a man in society, and also being able to take care of people in their lives, loyalty to family versus loyalty to friends. While similar stories can be told with female characters, this story was told with three very specific male characters. Would I like to see a GTA take on a female protagonist? Heck yeah! Do I expect it in the future? Sure, I think it's likely it will happen someday, maybe sooner rather than later. Do I think that the creators should shoehorn a female character/protagonist into a game they're already making such as GTA V? No, that would be unreasonable.

I won't begrudge TB his opinion, and I think some of the female characters could have been handled better in GTA V, or at least made to be more than shrill cardboard cutouts. But I don't think the story needs them and I don't think that anyone should feel pressure to accommodate a critic's desire for more nuanced roles in games. I also think that the people who make games should realize that creating flat female characters, or flat characters in general, is something that a critic or fan has a right to critique.

For me personally, flat is quite the opposite of how I'd describe a lot of female video game characters.

...YUP I DONE DID IT. Also, I agree.

#41 Posted by Pr1mus (3959 posts) -

I want stories with interesting characters regardless of gender.

Anyone who dismisses a story for its lack of interesting characters of one gender or the other before knowing anything about said story does not have opinions worth considering.

#42 Edited by Sinusoidal (1740 posts) -

Well, I guess "Heart of Darkness" and "The Old Man and the Sea" are just fucking trash then.

Why is this even a question? Fuck, there are some absolutely brilliant stories written with only one character. Jesus jumping Christ on a pogo-stick, a story technically doesn't even require human characters.

#43 Posted by Roboculus92 (541 posts) -

There's an old screenwriter's saying ( or any writer for that matter), "write what you know." The simple truth is many games are made by males who are more comfortable writing males.

Pretty much this. I'm all for having more female perspectives in games but it has to come naturally as more females get involved in the game business. However, you can't force more females to get involved just like you can't force more females in college to pursue math or science kinds of degrees. The best you can do is to try to get more exposure out there and better convince people who might not have considered getting involved in games to give it a shot.

#44 Posted by Sterling (2599 posts) -

I wish I was a mod. That way I could delete these topics and ban the people that start them.

#45 Posted by ProfessorEss (7469 posts) -

@sterling said:

I wish I was a mod. That way I could delete these topics and ban the people that start them.

...unless it was Patrick.

#46 Edited by Fredchuckdave (6002 posts) -

Christopher/Jonathan Nolan are terrible at writing female characters and yet their movies are some of the best of the past few decades; the weakest part of the Prestige is Scarlett Johansson's character, the weakest part of Memento is Carrie Anne Moss' character, the weakest part of the Dark Knight is Maggie Gyllenhaal; and so on (Inception is a notable exception and Anne Hathaway was "okay" in Rises).

#47 Posted by NMC2008 (1237 posts) -

@sterling said:

I wish I was a mod. That way I could delete these topics and ban the people that start them.

...unless it was Patrick.

Why? Ban him too, he's not special, he's no prize!

lol

#48 Edited by ProfessorEss (7469 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: Precisely. Artists are being asked to be business-like in their decisions despite the limitations of their artistic skills. You can't just tell a writer to a write a better female.

The creator/writer/artist should be free to respond "I don't write good female characters" but wow, we're totally not there. It's embarrassing.

#49 Edited by TheManWithNoPlan (5902 posts) -

I don't see how a good story is predicated on what the gender the protagonist is. As far as I know, it should be on how well the story is written. These Internet frenzies based off seemingly trivial comments are becoming WAY too frequent nowadays.

#50 Posted by ArtelinaRose (1859 posts) -

A good story does not require males AND females to be good or enjoyable. However, I do think that people have been conditioned to not see the lack of women in most things, or the roles that women DO play in media, as an issue.

The lack of women in media is not the issue so much as the lack of meaningful women is.