By Pezen 58 Comments
As I was pouring myself a glass of soda the image of Jordan Belfort ([The Wolf Of Wall Street] as played by Leonardo DiCaprio) doing coke out of the ass of a woman covered the screen. I didn't react to it, I mean, isn't that what financially successful men do on their off-hours? My wife though, let out an audible sigh. It wasn't a sigh of shock or annoyance, but a sigh utter disappointment. A surrender to the tired old story; men are really cool and women are there as evidence of that fact. As the movie progressed my mind quietly asked me; what is it about mens' perspective that's so interesting? When was the last time I saw a movie, played a game or read a book that wasn't centered around the world seen from the perspective of men?
A quick glance behind me reveals a rather fascinating statistic. It’s been staring me right in the face for a long time, but you don’t see the problem you're not looking for. With my Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 shelves containing some hundred of games, I counted the games that fit the following criteria;
- Main character is female.
- Multiple playable characters with different genders does not count.
- Sports games does not count.
- ”Option to play female” does not count.
- Silent first person protagonist does not count.
Total games; 3. Flipping the gender restrictions around I get around 20. And I would like to think I didn’t miss many notable games last generation. Some part of me finds this disturbing, but understandable. I am a man and as such will likely not reflecting on when I am playing a man. Yet I somehow am not reflecting nearly enough on the fact that I very rarely play a female lead. Like my criteria above states, I don’t approve of ”gender choice” games because those characters are written as neutrally as possible and usually with a general ”male” vibe to them. They are there more for you to project yourself onto them than being characters with their own motivations. That makes the amount of female leads in my collection around 13%. Which is close to where movies are at, which according to a recent study (source) found that about 15% of protagonists in the top grossing movies of 2013 were female.
So I ask, why are we so fascinated by the lives of men?.. or are we?
I realized also that a big portion of that selection of games were in some form action games with heavy focus on combat, war or death. And men have been seen throughout history as the warriors. The useful troops of good against the hordes of evil. Disposable troops, mind you, but men all the same. A man's value in games thus seem proportionally set to how much of a loss he is when he dies or how powerful he is in being successful at his goals. Or maybe he as an individual has no value at all. Make More Marines.
We still champion the ideal of the honorable sacrifice, but how much value does disposable objects have?
But men get things done, right? They carry the world on their shoulders, they look at the approaching hordes with a smile because their might is unrivaled. But how many times are hollow power fantasies fun?
Taking those 20+ games and removing "Alpha male in combat" I get maybe 3-4 games left. And some of those are borderline disqualified still. And to be fair, if I removed "Alpha women in combat" from the female leads bunch I get one game; Beyond: Two Souls. And to be fair, I just realized she's linked to a man of sorts and should be disqualified.
So are men's lives more interesting, or are they just stuck as the default action figures?
When people started talking about a more diverse representation in games (and I realize this blog is gender specific on women and not the issue of representation as it becomes more complex, but that's a different blog), I completely agreed with that sentiment. Not because I had yet reflected just how statistically lopsided it was in my own collection, but because I'm all for the exploration of new ideas, concepts and viewpoints in my entertainment. Because, to quote my coworker; "You don't want to eat just rice every day. Some days you want pasta, another day potatoes." Granted, he was trying to justify cheating on his wife while I was chuckling at him for being a real piece of shit. But the metaphor is true, if you keep doing the same thing over and over, you'll never question your outlook on life. And you'll end up just standing around in the same place, never learning anything new. Sure, there's some stability in staying completely rigid and never looking at something from a different perspective. But really, the earth isn't flat. Sometimes it's good to consider a different view of things.
It's a new generation of consoles. The barrier to entry as far as game development goes is lower. As a man, I hope to one day be able to point to my collection and tell my wife the medium is finally mature enough to handle stories from all walks of life and it is inclusionary to everyone looking for something that speaks to them. And her response isn't just shrugging of the shoulders while she smirks, looking at me and saying "..oh, video games.." in a disappointed tired voice because it's not true.