Sunday, September 28, 2014

Video Game Girl

     Once upon a time, a girl named Rachel was driving home from writing group, thinking about how she was going to fix her latest scene, when lo and behold, flashing lights blinded her, reflected in the rear-view mirror. She pulled over, wondering why in the world she'd had to stop when she was clearly going the speed limit...
     "Do you know why I pulled you over?" The policeman said as Rachel rolled down the window.
     "No," she said, sounding more like a choking sheep than an innocent driver.
     "Your tail light is out. Wait..." The policeman checked the decal on the rear windshield--the royal crest of Hyrule. He looked back at the girl, then at the decal again. "Is this your car?" he asked.
     "Y-yes," she stammered.
     "Really?" He raised an eyebrow, then shook his head before asking for license and registration.
From Wikipedia. Mine looked much cooler than this.
As silly and innocent as it seems, the important part here was the cop's disbelief at my love of The Legend of Zelda. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to understand why I would have the Triforce emblazoned on the back of my vehicle. Maybe it belonged to my father, brother, or husband. But certainly the car couldn't be mine. After all, I was a twenty-something female.

I remember being a little angry, beneath all of the genuine niceness of the cop who pulled me over to let me know my car needed a new light. I guess that's because it's not the first time someone has seemed so surprised by my interest in video games. This is a common occurrence. Usually it takes a form similar to this cop's hesitation. Sometimes I'm told, "That's so hot." Occasionally I am called 'fake' or a 'liar' or drilled on my knowledge of the games I play. Rarely I am called nastier things.


My online experience has been kind of awful. I can play a game like StarCraft under my husband's account and be treated like any other player--but if I play as Tsira, I am a slut or whore and I am ruining the game, especially if I am winning. If you can stand the language, you should check out Not In The Kitchen Anymore, which chronicles the everyday sexism that one gamer girl faces just for playing online FPS (first-person shooters, like Call of Duty and Halo).

Some might say, "Well, that's what happens when you play online, so you just shouldn't do that anymore!" But here's the thing: this is a major, major portion of these games, and if you like shooting virtual aliens and terrorists, that world is closed to you simply because you have a female-sounding name. Because you dared to be born with a pink label clipped around your wrist at birth.

I have given up because I can't stand it. Those games are not even fun anymore. But here's the thing: I shouldn't have to deal with it in the first place, just as no one should be bullied for walking into a library, store, school, or any other public place. Yes, these games are marketed to boys, but even decent men are chased away by the vitriol hurled at them in online games. As for local play? Well, you'd better shell out more money, because these games now only support 1 or 2 players.


A feminist critic named Anita Sarkeesian started analyzing some of the more negative aspects of women's typical roles in video games and of course she's gotten all kinds of threats for it. Putting the word feminist on anything makes it a topic for spewing hatred from people who claim feminism isn't needed while simultaneously proving why it's still necessary: using words that dehumanize and/or objectify whatever woman identifies with the term.

People act like she's demonizing video games. But she's not saying, "All games that have a damsel in distress, etc., are evil and must be purged!" She's saying, "This is a tired old trope and we can do so much better in the future."

As stated here and in previous posts, I'm a huge Zelda fan. And even I have to admit that the Princess tends to be damseled. A lot. I can make counter arguments as to how women in the Zelda universe are respected, powerful beings--Hyrule Warriors kinda proves this, with more playable female characters than male (and only two of those males being "good guys"). But in pretty much every game, at some point Zelda is captured and you have to go save her. In the rare case that Link is captured, he saves himself.

Why can't the Spirit of the Hero reincarnate as a female Link? Why can't there be a Prince of Hyrule, or a new female villain (because it doesn't count if Ganondorf is still involved). Can we have a discussion about this without devolving into trolls and terrorists? Because that's what I'd like, but I'm afraid the internet is showing me it's not ready for that.


Just a concept, by Jaron Frost.
I've started writing a script for a video game. In it, you are an art student at a university by day and a monster hunter by night. It's kind of like Persona, actually, with less grinding and a more diverse cast--starting with a female lead. If the big name companies won't do it, then the indies will just have to take the world by storm. 


1 comment:

  1. I know what you mean. I don't play online games because I don't like how rude people can be to one another (both because I'm female and because some people take the game way too seriously and are so angry if you're not good enough).