On the other hand... well, how best to put this? I'm a bit of a pig. Above all else, a man needs to be honest about himself, and my self is pretty much the target for this type of "Female Perfection as Imagined by Over-Imaginative Pubescent Schoolboy" character design - not my only hang-up, by any means, but certainly on The List. I am a red-blooded, All-American, Hooters-patronizing, Baywatch-nostalgic connoisseur of sleaze and debauchery. So not only do I get the aesthetic wellspring from whence The Sorceress seems to have leaped, I actually find her design rather pretty - as cartoons go, at least. And those who know me can, hopefully, can attest that in spite of this I'm rather far removed from the basement-dwelling, socially inept, casual misogynist that this outlook is alleged to only be shared by.

In other words, I find myself being able to agree on the point of the omnipresence of this character type (the only remarkable thing about The Sorceress is how un-remarkable she is in a medium that also gave us Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive and pre-reboot Lara Croft) being problematic... while also being if not sympathetic at least empathetic to the desire to have such characters in games in the first place. What you find aesthetically pleasing is what you find aesthetically pleasing, and I don't necessarily subscribe to the idea that enjoying something that someone else finds offensive or diminishing makes me guilty by association of said diminishment any more than your offense is made illegitimate by virtue of nobody "intending" you to be offended. And there isn't a way out of that conundrum other than accepting that it is a conundrum.

There is no easy answer here. No fix-all that permanently stabilizes the situation. So long as the same basic human right of free speech holds one individual's ability to say something and another individual's ability to voice displeasure at what the first said as equally protected, there will always be these arguments. Always.

Oh, it'll get better. Diversity - that so often mocked of modern societal goals - will make such dust-ups far less common. More and more games being made by people other than heterosexual men for a gaming audience that grows similarly diverse will mean less feelings of marginalization. The problem isn't, and has never been, that The Sorceress (or Ivy, or Cammy, or Lara, or Daphne, or whomever else) look like they do... it's that everything looks like they do. A diversified industry and consumer base - no matter what nonsense about "lowest common denominators" may be spewed to the contrary by the troglodytic denizens of the deeper web - will render these battles less frequent, but never nonexistent. There will always be someone who finds something offensive, and their opinion will seldom be entirely without merit.

I get the sense that, on all sides of these fracases, the eternity of these discussions isn't fully fathomed. The discussions, once public, inevitably come to be dominated not by those arguing one side or the other but by those wearily begging to know when we can "just get back to talking about games." Too many, in my estimation, seem to approach controversies in gaming (or anywhere in "geek media," really) through the prism of a version of the Eden Fallacy; believing that some perfect conflict free space not only existed at some point but is in fact the natural order of the world, thus leading them to see debates and discussions of this nature within gaming as unwelcome deviations to be solved and put to rest rather than part of an evolving, ongoing communication. "Please, oh please; just tell us what has to happen for both of you to shut up about sexism or bigotry or all this other stuff so we can get back to figuring out whether Quick Man can outrun Sonic!"

But there is no end to this, and I feel like a lack of understanding (or even considering that) is what muddies the waters in these moments. It's hard enough to have a proper conversation about anything when both sides are being shouted at to force themselves into some kind of untenable compromise by people who think the whole thing just needs to go away. It doesn't, and it can't. Certain things will never line up, will always be in opposition and will always spur new arguments. That's not disruptive or distracting - it's natural.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

Comments on