Escapist Podcast: PAX Panel: What Women Really Want From Female Characters

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Freechoice:

Taunta:
snip

Will=/=Should
Pulling words from nowhere=Bad

There's no arguing with this because I neither stated nor implied your points. I'll just quote the person that said it better than me.

Then clearly you shouldn't be arguing if you can't choose your words in a way that wouldn't imply to others things that you don't mean. I.E. Carefully

Freechoice:

xXxJessicaxXx:

Freechoice:
I never understood the "character I need to relate to" mindset. I think what should be said is "a character I can sympathize with." I honestly would not care if the character I was playing had a higher pitch combat grunt than, say, Marcus Fenix. If you absolutely need to feel human by attaching yourself to the character, the primary facet should be the story, not the gender. Somehow, someway, I am calling AJ sexist.

I don't know I kind of understand where she is coming from when I play a game with a male lead like Crysis 2 (which I think is a good game) it feels like I am watching someone else's story even though Alcatraz is pretty much a vague character compared to Prophet. When I get to play as say, Lara Croft I feel more immersed in that game because I can put myself in the place of that character easier simply becuase I'm the same gender.

I hope that makes sense.

OT: Thanks for putting the Podcast up it was cool to be able to listen to it.

I would agree with the fact that people have a right to play the 'sparkle pony' games but they shouldn't be labelled as 'girls games' when I certainly don't enjoy them. The Sims 3 is pushing it for me but I do enjoy the building.

I would agree with you that a good character is more relatable than a bad one no matter thier sex but the gender thing is like another level on top of that for me.
I find relating to a character is actually pretty shallow.

Michelle Orange discusses relatability here.

For different reasons, but the point is concurrent; relatability is diametrically opposed to characterization. By definition, an everyman has to have qualities that all people possess, otherwise the relatability goes downhill. This creates a very bland character in special situations.

I don't think it's shallow at all, It's definately not a concious thing on my part. It's just something I noticed while playing certain games. I feel more immersed in the action when the character is the same gender as me, such as Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2.

I have tried to play ME2 as male shep and I don't get the same feeling from it. I don't sit there and say 'This is a man therefore I won't enjoy this as much'. It's just something that happens on a subconcious level.

I have played games for 25 years now and I have noticed that I think about certain games in a different way. Femshep feels like 'me' while Alan Wake doesn't, it's his own story. I enjoyed Resident Evil 1 and 2 much more as Jill and Claire than I did as Chris and Leon. I can relate to them easier even with the terrible voice acting. :p

It definately not a desicion I make, just one that I feel. It doesn't stop me from enjoying games with a male lead but I enjoy them more as a female character. Which is what I was trying to convey.

I would agree that a good character is more relatable than a bad one but the gender thing is just another level on top of that for me.

Personally I don't think EITHER gender is represented well.

When it comes to girls; You're either "Princess Peach" or "Lara Croft".
With guys you're either an "underwear model" or a "roid-boy".

Heck! The ONLY time I see a character that has MY build is when he's the villain, the henchmen or as the comedy relief.

In fact. I think the only ones represented well are children.
It doesn't matter where they're from or what their gender is... Kids are kids!
Same applies to babies.

Were any of the women on the panel queer in any way?
I just ask because very often discussions of "what woman want" often ends up being "what heterosexual women want" but just unstated. Or woman == traditional femininity. Or woman == motherhood in the context of heterosexuality.

I think that is one of the problems I'm having with what was otherwise an awesome panel. A whif of heterosexism.

I'm getting the feeling that none of the women is an awesome butch lesbian. That changes some perceptions around gender issues in gaming or other places.

Listening through it, but have to say something first on women in games.

The Thing (1971), had no female characters. Male dominance of the sciences and research at that time, although change was happening, meant yes, there were no women on that research station and it made sense.

For war games, yes, women are involved in war, more involved in some armies than others. The medieval Mongolians, the Soviets, they had less problem with women in their ranks. But, in other settings, other contexts, you may not find women, and that can be credible.

Now if a game was set in 2011 in universities in America, or Australia, or France. Yes, I would expect a lot of female characters, students, lecturers, staff etc. On a battlefield, far less so.

On a medieval battlefield? Perhaps, but most certainly as camp followers if the army is being scouted, visiting family in carriages or on horse if noble etc etc.

In modern war, with grenades and bullets and front line soldiers, maybe not.

Another example, WW1.
It would be way out of place to find women characters fighting in the trenches. It was not the 1990s, or the 1229 in Russia.

35:41 - "Eff that, I'm getting my kid the fuck out of there"

Golden

Boring. Maybe if women actually started making games they could achieve these goals they're discussing.

And complaining about no women appearing in a special operations war-game like Modern warfare 3? Please.

I might get in trouble, but this thought just popped into my head after listening to this and then reading the comment section. Someone should make a video game based off that tv show Snapped. Where you go around solving crimes based off the tv show.

Also, why isn't the first lady of video game crime ever brought up. What about Carmen Santiago?

Good podcast.

Although ...you do have to give some games/movies slack. Like Captain America - which is based off a comic book so the story is kinda already in place - and if you just put in more female characters which didn't exist you'll just annoy people because you mess with the story.

Being true to the source is very important after all.

One point of feedback: Take it easy on the damn mic already. Geez. The feedback/scratch hurt my ears.

Oh - and FYI - there is currently a poll going on in the Firefall forums that is worth voting on:

http://www.firefallthegame.com/community/threads/about-the-scantily-clad-armored-soldiers.7634/

Men are being sexual discriminated because womaen are totally treated softer than men , It is completely logical that men are used more often in videogames they can have more museces in an shorter time than woman so to all your woman that may quote me and complain dont complain to me but to nature.

trooper6:
Were any of the women on the panel queer in any way?
I just ask because very often discussions of "what woman want" often ends up being "what heterosexual women want" but just unstated. Or woman == traditional femininity. Or woman == motherhood in the context of heterosexuality.

I think that is one of the problems I'm having with what was otherwise an awesome panel. A whif of heterosexism.

I'm getting the feeling that none of the women is an awesome butch lesbian. That changes some perceptions around gender issues in gaming or other places.

Thank you for bringing that up. That's something I'll have to try and address for the next time we do this panel.

trooper6:
I'm getting the feeling that none of the women is an awesome butch lesbian. That changes some perceptions around gender issues in gaming or other places.

Well ... yes and no.

I think the point the panel was trying to make here that a character can be a good character regardless of gender or sexual persuasion.

Only recently have I started seeing more relationship options taking place.

I do agree with you though that what is female or what is male really can not have one singular definition.

I would love a game that would allow me to do the following:

1. Determine if my character is female or male.

2. Choose my sexual persuasion (lets start with the basic 3 of homosexual, heterosexual, and bi-sexual).

3. Choose the attitude of my character.

4. Choose the degree of clothing/skin exposure of my character - however - let me change this whenever I like.

5. Choose how "buff" my character is. I'm man but I'm not Mr. Muscles at all. I'm 5'11" and weigh 68kg. Let me choose how toned or muscular my character can be to reflect the type of character (e.g. if I'm trying to be a ninja assassin I need to be lean and toned).

Those are the basic 5 - but they are the basic 4 that makes up people in every day life.

These are 5 items that, really, identify WHO we are as people.

You may not think it with number 4. but its true - the way we dress and carry ourselves often expresses our own moods and attitude at the time. Since this changeable so should our clothing.

Strong female character (outside of video games) Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games books :D

I have to admit, I expected to nod in agreement with this podcast much more than I did. I'm familiar with the work of the women on it and I have massive respect for all of you. I suppose I expected a more feminist approach to the subject since the topic was what women want.

Even with me grinding my teeth over the 'what about the mens!' defenses that were used multiple times- I really enjoyed the podcast. I'd love to hear more podcasts like this.

DustyDrB:
Thanks for the link.

Don't mention it. There's a third part I didn't link BTW:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/108442-UPDATE-Video-of-Females-on-Female-Characters-Panel

By and large it was a great discussion. I was particularly intrigued by Kathleen's comments about the lack of long-term-relationship characters in games, which kind of mirrored and expanded upon Yahtzee's comments in Extra Punctuation a bit back.

I was noticing something somewhat similar in popular music recently. There's a lot of "love is pain", "We're in love, it's so awesome", "He/she left me, I'm in pieces, how could that fiend do this to me" stuff, but the vast majority of it is about love that's so new they haven't removed the stickers yet. A song like "Lady in Red" stands out in part because it's clearly about a relationship that's been going on for some time.

But I do have to make one quibble: as someone who does the majority of the housework and child-rearing in my own home, is pisses me off when "of course men don't do as much of the housework" comments are accepted as gospel without substantiation or challenge. It may still be true in some cases- hell, many cases. But one source I've read says Department of Labor statistics suggest that it's less true with every passing year, and currently stands at an average disparity of 20 whopping minutes a week. There's plenty of examples in both media and real life where women are treated unfairly without digging into this kind of stereotype for points.

female protagonists? how about some more female antagonists as well? like more Glados and Darth Traya type villains? if were are gonna see more female protagonist i was to see the reverse as well.

Taunta:

Also, kudos to you for getting offended without me even having to suggest any gender. I just asked a hypothetical question. But since you addressed it specifically...

Yes, gender is a confounding variable in a person's inclination to help someone.

Also informative, are episodes of "What would you do?". Just count the number of females and males who intervene.

Have you actually read these studies you posted? Because the results directly contradict each other.

Thanks for posting... another wonderful example of poorly designed experiments and bias in research, though? That's something we can always learn from.

Also, these studies were all performed on civilians, not soldiers or professionals of any kind. You failed to address the topic at hand in any meaningful way whatsoever.

Ariseishirou:

Taunta:

Also, kudos to you for getting offended without me even having to suggest any gender. I just asked a hypothetical question. But since you addressed it specifically...

Yes, gender is a confounding variable in a person's inclination to help someone.

Also informative, are episodes of "What would you do?". Just count the number of females and males who intervene.

Have you actually read these studies you posted? Because the results directly contradict each other.

Thanks for posting... another wonderful example of poorly designed experiments and bias in research, though? That's something we can always learn from.

Also, these studies were all performed on civilians, not soldiers or professionals of any kind. You failed to address the topic at hand in any meaningful way whatsoever.

Thank you for demonstrating your critical failure to understand the term "confounding variable".

Poorly designed experiments? Bias in research? The Darley and Latane studies were groundbreaking in understanding bystander apathy, and are taught by textbooks around the world. But care to explain how these experiments are poorly designed or biased in anyway? The only bias I'm seeing here is you dismissing my evidence solely because I am the one that came forth with it.

Last time I checked, soldiers and other professionals are human too and therefore are not above human behavior. Human behavior is human behavior and whatever occupation you have does not exempt you from it.

Taunta:

Last time I checked, soldiers and other professionals are human too and therefore are not above human behavior. Human behavior is human behavior and whatever occupation you have does not exempt you from it.

>Still not addressing the fact that the results of these studies are contradictory

>Still not addressing the fact that first response professionals, the actual topic at hand here, which these studies don't involve, do respond differently in crisis situations than bystanders and there is no evidence of gender bias

So... you've got nothing. Have a nice night.

Ariseishirou:

Taunta:

Last time I checked, soldiers and other professionals are human too and therefore are not above human behavior. Human behavior is human behavior and whatever occupation you have does not exempt you from it.

>Still not addressing the fact that the results of these studies are contradictory

>Still not addressing the fact that first response professionals, the actual topic at hand here, which these studies don't involve, do respond differently in crisis situations than bystanders and there is no evidence of gender bias

So... you've got nothing. Have a nice night.

Yeah. I am. If you actually read and understood the definition of "confounding variable" this doesn't need to be explained to you. But since telling you this twice hasn't sunk in yet, and I need to spell things out for you.

Gender is a confounding variable in person's inclination to help people. That means that we know that it has a significant effect on the target behavior, but it does not affect the behavior in a consistent way, so there is no clear answer.

No. The topic at hand is how humans are humans and your profession is not, and should not be a character's sole defining trait.

Sorry to spoil your one-liner, but I'm done wasting my time with you since you've demonstrated not only a failure in critical reading and understanding, a persistent idealism that people with lofty occupations are superhuman, and a failure in understanding the origin of the discussion. Trying to greentext on other forums gets you nowhere and makes you look like you're trying a last ditch effort to make yourself seem superior. I'm done connecting the dots for you.

Taunta:

No. The topic at hand is how humans are humans and your profession is not, and should not be a character's sole defining trait.

No, it isn't. We've been talking about professionals since the initial post. You addressed two different types of professionals in the post that I responded to: doctors and soldiers. Wherein you claimed that a female doctor would handle a certain situation differently than a male doctor, and offered no evidence for that claim. I have personal experience that directly contradicts that claim, which I stated. You then insinuated that gender is a factor in how much a soldier - another professional - values human life. And, once again, offered no evidence whatsoever.

Instead, when you were called out on it, produced a contradictory and irrelevant set of studies about bystanders, who do not act like first response professionals such as soldiers and doctors, for which some (contradictory) evidence of gender difference (though, relative femininity and masculinity, actually, if you'd bothered to read them - not gender).

So yes, we were talking about professionals.

And no, you've offered absolutely nothing of value. You've been wasting my time trying to save face and lying about the comments you've made: which were about professionals. Offer any data whatsoever showing a gender difference in the value placed on human lives between male and female soldiers or how a male or female doctor talks about fatal conditions with patients, or you prove you had absolutely nothing but unrelated, irrelevant, and misleading information about the gender performance (not even gender!) of civilian bystanders with no training.

You, you know, you could lie about what you said and flounce. Up to you.

Ariseishirou:

Taunta:

No. The topic at hand is how humans are humans and your profession is not, and should not be a character's sole defining trait.

No, it isn't. We've been talking about professionals since the initial post. You addressed two different types of professionals in the post that I responded to: doctors and soldiers. Wherein you claimed that a female doctor would handle a certain situation differently than a male doctor, and offered no evidence for that claim. I have personal experience that directly contradicts that claim, which I stated. You then insinuated that gender is a factor in how much a soldier - another professional - values human life. And, once again, offered no evidence whatsoever.

Instead, when you were called out on it, produced a contradictory and irrelevant set of studies about bystanders, who do not act like first response professionals such as soldiers and doctors, for which some (contradictory) evidence of gender difference (though, relative femininity and masculinity, actually, if you'd bothered to read them - not gender).

So yes, we were talking about professionals.

And no, you've offered absolutely nothing of value. You've been wasting my time trying to save face and lying about the comments you've made: which were about professionals. Offer any data whatsoever showing a gender difference in the value placed on human lives between male and female soldiers or how a male or female doctor talks about fatal conditions with patients, or you prove you had absolutely nothing but unrelated, irrelevant, and misleading information about the gender performance (not even gender!) of civilian bystanders with no training.

You, you know, you could lie about what you said and flounce. Up to you.

Say what you want, but the fact that you don't see the connection between the studies and the topic at hand illustrates to me about how much you've been paying attention. And I really, really don't enjoy repeating myself. So I won't.

But I like how I'm the only one in this argument that has bothered to come up with evidence, which you immediately dismiss as "irrelevant, unrelated (Those two words mean the same thing, by the way. Learn your vocabulary before you try to engage in conversations with other people.) and misleading" as well as being examples of "biased and poorly executed" studies. Which when I ask you why they're biased and poorly executed, you immediately drop the subject and pretend like I didn't say anything.

If you want to call me flouncing, go for it. At least I can read. If you can't understand how those studies relate, and you can't understand the definitions of "bystanderism" and "confounding variable" even though I gave them to you, and even connected the dots for you, then you really need more help than I can offer.

And by the way, because I am petty, you're the one wasting your own time sir. No one is forcing you to continue to whine about "Ewww relating studies to discussions is too hard!"

So, because you've failed to make any valid points whatsoever you trot out ad hominems about vocabulary (which only demonstrate your own ignorance, as both have difference nuances, both of which apply here).

You continue to fail to produce any evidence about first response professionals, so you lie about ever having done so, continuing to cite instead irrelevant and contradictory studies about bystanders (that you didn't even clearly read).

Though having failed to support your claim about doctors and soldiers, I don't see what other option you have, true.

Taunta:
And by the way, because I am petty, you're the one wasting your own time sir. No one is forcing you to continue to whine about "Ewww relating studies to discussions is too hard!"

You're still here, repeating the same lies about your own claims and citing unrelated studies that you plainly failed to understand, madam.

One thing that I have been pondering is the place of evil with female characters.

Female antagonists are rare; main female antagonists are rarer; and complete monster female protagonists are the rarest of them all.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Monster/VideoGames

Is there a stereotype of women being inherently good or is the men that are bastards?

Do women have to do less evil to be reviled?

Taunta:
I have to disagree with the notion that gender is interchangeable. While it's nice to say that "people are people, regardless of gender", gender plays a huge role in how people view the world, and just how they act in general. Men and women have different values and respond differently to their environment, and have different ways of thinking, especially considering gender roles relative to their culture. As far as Psychology is concerned, things like gender and culture change everything. This, of course, doesn't mean the character has to be stereotypical, but that should go without saying.

The problem is that gender isn't a binary thing but a spectrum. No, not even a spectrum, but a cloud of spectrums. It's a collection of characteristics that are more commonly found in people who identify as male or in people who identify as female (depending), within a specific culture (and that can vary from one culture to the next, as in something that's a "guy" thing somewhere is a "girl" thing somewhere else).
But the presence of any given characteristic isn't enough to mean the character is male or female, as there isn't any characteristic found in all males but no females (or vice-versa), nor is it usual for an individual to only have characteristics tied to one of the two.

As a result, in practice, a person with a given set of personality traits might identify as male, female, or neither, and this regardless of their sex as well. This makes the whole issue way too complex for anyone to say "this character is actually male" or "this character is actually female", any more that you can just walk up to a person and tell them what their gender is.

Games should have realistic characters, focus on the human factor and the story, and if they take place in a sexist culture it will make sense for the character's experience to be based on their sex (although not necessarily their gender) but to some extent, yes, any character who works as male could also work as female.
That doesn't mean you need to create a character as male then change all pronouns and add breasts. But that does mean that the focus should be on making a realistic characters, and not adding characteristics you feel are more feminine to a template. Characters shouldn't be created as male then turned female, and it's a shame that nowadays the default seems to be male. They should be created as characters and given the sex and gender that fits best for the story that you're trying to tell. And when it absolutely does not matter in any way, yeah, you can probably flip a coin.

dystopiaINC:
female protagonists? how about some more female antagonists as well? like more Glados and Darth Traya type villains? if were are gonna see more female protagonist i was to see the reverse as well.

I agree. The few female villains that crop up tend to be over-the-top cartoons along the lines of Isla the She-wolf. That's part of why I'm excited for Uncharted 3, where the villain is not only female, but over 30. (And voiced by the amazing Helen Mirren.)

I wish there were more amazing female villains. I can't believe how easily people mess them up. The only seething example that sticks out in my mind, however silly it may seem, is Baroness from the G.I. Joe movie. She's SO. COOL. in the beginning. Kicking ass, not even caring. She runs into the guy she used to love, whatever, brings up some buried feelings, but she'll deal with it, that's cool. And the part where her scientist husband gets killed is beyond amazing. For a moment you see a glimmer of actual emotion. That she really did care for him, and she's sorry about what happened to him. And then it's right back to "I did that on purpose, let's go". But what happens to her in the end? She stops being amazing because she's so in love, and love heals every hurt that she's been carrying around for years, blah, blah, boring!

I'm tired of women becoming evil because of some wrong done by a man, and I'm tired of women giving up being evil because a man comes along and fixes all their pain. Can't women just be evil because they want to be evil? I'd like to think so.

"Why can't there be a contest to redesign ManShep?"

Because you can do that in the fucking game. Jesus, what is it with people thinking Shepherd is an actual character.

Susan Arendt:

trooper6:
Were any of the women on the panel queer in any way?
I just ask because very often discussions of "what woman want" often ends up being "what heterosexual women want" but just unstated. Or woman == traditional femininity. Or woman == motherhood in the context of heterosexuality.

I think that is one of the problems I'm having with what was otherwise an awesome panel. A whif of heterosexism.

I'm getting the feeling that none of the women is an awesome butch lesbian. That changes some perceptions around gender issues in gaming or other places.

Thank you for bringing that up. That's something I'll have to try and address for the next time we do this panel.

Honestly, you don't even have to be a butch lesbian to be a female with a different perspective on this. My wife for instance is a real fashionista. When presented with the opportunity to customise any type of game character she will agonize over it for hours. She also invariably chooses "sexier" types of clothing or appearances for her characters. She likes it. But then, it's her choice...

I think what the real debate here is around choice. For some people, it's really frustrating to have to make a choice to play a game that they really want that presents characters to them in a way they don't like. For some people, they hate the idea of game developers feeling pressured to de-sexify characters, then this might be something that they like (see the amazing shrinking breasts of Laura Croft, whom in her next game will probably be a 12 year old boy).

I honestly feel that there needs to be a level of maturity here amongst consumers to recognize that the entertainment industry is selling fantasy to people. Television, magazines, movies and video games are all pretty much the same in that regard - in fact I would challenge that in video games you often get more realistic portrayls of the variances in human appearance, albeit usually in secondary or npc characters. The main characters are all generally the same pre-packaged stereotypical cool pretty people.

I don't find anything inherently bad about this. I would say however then when possible, it would be fantastic for game developers to cater to people's choices (Saints Row the Third has a hysterical sex appeal slider for their game that I think is a brilliant piece of social commentary on our society).

Another thing to consider is that framing the debate about what developers should do in terms of their presentation of characters, instead of focusing on encouraging them to offer choice, is that you're going to find that you run into opposition from people who actually like the very things that you don't. Nobody really wins in that scenario.

Ariseishirou:
So, because you've failed to make any valid points whatsoever you trot out ad hominems about vocabulary (which only demonstrate your own ignorance, as both have difference nuances, both of which apply here).

You continue to fail to produce any evidence about first response professionals, so you lie about ever having done so, continuing to cite instead irrelevant and contradictory studies about bystanders (that you didn't even clearly read).

Though having failed to support your claim about doctors and soldiers, I don't see what other option you have, true.

Taunta:
And by the way, because I am petty, you're the one wasting your own time sir. No one is forcing you to continue to whine about "Ewww relating studies to discussions is too hard!"

You're still here, repeating the same lies about your own claims and citing unrelated studies that you plainly failed to understand, madam.

It's a troll. The best way to avoid it is to not feed it. How can it be reasoned with when it pulls its own logic from thin air?

I have a feeling that now we are starting to see more women working in the industry we will by default see more realistic representations of women in games. of course this is an industry built primarily by nerdy men and as it has become more open and more of a variety of people from different backgrounds come into it we start to see new and more engaging games from every part of the spectrum; especially women.

I would like to see a first person shooter developed by an almost entire female team just to see what they would do with it. and no this isn't me saying a bunch of girls couldn't make a shooter; I'm GENUINELY interested as to what the outcome would be without the testosterone!

Ah hell, double post. may as well use it!

I've been playing enslaved, I think Trip is a pretty well thought out female character. that is she is a well thought out character to begin with, just like Monkey; the protagonist.

The reason people feel like they cant relate is because video game characters have spent so long being so one dimensional. Now they ARE getting depth (not that it hasn't happened before) with more frequency. And as I said above I think as more women come into the industry like with books or music or movies their own interpretations (however right or wrong) will come to fruition.

BIOSHOCK.

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