The Truth about Little Girls

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The Truth about Little Girls

In the course of her gaming career, Bonnie Ruberg has been a boy, a man, a zombie, a pokemon and a ninja, but she has "never been a little girl ..." In The Truth About Little Girls, one of America's preeminent feminist gamers attempts to get a handle on gaming's lack of innocent femininity, and why it may not be a bad thing.

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I find it slightly obtuse to see computer games as a male dominant interest and many games providing just sexually pleasing women in games, yet rarely mention the fact that a many Final Fantasy fans are indeed women of all ages, and generally play for their love of male eye candy.

The state of lack of young heroines in computer games has just as much basis as it appears to be in just about any other form of media culture. Why slam women in general, no matter in the case of young girls in a computer industry, when they appear to be just as under represented in a socially acceptable medium as the film medium?

Which brings me to my next point; it's not as if women don't bring upon this stereotype on themselves. Until very recently (5-10 years) just about every women in the west insisted computer games were exclusively a teenage-boy's hobby.

Who decided this stereotype? It wasn't the governments. It wasn't the game industry. It was predominantly mothers, sisters, and the girls in high school applying lip-gloss as they shallowly remark 'Yeah, well [boy] nerd, all you do in your spare time is play computer games'.

That's right, the stereotype was very much brought about by people such as yourself, and your mothers who thought better to buy you a baby doll rather than a Sega Master System, clothes rather than a Game Boy.

Now that gaming is accepted by people such as yourself, you expect the floodgates to just open, the industry dropping down their easy-money FPSs and RTS and to start making games starring younger women with no sexual attraction?

And how exactly should the game industry go about creating these neutral girl games, non-compliance with Barbie and Bratz franchise cough outs? After all, it appears these days a girl is out buying Just Seventeen magazine and wearing her skirt under her hips at the age of 11 (or at least that appears to be the case here in the UK at the moment).

Sexuality, or feeling sexually attractive, is something girls think about from a relatively young age anyhow. I'm not saying that's right or wrong but the way I see it is.

I'm all for one for more gender-neutral and young girls in games. But this article appears to be a rant against an industry that has been picked and dropped into a 'boy nerd category' for over 3 decades, not without the help from women kind, and you seem to imply it's the ignorance of the industry?

I feel it will be very difficult to move beyond the nerd stereotypes by blaming them on others.

The entertainment industry is especially male dominated in the disposable amusements and cheap thrills department. More often, women start to be real people in games created with an artistic bent. Yorda is a very compelling, non-sexualized character. Though not the player controlled avatar, her relationship to Ico could be completely reversed and still hold up as a game that is more than an amusement. Why not make a sequel in which Yorda has to lead the sacrificed children out of the castle? The concept is just as strong.

Children as avatars, especially girls, imply vulnerability which is often what an escapist gamer wants to avoid. This is the perfect set-up for a horror title, but the public at large is repulsed by the idea. See the controversy surrounding Rule of Rose; they had to pretend Jennifer was 18 to cover their asses and provided a lame excuse that she imagines herself an adult. Children in general are vulnerable and games need drama, which still means combat more often than not these days.

I can think of a game with female protagonist who is desexulaized, Narbacular Drop. Which gave birth to Portal and lovable chell, who you never see unless you go and look, and has the look of an office worker...well nearly, there is a sense of vulnerability in her dress and shoelessness that is...distantly arousing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to disprove your comment, to the contrary I liked the article. I think a desexualized feminine heroine is a rare thing, but there aren't as many female developers, and what roles do women play in events anyway? Particularly young ones? I know that's offensive, but in all seriousness I don't know. When I was young little girls didn't like me, being the nerdy little creature I am. And I do not have a sister, and no close friends did either...It's odd, but I do have little sense of what little girls are like, they didn't play with or even talk to me until I was 16 and shortly got laid for the first time, disregarding the one girl who talked to me in seventh grade science class, but really referring to that is like cherry picking results.

What do I have to do with anything? I really think a lot of people have gone through similar situations, probably not identical, but having the "fairer sex" give you the brush for the first 16 years of your life can really color the way you see women. I know for some it is even longer, first sexual experience in college, first conversation with a girl immediately after. whatever. There is a real problem there, some of the people who you want to make this stuff have had...pretty sex free lives and their impression of sex is really discolored and misshapen by stereotypes and fantasy.

I'm all for little girl games that can cast sexuality aside, but I really think you need female developers for this. I argued this in a previous post for a different article. Somehow, some people think of this society as being something other than sexist, when the institutional character of it is really deeply ingraned. Where is the female humanistic writing defining mores for man? Where is that kind of recognition? A recognition of their humanity and intelligence. Why don't you hear about this kind of stuff until grad school? And what does that do to men's impressions of women...They still think of them as dits, abused in pornography, taking time off work for maternity leave, becoming bored conservative soccer moms etc. The recognition of women as figures in society doesn't begin until grad school. And that goes a long way toward influencing the way young people think.

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Off-topic: I read your column in the Voice courtesy of the link in the mini bio of you at the bottom of the article. I like it, something about UT3 however...One of the complaints I constantly hear about that game on the Unreal forums (I own the game) is that the female characters don't look any different than the male one (Big suits of armor you know). And while it's about as sexist as a game could get, I thought, as least the women are desexualized there. It surprised me a good bit...I couldn't imagine a game that sexist not putting women in flattering fetish outfits, but somehow they didn't make that mistake.

I would love to drum up tons of engaging dialogue about the points of your article. I really truly would. However, after reading the article, I simply felt like I was being accused of being a sexist pig because I want to escape in my games. I want to be awesome and see sexy women. Why? Why not? Hell, if anything I am tired of playing humans to be honest but that is another issue entirely.

Why do I not want to play a little girl? Well, I find it hard to relate or care about somebody who basically was bitching about cooties or how they were made of sugar and spice and everything nice while I was made of snails and puppy dog tails. So based on my own experiences, a game with a little boy reminds me of the positive parts of my childhood. The guy that would get in trouble with me while we were covered in mud and laughing about frogs. The girl just reminds me of the person who tattled. I didn't have the luxury of knowing nice tom girls growing up so I don't relate to little girls now.

Hopefully that will change if my fiancee' and I ever have a little girl. So far it looks like we are going to have a household of boys, which is a pity really. I really wish I had better sentiments and I AM all for those types of games. Girls need games they can relate to and enjoy but I personally don't give two shits because I won't be playing them.

If you care to nitpick, Final Fantasy 3/6 (Relm Arrowny) and Resident Evil 2 (Sherry Birkin) allowed you to play as a little girl though neither is the "main character"

Terramax:
Who decided this stereotype? It wasn't the governments. It wasn't the game industry. It was predominantly mothers, sisters, and the girls in high school applying lip-gloss as they shallowly remark 'Yeah, well [boy] nerd, all you do in your spare time is play computer games'.

That's right, the stereotype was very much brought about by people such as yourself, and your mothers who thought better to buy you a baby doll rather than a Sega Master System, clothes rather than a Game Boy.

Poppycock and balderdash, says I! For starters, it's not just the moms and sisters and cool girls of the world that declared "videogames are for boys". It's as much the fathers and sons and high school jocks that back that party line up, too. And this wasn't a conclusion that they all came to out of the blue one day. A memo didn't go out saying "VIDEO GAMES ARE BOYS ONLY, PLEASE TAKE NOTE". This is a relic of "computers are not for girls" and "technology is not for girls" which came from "science is not for girls" which came from "education in general is not for girls". Y'see? Interconnected. Years upon years of sexism are hard to fight against, especially when it manifests in such sneakily evolved ways.

And yes, actually. Now that there are more of those cool girls and moms and little sisters playing games, why shouldn't some games have non-sexual female video game role models? It's hardly a demand to replace all the characters in TF2 with kids from the local elementary school playground (although that's an amusing mental image.) They can make some games in the old template, and some games in the new template, and surely the good times will roll? Assuming, of course, these newfangled games with young female protagonists sell, which is the biggie in the end.

However, while the article itself brings up stuff that's both interesting AND stuff that resonates strongly with me.... I have to stop and wonder about the kind of game that WOULD be appropriate to stick a young female protagonist in. Hm, what if the prince from Katamari Damacy was actually a princess? (Heck, I think some of the prince's cousins are girls, if you care to read their bios.) What if good ol' Sonic was a girl? And don't say "slap him in a miniskirt and give him some eyeshadow and change all his levels to 'mall' and 'prom'" because seriously? All this prostitot Bratz growing-up-too-soon business needs to take a flying leap, and it's one of the nastiest results of how society regards females and femininity. I'm not even sure I wanna get started on that right now. It gives me a case of the angries.

I digress. I find myself wanting to make a game that WOULD address this issue. A platformer? An RPG of some sort? Something that I'd have loved to play when I was a girl. Something to replicate how I felt when I played Dragon Warrior 4. When you start, you enter your name, and then they ask if you're a boy or a girl. At first, this just looks like the name of your save file. For 4 or 5 chapters, you play with different sets of pre-made characters. The last chapter hits? Boom. There's your self-named Hero Of Everything character. And when my last chapter came? There she stood. There was my hero, puffy green hair and and skirt and female best friend and all. There was me. It was something I hadn't even realized that I had been MISSING, before then, I had gotten so used to all those little pixel-heroes being boys. It was a mini-revelation.

And there is ONE prominent series that has both young boys and young girls in a starring role. Pokemon, anyone? All of the recent games (Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, Ranger, Diamond/Pearl) offer the option to play as male or female. Does that count for something?

the_carrot:
And what does that do to men's impressions of women...They still think of them as dits, abused in pornography, taking time off work for maternity leave, becoming bored conservative soccer moms etc. The recognition of women as figures in society doesn't begin until grad school. And that goes a long way toward influencing the way young people think.

There's a nail somewhere around here, and you've hit it on the head. Women ARE so much more than what the stereotype holds them to be, and so much more than what some folk seem to assume. "Women" are not some uniform incomprehensible mass. It feels like an uphill battle, to get people to see this.

I've actually played a game in which I was a little girl for at least one level, and that was Tribes: Vengeance. There are also parts of the game Sanitarium in which the protagonist is a little girl.

However that be, the concept is very rare, and there is a huge opportunity being missed. If nothing else the vulnerability of playing a child could add a lot to a horror game.

In the end, however, violence and sex sell. Why risk profits for the sake of breaking new ground amirite?

DeathWyrmNexus:
Why do I not want to play a little girl? Well, I find it hard to relate or care about somebody who basically was bitching about cooties or how they were made of sugar and spice and everything nice while I was made of snails and puppy dog tails. So based on my own experiences, a game with a little boy reminds me of the positive parts of my childhood. The guy that would get in trouble with me while we were covered in mud and laughing about frogs. The girl just reminds me of the person who tattled. I didn't have the luxury of knowing nice tom girls growing up so I don't relate to little girls now.

There are lots of places I could begin... but why should I want to play as a boy? Boys call me names and throw mud at me, and talk about stupid stuff, and they're dirty. Why should I want to play a game as a man? Men are dismissive towards me, and rude, and tell me that my feminist ideas are silly and wrongheaded. A game where I play a boy would remind me of all those meanieheads that hurt me! Games should remind me of playing with all my little girlfriends, running around in the woods and playing tag and building forts, of playing dress-up and making messes and getting in trouble, not of those stupid boys breaking our things and calling us dumb!

Y'see? Doesn't feel so good, does it? I still play games with boys and men in the lead. Haven't got much of a choice, do I? I can still find them fun and engaging and exciting, even if I don't get the extra sprinkles and frosting of a character that I can more readily identify with. Surely, it's not too hard for an enlightened, intelligent fellow (nerdy or not) to do the same thing?

Would you miss out on the next Portal, the next Katamari Damacy, the next Legend of Zelda, because it has a little girl in the lead? Man. I'd feel bad for you, if you did. Great games are great games.

Little kids are annoying.

There, I said it.
That's why, ultimately, children aren't good videogame characters.
Young Link isn't a child, he's a hero forced to mantle the responsibility the title entails way too soon, not saying much of a word aside grunting and once in a while screaming because some six hundred pound stone creature forgot that he'll become a red splat if he gets hugged by it.
You don't find young link hitting Saria or Malon because it's how he shows he likes them. You find him solemnly looking at them, accepting a gift given to the hero of time, then turning and leaving their lives for seven full years, returning as a fully grown heroic figure.
Young Link and Adult Link act the same way. "Well of course!" you say, "He's still the same mind! He's young Link in adult Link's body!".
But that's incorrect. He's the HERO OF TIME in a child's body (and later, an adult's body).

Link is a bad example of a little boy in a game, because he never was a little boy to begin with, within minutes of controlling him you're already deep in a monster-infested dungeon, staring stony-faced at an arachnophobe's worst nightmare before you charge it with a sword.

Imagine an actual game about a little girl, who according to the typical "maiden whore crone" theorem isn't even considered a female by the average male mind's super-sexist evil standards yet.
It'd be bloody boring at best, and at worst you'd want to just lead the annoying, whiny bitch into an oncoming horde of zombies! (I'm looking at you, Sherry Birkin and Laura, of Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill 2 respectively!)
How WOULD you portray a little girl differently from an adult female, with the exception of making her more clumsy, less sensual, and replacing the catsuit with a more sensible cute little dress?
How would you portray a little boy differently from an adult boy for that matter, aside removing the six-pack and giving him a fierce need to prove himself (which seems to be the general thing to do with little boys)?
Little kids portrayed by media are way more stereotypical than women portrayed by media, and that's saying something, it wouldn't be new and fresh to play a little girl in a game, it'd just be stepping into the shoes of that stupid annoying brat from the War of the Worlds remake, or her identical twin sisters in any other movies or games where they are all invariably extremely annoying idiotic little brats unable to comprehend the danger of the situation at hand!

And casting all of what I said above aside, there's still one important problem left.
You can't kill a child.
It's taboo, very taboo. I haven't seen a game let me kill a kid on-screen since Fallout 2, in most games where kids exist they have a permanent immortality filter covering them (Bioshock included) because the media gestapo would be too much up in arms if they found out you could actually kill kids freely in a game. In most games, the developers just cut them out entirely, leaving you with a world populated 100% by adults.

As cute as little girls are supposed to be be, and as much as we can talk about the female being alien and incomprehensable to the male mind, at the end of the day, the major reason that playing as a little girl is very rare in games is really simple.
It would be a bore.

Man, there's so much to comment on. This is fun!

propertyofcobra:
Stuff about Link

I like your point. In many ways, Link is an awfully mature young man. Heroism placed upon his shoulders, yadda yadda, not much room to be that stereotypical bratty boy that seems to be happening. By virtue of the role he plays in the game. Hm!

propertyofcobra:
Stuff about bratty girls

Once again, the range of reference of how girls behave seems a little... narrow? Yes, little kids portrayed in the media are very stereotypical. Why not break that stereotypical model? A female heroine doesn't necessarily have to be a tough tomboy. A girl can be brave and noble and courageous and still wear a skirt and pick flowers. A hero can express misgivings or fear, too, and still be a hero. If anything, the reason "girls can't be game heroes" is because of the big strict limitations on just what a hero is. But dismissing all possible theoretical imaginary little girls as shrill and obnoxious doesn't get us anywhere.

propertyofcobra:
And casting all of what I said above aside, there's still one important problem left. You can't kill a child.

Touche, good sir. Still! Whoever said that this mythical girl-protatonisted game has to be of the sort that contains violent death? There are all sorts of games and game contexts that could allow for easy skirting around the issue. Lose all your HP? Fade to white, return to last save spot, with a little NPC going "oh that was a close one!" or something trite like that. No obstacle or media watchdog force is insurmountable to the clever mind!

Well, Lampdevil. What you describe then is, as you said...Pokemon. You play as young boys or girls (who are both heroic mutes) that never die, they just fade to white and get magically transported to a nearby friendly insta-heal hospital.

Anyway, my point about Link was that he isn't a young boy, he's just a videogame character that HAPPENS to be a young boy. If you replaced him with a younger Zelda who grew up, the game would change....not at all, really.

propertyofcobra:
Well, Lampdevil. What you describe then is, as you said...Pokemon. You play as young boys or girls (who are both heroic mutes) that never die, they just fade to white and get magically transported to a nearby friendly insta-heal hospital.

Anyway, my point about Link was that he isn't a young boy, he's just a videogame character that HAPPENS to be a young boy. If you replaced him with a younger Zelda who grew up, the game would change....not at all, really.

Yup! Pokemon. Good game, female protagonist, nothing the least bit wrong with that. Now, think we can get a few more games out there that do that? :)

And yes... if you swapped Link for Zelda, the game WOULD stay the same. That's a point that I didn't get around to making. Because a silent protagonist, no matter the gender, can be just as heroic. And the game can be just as good. And a Zelda game where you DO play as Zelda wouldn't be boring, would it?

I'd just like to make a few points directed at the author:

- Your problem isn't so much with the video game community as it is with western civilization as a whole. TV, movies, music, and yes, video games all suffer from these stereotypes.

- Follow the money. The markets that are largely filled by the young male demographic tend to give that demographic what they want: intense action and voluptuous women. This is true for any market in the entertainment industry, not just video games. Shows for women such as Sex and the City and Lipstick Jungle tend to show women as strong, sexually secure and equal competitors with men in a man's world, while at the same time showing men as testosterone driven apes that don't know how to keep a relationship. This is an equally misleading stereotype that feeds this particular women's demographic.

- You'll realize that the most successful video games tend to be the ones that are the least stereotypical, for example: Half-Life, Portal, Final Fantasy, ICO, etc.

- The HUGE trend in gaming, especially on the Nintendo Wii, is toward family friendly and women/girl friendly games. Things are only going to get better for those in your situation.

- Eastern culture either tends to portray women in an extremely sexual way, or as completely normal. Eastern stereotypes are different from western stereotypes. You may want to try more Japanese games and see if these suit your tastes more.

Lampdevil:

Yup! Pokemon. Good game, female protagonist, nothing the least bit wrong with that. Now, think we can get a few more games out there that do that? :)

And yes... if you swapped Link for Zelda, the game WOULD stay the same. That's a point that I didn't get around to making. Because a silent protagonist, no matter the gender, can be just as heroic. And the game can be just as good. And a Zelda game where you DO play as Zelda wouldn't be boring, would it?

No, but it also wouldn't exactly be a game about a young girl, just about another heroic mute that happens to be a young girl.
Is there, really, that much difference between ANY heroic mutes? What, really, makes Gordon Freeman so different from Link, or the imaginary playable heroic Zelda?
True, Gordon Freeman's a bad example in theid scussion, because his closest ally happens to be the biggest step towards gender equality in videogames since Samus, but still.

The article has something of a point. Though, you should act yourself if you want something changed, don't expect others to just do it.

Fundamentally if you remove the stupidity of stereotypes how would playing a little girl differ from playing a little boy?

It wouldn't would it?

The level of interaction in a game doesn't really go deep enough to differentiate between male and female characters beyond a 'love interest'.

Or if it does the level of work would be virtually doubled if you had to develop from the other point of view so to speak...

That said i think everyone should realise that the main character in Portal IS female...

propertyofcobra:
What, really, makes Gordon Freeman so different from Link, or the imaginary playable heroic Zelda?

...Gordon Freeman has nifty glasses and a crowbar? :D

No really, I'm just being silly at this point. The average Heroic Mute is someone that the player is supposed to project upon. I'm pretty sure that's how it works. So the only real difference this theoretical playable Zelda would make would be that the theoretical female gamer would be able to better project herself upon her. The game itself would still be good.

|HD|Rob Inglis:
The article has something of a point. Though, you should act yourself if you want something changed, don't expect others to just do it.

But we can also ask others to do it, too, while we go about creating the games that we like? :D I've always found the "well if YOU want this thing to be changed, YOU go and do it" to be a bit of a cop out. Why yes! I shall go and do it. Meanwhile, a few more hands helping might be nice. "But it's haaaaaard and takes manpower and stuff!" Yeah, well, it's not easy hoing that row all on our own, either.

lightbulb:
Fundamentally if you remove the stupidity of stereotypes how would playing a little girl differ from playing a little boy?

It wouldn't would it?

Maybe that's the point. Beyond stereotypes, a hero is a hero is a hero. You can spackle the gaps full of male characteristics or female ones, and you can dress the end result in a dress or in shorts, but you've still got a hero (and a game) on your hands.

So let's bring on the girls?

Lampdevil:

So let's bring on the girls?

So let's bring on the choices, I say.
A hero is a hero, be that hero an eight year old girl or a thirty-something military killing machine.
A game that lets you choose between these extremes and anything in between would be...interesting to say the least. Looking at, oh, RPGs, manga and anime in general shows that little girls CAN be just as powerful as males (look at, oh, half the gothic lolita black mage chicks out there) if not even more so.

Doesn't City of Heroes let you alter your character's appearance very considerably? Maybe not quite to a young girl, but maybe if you take the idea and expand it as much as possible...

Not only is a hero still a hero no matter if it's shorts or skirts the hero wears, isn't our own hero, the extension of us into the game world, the hero that hits us the most? The ones we, in the end, cherish more than any others?
I think so. So I believe that choices are...what games need. Much more so than most games offer right now.
Hm. This thread is deeply interesting, and lampdevil especially has brought up a lot of interesting points.

You know, generally BOTH sexes are glamourized in our forms of entertainment. Right along with the women, men are often portrayed as ridiculously pretty boys or muscular, ruggedly handsome men. To the extremes that very few people meet in real life. It just seems that men have more of a leeway with their looks and attitudes than women do. Course, I think society is overly-obsessed with sex in the first place, and that has a lot to do with much of these stereotypes.

As for girl heroes, several of my male friends always pick girls whenever they can for heroes. So, I'm sure the idea wouldn't just float with the girl gamer audience out there.

Wait, maybe that was a bad example...

I'm going to disagree with the fact that a hero is a hero and it doesn't matter whether that hero is male or female. I think it matters a lot.

Imagine if Nintendo had made Link's gender up to the users choice in the beginning. It would have completely destroyed one of Nintendo's favorite characters of all time, branding anbd marketing opportunities included. A character is a character, the same way that Batman is a MAN and not a WOMAN. Everyone knows who Mario, Link and Zelda are the instant you mention their name. By making these characters gender neutral at the offset, you destroy their entire character and destroy that fandom that comes with a beloved character.

A character is designed to be who he or she is and all the issues with whether that character fits one's gender and sexual representation preferences are irrelevant. You either like the character or you don't, but the character is who he or she is, take it or leave it.

I would like to point out, that Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and it's remake Castlevania: Dracula Chronicles on the PSP let you play as Maria Renard.
Also, (my personal favorite in the series), Castlevania 64 and it's remake Legacy of Darkness let you play as Carrie Fernandez right from the start.
Both girls look about 12 years old. They both have a young innocence about them, but they're never cry babys in the face of danger. Plus they can battle legion of monsters and demons just as well as the male characters. And they can die. And some of Carrie's death scenes in CV64 could be consider a bit extreme. (getting crushed by spike wall, getting crushed by gears, drowning, bit by zombie/vampire, and sliced by chainsaw to name a few)

Novan Leon:
I'm going to disagree with the fact that a hero is a hero and it doesn't matter whether that hero is male or female. I think it matters a lot.

Imagine if Nintendo had made Link's gender up to the users choice in the beginning. It would have completely destroyed one of Nintendo's favorite characters of all time, branding anbd marketing opportunities included. A character is a character, the same way that Batman is a MAN and not a WOMAN. Everyone knows who Mario, Link and Zelda are the instant you mention their name. By making these characters gender neutral at the offset, you destroy their entire character and destroy that fandom that comes with a beloved character.

A character is designed to be who he or she is and all the issues with whether that character fits one's gender and sexual representation preferences are irrelevant. You either like the character or you don't, but the character is who he or she is, take it or leave it.

Hokay! So I'll follow your premise that too much ability to customize dilutes a strong branding concept. So let's change the premise. Instead of "I can be Link OR Zelda", change it to "I can be Zelda!" Just Zelda. Yup. Just the girl. That'd be a solid brand to build upon, right?

Although then we'd likely be strolling into the same sort of territory that Samus treads, where the next-generation "Legend of Link" game would have an exceptionally busty Zelda all grown up and y'know, I don't think I like where I'm derailing my train of thought towards.

Lampdevil:
It's hardly a demand to replace all the characters in TF2 with kids from the local elementary school playground (although that's an amusing mental image.)

It bugs me that there are no female characters for TF2, at least some. I can't imagine anything more humorous than a large Russian Woman with a Minigun mowing down her enemies. Though I think the template may not exist the way it did for the male characters (The J.C. Lyndecker drawings)

Lampdevil:
Women ARE so much more than what the stereotype holds them to be, and so much more than what some folk seem to assume. "Women" are not some uniform incomprehensible mass. It feels like an uphill battle, to get people to see this.

It's funny, I try to communicate to younger people that feminism is nothing like terrible, but people have condemned it it seems. It's really awful to read/hear what a lot of young people say. They can't allow their image of women to be that of a human being, see the similarities instead of the differences, make those important. And really see the differences and that the good qualities look a little different, and that it is human, not alien. The differences and similarities elude everyone. It's a cultural paramour to make the other sex into something mysterious, and noone wants to give up their romances with love. I don't know what humanity looks like without the contribution of women, and while it and it's narrowness is terrible, even in terms of things like innovation in games. Men have to make an effort to relate since the dearth of society is easily accessible, and when presented with something different, largely become xenophobic. Or won't put the effort in to relate to it. ramble ramble.

the_carrot:
It bugs me that there are no female characters for TF2, at least some. I can't imagine anything more humorous than a large Russian Woman with a Minigun mowing down her enemies. Though I think the template may not exist the way it did for the male characters (The J.C. Lyndecker drawings)

I do hear that some folk theorize that the demolitionist is a woman under that flame-retardant suit. But yes, I agree. Big burly lady with minigun = best thing ever.

the_carrot:
It's funny, I try to communicate to younger people that feminism is nothing like terrible, but people have condemned it it seems. It's really awful to read/hear what a lot of young people say. They can't allow their image of women to be that of a human being, see the similarities instead of the differences, make those important. *snip*

It can feel threatening, to have someone tell you that something is wrong. When you've been proceeding along all happy-like, someone showing up and going "AAAH THERE'S A PROBLEM" can be frightening. Or it can be like a slap in the face, calling you to battle. I do know I got my panties in a twist when all the "little girls suck!" talk was hauled out. Then I untwisted 'em as best I could.

It's hard to admit that something is wrong. Ignorance is far easier, right? If "sexism isn't a problem" then hey! No one has to do anything, and we can all get back to business! It's just plain human to not be able to understand "the other". And you're right. In most of human society, the genders are classified as "the other". Women are mysterious and incomprehensible? The flipside of the coin are all those crass "feminist" jokes about how men are all stupid and horny and dirty and lazy. Neither one is good. Neither one gets anything done, or promotes understanding and happiness. We like our illusions, ramble ramble digress ramble...

Lampdevil:
A female heroine doesn't necessarily have to be a tough tomboy. A girl can be brave and noble and courageous and still wear a skirt and pick flowers. A hero can express misgivings or fear, too, and still be a hero.

Thing is, a hero expressing fear is as rare as a heroine picking flowers. This isn't just about stereotypes of boys and girls; it's about stereotypes about boys and girls intersecting with stereotypes of heroic people.

See, here's the thing: the stereotype of what is heroic isn't biased against girls; it's biased against certain traits, and those traits are also the traits by which girls are stereotyped.

I think the stronger stereotype along gender lines is against males. Here's an example from what people are talking about: replacing Link with Zelda seems a lot easier than replacing Zelda with Link, doesn't it? Doesn't it seem a lot easier to imagine a woman not needing to be rescued than a man in need of a heroine? Think to yourself what you have an easier time wrapping your mind around: Princess Peach as the lead character in the Mario games, or reading this line of text: "Thank you Peach! But our Italian plumber is in another castle!

+++

I think the real question is the one the author asked: "If we let our characters stay gendered, will they always cause trouble?" What makes a character 'female'? Is it only a matter of her sex, or must there be some kind of gender identity? And how do we convey the female gender identity? Flowers and skirts? Is that gender identity, or is that just another stereotype?

Let's face it: this isn't a problem for video games. This is a problem for any creative artist--how do you convey female gender identity without just falling into a stereotype?

Fact: Lampdevil is a reminder of what I like about the escapist forums. Intelligent people seem to be more common here than elsewhere on the world wide web.

I don't have time to participate but I agree that this is an intelligent and fascinating debate.

Lampdevil:
Big burly lady with minigun = best thing ever.

In case there's anybody on this thread who hasn't seen it yet...

http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a294/kirtstanke/tf2_hwgal.jpg

Razzle Bathbone:

Lampdevil:
Big burly lady with minigun = best thing ever.

In case there's anybody on this thread who hasn't seen it yet...

http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a294/kirtstanke/tf2_hwgal.jpg

Not bad a sketch.

Lampdevil:
It's hard to admit that something is wrong. Ignorance is far easier, right? If "sexism isn't a problem" then hey! No one has to do anything, and we can all get back to business! It's just plain human to not be able to understand "the other". And you're right. In most of human society, the genders are classified as "the other". Women are mysterious and incomprehensible? The flipside of the coin are all those crass "feminist" jokes about how men are all stupid and horny and dirty and lazy. Neither one is good. Neither one gets anything done, or promotes understanding and happiness. We like our illusions, ramble ramble digress ramble...

It's like I'm happily living my life without a hint of fear and a guy runs up to me and tells me the CIA has been controlling my life. Is there really a problem affecting me if I can't see it?

Or maybe nothing IS wrong, in the objective sense, and it's merely a matter of preference. Maybe some women have a serious problem with the way women are stereotyped and placed in a group, while other women have absolutely no problem with the stereotypes. They enjoy being feminine, acting feminine and feel no need to struggle against societies tendency to stereotype women with strong feminine characteristics. I think both sides are justified but neither really has the power to shape the way society sees things on their own.

It occurs to me that there's stuff that I WANT to address that I just sort of... didn't notice before, so... I'm gonna backtrack a bit.

propertyofcobra:
So let's bring on the choices, I say.

That's the spirit! I agree. If the context of the game in question allows room for the player's hero to be customized? Those options should be diverse. The better to allow the player to make that little imprint upon the game. To bring up that resonance. Dragon Warror 4 wouldn't have hit me so hard if not for my little green-haired heroine, for instance.

City of Heroes is a pretty good example. While you can't quite make a kid, I do have an early teen-aged girl as one of my heroes. The only thing really preventing me from dialing her back to say, 8 instead of 14 or 15 is that the boob slider only goes so far down....

Anime and manga and Japanese popular entertainment in general does seem to offer more in the line of little girls, but there's also a certain pall of.... uh.... distastefulness to some of it. We're talking non-sexualized little girls here, and while not every bit of Japanese pop culture is one great big loli-fest, the spectre of Moe looms off to one side.

And then we've got the very valid point made elsewhere in this thread... sometimes, to tell the story you want to tell? You HAVE to assign your protagonist a fixed gender and identity. Some games can give you a blank slate, but others, to accomplish what they want to do, need to pick a personality and stay with it. So outside the realm of pure customization, it'll take some consideration and thought to make a purposefully-chosen young female heroine.

(And I'm glad you're enjoying the debate, propertyofcobra. :D I think my head just got all big and swelly.)

Necrohydra:
You know, generally BOTH sexes are glamourized in our forms of entertainment. Right along with the women, men are often portrayed as ridiculously pretty boys or muscular, ruggedly handsome men. To the extremes that very few people meet in real life. It just seems that men have more of a leeway with their looks and attitudes than women do.

Yup. Painting with the pallete of stereotype is far easier than genuine efforts at uniqueness. Many games portray both men and women in unrealistic fashions. That said, men DO tend to have a wider range of 'allowable' looks and attitudes and existances. They may still be shackled down in unsatisfying ways, but their chains are a little longer.

Cheeze_Pavilion:
Here's an example from what people are talking about: replacing Link with Zelda seems a lot easier than replacing Zelda with Link, doesn't it? Doesn't it seem a lot easier to imagine a woman not needing to be rescued than a man in need of a heroine?

Let's face it: this isn't a problem for video games. This is a problem for any creative artist--how do you convey female gender identity without just falling into a stereotype?

Your point is a good one. We all have that stereotype in our head of "men don't need to be rescued". When people propose a "princess rescuing prince" scenario, it's a bit of a giggle, ain't it? A simple sprite-swap and pronoun-swap might not be satisfying to some, if we keep using the Zelda-as-Heroine example. If we can accept an active female, can we also accept a passive male? I don't see it as so odd. But I'm not everyone. Gender identity is complicated and confusing. Any artist, be it a writer or a comic book artist or a movie director, if they care about the product that they produce, they have to take these things into consideration. A lot of creators just don't bother.

Speaking of movies... a movie that shows a good example of both "little girl" and "heroine" is Pan's Labyrinth. Ofelia is in some ways what I'd like to see in a video game heroine.

Razzle Bathbone:
In case there's anybody on this thread who hasn't seen it yet...

http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a294/kirtstanke/tf2_hwgal.jpg

...please allow me to abandon all pretense of intelligence, so I can go "OMFG YUS, RAWK ON".

Lampdevil:

Speaking of movies... a movie that shows a good example of both "little girl" and "heroine" is Pan's Labyrinth. Ofelia is in some ways what I'd like to see in a video game heroine.

Ofelia is blindingly stupid though.
"Oh look, a pile of children's clothing next to a huge scary monster and I'm being explicitly told that it will EAT ME if I eat anything in the room...hmm...I feel like grapes, methinks!"
Though I do admit, Pan's Labyrinth was a good film in the simple way that it broke the taboo, killed the little girl and showed her last fleeting thoughts in her strange fantasy world before her passing. (I'm of the strict impression that all the fantasy elements in the film were merely her overactive imagination)

Novan Leon:
Is there really a problem affecting me if I can't see it?

Well no one said the problem was affecting YOU, right? ;) And that's the key reason for a lot of the reactions in this thread (and other threads like it!) "Hey, I don't see anything wrong! Ergo, nothing's wrong. Stop saying things are wrong!" But just because you don't see a problem doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Crazy men in tinfoil hats aside, just because you can't see the fire two towns over doesn't change the fact that a building is burning down.

Novan Leon:
I think both sides are justified but neither really has the power to shape the way society sees things on their own.

Wait, wait, so if you add up the side that's all traditionally female, plus the side that's all video games and workboots, then... that's all the women, isn't it? There's a wide scale of behavior between conservative soccer mom and liberal activist chick, but when you add 'em all up, it's all still women.

So do you mean to say that women in general don't have the power to change the way society sees things on their own? Does that mean men have the power to do that? I'm not sure that's what you're saying either, and it's sure not what I'm saying. Do you mean that NO ONE has the power ot change the way society sees things?

It's unlikely that one person standing on their front porch (or posting on an Internet forum) is going to kick off the Revolution. But still, stuff doesn't change unless someone stands up and says or does something. We are, as a whole, part of society. While we are all just one tiny drop in the bucket that makes up the world, I'm gonna be trite and say that a lot of little drops can make a tidal wave. Or at least make your roof leak.

Yes, your preferred kind of video game hero is a matter of preference. I'd love to live in a world where we all get to pick exactly what we want. As it stands, it's a bit like going into a candy store where the inventory is mostly gummi candy, with a small weekly shipment of caramel or peppermints. Now I like me some gummi candy, but it sucks when there's no caramel in stock when I feel like having some caramel. Maybe I'll just go home and make my own caramel, and open my own candy shop? :D

propertyofcobra:
Ofelia is blindingly stupid though.
"Oh look, a pile of children's clothing next to a huge scary monster and I'm being explicitly told that it will EAT ME if I eat anything in the room...hmm...I feel like grapes, methinks!"

Ahahah, true enough. But then again, children may not make the best decisions. That's the end result of being a kid, male or female. Even stupidity shows something about the character. (Although I confess that even at that age, I'd have been too damned petrified to touch a thing.)

propertyofcobra:
Though I do admit, Pan's Labyrinth was a good film in the simple way that it broke the taboo, killed the little girl and showed her last fleeting thoughts in her strange fantasy world before her passing. (I'm of the strict impression that all the fantasy elements in the film were merely her overactive imagination)

Ayup. It was a fantastic movie visually, and it was unblinkingly brutal to everyone in the cast, Ofelia included. If the fantasy world was real? Alright then. If it was her imagination? I like that a movie could grant that a young girl could be capable of such a morbid, frightening dreamscape.

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