From Mass Effect's Unsung Heroine to The End of Games as We Know It

From Mass Effect's Unsung Heroine to The End of Games as We Know It

Mass Effect's Dr Chakwas

Hello, Escapist readers! As part of our partnership with curation website Critical Distance, we'll be bringing you a weekly digest of the coolest games criticism, analysis and commentary from around the web. Let's hit it!

Kicking us off, at Paste, Maddy Myers admonishes game designers to take another look at Metroid and Alien if they intend to make Metroidvanias. It's not enough, she argues, to borrow mechanical tropes and conventions, or even to feature a playable woman protagonist in your winding space platformers without also acknowledging the "aesthetic and tonal success" of Metroid's and Alien's universes respectively. (Content warning: discussion of rape.)

Meanwhile, The Mary Sue's Jennifer Culp invites us to take another look at the badassery of one Dr. Karin Chakwas, Mass Effect's Chief Medical Officer. Culp sings the doctor's praises while also observing the dearth of visible--let alone active and interesting--older women in videogames,

In a medium in which women are often fridged early on in order to provide narrative development for male characters, in a real world where a distressingly large segment of the population seems to consider women obsolete once we pass mid-life, it's refreshing to encounter an older woman upon first boarding the Normandy.

Next, at Polygon Katherine Cross challenges the hostile anxiety surrounding criticism in videogames, calling it a cultural "terror dream" that games are going to be censored or taken away by nagging parents and moralistic lobbyists. Or just as well, perverted so much by the inclusion of different audiences that the traditional design focus of games as havens for straight, white cis male power fantasies will disappear. (Oh, the humanity.)

Lastly, at Eurogamer Christian Donlan compares two unfinished, procedurally-generated horror games, Monstrum and Darkwood, looking at the various ways they succeed and fall short at designing truly horrific experiences. Donlan looks at how they both handle pacing, mise en scene, perspective and even UI to suggest horror through design, and where those design styles might actually obstruct feelings of horror by making the player too comfortable.

Want more? Be sure to swing over to Critical Distance to have your fill!

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I rather liked Chakwas too. Shame Bioware didn't have her do anything. She sometimes gets to play doctor, gives you some fetch quests and gets kidnapped by the Collectors, but other than that she has no real bearing on the plot whatsoever. I'm not saying every npc crew member should be vitally important to the story, but if I'm not mistaken, Chakwas is the only character that can be part of the Normandy crew from the very beginning until the end, other than Joker (who is mandatory). I don't know, it feels like she should have mattered more somehow.

Also the whole "older woman" thing gets kind of diminished by the fact Chakwas has the same nubile body with taut belly, tight ass and pert bosom every other woman in the ME universe has. But the same can be said of the human male npcs too. Almost all the same body type with differently aged faces on it. Apparently, in the future no one is old from the neck down.

Chimpzy:
Also the whole "older woman" thing gets kind of diminished by the fact Chakwas has the same nubile body with taut belly, tight ass and pert bosom every other woman in the ME universe has. But the same can be said of the human male npcs too. Almost all the same body type with differently aged faces on it. Apparently, in the future no one is old from the neck down.

It's just a casualty of not wanting to create more than one body type for each gender. (Resource restraints on the Xbox 360 and creating a brand new engine from scratch didn't leave allot of time for it in Mass Effect 1)

Alpha Maeko:

Chimpzy:
snip

It's just a casualty of not wanting to create more than one body type for each gender. (Resource restraints on the Xbox 360 and creating a brand new engine from scratch didn't leave allot of time for it in Mass Effect 1)

I know and I understand why it is that way. Still looks weird regardless. The aliens have it even worse though. Save for party members and some major npcs, they don't even get different faces.

Also, I'm pretty certain all main Mass Effect games use Unreal Engine 3. Heavily modified without doubt, but not a brand new engine.

Chimpzy:
Also, I'm pretty certain all main Mass Effect games use Unreal Engine 3. Heavily modified without doubt, but not a brand new engine.

Quite right, I don't know why I said that. Heavily modified U3 was what I meant.

Dr Chakwas was always one of my favourites, I was gutted she wasn't in the Citadel DLC. She would have been great fun at the party, she always enjoyed a drink and chatting with friends.

Metroid was good because it had a good atmosphere and story, not because you played as a girl which was only shown at the end when it first came out. It could easily have been a guy. We wouldn't have been so shocked but at that time the entire story had already shown itself to us without showing the gender. Most probably assumed it was a guy and still loved the game.

As a gamer I didn't care if it was a man or woman that was the main hero. As long as the story was interesting I liked the game. Same goes for any other female character. If they have a bad game the game will not be liked and most of the time they happen to have a bad game. Both in story and gameplay.

For Mass Effect I only really like Tali. She was mysterious and hid her face. I also played as Femsherpard but didn't feel any special bond to her. She was just a mold that you shaped into something at the end.

Next, at Polygon Katherine Cross challenges the hostile anxiety surrounding criticism in videogames, calling it a cultural "terror dream" that games are going to be censored or taken away by nagging parents and moralistic lobbyists. Or just as well, perverted so much by the inclusion of different audiences that the traditional design focus of games as havens for straight, white cis male power fantasies will disappear. (Oh, the humanity.)

Is that bolded part part of the quote or just the topic starter trying taunt us? :/
I'm just gonna assume it is used as a taunt so I can reply with this.

In Bayonetta a game where the main character is obviously sexualized and got a lot of guy gamers to point this out. Only to be told by the female lead artist/modeler of the character that she was a strong willed woman that didn't mind showing skin or becoming nearly naked. You'll still hear this from both sides. No I don't care if you think otherwise. She shows clear signs of it but it was apparently just fine because a woman did it.

If it was done by a guy he would be the receiving end of such messages but he would have no way of defending himself.
So when women do it, it's fine, but when men do it's wrong.
Not sure why most women then have problem with all the skimpy clothed female in RPGs. They are all strong willed women that don't mind showing their body and they can take down powerful monsters as well.

Hey Skullgirls have the same issue but it too was made by a woman.
http://videogamewriters.com/why-defending-skullgirls-against-sexism-accusations-is-ridiculous-31540

So all in all, we men could honestly not care because we can give the same reasons for making them like that. Not that I want to see more of it but really this would be a good argument to use against females that complain about it.

Oh no, someone said "cis" in an article seriously, here comes the WGDF and those that shout "SJW" at everything and pretend tumblr is some kind of huge driving cultural force...

Personally, I never really thought of Chakwas that way, she was such a good character she seemed to blend into the cast and environment perfectly. Not just as some archetypal grandmotherly person, but as a coworker, friend, and ally with her own motivations and perspectives. I didn't mind much that she didn't "do" much, she didn't have to, her role on the Normandy was well-defined and established as quite important.

Zefar:

Next, at Polygon Katherine Cross challenges the hostile anxiety surrounding criticism in videogames, calling it a cultural "terror dream" that games are going to be censored or taken away by nagging parents and moralistic lobbyists. Or just as well, perverted so much by the inclusion of different audiences that the traditional design focus of games as havens for straight, white cis male power fantasies will disappear. (Oh, the humanity.)

Is that bolded part part of the quote or just the topic starter trying taunt us? :/
I'm just gonna assume it is used as a taunt so I can reply with this.

In Bayonetta a game where the main character is obviously sexualized and got a lot of guy gamers to point this out. Only to be told by the female lead artist/modeler of the character that she was a strong willed woman that didn't mind showing skin or becoming nearly naked. You'll still hear this from both sides. No I don't care if you think otherwise. She shows clear signs of it but it was apparently just fine because a woman did it.

If it was done by a guy he would be the receiving end of such messages but he would have no way of defending himself.
So when women do it, it's fine, but when men do it's wrong.
Not sure why most women then have problem with all the skimpy clothed female in RPGs. They are all strong willed women that don't mind showing their body and they can take down powerful monsters as well.

Hey Skullgirls have the same issue but it too was made by a woman.
http://videogamewriters.com/why-defending-skullgirls-against-sexism-accusations-is-ridiculous-31540

So all in all, we men could honestly not care because we can give the same reasons for making them like that. Not that I want to see more of it but really this would be a good argument to use against females that complain about it.

No, it was not meant to be an "attack" on anyone, you just took it that way because that's the only way you can process the argument.

It is what it is: every time someone suggests that games could stand to be improved by more inclusiveness that reflects the increasingly diverse playerbase, we always get a disproportionate amount of outrage that seems to be obsessed with the prospect of censorship and quotas. All for suggesting that it's really not that hard to create good female characters in games, yet writers/developers/publishers can't seem to do it on any significant scale for cultural, creative, or cynical/misguided business reasons. People also think that someone criticizing a game for maybe being a little sexist at points is also saying that it's a horrible game that no one should ever play and should be censored by the government.

People like you just want to stick your head in the sand and pretend like women are perfectly represented in games because you're terrified that they might (gasp!) change. Even though it probably won't, as a whole, as there will still be all the traditional gaming genres that pander to you, it just might not take up 100% of the major game market.

So, fourth attempt to write this post, after deleting several previous attempts before they became what I'm trying to explain.

The articles quoted sound interesting and worthwhile. The way they have been presented is needlessly inflammatory, condescending, and seems to want to explain what the readers are supposed to think rather than allowing them to come to their own conclusions after reading the material contained in those links.

As such, the adjacent forum has gotten a whopping eight posts in before people start putting words into each others' mouths and sneering at each other. There are those who would describe that as "productive dialogue"; those people, however, are wrong.

If don't want "more" Critical Distance if this is going to be the form it takes.

hentropy:

It is what it is: every time someone suggests that games could stand to be improved by more inclusiveness that reflects the increasingly diverse playerbase, we always get a disproportionate amount of outrage that seems to be obsessed with the prospect of censorship and quotas. All for suggesting that it's really not that hard to create good female characters in games, yet writers/developers/publishers can't seem to do it on any significant scale for cultural, creative, or cynical/misguided business reasons. People also think that someone criticizing a game for maybe being a little sexist at points is also saying that it's a horrible game that no one should ever play and should be censored by the government.

People like you just want to stick your head in the sand and pretend like women are perfectly represented in games because you're terrified that they might (gasp!) change. Even though it probably won't, as a whole, as there will still be all the traditional gaming genres that pander to you, it just might not take up 100% of the major game market.

The worst part for me is how they get incensed at a 'compromising of artistic vision' that MAY happen ONE DAY, yet either ignore or give thumbs up to the compromising of artistic vision already happening when devs are made to use a straight white male as protagonist if they had intended to have otherwise.

 

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