Given the current state of the nation, I think it’s fair to admit that a lot of us are reeling and suffering from the recent election results. While I absolutely respect and encourage those who are able to go out and protest in any way they can, sometimes we all need a little diversion from the shittiness that’s been thrust upon us. While for me this usually manifests in playing Harvest Moon or fiddling with the slew of dollmakers on Rinmaru, I just so happened to come upon another great game for when you really want to disconnect from the real world for a bit. If you’re a fan of internet dress-up games too, then you’ll adore Style Savvy: Fashion Forward.
Recently, something with a potentially important impact on my life has occurred. No, it’s not the announcement of the final Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC (although I am literally still screaming from the PAX trailer, and will be until it comes out on the 8th), but it does have to do with video games.
As many of us in the gaming sphere are well aware of by this point, the culture surrounding video games isn’t always welcoming to its ladies, both in and outside of the games themselves. From lady characters getting shafted in the name of more male exposure (re: Ubi’s ignoring of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate’s Evie at E3) to pathetic attempts to silence the ever-growing voice of the female gaming community, there’s a lot of shit to sift through. Arguably, progress has been made over the last decade, but I think the recent release of a certain game on Steam could be a sign of even more positive progress in the inclusion of lady gamers. Last week, otome game fans rejoiced as Idea Factory was finally able to release a fully translated version of their game, Amnesia: Memories.
Ever since Ubisoft’s conference at E3, it seems like the whole internet has been shitting on them, and why not? If any gaming development team—or any development team of any media—in this day and age seriously expects to use “it’s too hard” as an excuse to exclude female characters from their games, then they need to be told by thousands of people that their stance is wrong. Period. For once, though, the incensed denizens of the internet weren’t alone. We were joined by several prolific voices in the gaming community, from those who worked on Assassin’s Creed (the series being scrutinized, in case you forgot), to mocap specialists, and even other game companies. Yes, indeed: the public and the industries seem to be ready for more games with female stories.
So, game companies, why aren’t you doing anything about it?
I’m not complaining: companies that willingly agree that this trend of throwing female characters under the bus in favor of more comfortable male characters is kind of fucked up is, well, unexpected and appreciated. Yet it’s easy to agree with these things—especially when they make your company look good—when you don’t actually have to do anything about them. While I did, and still do, laugh at the jibes made at Ubisoft’s expense by Insomniac Games and Breakfall, they’re not exactly remedying the issue. But they’re not alone; I’d hazard to say that most everyone else is in the same boat of confusing the representation of women in video games with video games that feature female stories. While both are very much needed in this medium, we are suffering a drought of the latter.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from Disney over the years, it’s that princesses sell. In fact, even if a girl isn’t a princess, she ends up being turned into a princess all for the sake of marketing—is it any wonder why toys of Lilo and Stitch are no longer being made despite the strength of the film itself? There’s something timeless about a princess, or at least the concept of them, and the movie industry hasn’t been the only one to notice this. Many modern games still employ princesses as a trope or a stand-in collectible, both of which aren’t really ideal for the representation of ladies in games. But let’s bring this back to marketability and the line-up of one very specific puzzle in the 3DS Mii Plaza.
Ever since I saw it, I knew that I’d have to complete the ‘Nintendo Starlets’ puzzle no matter how many people I’d need to street pass to get the pieces. Obviously I knew Princess Peach would be on there, but the other characters were a mystery to me: which female characters would Nintendo deign to put on the same rank as the pinnacle of princessliness herself?
As I continued getting pieces, though, I became more and more disappointed. Rosalina was the next princess I unlocked: not unexpected, and my feelings on her are rather neutral. Then Zelda. Then… Zelda again. And finally Pauline. I don’t know about you, but there’s something incredibly boring about this group. The disappointment came twofold: from a girl who didn’t sign up for a puzzle called “Nintendo Princesses” and from a Nintendo fan who knows that Nintendo has a wealth of female characters to choose from, or at least enough that they didn’t have to use Zelda twice.
Have you ever witnessed something so utterly terrible you couldn’t look away from it?
A few weeks ago, I went to one of the few cons I attend. I’m not really a panel person—I’m more the type to hang out in the game room as much as possible with a few forays into the dealer’s room—but there was a panel this year that caught my eye. It was called “Girls and Gaming”. Come on, how could I resist seeing what that was about? Before the panel even started, I had already began visualizing some PowerPoint about the problems girls face in the realm of gamers, or games featuring more female-centric stories. Needless to say, I was pretty hyped—this kind of panel really isn’t tackled in general, or at least not at the smaller cons I tend to go to, and definitely not usually run by a fellow girl gamer. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not what this panel was about. Soon enough, insults were being hurled, from “sluts” to the barely-even-an-insult “gamer girl” (gamers’
equivalent to the “fake geek girl”, which we’ve discussed before here), simply because the speaker didn’t approve of the way these other girls they encountered were gaming. By this point, I couldn’t pull myself away from the wreckage: this panel was set to crash and burn and I could only watch on in horrified awe.
Just before I could start complaining about not having any games to play—a common complaint of a gamer, and hardly ever true—my girlfriend was kind enough to purchase the PC game Long Live the Queen for me. Let me tell you right now: this game is fucking difficult. It’s not just me being bad at the game, though I’m far from an expert; rather, Long Live the Queen takes some serious planning to get anywhere substantial.
Upon reflection, the thing I’m more surprised by is that I didn’t expect it to be difficult, or at least as difficult as it ended up being. This was a three-fold problem of misconception: knowing the game developer, knowing the type of game, and, due to the previous two, some unfairly lowered standards on my part. If you hold some of these same misconceptions, allow me to help alleviate them now; this game and this developer honestly deserve a lot of credit—much more than many would give them right off the bat.
In terms of the two clear, gender-divided, advertiser-defined areas of the gaming audience, it can be exceedingly difficult, even impossible, to draw direct parallels. Comparing a game like Gears of War to Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue, while in a sense comparing a game that’s stereotypically appealing to a male audience to one intended for a female audience, does nothing to explore the finer intricacies that attempt to further deepen the divide between gamers, but instead gives way to the simple, generally assumed idea that games created with girls as their target audience are to be ridiculed. While several games of this genre certainly deserve their infamous status, there are also many of this genre that undeservedly get lumped in with the negative sentiments of their kin. Today I hope to shed more light on one of these games while also exploring why its sibling game got a much better rep. Today, we see how the acclaimed DS game, Elite Beat Agents, stacks up against Princess Debut.
If ever there was a gaming genre which would be at the bottom of the list for gender comparison, it would be the rhythm games. In the American market, the only other rhythm game I can think of that had notable characters would be Dance Dance Revolution. Even then, saying that those characters actually are in possession of character would be questionable. Despite other games like Project Diva—games with not fully fleshed out characters, but characters that have an inkling of a personality—coming out, I think it’s safe to assume that people don’t play rhythm games for the entrancing story nor the memorable characters. However, this is what both of the games in question have. To an extent.
Once upon a time about six years ago in a Gamestop, not so different from a store near you, I came across an in-store display. “Games for Girls” it read in its lavender lettering, flowers adorning the sides. I doubt any guy bought the games that were in that display. Indeed, I can’t imagine any girl buying many of the games in there either. If you’ve spent any time anywhere, you probably know the games that were displayed: Imagine: Babies, Girls Mode, Cooking Mama, some horse game. I exchanged a knowing look with the female cashier, chuckled a bit, and went on my way, but the advertisement has never left my mind in all these long years. I had never really wondered why before a couple days ago. It’s beyond a simple incredulity about the stupidity of the campaign and I’m discovering this area of gaming is much greyer than I originally thought.
What are ‘games for girls’?