Video games are a growing medium. They have the capacity to be anything from really fun toys to deeply emotional experiences. In my twenty or so years of gaming, I’ve seen graphics go from crude pixel art to fully rendered, photorealistic models. Stories have become more involved and control schemes have become more complex. Of course, there are nostalgic efforts and departures from futurism, but the general level of quality is so much higher. What a time to be alive, indeed. However, while we’re making progress in some areas, we are still lagging behind in others. The content of our games and characters isn’t improving at quite the same pace. We’ve expanded the roles of what women are “allowed” to be in our games, so on the one hand, we are advancing the idea that women aren’t simply trophies in another castle to be rescued or obtained. But on the other, we are still very much pushing the idea that women in games have to be conventionally attractive.
Gaming has some problems. We know this, and it’s been well documented. However, we can look even further into some of them. I’ve read theories and information painting the Metroid series as about motherhood in some capacity. While I have never played the games, this concept seems interesting to me. Motherhood is an experience that I’ll never be able to have, and experiencing new things is the reason many of us play games. I couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to be a mother, but having an experience at least analogous to that can help me be more empathetic to those who have. This got me to thinking: I play many games starring men, as this industry has a gender disparity, but I can’t recall seeing too many gaming experiences about being a man.
You know what was a legitimately amazing game? The Last Of Us. Yes, I’m still on about this. I’m probably going to be on about it for a while. It is one of the best games I’ve ever played, hands-down, and this is as close to gaming’s “Citizen Kane moment” as many people are ever going to agree upon. I’ve heard the argument that this isn’t possible because of the way that we relate to adapting video game technology, and that older games are too frustrating, clunky, and obsolete for generations of newer gamers to play. I don’t buy it.
Let me explain, briefly, what is meant by “Citizen Kane moment.” It’s not a perfect metaphor. The film‘s 1941 release was not met with the great fanfare that our cultural nostalgia would indicate. The film fared poorly at the box office, and won a single Oscar for Best Screenplay. It wasn’t until film theorists and film history buffs looked back on the film in the late fifties and sixties that we decided that the film was a masterwork. Keep in mind that when Kane was released, Welles was a first time film director, a 25 year old theatre director a few years off the shutdown of the Federal Theatre Project. It may have been overtaken by Vertigo, but the idea is that looking backwards we see something truly great and groundbreaking. The metaphor is imperfect because The Last of Us is great right now. Continue reading