Thursday, October 18, 2007

always christmas and:

[in my next post, I will take the piss out of CS Lewis more directly, I promise.]

Alis Dee: breaking my heart and winning the internets.

A related aside; when replaying RPGs, it's really interesting to gen a character of the opposite gender to the one you took in your first trip. Firstly, I find it subtly changes the way you see social tone of the gameworld. (This is particularly so in BGII: Throne of Bhaal - standing there between Sarevok and Imoen, whether you're representing yourself as male or female does make a slight difference, if only in my head.) Secondly, it makes you aware of how the gameworld doles out [relentlessly heteronormative] sexual comfort to each gender. I usually, but not always, go with female characters on first playthroughs, and regularly wind up shocked when situations that were rendered neutrally in that first playthrough are directly, deliberately sexual when I'm playing a man.

I've just got done replaying Neverwinter Nights and it's pretty stunning how much cock-soothing there is thrown in there - everyone from both the two female henchmen to many minor NPCs to one of the major villains is at it. I'm fond enough of Aarin Gend, but after trying it in gamer drag, he feels like famine. Solanas was right; a female PC is asexual, desireless, but a female NPC is an object, a fucktoy. [We will forgive NWN, but only because of Valen. Valen!]

You can always reinterpret a book, but in videogames misogyny is hardwired, right there in the 1s and 0s. It's made invisible to female gamers except in the ultralight of drag. Weirder still is the experience of playing one of those games that were written before gender; I played a little of Final Fantasy I last year, and was confused at the excess of random lesbianism until I realised that the game was assuming that all my self-genned, neutrally presented characters were male.

7 comments:

V said...

Now I'm interested in playing FFI! Maybe there is something to be said about that particular series changing with the times, because not all female protagonists later are asexual or desireless. I like to think they've depicted some women of strength, also: Celes, Tifa (disproportionate chest aside; and she's not the magic-user class, hooray!), Ashe, Quistis, Lucca (Chrono Trigger)...

Curious to see what FFXIII's leading female character would be like.

(If you meant just RPGs in which you gen characters, uh, just ignore me!)

thene said...

The problem with FF1 is simply that when genning characters no gender is specified at all. So I genned these four adventurers I had sat around my head, all of them female, and it wasn't til I was a few hours into the game that I realised NPCs were referring to all my characters as being male. The idea that a PC would not be male hadn't occurred to the developers at any stage of the process.

I've been away from consoles for years so mostly do RPGs in which you do gen characters. Those in which you don't are very interesting too - not least in the relative scarcity of female leads at all. (Another reason why I adore Lara no matter what anyone says.) In a way Yuffie > Tifa, I think, because she's nobody's love interest, and she's used to explore filial bonding in a way that games more commonly do with male characters. I sometimes prefer game women to be relatively asexual, because they never seem to have desires so much as entanglements - Sharwyn and Linu in NWN aren't desiring, they're pandering.

This is especially obvious in FFVII, NWN and also early-game BGII because there are so many different women engaging with the [male] PC romantically/sexually, pandering to that protagonistic ego. Female main characters get, at best, one such flirtee. Every time. So Lara or Yuffie not being involved at all is a bit of a holiday from convention.

Dee said...

Baldur's Gate was the first game I gender-switched for; after that experience I literally did not play another female character in a game until WoW.

Well, that's not quite true. I used to play male avatars, but (thanks to the lovely character editors people made for the Infinity Engine games) would set the internal gender flags to female. Mmm, self-made slash. >:]

thene said...

AAAHAHAAA. I recall a lesbian friend of my sister's who did that in reverse so she could get some Jaheiraslash.

I've never tried the Solaufein mod but the blurb notes that it is eminently slashable.

Irving Washington said...

Oh dear, I think you really show me up for the unreformed mysognist I really must be.

I've never played WoW and rarely get on RPGs, but the thought of playing in a game as a female character's never occurred to me. Although I did like Perfect Dark (although saying that, if I could've chosen I probably would've played as a bloke character).

Reminds me of my Combat Flight Simulator days when I would only play as the allies.

I need to do some soul-searching about this. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

thene said...

No need to take it seriously - you don't *write* the things, after all. It's like with Warner Bros's decision to not make films with female leads any more - they're relying on the audience containing more people like you than people like me, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially in games which more or less screw you over if you play as a woman. (I think WoW doesn't do that, and I know The Sims/Sims 2 doesn't, and it's worth noting that those are the two biggest money machines in gaming right now. Screwing half your potential market is every kind of stupid, and the rewards prove it.)

I don't see it as unreformed misogyny to not have tried it - like I said, I usually start with female characters (is that misandry?), and the only reason I switch is to get at the glorious acres of male-only plotline; playing as female rarely has such benefits, except in NWN-HotU. (VALEN.) I do feel like I've gained more of an understanding of male privilege by switching, though. (I've a male friend who genderflips on Second Life, and he says he's learned a lot about social gender differences from that - and that's a 'real' social environment rather than one that's been pre-constructed by (mostly) straight (mostly) men.

Irving Washington said...

"and the only reason I switch is to get at the glorious acres of male-only plotline"

Actually that's a really good point and explains (forgives?) my attitude quite a bit. Traditionally I suppose, games have been made predominantly from a male POV and the development of female characters wasn't there in a)any actual degree, or b) any worthwhile degree. So I'll put my mysogyny down to the people that write these things rather than handwringing about what a b*stard I must be.

If/when I ever get into Second Life I will consider a gender swap now. Your mate's on to something there and it reminds me (everything 'reminds me' today...) of the different monikers I've had on Comment is Free and the different reactions I've got from them. Writing stuff (even the most benign of comments) from a vaguely moslem sounding moniker attracted waaay more heat than a simple British male name. I stick to SEN5421 now--it's what anyone wants it to be.