So my recent post about why I want to design video games got me going on all sorts of crazy issue which are very dear to me: namely, geekery and progressive social reform. Anyway, it got me thinking that I have a lot to say about the issue of how games could be more marketable to queers and that I can see it being something that spurns a lot of writing, so expect to see more on this issue, at least in the near future (until my next big project comes up and I find a new white whale). Anyway, I thought I’d start by giving some big ups to some games which I think have at least tried to buck tradition and be more woman-friendly (although not necessarily queer-friendly), as well as some of my favorite games which would be my favorite-est games if they made a few small changes.
Xenosaga I, II, & III: So I must admit that I only play Episode II when it’s been so long that I’m fuzzy on some detail or other of the story (about once every 14-16 months), but the first and third installments are probably my two favorite games ever. I play Episode III more than any other game, even more than Final Fantasy III, Silent Hill 2, and Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, which were my previous favorites before 2006. Anyway, there’s very little I would change about this game to make it more woman-friendly. Shion is a strong woman who is not necessarily independent yet, but she’s working on it and ultimately gets there when she helps to save the universe from imploding or whatever. She may be a bitch at times, but give her a break: she’s got a lot on her plate. I’m even fine with the fact that she’s straight, because the guy she pines for and thinks is dead turns out to be King of the Über-Douches, so it sends a message of “don’t always count on the knight in shining armor”, which I like for being decidedly un-sexist. Her friends are the ones who’ve always got her back, even her flaky big bro. And Allen, the other love interest, is pretty much a woman, so it’s sort of queer, right? Also, chaos strikes me as queer, so there’s that. And then KOS-MOS is the mother of all strong female characters. She’s one badass weapon of mass awesome, even if she is objectified a bit. I guess they could’ve toned the robo-erotic stuff down a bit, but still, it’s got some major pros in pro-woman category. If the Gnosis ever strike again, maybe we’ll even have a queer leading character.
Silent Hill 2 & 3: So Silent Hill 2 is another of my all-time favorites, and I think it’s got a fairly feminist message. Sure, the main character is a man–and not just any man, but the Emperor of Misogynistic Assholes–but it’s his blatant woman-hating that gets him sucked into a creepy demon-filled hell-town. The game is loaded down with more Freudian imagery than an Early 20th Century Avant-Garde art show, and it all revolves around James’s objectification of the lady-folk. The message is what makes this game pro-woman, and that message is: “Dudes, don’t treat your ladies like pieces of meat and then murder them when they can no longer satisfy your desires, or else they’ll turn into demon ghosts and try to kill you.” As for Silent Hill 3, it’s a game about a teenage gal who has to save the world from Evil Demon God and His Crazy Cultists (after carrying him in her womb! talk about a compelling argument for a right to get an abortion) with little to no help from others. How often do you see that in video games?
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature: This would rank right up there with Xenosaga Episode III and Silent Hill 2 as Greatest Game in the Universe if only for two simple changes: Be whatever gender you want, and marry who the fuck you want. They could release a game that was identical in every other way–including graphics–and I would still pay $60 and end up flunking out of school after wasting 6 months of my life on it. It would just be that good.
Avalon Code: This hidden gem is one of the biggest unsung heroes of the RPG world, which is saying a lot since a lot of great RPGs slip by unnoticed in the seas of Final Fantasies and Elder Scrollses. It’s one of the best portable games I’ve ever played, and if they made one simple change, I’d think it was one of the greatest games ever. It’s the same thing as Harvest Moon: I dig that I get to save the universe as a young lady, but why the fuck are my romantic options limited to things with digital dicks? I mean, seriously, I can marry a freaky midget fire-spirit, but I can’t marry a girl? WTF, mates? Again, make that simple change, and it’d be Game of the Millennium.
Anyway, I could go through the list of all 80 of my games and tell you what’s sexist/heterosexist about all of them, but that’d take forever. Maybe that’ll be a new book project. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at creative nonfiction…