Guest author Jonathan Cooper talks about his views on gender and gaming.
I’ve been a reader of Gamemoir for a while now, every now and again looking at articles that I found interesting or controversial/argumentative. Something that has stricken me as odd is that I have failed to find an article discussing gender or gender roles in video games and their stories, this topic that pops up so much in my studies and yet has not here.
Recently I came across an argument over the difference in a male Commander Shepard vs. a female Shepard, this I found to be extremely different and odd to even be a discussion.
We as gamers are given a variety of ways to enjoy and experience different stories through video games, if you prefer more action less dialogue there are games like Call of duty and Battlefield, if you prefer control over having a linear path to be followed you have Minecraft and Black and White 2.
Meanwhile for those of us that love the lore, the exploration of a wider world or universe and crave both exciting game play and a detailed, interesting story have The Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, and we are not tied down to these titles mentioned above, there are thousands more that all excel in what they do.
But one constant throughout all of these no matter how you play or what you play is that they all have a protagonist, a vehicle to drive the story and the game on. The argument I came across was an argument over the fact that the female Shepard should not be considered ‘the’ Shepard of the Mass Effect series.
How angry this made me was for all intents and purposes incredible not because I agree or disagree but because these people trading barbs across the internet had both missed the point entirely.
When the decision by BioWare was taken to create Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect story I do not believe the thought, “Oh yeah it’s got to be a guy, it can’t be a girl on the front cover” which was further proven by the fat they created a female poster woman for the collector’s edition of the third game in the title.
They had created a great universe, an impressive array of characters both good and bad, here’s looking at you Illusive man, and all these people could argue over was if the main character’s genitals were inside or outside their body in the “official version”.
They had missed the fact that the “official version” is irrelevant, your version is what matters, how you dealt with the choices put in front of you, how you went about saving the universe and part of this decision was made before you even had one shot, one conversation it was the choice to be a man or a woman and both are perfect choices, you are not given any benefit or levied any fine for picking one over the other.
You are allowed to choose your vehicle, your mode of traversing the story which is a beautiful thing.
It is irrelevant if you are a man or woman in your games, the games you play will be the same, the stories to explore and experience will be the same. This is why in my humble opinion that now when we are about to enter the “Next Gen” of gaming we are seeing men and women be given equal representation in games.
Shown by how for the first time ever in a Battlefield game there will be a heavy female presence throughout, a trend that I am sure will bleed out through all types of games, I believe that for all the Master Chiefs and Mario’s we have we also need our Jodie’s and our Ellie’s in the hope that the gaming industry will be awarded the same respect that film and books are given.
To achieve this we have to first afford the respect of equality to the games characters that we should give to each other in real life.
It’s important for us as gamers to remember that regardless of the gender we are in real life it bears no meaning on the gender of the protagonist we are playing, and how if it is a man or a woman they are only our vehicles, our eyes and ears to experience the beautifully crafted stories given to use.