About a month ago I was lounging in my boyfriend’s house, listening to him discuss his Christmas plans with his housemates.
“I really need to get some dissertation done,” he moaned.
“Me too, don’t know why I haven’t got more work done here.”
At this point I would like to point out that both men were sat playing Crash Team Racing on the Playstation3. To an outsider, a non-gamer, this problem basically answered itself. “What are you going to do at Christmas, when you get even more games as presents?” I asked in regards to his productivity later that night, partly to mock him, partly to give hints that I had bought him new PS3 games – which, like, totally, makes me the best girlfriend EVER, and should like, just super awesome presents in return.
“Oh I’m not taking my playstation back with me.”
“Oh… So it’s staying here?”
“On its own?”
“Just gathering dust?”
“…seems like a bit of a waste, I mean, when there’s people out there who don’t have playstations, in like third world countries, and here you are just lea-.”
“Do you want it?”
“Oh well, if you insist.”
Here I have a small confession to make – I really want a playstation3. A long time ago I loved playing on my playstation1, I had all the classics: Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Digimon World (fuck you, it was a classic to me). But then playstation2 came along, and coming from, as the government would call it, a ‘disadvantaged background’ I was left behind in the console revolution. Overtime, I would watch as the game trailers came onto the TV and let out a morose sigh, pretending I was a modern day Austen character who was too poor to afford the basics in life. Oh woe was me…
By the time the playstation3 came out (costing, as the experts formally called it ‘a fuck load’) I found myself resided to the fact that I would never be a gamer. In fact, I almost felt that I had no right to become a gamer.
Let’s face it gaming is a boy’s world.
Anyone who wants to argue against this point need only look to Feminist Frequency and the hate one woman gathered by questioning the misogynistic principles of gaming characters. Men run the gaming world – you have your brogramers, female gaming writers being referred to as ‘cancer’, the fact that most games have a male target audience, and the footage of mile long lines running from gaming shops during a release of a game like Call of Duty being made up of 95% guys. I’ve even heard of male gamers complaining to other male gamers of a woman’s annoying tendency to brag about being a female gamer – like that’s a crime? If I was an amazing gamer, I could keep up with the best of them in Halo or otherwise, damn right I would let them know about my lady bits. I’d be all BEHOLD HOW MY TITS HAVEN’T STOPPED ME FROM PERFORMING A HEADSHOT ON YOUR SORRY ASS – MUWAHAHA!!
I mean really, if you have a pen full of camels and you dumped a penguin in there, wouldn’t that penguin like a little recognition for sticking it out in the smelly camel pen?
My boyfriend leaving me his playstation3 over the Christmas break was my chance to be that penguin. And there was only one game that I wanted to get made hands on: Mass Effect.
Thanks to tumblr, I have found myself having a massive feminist crush over Mass Effect, which has only gotten worse since playing it. Yes, I’ll admit up front that it’s not perfect. In fact, I very much doubt Bioware had any intention of making their FemShep such a breath of air, as one article states:
It’s no secret that BioWare has always considered ‘FemShep’ (the one and only time I’ll be using that ghastly nickname) a mere alternative to Mass Effect’s real hero – the grizzled male Commander Shepard seen in all the adverts and on all the game boxes.
They provided one because one was expected, but aside from recording a couple of romance scenes and a few alterered pronouns in conversations, then tweaking some armour designs to give them a bit more space here and here, she was a very half-hearted addition. The female Shepard very obviously uses male motion capture data for instance, which reached its ultimate nadir with the Kasumi DLC for ME2, when she gets a slinky dress to wear, but promptly loses the ability to sit down without putting on a show.
And yes, there is the issue that the Asari (who I love none the less) seem to be the only strippers available in every night club, or that every race apart from us human and the Asari have sever female shortages – I mean, after three epically long games, how is it that only NOW we get to see a female turian?
But all of that aside, when I really get into the game, there’s no arguing that the women steal the show.
FemShep, as she’s known online, or simply Shepard to me, feels like a breath of fresh air, not just in gaming but to a lot of fictional female characters in the main stream media. Maybe it’s because she grounded in the male version of the character, but in being so, she has been able to bypass all those tired clichés for heroines – the mother figure, the fuckable fighter, the sexy villain. Our Shepard embodies so much more than that – she’s a soldier. A fully trained, get-the-job-done, warrior. Who’s talent isn’t based on indebted other worldly powers, or sole innate gift but training, experience, dedication, and (excuse the non-feminist phrasing) massive lady-balls.
As other commenter’s have said before, her appeal isn’t merely that she ends up as the right woman for the job, but as the right human. Apart from a few sly comments from some mercenary types, you never get the feeling that Shepard is in anyway limited by her gender, or that the other characters looked down on her or second guess her authority because of it.
Part of this presence, undeniably comes from the voice actor Jennifer Hale, who takes lines that would otherwise come out as tired and a bit silly by any other female voice actor and grounds them with a believable characterization – avoiding the awkward pronoun swapping problem of ‘man with breasts’ syndrome. She gives the character a personality, you sometimes don’t even need to look at the screen in order to heard the smirk in Shepard’s quips.
In comparison, the male Shepard becomes a bit of a bore. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
In fact, most of the men, aside the aliens, are like talking meat sacks. Anyone who’s played Gears of War, has seen male Shepard before. The brutish, bulky male hero who powers through the mission, occasionally showing off a heart of gold, or just simply being an asshole because, well fuck it, might as well. And the other men aren’t much better.
Currently I’m playing Mass Effect 2, I’m getting pretty deep into the story and so far I’ve seen a few opportunities for some romance. Unfortunately, none of the men really make the standard. Jacob is just another boring solider type, same goes for Kaiden. In fact I find myself hovering around the characters of Jack, Miranda, Samara, and Tali just hoping for a look in. Those women have character, going through Jacob’s loyalty mission, the only thing I cared about was maybe a monkey running into view…
Even the minor female characters have more grit that some of the men. Would you really want to fuck around with Aria? Or how can you not respect the long standing military physician Dr. Karin Chakwas?
Again, I’m not saying the game is perfect, or that video games are moving in the right direction when it comes to feminism – Lollipop Chainsaw? Really? But at the very least, it’s nice to know that some heterosexuals may be picking the lesbian love scenes for reasons other than their porn subscription ran out.
Now does anyone know how to get Tali to take that damn mask off? And no, my boyfriend will not be getting this game back or his console…