(This will probably be a retread of some ideas discussed in my earlier blog, but focusing on one particular point I wanted to make. Apologies.)
Required (or suggested) reading:
And for extra kicks and giggles, google "Penny Arcade 3 bitch" like I did that led me to this place originally.
Now, while Courtney Stanton's twitter is the place where I'm primarily drawing it from, this issue has been stewing in my brain for weeks--how do you "fix" gaming culture so that all "groups" feel more welcome? Is that necessary? Does anything need fixing, are we just being hypersensitive, or what?
Personally, I'm aware that yes, there are a lot of games that feature women whose proportions aren't just unrealistic but either outright impossible or, at the least, dangerous to emulate. I'm aware that games exist in which the female characters are marginalized, basically reduced to talking plot devices with boobs to ogle. I get that, and I think it's a sign of bad writing and poor maturity rather than some kind of industry wide attempt at oppression.
In that sense, the solution (in my opinion) should be to focus on better writing, not to ensure there's some kind of 1:1 ratio between your average straight white male and <insert group of people here>. Natural diversity as a result of good writing and plotting is a good thing; forced diversity is patronizing in the extreme. Shoving a black character into a game without any other reason than to say "oh look how progressive we are" or to shut up a vocal contingent of people who demand this sort of thing doesn't suddenly ease the ills of our society; it just pats someone on the head and moves right on.
You see, it's not the characters' skin colors or sexualities that have to change, it's how well they're written. I should be able to relate to a character because of their psychological traits and personalities, not their plumbing or race. This is my issue: by implying that people need "representation" by way of physically similar characters, we run into all sorts of uncomfortable suggestions--what, am I supposed to automatically relate to every straight white male out there? Are we all psychologically similar? Does that mean all women are psychologically similar, all gay men, all lesbians, all black people, Native Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Korean?
Do these physical, biological traits carry personality with them? Will these people automatically act like me because they look like me? Am I not supposed to play as a female character (say, in Mass Effect, where the voice acting is insanely better on the female side) because I won't be able to relate? Exactly what is being represented by having people who look like you on the screen?
And what about constantly pointing out when it does happen? I read once about a woman in Alaska who'd been mayor of a small town for many years, and this place was apparently a haven of sorts, just this incredible little village--all run by a "strong woman." Would her achievements have meant any less as a man? What does that say about society's expectations for both?
As for "rape culture," I don't find rape jokes funny, and I found the "Dickwolves" comic mentioned above to be kinda dumb--and perhaps an instance where PA's humor got away from them, although I don't think they were out to hurt anybody. More than that, though, I'm getting tired of it--tired of the assumption that I'm somehow a rapist just because I've got male plumbing, and tired of the fact that on the one hand, I'm told to assume that every woman has the potential to be as physically strong as a man--ESPECIALLY in video games--just before we turn around and decry any violence against women as something that should never happen. How the fuck does that work?!
If you want the short version: the whole goddamn pursuit is a bit of a double standard planted in the same soil as your run of the mill racism, sexism and homophobia--the idea that biological, physical traits somehow drive and define people, rather than the things that actually make them unique among these huge groups of similar surface distinctions. It's bad for everybody.