I've never enjoyed writing a bio. It's equivalent to trying to sell yourself to a potential employer, but with a higher chance of not having anything to offer that will benefit the current community you're interested in joining. In an online community you throw your arms up in the air and yell "Here I am!", and then sit back hoping someone takes notice in the good you do, while on the same note, you hope you don't get ridiculed for a stupid action. I suppose at least there's the anonymity of being on the web, so with that I'll throw my arms up and attempt an introduction blog.
Lost Kitty by Adam Hughes
I am a collector of fantasy, video game, and comic book art. In fact, if you were to walk into my office you'd probably believe you stepped into a game shop of some sort. You know the little shops where you can go to get miniatures, dice, game cards, and comics. They closed ours down not long ago. Sad days. I love the work of the artists that have done pieces for Dungeons & Dragons, such as William O'Connor, Larry Elmore, and Todd Lockwood. Adam Hughes, Melanie Delon, Brian Froud, and Luis Royo are a few other artists that I enjoy. I could probably list 20 more names here, but I won't.
Welcome! Why don't you come into the kitchen and pull up a chair. Would you like some coffee? It's freshly brewed. The cups are over in the cupboard to the right. It's serve yourself around this household, after all I'm not your maid. So I invited you over because I thought we'd have a little talk about sex in video games. I'm not talking about nudity, like looking at Laura Croft's pixel boobs, or Cleopatra's giant bosom in which babies were emitted in Dante's Inferno. Oh don't give me that innocent and confused look like you don't know what I'm talking about. It was weird! Seriously. Flying babies and tongues. What the hell were those people thinking! But I digress, for what I'm talking about is the actual act of having sex in video games.
Just mentioning the word sex can result in some pretty funny reactions from people. You sometimes get the previously mentioned reaction of confusion; disbelief that the topic is being brought up. Direct eye contact is broken, you notice slight blushing, and you can tell the person is uncomfortable with the conversation before even knowing in which direction you'll be taking it. Then you have people who are completely comfortable talking about sex. They'll talk openly about it, crack a few jokes, and sometimes tell you amazing stories in which you can turn around at a later date and embarrass the hell out of them. That's always fun. Especially when there's drinking involved. And let's not forget the children. Talking to your parents about sex is usually one of the most uncomfortable situations to be put in as a child. Sure, you've talked about it with your friends, often picking up false information along the road, and you've seen it on the internet, on the TV, and read about it in books. But that first time your parents sit you down for the "talk" all you can think about is running in the other direction.
Now I'm sure everyone's familiar at this point with the segment by Fox News that opened with "Se" Xbox? New Video Game Features Full Digital Nudity." The game they were talking about, of course, was Mass Effect. As an adult gamer and parent I loved that segment! It's probably one of my favorite Fox News segments of all time. And I still giggle when I remember my 15-year-old son throwing his hands in the air and literally yelling, "OH NO! I MIGHT SEE SOMETHING THAT WAS ON TV LAST NIGHT!" I especially love the comment that stated, "In some parts of this you'll see full digital nudity. And the ability for the players to engage in graphic sex and the person who's playing the game gets to decide exactly what's going to happen between the two people, if you know what I mean..."
No, I didn't know what they meant. I mean, I envisioned several different options that ranged from steamy hot sex in the elevator, thus relieving the boredom of the loading screen, to kicking Jacob out of my bedroom (completely aroused, mind you) as payback for all the effort I had to put into getting him there in the first place. What? Do you know how many times I had to talk to that man? Every time I talked to him it seemed my female Shepard was practically willing to lay right down on that table she was leaning against and spread her legs! Was he interested at all the first 20 times of doing it? Hell no! Bastard! But to be serious, that was some very bad voice acting there. I expected it to be done better, considering the other interactions she had with squad members were top notch.
Every now and then the media will come along and raise a fuss over sexual activity in our beloved video games. Parents and church groups will protest, and we'll all stand ready to defend our mature rated games and our rights to them. Now I'm not sure if it's because I'm older or the fact that I'm a parent, but my curiosity peeked (that and I get bored easily) and I decided to ask people of different ages what they thought of sex in games geared toward adults only. I got some interesting results, however, if I were to break it down into two groups, I found that the older the person was the less they liked the idea of sexual activity in video games, where as 20 to 30-year-olds were more accepting. Yes, I know. Hell of a find, right Sherlock? I mean considering that there's a large number of 20 to 30-year-old gamers in this day and age. But my questioning did pay off as I received some great feedback from people in their 60's and 70's as to why they thought M rated games shouldn't exist.
One lady I questioned told me, "My generation wouldn't have kept filth like that in the house. Porn doesn't belong in games for children." Porn? Well we all know for the longest time video games have been associated with children, but I hadn't specified what kind of sexual activity, yet immediately she assumed I'm talking R rated just because I mentioned a game targeted for adults. But maybe she's right. Remember the beloved Atari 2600? Of course you do, and if you don't all I have to say is pfft...you call yourself a gamer? Now some disgruntled employees of Atari Inc. would end up leaving the company and venture off to form their own independent software companies. In fact Activision, the most prominent of those third-party developers was formed in 1979.
But a little company named Mystique came along and produced a number of pornographic games for the 2600. They developed a controversial little game called Custer's Revenge that was released in 1982. Yep, there be sexual activity in that game, my friend. Mystique was criticized over it appearing to be rape. They were attacked by women's rights groups, Native American groups, and even a group called Women Against Pornography. What did all that do for the game? Well it sold over 80,000 copies of the crap little game; more copies than the company's other two games, Bachelor Party and Beat Em' & Eat Em'. Hey, I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to! Go find out about the other two on your own time, you little freak..
Now you have me rambling again. Why don't you go and grab us a couple beers out of the fridge. Make sure you take the cheap stuff, since you were to damn inconsiderate to pour a second cup of coffee for me earlier. Where was I? Ah, yes. So I can see how she related an M rated game for adults with pornography, even though there may not be anything that risque to see. I still remember my own grandmother telling me to stay out of the one desk drawer because that's where grandpa kept his "mature" stuff. I'd later find out that his mature stuff consisted mainly of old adult cartoon books and shot glasses. They were pretty funny. I still have one somewhere. The cartoon books that is. I know perfectly well where all the shot glasses are.
One other response I got from a younger man, a man in his 30's, was that maybe if developers wouldn't try to hide mature content in games it would be more acceptable. Let's bring up GTA: San Andreas and the little sex scene more notably know as The Hot Coffee. This mini game was inaccessible under normal play in the 2004 release of the game. However, in 2005 the mod to enable it gained public awareness, and boy what a shit storm of controversy came down over it. Suddenly the ESRB, The Federal Trade Commission, Hillary Clinton - hell, even an 85-year-old grandmother, (who filed a lawsuit) went after Rockstar. Hot Coffee is still referenced in Rockstar's 2008 release of Grand Theft Auto IV, but there are no mods for it like in San Andreas..... or are there? Hmmm...
So we keep pushing for more adult themes in video games, but the industry really hasn't done a very good job of representing us in the past. And although most of the time the media makes a mountain out of a mole hill, like in the case of Mass Effect, it's the past examples that still leave a tainted mark on the industry's record. I should note that I'm for adult themes and sexual activity in video games that are rated M. I would not rise up, torch in hand and chant, "Down with Duke Nukem!" I feel it has a right to exist. I would hope, however, that the industry delivers better quality games in the future as it pushes towards more mature content in games. Until that time, when yet another reporter feels the need to stir the pot and get everyone's attention back to saving our children from the vulgarities of the world, we'll have to be ready to stand our ground and fight back for our rights. And the parent's can go to bed at night and feel proud that even if they don't know who their child is sexting with, they at least know there's sexual content in video games. Amen.
I am still curious though. What do you think of sex in video games? Do you think it belongs or should it be left out? And where do you think developers should take it? What would you like to see? More important - what are you still doing here? Do you have any idea what time it is? I do have a life you know. Get the hell out of my kitchen, and put that coffee cup in the dishwasher and the beer bottle in the trash. I've already told you I'm not your maid!
I'll start off by saying that as I sit here typing out this blog I have no clear vision of the direction in which I want to take it, nor do I intend, in any way, to offend anyone I should mention from this point on. Last week was one heck of a week here on Destructoid. Top that off with the fact that I've been limited on what I could view because of the crappy tablet I had to use while up north visiting family and friends. I can say, however, that there's never been so many instances in which I wanted to jump up, fling my hands in the air and voice my opinions. I suppose I could use the saying here that opinions are like a******s, everyone has one, but nobody wants to see the other guy's. I don't feel that's a correct statement to use regarding this community though, and the fact that so many of our members are willing to not only voice their opinions freely, but also disagree in a respectful and considerate manner is one of the many reasons I love being here.
So where am I going with this blog? Well I've been asking myself over the weekend what do we, as female gamers, want? That seems like it should be an easy question to answer, right? Yet here I sit in front of my computer and I haven't a clue what answer to give you. See it all started with the stupid little poll that BioWare came up with for picking the image of female Shepard. (Stop moaning. It's a brief recap, no need to get your jocks in an uproar.) My feelings about it were like a wave washing back and forth over the shore. Initially I was upset. Then I realized it was silly and I calmed down. Then another member would complain and I'd be nodding my head in agreement like a bobblehead, upset yet again. Ultimately, I concluded it was because of my sign being Gemini, because hey - never have my two sides agreed on anything my entire lifetime.
Unfortunately, it didn't stop there. There was the front page article by Sophie Prell, followed by Lori Navarro's blog, and then in a complete change of direction (but not) we had Beverly Noelle write up a blog about the Frag Dolls. So 3 blogs (maybe more by now) and 494 comments in, and I'm beginning to believe being a female gamer is more complicated now then it ever was. And while I agree with the majority of what these ladies have said, I can't be the bobblehead sitting back and nodding in complete agreement.
Do a Google search for female gamer and this is what you'll find. It's not just BioWare and Ubisoft. It's the entire industry. Beautiful people get our attention.
Now I'm not going to get back into the whole female Shepard thing at any great length. I think we can all agree it's been beat to death. I am, however, going to touch briefly on a comment made in which it was stated the anyone who's not upset with the poll because we can customize to our liking, is missing the whole point of Sophie's article. I am a female gamer. I fully understood the article. BioWare did absolve themselves, and I can see how some female gamers see it as nothing more than a beauty pageant. But I'm not mad. I do not feel they have wronged me in any way, in fact I love the strong female characters provided to us by BioWare in their games. When I weigh what BioWare's done in the past vs. the existence of the poll, I don't feel the poll is anything to be fighting against. Am I alone in my view? Absolutely not, and there's a good counter argument by Sevre here.
So let's just wipe our hands of that whole mess, shall we? Let's move on to the Frag Dolls. When I tell you about disagreeing with my other female peers, this is the blog that brought out the most frustration in me. I want to make it very clear here that I respect Beverly Noelle's opinion. I even went back and read her older blogs and found myself doing that bobblehead imitation several times. In no way do I mean to attack her on a personal level or insult her, and I agree slightly in what she's trying to say - I just don't agree with the way she did it.
Now her blog basically states that Ubisoft and their Frag Doll group is a marketing tool, and I quote, "based along the lines of the Playboy Bunnies and Spice Girls." So simply put, they don't represent me, the average female gamer because......they're good looking? Beverly also stated, "The problem is not that a team of attractive female gamers exists; the problem is that Ubisoft has led a frighteningly successful campaign to have this group of carefully-selected spokesmodels represent all female gamers to the outside world." Alright, so it's not a problem that they're good looking.
But reading over her blog again I can't help but notice these other statements that she makes. "The cutesy pink website with its script font and stylized graphics broadcasts Ubisoft's message loud and clear: Women play games, and this is what they look like. (Hot and into the color pink, in case you were curious.)"and"if you're one of the lucky ladies chosen for the real team, you get...uhh..exposure? Validation for being a hot lady who plays games? A gig getting paid to be pretty and pose with a controller while a corporation signs your paychecks?"
Good looking is in the eye of the beholder.
Umm.....alright..... While I get what your message is, Beverly, I can't help but sit here, an average female gamer, and think I'm being told the Frag Dolls do not represent me by a community representative of BioWare, who would look perfectly comfortable sitting on that couch right alongside them! I can't relate to your argument over the Frag Dolls being attractive and how it's a bad thing, when I feel you fit right in with the image they portray - an attractive female that plays games.
I have another question. When did pink become a bad thing? Now I personally don't own a pink controller, but you're going to tell me that there's no female gamer out there that would dare own one, or if she does then she's not a serious gamer? Come on. If you were to be going to a baby shower tomorrow and you knew the baby was going to be a girl, what are the odds you'd buy something pink? What if you were to go on a walk for the recognition of breast cancer? Would you wear something pink like the majority of the participants do? So for as long as I can remember, girls have been associated with the color pink, and boys with the color blue. Mention pink associated with a female gamer and all hell breaks loose. Why? It's just another color, another option for those who want it. Personally, when I see it, it reminds me of my aunt who passed away last month from stage 4 breast cancer.
So here I am at the end of my blog and where does it leave me? What is my point? Simple. Although we may all be female gamers, our views of what's considered average, what's acceptable, how things should be approached; they all vary. As you can see from the above, I do not always agree with my peers. We are a potpourri of mixed opinions. But, this is where I do agree with Beverly - the entire industry needs to stop trying to group us. Period. We already have a group. Our group consists of the voices of women like Elsa, Beverly, Caiters, Sophie, and all the other female members of our society that play games. Again, we don't always agree, but we try to respect each other, and the industry needs to start showing us a little respect. Instead of telling us what you think we want, how about asking us? Instead of trying to represent us why don't you let us represent ourselves? When developers like BioWare and Ubisoft make up our mind for us, we notice. And while all of us may not agree with an individual's argument, we do understand.
We are not alike. We are a potpourri of mixed opinions.
I had the pleasure yesterday of meeting the most adorable little boy. He was with his mom in the store buying clothes for school. As his mom came up to the counter to pay for the merchandise, he fiddled away the time playing on his DSI. I asked him what game he was playing. He told me Pokemon. I asked him which Pokemon game he was playing and this led into a lengthy conversation about the various games, Pokemon he had caught, and the Pokemon TV series. As his mom gathered up her purchase and they turned to leave, I overheard him tell her in an excited whisper, "See mom! Even adults play Pokemon!" Her response was, "You should be more worried about other things, like school coming up." I gave a slight sigh knowing that once, a long time ago, I was like her.
Remember when Pokemon was all the craze? Children drove their parents nuts about the game. Some schools banned kids from bringing their Game Boys into class. My own children talked nonstop about the game to a point where I thought I would go mad. Then came the day my daughter found out about a Pokemon league they were having at our local Toys-R-Us. She begged us to take her. My husband at the time told her that Pokemon was just a silly game, and her grandmother told her she'd buy her a Barbie instead. So it happened that on a cold day in November, at 9 am, I found myself standing outside of Toys-R-Us in a line of boys that extended way into the parking lot. Freezing and not wanting to be there, I told my daughter that there were no girls standing in line, and perhaps this wasn't something she really should do. I then tried to convince her to leave and take her grandmother up on the Barbie offer.
My daughter looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, "Why can't I be here just because I'm a girl? And you know I don't like Barbie."
I realized at that point that I had just contradicted everything I believed in - and everything I had tried to teach my daughter. I had just told her that because she was a girl, she shouldn't do something which she loved. Instead I had tried to push her into something that was more 'girly' because I didn't want to stand there in the cold. Teaching your children to be individuals and follow their passions doesn't work if it only comes at your convenience.
How many times have you seen parents contradict themselves? We spend so much time teaching our children to do the right thing, and so little time realizing we don't always follow our own rules. The say if you ever want to truly see yourself, then take a look at your children. The way we interact with people, the way we handle problems - these are the things that children pay attention to. You could tell your child to be honest, but if you're not it's that action your child will learn from. Not your words. A friend questioned me the other day about why I enjoyed playing video games with my children. She told me that when her son plays she sends him off to his bedroom because she can't stand to listen to it. She found it odd that I enjoyed it. I found it odd that she didn't want to participate in her son's activity. For me, as a parent, games have been a mirror to see myself reflected through my children's eyes. That's why I have a hard time understanding someone with her view.
Fast forward several years forward from the Pokemon craze to when my daughter was a teenager. She and I had just started enjoying multiplayer in Call of Duty, and on this night I had just finished up a match with some friends and jumped into a party with random people. I was greeted with a female voice stating how she was going to lead in points, followed by her making vulgar remarks about turning on the guys. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking to myself oh, another one. For some reason I made it my personal mission to show her up. Maybe it was because, in my mind, she represented everything that was wrong with how female gamers where viewed. Maybe I just had a bad day. I hunted this poor girl down throughout the entire game, ignoring other players that I could have scored points on. By the end of the match I was in second place. She was at the bottom. She quickly left the lobby. I had succeeded at showing her a female player could play the game without announcing the fact to the group, and without flirting just to get attention. My daughter had been in the room watching me the entire time.
"Congratulations, mom," she said. "I just watched you transform into every jackass player I've ever run into during a game." And with that she walked out of the room.
She was right. Once again I had contradicted myself and what I had taught her. I should have played the game the way I normally would have, by not targeting this poor girl, but instead by going after every member of the opposing team. My daughter wasn't beside me cheering me on, but scolding me and letting me know my actions were upsetting and unappealing to her.
We later had a more in-depth conversation about what had happened. It wasn't the game that brought out a bad side to me, but my feelings about how women players are treated, and this girl was setting a bad example of female players, which to me only encouraged the guys to continue harassing us. Although my daughter didn't agree with how the young lady had acted, she felt my actions were no different from the guys in the game giving a female player problems because she was that, a female player.
I don't find violence or sexual content in video games a threat to my children, in fact, we've had some of our more serious conversations after playing video games. Take the airport scene in Modern Warfare, or the romance scenes in Dragon Age with the inclusion to be able to choose a same sex partner. What about Duke Nukem? These games have opened up topics for us to discuss and it's given me a good view of not only my children's thoughts over them, but it's opened up a window for me to see how I've raised them.
When you don't want to take the time to learn about something, then I suppose it's easier to point your finger to something else as the blame. The friend who questioned me about playing games with my children brought up the topic because she was upset with the fact that I had on a Call of Duty t-shirt. I shouldn't have to explain why with all the media about it the past week. She was worried that my son would be effected by the game. Again, I found it odd she would care - considering she sent her child off into the other room so it wouldn't be an annoyance. And my son? Although he's watched us play several different FPS, he doesn't like them. He tells me that it just isn't his thing. He'd rather play Mario, Kirby, or any other platform game. It doesn't matter that his friends enjoy FPS. He's into his own thing, and that's perfectly fine. I don't follow statistics much, and I can't change what other parent's think. I can only share my own experiences, and perhaps I can somehow be an example of the good side of video games. I enjoy seeing what's on the other side of the mirror. Everyone else can stay on the safe side if they like, wearing their rose colored glasses.
Have you ever watched the movie The Gamer? It stars Gerard Butler as a forced participant in an online game, in which other players control the participants in the game. Logan Lerman plays the young boy who got his claim to fame in the popular online game by the means of controlling Butler. It was a mediocre movie, to say the least. Right now you may be asking what this has to do with motion control. My answer to you would be nothing, yet everything.
Now I have always taken the stand that I do not want motion control invading my entire gaming experience. When you add motion control onto a game that wasn't meant for motion control - well there's nothing that screams gimmick louder. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have all been guilty of this. I don't care if you're a fan boy or not. It's true. Let's start off with Microsoft since I'm mainly a 360 person and I'm not above bashing my system of choice.
The Kinect had issues right from the beginning, starting with their presentation at E3 back in 2009. "Project Milo" was Microsoft's exciting way of showing off depth-sensing and pattern recognition capabilities, and was developed by Lionhead Studios. Milo was an AI that responded to spoken words and gestures, and had a built-in dictionary that matched key words in conversations with voice-acting clips to simulate life-like conversations, and it also recognized emotions. Now we were led to believe that this was an actual game, until Peter Molyneux refuted the statement. Flash forward to E3 2011. What promising game does Molyneux and Microsoft reveal to us? Fable on rails.
That's not to say that Microsoft has completely dropped the ball on offering those who've purchased a Kinect something new and different. I, for one, think Child of Eden looks amazing. And it's a game that focuses on what developers should be doing - making a game that enhances the use of motion control. I also believe Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster will be a big hit for families. Those two games are a step in the right direction for motion control and what "Project Milo" promised us. They are not, however, a selling point for me, as a gamer, to run out and purchase a Kinect.
So what about Sony? There are some that think Sony "gets it." Really? Sure, Sony doesn't force you to use the Move with the games that support it. But what has it shown us that's unique? PlayStation Move Heroes? Everybody Dance? I agree that we can use the Move with games such as SOCOM4 and Killzone 3, but the fact of the matter is I don't have to play those games using motion control, and those games were not made purely for motion control. It's an added gimmick used only to convince hardcore gamers that the Move is something special. It does not, in any way, convince me that I need to run out and pick up Move for my PS3.
Finally, we have Nintendo. Nintendo has received quite the bashing from so called hardcore gamers. Why? Because Nintendo did what they told everyone they were going to do. When the Wii first was announced, Nintendo made it very clear that they were going after the casual gamers. If you missed that point some where along the road, then you must be blind. Every commercial they released screamed casual gamer. They did make a statement that they would not forget their core gaming crowd, but their intentions were pretty much set in stone. Yes, they have Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Wii Party - the list goes on and on. But let's remember way back when to Sony's EyeToy. We had things like EyeToy: Play, EyeToy: Groove, and EyeToy Play: PomPom Party.
Nintendo did try to appeal to it's core gaming crowd by giving us games like Twilight Princess, Super Smash Bros Brawl, and No More Heroes. (And I found Kirby's Epic Yarn a blast!) Mind you, Nintendo is not perfect. There are problems with the accuracy of the Wii Remote, and in playing Metroid I often felt the urge creeping up on me to toss the remote at the wall, especially when having to use the grappling hook. Now to top things off, Nintendo has done a complete turnaround from what they set out to do. Suddenly they want the core gamers back and they're golden apple is going to be the Wii U. What?
So how does all this relate to my first paragraph about comparing motion control to the movie The Gamer? Well quite frankly, and most off - I feel like I'm being played. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are all guilty of promising me wonderful things with motion control, yet none of them have shown me any reason to want to fully embrace it. Yes, I do enjoy playing some games with motion control. Yes, I believe there is a great potential for motion control in the future. Right now, however, it's more like a wash, rinse, repeat cycle.
Now I can't imagine myself not playing video games, and this leads me to why I do like motion control and what I think Nintendo did right. Nintendo has been the only one of the three so far, to draw in people would who not normally play, or be able to play games. It enables young children to dance around and fling themselves about without the worry of working a regular controller, and most importantly, it allows older people, or people who may have difficulty working a controller to participate in a game. Sony and Microsoft may still be able to do that, but it was Nintendo who brought the fun to the party first.
If you're young then it's probably of no concern to you. But I'm getting older. Right now I don't want motion control in my FPS. Leave my RPGs alone. However, at some point I may not be able to hold that controller and the only means of enjoying a game may just be motion control. Here's what I ask of Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and the game developers - stop pushing it in my face by putting it in games that we don't need it in. Concentrate more on games like Child of Eden, or original games that have been developed from the start only for the use of motion control. Don't tell me I can play SOCOM4 using it, make a FPS specifically for it. Let me be Logan Lerman controlling my character in a game by voice and movement alone. Let me interact with my team in an RPG without mixing motion control and a standard controller together. Give me a reason to embrace motion control and do what everyone wants to do - have fun playing games. If you can't do that, then motion control will die the gimmick it's been all along.
You go into the living room and have a seat on the couch, controller in your hand. It's been a rough day. At work you had to make a choice that affected several people. Try as you may to do the right thing, it ended up being the wrong thing, and now everyone's pissed off. Then you missed your daughter's play because you had to work over. You could have made up some excuse, but your job takes top priority and someday your daughter will understand that. But right now she's pissed at you too. On your way home from work you remembered to stop at the store. You thought your wife would be surprised by the fact you picked up grocery's on a list she left you this morning. You were trying to be a good husband, right? Wrong. You forgot the milk. You ended up having to endure 30 minutes of her complaining about your lack of responsibility. Now all you want to do is sit down in front of the TV and unwind with a game.
So you start up that RPG you recently purchased. You're still upset about the days events and you need to take all that anger and frustration out on something. You pillage a few towns. Kill a few innocent bystanders despite protests from your party members. You horde away the loot and good weapons. Why should you share? They don't need them. You go to the local pub instead of going home. You pick all the morally wrong choices when interacting with the patrons. Now you'll spend your coin on ale and when you're done drinking your fill, you're going to sleep with the barmaid. You're wife won't know. She drives you nuts anyway. You'll probably offer her up for sacrifice tomorrow, but that's no concern of yours right now. The screen goes black for a second and now it's morning.
But what is this? You wake only to find the barmaid ran off with the rest of your coin. Your party is nowhere to be found. Not only that, they've taken all your equipment and left you the damn low stat weapon you received at the beginning of the game. As you wander out onto the street, you decide to steal some coin from a passerby. Music begins to play. Your former party stands in front of you. You're in a boss fight. You are the boss! Your former allies hack and slash at you, taking you down with the very weapons you refused to equip them with through the entire game. The screen fades to black once more and you're greeted with this:
You throw the controller to the floor, sit with a blank look on your face as you try to grasp what just happened. Congratulations! Not only did you have a crappy day in real life, but your fantasy life just bit the big one. Sound like fun?
While relaxing the other day at our local coffee shop, I happened upon an article titled "Angels & Demons" in Games magazine. The article talked about ways in which developers have advanced the medium by introducing players moral choices in games. But how well have they handled it? How far do we want them to take it? I'll share for my example my last play through of Mass Effect 2. Normally, when faced with a game that offers me good or evil choices, I'll do my first run as a holy saint and follow with a second play as the complete opposite. But I wasn't entirely satisfied with the end results of my second run.
The problem was, that try as I may to be a complete ass at the beginning of the game, the majority of my crew still loved me. Oh sure, I lost some loyalty. Miranda was so upset with me for taking Jack's side that except for the brief, "I'm kind of busy right now, Shepard," she wouldn't have any interaction with me at all - up until the point she slept with me. And that's alright. My male Shepard was an egotistical, philandering bastard that would have had sex with every woman on the Normandy, if permitted. Towards the midpoint of the game I started to double guess my choices, sometimes going complete renegade, and sometimes taking a more paragon stand. I entered into a gray area that allowed me to justify my dark ways, yet also allowed me to complete the game and win against the collectors at the end. Sure, I lost a couple teammates. Everyone else still loved me. Satisfaction with end game.
Now Bioware has promised that our choices in the first two games will have great impact in their final game. But I ask how much? And would we feel content if we couldn't finish the game because of a choice we made back in the first Mass Effect? Here's another question - why did I feel the need to slip back into that gray area? Was it the reality of my actions, or was it simply because I was afraid it would affect the game in a way that would alter the ending and leave me unsatisfied? Just how much do we want to be punished for unmoral actions in a game?
The article in Games went on to mention game journalist John Walker's challenge to play through KOTOR while making nothing but morally depraved choices. If you'd like to read about his experience then it's easy to find by putting in a search for Bastard of the Old Republic. To put it in a short version, he purposely forced himself to do actions that, and I quote, "turned his stomach." But he did do it. And here's what he had to say about it:
"I decided to find out what happens if I click on the options that make me cringe just to read them, every single one, and it corrupted me. By the end I was positively enjoying being a bastard."
In remembering my own play through of KOTOR, I had also choose the dark side. However, I still recall wandering into that gray area of playing it safe more than a couple times. My character did indeed end up evil by the end of the game, but my path there wasn't pure and it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Completing the game was still an obtainable goal. Considering this second revelation, I tried to recall if playing in the gray area was something I had always inclined to do when given a morality choice, and the answer is no. In Fable II I was pure evil. I murdered whole towns. I did offer my husband up for sacrifice. Both of them. But there was a limit in Fable. You couldn't kill children. What punishment did I receive for being a hideous monster? My appearance changed as such. There were a couple towns I could no longer wander into without being chased by residents. In no way did my morally wrong choices hinder the enjoyment of the game, nor did it prevent me from finishing the game in such a way that left me unhappy.
Here's one more thing for us to consider. The article "Angels & Demons" brought up the question of controversy with morality choices in games. How far can developers push the envelope before it's completely unacceptable? Oh, there have been some backlashes already, yes. Take for example the airport scene in Modern Warfare 2, or the deletion of being able to play as the Taliban in Medal of Honor. What about being able to commit murder in your RPG and not have it like Fable, but instead a realistic horrifying experience?
I believe this paragraph of the article in Games paints a good picture. It reads, "....as games become sufficiently realistic and sophisticated, developers will have an ethical obligation to include comprehensive morality systems, in order to offset the capacity for players to use violence as one of the principle forms of expression. Before you laugh off a notion as ridiculous as 'virtual murder', consider it for a moment. It's not a huge leap to see how disturbing it would be if just one game showed one scene of the realistic effects of stabbing someone. The victim screaming in shock and pain as the knife punctures the skin, the vain attempts to stem the flow of blood that bleeds through hands clamped to the wound, the look of terror and agony on a digitally rendered face and, finally, the crumpling to the floor, whimpering, as blood forms a sticky red reminder of the last vestiges of a life that stood in front of you just moments before. Now consider how that might feel to participate in that; to cause it. The effect is unsettling to say the least, and that's just one potential moment in one potential game."
Unsettling? I'd say so. Would Mr. Walker have done it to complete his goal and still enjoy being a bastard? Would you do it? I'm all for our industry growing up, making leaps and bounds in delivering more mature content, getting us talking and debating instead of sitting in the same stagnant water all the time, but as we wish for this, are we really opening up a Pandora's Box full of problems? And perhaps the bigger question is, as developers push morality at us, and when the world you go in to escape the harshness of everyday life mirrors that same everyday life, is the game even fun anymore? How far do you want the industry to go? How accountable do you want to be for your moral choices in a game, or should we keep that gray area to fall back into?
So something happened recently and no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get it out of my head. I know I'm being silly and childish. I know I'm too old to worry about what other people think of me. I know this argument has been repeated over and over. However, the longer I dwell on it, the more I realize I've fought this battle a hundred times.
Now the incident I'm talking about happens to be a little article posted up here on Destructoid a couple weeks ago. My attempt to web link The article stated how Kathie Lee Gifford made the comment that any person over a certain age that plays video games is weird. Unless you're playing the games with your children, you should have more important matters on your mind. Now this was followed by several rude remarks towards Kathie Lee, and then there were some remarks from people who enforced the who cares, she doesn't know state of mind. I even posted a remark about how I could be falling asleep on the couch every night to some reality TV show instead of being mentally involved in what I was doing. That should have been the end of it, but it's a little more personal for me.
We are at a point in time that being a female gamer is no big deal, or shouldn't be a big deal anymore. Female gamers have had to fight their way through the endless sexist remarks, the "OMG are you a girl? Wanna chat?" ordeals, and game developers just not recognizing us in the market. But how much have we accepted the older female gamer? Yes, here on Destructoid we have a mixed community. It is truly a wonderful place to be and the people are amazing. But what about world wide? What about a smaller town like the one I live in?
How older women should dress compared to how you're viewed if you don't.
Let's start off with an incident that happened to me recently. I had to go into work and pick up my paycheck. Now this was on a Friday that I was scheduled off. It should be noted that I work in a high fashion retail store. I also worked at a bank in the past so dressing up is something I do quite often. On this day I had on my worn jeans and a Call of Duty t-shirt. The very first person I run into responds with, "Did you forget to do laundry and end up having to steal your daughter's shirt?" I suppose this person was only trying to be funny, I mean after all, normally I'm dressed to the max. But I've noticed this behavior on other occasions. I can not throw on a Gears of War t-shirt and go anywhere without head turns and strange looks from passers-by. Would I get the same strange looks if I had on a t-shirt with a big ass picture of a bulldog on it, that read Cleveland Browns? Heck no. It's a sports team so that's perfectly fine no matter your age. Throw any game related clothing on me, or anything for that matter that's not deemed by the majority to be "age appropriate", and suddenly I'm the old lady trying to be young again. This standard does not, however, apply to men.
Widely appropriate for men of all ages.
And what about the cougar syndrome going around since Demi and Ashton hooked up? Now I do admit that I can usually start up a conversation with people of all ages about a game and have a normal conversation. I've done this at work when I see a kid wearing a Pokemon t-shirt. Their response is usually one of surprise that I can name all the Pokemon and talk to them about the games. There have been times I'll see a teenage customer walking through the store with a GameStop bag, and I'll ask them which game they've purchased, which leads to a deep conversation about aspects of said game being good or bad, or games yet to come out that everyone's looking forward to. Then there are the occasions where I get the look - the look like I'm flirting and trying to pick them up. Let's add to that responses I've got on Live when playing a multiplayer game and people find out I'm 45. Just because an older woman is passionate about games and playing Gears doesn't mean she's some creepy old lady out hunting for young bucks. Seriously, get over it.
Jump in baby, mommy wants to show you how to use that joystick.
Now the above two examples are situations that any older female gamer may run into, but let's get to the reason Kathie Lee's statement hit me on such a personal level. I've stated in my introduction that I am 45 and divorced. My marriage started out happy and storybook-ish like most marriages often do, and I remained married for nearly 20 years. (That's a heck of a long time by today's rate!) But the last 10 years of my marriage were pure hell. There was drinking, lying, and being treated like a prisoner in my own home. I'm not going to get into the details. I could probably write a book about it. Anyway, I knew I needed to get out, but I didn't know how to do it. I also had to consider my two children and how it would effect them.
Right around this time period I had started playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. I ran into a group of people that I quickly became friends with. I can hear it now - "VIDEO GAMES ARE THE NEW LEADING CAUSE OF DIVORCE!" or "Video gamers defend their hobby and point to relationship problems existing to justify their excessive gaming," as claimed on a divorce blog I stumbled across recently.
Just plop me into the box with everyone else because there are no individual circumstances. Serioulsy, stfu..
I'll point out here that gaming for me is like TV, reading, gardening, cross-stitch, scrapbooking, etc. etc. all of which I do. I don't remember them requiring two people, and I'm pretty sure a LOT of people have similar hobbies, and like any hobby, your family comes first. But if you'd like to pick one and begin ranting how it's the reason for divorce, go for it. I'm sure people would defend their hobby, no matter what it is.
But back to my group of friends. They were a light in a time that I felt depressed, scared, alone, and unsure of what to do. They listened without taking sides. They offered advice. They were the support group when I was stuck at home for sometimes weeks with nobody to talk to but my kids. I'm not even sure if they know to this day how they helped me. I was able to leave and restart my life on my own feet. I went from being a prisoner to a free person able to control my own life. Do you know what reason my husband gave to friends and family about why I left? I left because he couldn't pay the cable bill and I couldn't play the Xbox.
20 years of marriage and I left for the Xbox. He has spoken, it must be true!
Now since being on my own I have found a job. I support my 15-year-old son on my own, with no help of child support from my ex. I'm taking care of back taxes he acquired, on my own. I've went back to school, and passed with As. I'm constantly trying to better myself and make something for my family. I have freedom to do what I want, when I want to do it. Except for one thing: I am constantly having to defend playing video games at my age.
So you know what, Kathie Lee? Pretty sure I've had more than enough important matters on my mind. And to everyone else - I'm going to wear that Dead Space t-shirt when I feel like it. I'm going to stay up all night and play that $79.99 collector's edition of the newest game I bought, because I worked my ass off for the money to buy it. If I pass you by on the street and see you carrying a GameStop bag, playing a PSP, or DS, I'm going to stop and talk to you. It's my life baby, and I'll live it like I want to.
Oh, and btw, Kathie Lee - I think you're pretty weird too. That's why I watch Ellen.