Well, I hadn't planned to blog tonight, but a series of comments I made kinda set me on the course to doing so. Its very easy to be cynical about EA and in most cases I'd just like to see them crash and burn like anyone else. I don't think I've seen one company single-handedly do so much damage to this industry as I have EA and from the looks of it, they've hurt themselves rather well and haven't successfully changed the industry to their vision anyway.
I mean, I'm still playing single player games, alone and mostly without DLC or online passes. Sure, I bought Mass Effect and the Dragon Age games and enjoyed most of them, but I still bought them used on principle because EA's business practices on video games are not the future and I will not support that future.
But I'll give EA credit on its pro-LGBT stance and its really not because I claim two fo those four letters, but because EA is only one weight on the scale. Since I already said it in a comment I'll just post that.
So its really not just EA, but a lot of other companies. And its not really altruistic, but it still does lots of good. People can be cynical as they like about the motive, but the last several weeks you can't argue with the results. If you've been keeping tabs on the gay marriage issue and the Supreme Court proceedings, its not been a slam dunk win but DOMA is going down from the looks of it. The momentum of public opinion is going to make gay marriage happen in several more states in the years to come no matter what happens/ Social conservatives have not only lost on the narrative against gay marriage, they don't have the corporate firepower to win the war, either.
But that aside I saw people insinuating that LGBT inclusion in EA's games is merely a token gesture. This is, again, extremely cynical. EA's track record on LGBT inclusion is far from perfect, but not all of it is bad either. Look, I'm transgender, I'd love to punch the folks that wrote the Dragon Age games in the throat for recycling the same tactless tranny joke from one game to the next and making most of the cast in DA2 weirdly bisexual. Skyrim I give a pass on this because its a big world with lots to do and NPCs there aren't deeply written, but I will rail on DA2 for making me feel like a creeper for pushing my sexuality on another intricately-developed character. RPGs might be power fantasies, but that's where I draw the line.
But then I have Liara, Samara, Samantha Traynor and Cortez from the Mass Effect universe to consider. There was nothing creepy about romancing Liara, Samara actually rejects you and Samantha was actually a really fleshed out character with interesting quirks. I guess it also bears mentioning the only guy I let one my FemSheps romance was Thane Krios and that arc didn't really even seem to be about sex, but loss. There was just something that ringed a bit more true with Mass Effect's cast as from start to finish - imperfect endings aside.
And its hard to really think about Mass Effect and its forays into sexuality without thinking of Star Trek and its racial and cultural diversity. They are, after all, space operas with social interests. Mass Effect clearly isn't as alone in its pro-LGBT stance as Star Trek was during a time the civil rights movement was gaining traction, but its still an interesting parallel to draw.between the two franchises..
And would anyone argue that Star Trek ever had a token cast member? We're talking about the show that had an interracial cast and the first interracial kiss ever televised. I've grown up a fan of the series and even collected biographies from the original cast, read the goings-on behind the scenes and I'm still surprised to be learning stuff,
Like the time Nichelle Nichols was going to leave the show. Yes, we might have had a third season with no Uhura which is unthinkable as not having Scotty or Sulu. She had her reasons, though.
That's exactly why I want women, people of different races and LGBT characters in my games. It might not matter to everyone but it matters to someone that these characters are there. If it can change hearts and minds - and media has that effect - games have no reason for not exploring every avenue open to them. So what if the characters aren't perfect? No person is.
We all come into this world with different hands dealt to us, but hopefully equal opportunities. If those opportunities aren't happening, however, that's something we have to discuss or things never get better. Games have a chance to matter here as much as anything else and it all adds up. The only time we need to be critical is when it turns destructive and artistic license departs from reality.
EA isn't the hero we deserve on this issue, but its one of the many we have and if its strength can be used for positive change - even if its not with the best of intentions - why should we turn it away? Sometimes you just swallow your pride and take the win.
Anita Sarkeesian might want to keep that in mind before she goes dismissing spin-offs and handheld games again, In her video last month, she dismissed pretty much every Mario spin off with a playable female character to deride the 2D and 3D platformers for not having said playable female characters. At the end of her video, she slaps down handheld games because they are not '"full on" console games. Well, I guess means all the heroines that show up on a portable don't mean anything, eh?
I'll just say it - Aqua from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is one of my favorite heroines in recent years and she made her debut on the Playstation Portable. She was strong, kind and quite honestly the adult of the group on this adventure, not to mention the original Keyblade Master. Everything the series tries to tell us Sora is yet he fails to be she was from the beginning, And while she fell after her friends fell, that didn't change her core merits - it made her even more noble in her fall because she never once compromised who she was or gave up believing in her friends. She was never broken as a woman even if she was a captive of sorts at the end of that story.
Now I kinda veered off the EA thing for a moment there, but can I please stop defending EA? Really, its making me feel dirty because I just threw Sqaure-Enix on top to bring it home and I don't really like them much lately, either. I'm due for a cold shower now.
The visibility of women, different races and LGBT characters are important and they come from many different genres and platforms, If we look for every excuse to dismiss them we're never going to have a lot of good examples to draw from, so don't dismiss the platform, the genre, the level of plot involvement or your ideal of what the perfect representation is - take the good where you find it and criticize the problematic when it shows up.view gallery