This issue isn’t something new. However it was a particular article I saw yesterday that enraged and then prompted me to write this. This is a personal rant more than anything else.
As many of you are probably aware, Ubisoft are now starting to reveal details for Assassin’s Creed III. Including the fact that the creative director Alex Hutchinson believes having a female protagonist would be a pain, and not realistic at all because “The history of the American Revolution is the history of men.”
I can understand, partly, why he said this. After all, women fighting in the front lines is only just happening in reality. However, what really struck me was the patronising tone of it. As if there was no way a woman could ever be as capable as a man in that situation of operating during that time period. Also, it reeks of laziness. You say a woman couldn’t work? Did you even try? It seems laughable to want to keep AC realistic now when it has hardly been so in the past. And there are ways to work around the timeline. What about a ‘true’ assassin, shadowing the enemy forces and striking from the shadows - basically a tactical stealth game ala Metal Gear Solid. Or what about having the playable character pull a Samus and only reveal her true identity at the end? Or what about having two playable characters and having to rely on the different strengths of both the male and female characters?
There are ways around such problems, but shamefully Ubisoft decide to take the easy route and have yet another male main character.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with male protagonists. But it’s so frustrating because there are few strong women out there as playable characters who don’t fall neatly into the pegholes of ‘token love interest’ or ‘damsel in distress or both at the same time’. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these characters or even if you like them, but I just wish there could be be more women like Yuna from Final Fantasy X. Or Bayonetta. While Yuna is deeply in love with Tidus her relationship with him is not all that defines her, and while the fanservice in Bayonetta is as subtle as a kick to the balls the character herself plays second fiddle to no man, she flirts with Luka but it is obviously for her own amusement rather than his.
Worse yet is the general reaction in fandom to women. Perhaps the most infamous example can be the love triangle of Aerith/Cloud/Tifa from Final Fantasy VII. Aerith nobly sacrifices herself to save the world, and Tifa does everything she can to help Cloud recover his identity, yet both of them are branded sluts, whores, bitches by fans of the other character, simply because they’re ‘interfering’ with who gets to be with Cloud. Or there are female characters like Sakura from Naruto, who gets hate because she is ‘weak’ or because she gets in the way of the Sasuke/Naruto ship. Both are very poor excuses. In Sakura’s case, she is only weak physically when in comparison to both Naruto and Sasuke, and disliking a character purely because you ship something else makes you look childish.
Then there is the attitude that only a woman who acts like a man - someone very physically strong, reserved with their emotions etc - can be considered ‘strong’. Is it that hard to believe an emotional woman might have her own strengths? Again, take Yuna from FFX as an example. She is one of my favourite video game characters because of her emotional strength. She bids goodbye to Tidus as he fades and merely resolves to rebuild Spira, rather than moping about and pining for her lost love. And again, in X-2, she decides her own fate by leaving Besaid to become a sphere hunter and track the mysterious man in the sphere down, rather than wait for Tidus to find her. Her quiet determination, loyalty and kindness make her a very appealing character to me.
What is perhaps the most irritating and patronising ideal connected to the gaming world is that men make up the majority of gamers. Perhaps they do, but it in no way makes them better gamers than women. Or the idea that women will only be interested in ‘girly’ games to do with Cooking Mama, Barbie etc. Again nothing wrong if you’re into those games, but it’s nothing but insulting to believe that a)only women gamers will like them and b)that women gamers only want to play that particular style of game.
I play video games for escapism and for enjoyment. However it is a sad state of affairs that the sexist and misogynist views that dominate real life are also reflected poorly on the game developers that in this day and age they can so easily deflate the idea of a female protagonist as a ‘pain.’
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