Posts tagged with "gaming"

Aug 6

I’m Not Really Mad at Ubisoft for not Having Playable Women

I’m not as heated as Ubisoft as a lot of my peers are about the controversy of non-playable women in the upcoming Unity. It’s no question that we should always be striving for more diversity in gaming, particularly larger companies such as Ubisoft that are extremely successful and have the means to make it happen. However, if it were any other company and any other franchise, I would be way more pissed than I am, in fact I would be furious. But the reason I personally don’t give a lot of vocal criticism to Ubisoft is mainly because the Assassin’s Creed franchise is by far the most diverse video game series in modern gaming in the West.


Of the seven major games in the series that have been released on consoles (Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Assassin’s Creed III, and Assassin’s Creed: Liberation since it has been remastered onto consoles), there are six different playable assassins if you include Desmond. Of those six, three of the protagonists are people of color, including one woman of color - Altair, Connor, and Aveline. (In a wonderful DLC for Black Flag, you also play Adewalé, a Trinidadian Assassin). Not only are they people of color, they are POC that are rarely ever featured in games let alone playable. How many times do you see a Middle Eastern character in a video game that you weren’t trying to kill in a Call of Duty game? When do you ever get to explore the intricacies of balancing being a mixed raced person in a world that is just beginning to use race as a tool for oppression? No other Western franchise has explored as many characters with such varied backgrounds as Assassin’s Creed.

I understand the vitriol; I’m a woman of color and I thrive on being able to play women, but I personally think a lot of the anger we feel towards Assassin’s Creed is because we expect more diversity from this franchise than with others. My bar is certainly always higher for Ubisoft Montreal and Assassin’s Creed; I’ve come to expect different worlds with different stories, so it is disappointing when we don’t get what we’ve expected. But, AC is not one of the great offenders in the larger picture of the lack of representation or misrepresentation in gaming. It has contributed a stellar collection of diverse characters, stories, and worlds to the canon of gaming. So why do I personally want to be spending time being angry at a franchise that has actually portrayed a lot of diversity when I could be channeling my discourse onto franchises that really just don’t get it to actually have playable women or POC or WOC. Call of Duty and Halo for example have been around for much longer and have more games, each of those franchises taking place in different periods of history according to their lore. CoD takes its own brand of liberties with history - plus, the next game takes place in the future but the protagonist is going to be another generic white guy? Come on. These are franchises that I’m more upset about - ones that are well-established, profitable, and therefore have the freedom to take “risks” by not having 95% of their characters we play be white guys, yet they just don’t. AC from the start has always kept diversity on their radar throughout the franchise and tailors their stories to the diversity, not the other way around. I’m more disappointed at AC than anything else, but I don’t feel justified at being upset at Ubisoft Montreal at any level that I should be at CoD, Halo, Tom Clancy, or others.

So does that mean I don’t think people should be upset at Ubisoft? Not necessarily. It sucks that such a major franchise will not have playable women in upcoming games, particularly since there are not a lot of women in general in the lore of the series. Plus their reasoning for why there aren’t playable women was pretty shitty. However, though most video game franchises leave me exasperated and angry with a lack of diversity, I’ll just leave off of my own anger at Assassin’s Creed and just say “I’ll expect more from you soon.”

Aug 1

When I play video games

  • Me: Who the fuck is shooting at me?!
Iron Bull, the Qunari warrior in Dragon Age: Inquisition, has officially been confirmed as being a pansexual romance option by Dragon Age senior writer Patrick Weekes, possibly making Iron Bull the very first openly pansexual character in mainstream gaming.

Iron Bull, the Qunari warrior in Dragon Age: Inquisition, has officially been confirmed as being a pansexual romance option by Dragon Age senior writer Patrick Weekes, possibly making Iron Bull the very first openly pansexual character in mainstream gaming.

Geek Out: Why marriage equality matters in video games


The first woman I married saved my life at least a dozen times before we made it to the altar. We got into a fist fight the night I met her. I won. After that she said she’d follow me anywhere — and she did. Down into Bleak Falls Barrow to fight off Draugr and recover a map of ancient dragon burial sites. Up the Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar to talk with the Greybeards about my newfound ability to absorb dragon souls. She even helped me run inane errands at all hours of the day and night. Collecting frost salts, ice wraith teeth, and Daedra hearts for elven merchants and helpless orcs. Finding precious gems for an Argonian pawnbroker. Retrieving flutes and drums for the bards at the college in Solitude.

We fought together, side-by-side, for days at a time, and then she’d head back home and I wouldn’t see her again for a few weeks. It was a comfortable companionship, but the night she noticed my necklace, everything changed.

I’d found it in a chest in a Dwarven ruin. It helped the longevity of my Restoration spells, so I wore it pretty much all the time. I didn’t know Nords used jewelry to signify their marital status, but Uthgerd the Unbroken sure did. When I caught up with her at the Bannered Mare one rainy night in Whiterun, she was sitting in the corner, chugging Black-Briar Mead, like always. (Uthgerd liked the good stuff.) She usually greeted me with gruff affection. “Wanna hear a bit of Nord wisdom?” she’d say. “You don’t know a woman until you’ve had a strong drink and a fistfight with her.” Or sometimes, “Keep walking, soft gut; I’m more woman than you can handle.”

Jul 4

History Respawned: Assassins Creed

A historians and gamers thoughtfully delve into the depiction of Caribbean slavery, social hierarchy of people of color, and the proliferation of mixed-race people as portrayed in different Assassin’s Creed games. It’s a 40-minute video but it gives great, detailed information about how slavery in the Caribbean differed than the North American system we hear so much about and the history of laws about people of color in France. We also learn about how Assassin’s Creed stays truthful or strays away from how that history played out. The historian Jessica W. Luther also praised the game for its portrayal of the emotional experience of being a slave and a person of color during the 17th and 18th centuries:

"I did find there was one, some part of the video, where, she [Aveline] was dressed as a slave so she’s on a plantation and she’s trying to scout, she needs to go to the top of the big house on the plantation to scout the entire scene. And she walks by this [white] guy on the plantation and just like, I’m just watching a video of a video game and I felt tense cause you can tell that however they created her, her movement, she tenses, and I don’t know whether that’s you playing the game, but the way she moved around that man, and he looks at her, and I was just like ‘Don’t hurt her!’ And my feeling as I was watching it was like, that’s an amazing thing, to sort of see how prescribed even their movements in the street were, and this sort of ongoing fear…That’s amazing that that’s in a video game, I have to say…That’s the kind of thing that you teach students about slavery, that’s the kind of thing that’s really hard, it’s an intangible, that’s hard to portray to them just through language. You have them read slave narratives and watch sort of recreations of that, but there’s something about the experience of the video game allowing you to see it.

Jul 1

A Character Like Me: the lead writer of Dragon Age on inclusive games

"There’s also an element of second-guessing which comes up, if I’m perfectly honest. If I’m proposing something involving gay content, or looking at someone else’s proposal which includes it, there’s a part of me which wonders if I’m not unduly biased — if I’m not steering my project towards being viewed as "the gay game" by the audience, or filtering the content through a personal lens it might not deserve.

It’s at those points I have to remind myself of the truth: there are people out there for whom the presence of any gay content will automatically render it “the gay game.” The presence of two bisexual male followers in Dragon Age 2, only one of whom made advances on a male player without first being flirted with, means “every man in Thedas is gay and wants my man-meat.”

These are the same people for whom the mere existence of a gay character, or a plot that deals with gay subject matter, really anything that forces them to acknowledge that homosexuality so much as exists, is going to be a personal insult. I remind myself that it’s not that much to include, and really it’s very little in comparison to the entire rest of the game … and thus, considering what it means to those fans who receive that validation almost nowhere else, it’s not too much to demand a bit of tolerance and compassion from the portion of the audience for whom this content is not even intended.”

For those looking forward to Destiny…

Any idea so far on what character/race you are most interested in playing when the game is released?

I’m looking at playing a female Awoken Titan for a tank/support build.

Jun 3

The Last of Us: Gamers Left Behind in Bigotry

Girls and women make up 45% of all gamers in the community.  While that’s not a majority, it is still almost half the entire community.  And despite such a significant number of girls and women playing video games, our representation still only fluctuate around 17% in TV shows, movies, video games, and even Congress.  If we break it down for just the entertainment industry, women only make up 18% of directors and executive producers, 15% of writers, 4% of cinematographers, and 11% of protagonists in a story.

What does this have to do with The Last of Us?  Well, the game isn’t perfect.  I still felt it lacked female characters even as miscellaneous extras.  Most of the humans the player will come across will be men.  Most of the women I came across were mushroom infected hordes, officially known as “clickers.”

(Great female representation, huh?)

So what made this game different from the others before it?  In this game, women actually made up a half or more of the main characters, which is sadly a rare occurrence.  All the main women had motivations that were separate from the male lead, and this isn’t just a rarity, it’s almost non-existent in any form of media.  These women were three dimensional and complex.  They were flawed, vulnerable, and yet so fierce.  Players even get the opportunity to play as a teenage girl in the video game as well as in the DLC.  These are all good things when we keep in mind of how much female representation, especially good representation, is lacking in the media.  But we shouldn’t get too excited about the bare minimum.  It would definitely pass the Bechdel test but while this progressive move is noted and celebrated, we shouldn’t be setting our standards for basic decency so low.  As much as I love The Last of Us, the game still followed the same tired formula of brooding white, middle aged man with women being hurt at his expense.  So what did MRAs (Men’s Right Activists) and your general misogynists have to say about this bare minimum in treating women as if they were humans capable of complex thoughts?

It provoked angry nerds and geeks to crowd the forums with complaints like:

“Feminists did it. They are ruining one of my hobbies. For anyone who plays video games as one of their hobbies, The Last of Us is a pretty fun game…. The feminist messages were close to ruining a game I waited a year for…”

“…will my games be misogynist? You better ****ing believe it. Misogyny The likes of which will make duke nukem blush.”

(source: Men Going Their Own Way)

“At no point in the making of this game can you imagine Naughty Dog sitting down and saying “what we should do with our apolocayptic epic, is try and tackle feminism!”

“I’m all for stronger female characters but i also am sick of this sexist modern feminism which suggest been an attractive women is a bad thing. I also think it’s sexist to try repress straight male sexuality by suggesting its wrong to find women attractive by referring to it as objectification.”

“There are far more males play games than women…fact.Sick of hearing the constant nagging about sexism.”

(source: these comments are replies to The Last of Us isn’t the solution to sexism in games, but it’s a start.)

Some gamers took issue with the fact that many of the leadership roles in the video game were occupied by women, especially one woman of color named Marlene.  She’s the leader of the Fireflies.  It’s a rebellion group that’s focused on finding a cure to save humankind from this horrible zombie fungus affliction and dismantling the militaristic government system.

(Photo of Marlene, image reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)

While the game faced heavy criticism from misogynistic players, The Last of Us hasn’t been left untouched by homophobia.  In video games, people who identify as LGBTQ+ are either killed off, villains, or aren’t featured at all.  I mean, the same can be said of most venues of media.  So there’s no surprise when some of the heated backlash over the progressiveness of the game found its way to one character named Bill.  He’s extremely paranoid, tactless, and rough but he’s very reliable.  The game heavily implies with obvious subtext that Bill is gay.  And it’s not just subtext, it’s been confirmed by one of the directors at Naughty Dog (company that created the game).  GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) voted Bill onto their list of most intriguing characters of 2013.  And here’s what they had to say about him:

“One of the characters the player encounters over the course of the game is Bill, an unstable loner in the town of Lincoln with a talent for fixing things. Through dialogue and backstory, the player learns that Bill once had a partner named Frank who he loved, but the plague drove them apart and led Frank to a bitter end. Both helpful and contentious, Bill is as deeply flawed but wholly unique a gay character found in any storytelling medium this year.”

(photo of Bill, reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)

I thought the creators would leave all mention of queerness at subtext and podcast interview like so many others (J.K. Rowling, anyone?).  But Naughty Dog took a brave route with their addition to the full game.  While this DLC serves as a prologue to the actual game, Left Behind revolves around just Ellie and her friend Riley.  Making a video game that completely centers around teenage girls with their own personal motivations and feelings is already unheard of.  And how fun, as best friends, they can even take selfies in a photobooth with the players choosing the poses and backgrounds.  But Naughty Dog takes it one step further. The writers created a scene of vulnerability, tenderness, and love between two girls in a world ravished by violence, oppression, and plague.

You can watch the three minute scene here.  I would recommend that the comments should be left alone though.  But in case you need an extra warning, the comments are along the lines of:

“Yeah…. I threw the game in the trash cause of this…….


“It makes me angry seeing gays trying to take over media now Games?!”

“the team was influenced by feminism, disgusting.”

“the gay kiss is totally perverted and f***ing sick… Naughty Dog is dead to me.”

(I copied and pasted these comments by the way but decided to leave the commentators anonymous.)

The creators of The Last of Us confirms that Ellie is gay and that the kiss she shares with Riley is of love, not just understandably reaching out for warmth and affection in a cold world, but a kiss with intentions of romantic love.  Has anyone ever seen a game like that other than a manipulation of some Sims that we may or may not have made in the past?

It’s taken great steps toward progress, but we should still be fighting for more representation of identities in our media other than the usual white, male, cisgender, and heterosexual.  This game, while it probably won’t be a catalyst for a culture shift, should be the kind of thing that gamers use as a standard, a bare minimum for what’s considered acceptable.  And as the giants we are, we should go beyond that.

E3 is coming up….you know what that means?

We’re going to be playing our favorite game, “How Many Protagonists Will Be White Men With Brown Hair!”

Spoiler: It’s gonna be a lot of them.

Character Spotlight - Nariko, Heavenly Sword

One of the launch titles for the Playstation 3 starred a woman born in the same year that a prophesied divine warrior would be born. Because she was a woman however, her clan took her birth as a bad omen and mockery of the prophesy. Despite the clan’s dissent, Nariko’s father trained her to be a strong, fierce warrior, and she spends the game fighting against a tyrannical ruler who seeks to bring a new age to the tribes using the divine weapon, the Heavenly Sword.

Heavenly Sword was often compared to God of War in terms of its game play but Nariko’s struggle to be a strong warrior and serve her clan is what makes her a breakout character. With great help from Anna Torv’s (Fringe) voice acting and revolutionary motion capture techniques that allowed the characters to emote realistically, Nariko became one of the most sympathetic and powerful characters last-gen, the strength of her character is found not just in the moments when she is beating hordes of enemies, but in the moments when she talks to her father and confronts the possibility of her own demise. She is still one of the most underrated and underutilized heroes in modern gaming, and although we have never been blessed with a game sequel, Heavenly Sword is getting a feature-length CGI film, so we’ll finally be able to see more of Nariko soon.