Published on March 18th, 2017 | by IceCube
Why your feelings have nothing to do with video game characters
There is no such thing as a right or wrong video game character, only ones you personally like or dislike.
The context of this opening sentence spawns from recent commentary and several media articles, suggesting that new release game, Horizon: Zero Dawn is a gaming pioneer for “moving beyond the strong female character” and “helps make girls feel better about themselves“.
Video games are not designed to serve political agendas, nor are they responsible for personal feelings of inferiority.
Unfortunately, this game now seems more like a high-scoring checklist for political correctness, rather than just, you know… a video game.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is a high-quality game.
Looking to one of these media sources, Kotaku claims Horizon: Zero Dawn is “a landmark of gender equality in AAAs”.
The article praises the games’ woman-friendly world and lead protagonist Aloy, describing her design as “practical” and “unsexualised”.
Together, these words are safe words for describing a character who is generally unattractive and dressed-up-to-the-neck in thick clothes. It’s not a bad thing and I’m not judging.
Kotaku continues, “She’s intelligent, curious, kicks ass, wears practical (but gorgeous) outfits and has a face that looks like it belongs to a real person.”
Okay, cool. I’m glad to read that some people admire Aloy’s design and character.
I personally didn’t like Aloy very much. I think Aloy has zero charisma and I spent the game wishing I was playing as any one of the other NPCs.
But again, that’s okay. Outside of personally not liking the lead character very much, I enjoyed this game a lot. I won’t criticize the game or the developers because the main character design doesn’t align with my real-life social views or prods at my envy.
The only issue I have is the underlying implication that characters who do NOT match Aloy’s politically fine-tuned checklist are somehow considered a “wrong” or “unequal” character.
An “Anti-Aloy” character is not wrong or unequal. A character can have the opposite of Aloy’s (above listed) traits: unintelligent, unconcerned, sensitive, wears impractical outfits, has an “unreal” face… and it is neither right, nor wrong – it would simply be the character that is chosen to lead the game.
Sure, this type of character may not connect with some players, but it will connect with other players.
Even Aloy isn’t happy about being used as a standard.
I repeat; video Games are not here to serve political agendas, nor are they responsible for personal feelings of inferiority.
Video games are just like every other form of entertainment, like books, TV shows and movies. A book sometimes tells the story of a morally poor character. A movie sometimes casts sexy people that make you jealous in comparison. Your feelings may be affected by the way they dress or the role they play in the story – but too bad – that’s the type of character that is chosen to tell their story.
It’s not just female characters being stereotyped in gaming. The industry is rife with a history of the most vile male stereotypes you can imagine.
I am male and I feel inadequate looking at most male video game characters too, but so what? It’s an imaginary character in a fantasy setting. Basically a cartoon! It would be stupid and ridiculous to rate my image against a drawing, so I don’t. Nobody should.
Nor should a game be condemned or lessened by it.
“No, Developers, change everything because this makes me sad inside.”
“…For once this strong female protagonist can do her thing without the script calling attention to her femaleness again and again”, writes Kotaku.
This is the last time I will pick on this piece (no disrespect, Kotaku), but let’s reset the thinking here.
Remind me why “femaleness” is a bad thing again? Why are some in the frame of mind that femaleness is something less than maleness?
I am not.
I look up to females. My male friends look up to females. Most males I know mumble and bumble nervously in the presence of females. Males tune in to watch females play games on Twitch and YouTube with far more numbers and admiration than the “boring” male gamers. Females have a power over males that makes them do shit they wouldn’t normally do. So again, why is “femaleness” a lesser trait than “maleness”?
Being female is not to be weak.
Female characters are within their right to wrestle bears and cover-up in eskimo gear, but I don’t see these as actions required to validate equality – rather – actions of their free choice.
That said, Horizon: Zero Dawn is a great video game and I have nothing negative to say about it or it’s characters. Add this game to the collection with your other games.
And Aloy? She is not a right character or a wrong character. She is just the character the developers chose to lead the story. What gamers make of her is down to their own opinion.