Monday, June 18, 2012

Charlie Brooker on Women in Video Games

From the Guardian comes this from the ever perceptive Charlie Brooker:
Last month the creators of the game Hitman drew widespread criticism for a grisly promotional trailer that showed the main (male) character slaughtering a group of S&M killer nuns. Since this was merely the logical conclusion of a deeply boring trend for rubberised female assassins that's been going on since the 1990s, some gamers were surprised by the outcry, and became indignant and defensive, as though someone had just walked in and caught them masturbating to the same goat porn they'd been innocently enjoying for decades, and judging them and making them feel bad.

When they're not 7ft-tall high-heeled dominatrix killers, women in games tend to be saucy background-dressing or yelping damsels in distress. A rare exception is Lara Croft, the female star of Tomb Raider, who – in Pac-Man terms – is Ms. Indiana Jones. But whoops. Last week the forthcoming big-budget Tomb Raider reboot made headlines after its executive producer apparently told the gaming site Kotaku that players would feel an urge to "protect" Lara after she faces a series of ghastly trials including an encounter in which she kills a would-be rapist. The subsequent outcry necessitated a speedy clarification from the developers about precisely what kind of game they're making.

The irony about the Tomb Raider fiasco is that when you actually look at what's been revealed of the new game thus far, the creators' intention is clearly to transform Lara Croft from a heavily armed big-titted wank-fantasy into a grittier and more plausible heroine. It's an "origin" story in which an inexperienced 21-year-old Lara crashlands on a remote island and has to fight the elements as well as the baddies in order to survive. Whether it's essentially I Spit on Your Grave in pixels remains to be seen, but the "new" Lara looks less stereotypical than 99% of female game characters.

Read it all here

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