I never used to relish the prospect of buying new underpants. It’s not that I have either a phobia of underpant shopping or a fetish for going commando, I just harbour very little interest in shopping for pants. It was just another one of lifes somewhat arbitrary tasks that had to be done. These days though, the thought of shopping for underpants isn’t such a dull proposal. See the place where I go to replace my burnt out tighty whities, is now also the place where I can go to checkout the latest game releases. Computer games are no longer restricted to dedicated home computer shops or specialist magazines. The rise in popularity of the computer game has seen it pushed right to the forefront of the entertainment market.
Having grown up with and been involved with gaming all my life, its become one of my greatest passions. Watching it transcend from its arcade roots and spearhead its way into the heart of home entertainment fills me with a strange sense of pride. I still remember the excitement I felt the very first time I saw a TV advert for a computer game and now these days you can’t help but see game advertising at every turn. Its like the mainstream world is finally starting to understand what I have been banging on about all these years. Like I can finally stand up and say “I told you so!”
However – with gaming being pushed into the limelight, it seems its also being put under the microscope. With the popularity and revenue growths have come the media coverage and journalism. Games and their content are now reviewed, analysed and dissected more than they ever have been in the past. Some of which, and usually the most disturbing for me, is from outside of the industry. Individuals with political correctness agendas have started to take an increased interest in the medium. Recently, feminist issues around both the portrayal and equality of female characters within games have been a point of contention.
I don’t have an issue with people standing up for what they believe in. If anything, I respect it. But when you start trying to apply real life ethical issues, such as feminism, to the virtual reality of gaming, you fall off your high horse at the first hurdle. In being virtual reality, video games by their very nature don’t have to adhere to the rules applied to real life. In fact this simple, fundamental element of video games is probably their biggest draw and something that all gamers are acutely aware of. We play games to break free of the constraints of real life and propel ourselves into a reality that is different, one that exists on a completely separate plateau to that of actual reality. To put it another way, they aren’t a real representation of life or are they trying to be. Feminist complaints hold little to no value in this virtual reality. In this reality I just spent five minutes doing doughnuts over a policeman’s corpse. I only stopped so I could get out and teabag the bloody remains. I certainly didn’t stop to weight up the political implications of why it was a policeman and not a policewoman or should that be police person?
Even if I do stop to give these complaints pause for thought, the outcome is far from sympathetic. If anything, I find myself becoming hostile. I don’t have a problem with the issues themselves. My annoyance around these real life issues being aimed at the games industry is that they don’t even stem from any desire to improve gaming. They are simply using gaming as a easy stepping-stone to further their own agendas, which is neither big nor clever. Far from improving gaming, binding game development to political correctness can only serve to restrict creativity and diversity within the industry.
If you’re going to make any changes to games that involve females, don’t do it for the sake of equality, do it for the sake of gaming. Do it for reasons like “Not having female characters in an Aliens game is stupid, the entire series is based around a female lead character” and not for reasons like “I’ve put a man in this game so I must now put a woman in it as well”. Gaming has always been about extremes and unfortunately this doesn’t always leave much room for ideals like equality.