Blog Update

The two blogs that I’m following are rather different from one another. Gamerant, for instance, is a news blog, while The Border House is opinion-based.

Gamerant has been having a great month for news. With the release of the 3DS, the announcement of the PSP2, and the continuing delays of Duke Nukem Forever (which at this point shouldn’t be considered news anymore–it was news when a release date was announced and advertising materials were shipped to GameStops, but now that it’s been delayed again, along with my plans for a  ‘Duke Nukem Finally’ party, it’s back to the realm of ‘non-news’), they have had quite a lot to talk about. Many of the news updates about the 3DS are examining the value for the money on the 3DS. The console’s release price is $250, the same as the Wii, and the game library is sparse (as most game libraries are at launch) and rather casual–which makes the 3DS seem more like a gimmicky version of the existing DS or just the next version in the long sad line of Nintendo handheld revamps.

DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, 3DS, 3DS Lite, 3DSi, 3DSi XL...oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Both sides of the argument are blogged about, though–for instance, one blogger defends the price tag, arguing that the cost to produce a single unit is relatively low, but the cost of development is probably quite high, considering the technology presented in the 3DS, and the 3DS is backwards compatible with all DS games (but not with GBA games–perhaps Nintendo can remedy this by putting a library of GBA games up online as DLC), so on the other hand, the price might seem justified in light of that.

Similar remarks are being made about the PSP2, although the system was only just unveiled this year, and has no official game library or release price yet, so all of the current blog posts are speculative in nature. Some are predicting a failure for the PSP2 (mainly due to the release of the 3DS), and others are salivating over the prospect of that sweet, sweet second controller.

 

The Border House is a blog focusing on gaming from the perspective of minority opinions–in short, every gamer who is not a straight white 18-35-year-old male. However, one topic always comes up again and again on The Border House, and that is the representation of women in games. Currently, on the front page, half of the blog posts are about women and their portrayal in games, and the other half are split up between a ‘Happy Birthday’ post, a ‘community response’ post (‘Everyone talk about whatever you want! It’s Friday! Yay!’), two are about race and disability representation in games, and the last is the announcement of an open beta for a game by one of the blog contributors. (The next page of older posts is almost 100% on feminist topics.) While the blog is open to posts on any topic related to minorities and gaming, the topic of women is the most common. An earlier post which seemed less ‘I am womyn, and Duke Nukem has complete disregard for womynkind’ and which struck me as particularly interesting and relevant was the lack of diversity in a Nintendo DS dress-up game aimed at young girls. All of the characters had the exact same body type. Though the game represented other races in NPCs, all of the characters had the same size-0 body type, and there was very little diversity in the day-to-day customers in the player’s store. The blog praised the selection of clothing available (with consideration for the DS’s hardware allowances), but asked ‘when every character looks the same, how different can people really get’? And, more importantly, while an accurate representation of the world of high fashion, what is this subliminally teaching to young girls?

Aside from the fact that everyone in the world is apparently drawn by Ai Yazawa.

A lot of the posts on The Border House are amusing to read, but I can only stomach so much rage for so long on a topic that I don’t turn to because I’m looking for more rage. I game to relax and enjoy myself, and I don’t like it when I am forced to think about games in a non-enjoyable way. Discussing and debating the social merit of various games is enjoyable. Listening to someone rant and rave about how Duke Nukem is a horrible person because he’s a misogynist, and how it’s so awful that the press conference for the game was held in a Las Vegas strip club, and how it’s terrible that Duke Nukem doesn’t have any character depth or emotion, because those are traits that apparently make action heroes ‘pussies’ and were thus never applied to Duke, however, is not enjoyable to me. The irate bloggers are not wrong–Duke Nukem Forever is guilty of all of these things, but I don’t want to hear about it for blog post after blog post. I want to hear about positive portrayals of minorities in games, because I want to see the industry to be encouraged to move in that direction, and if people talk up games with positive minority representation, then that creates a market they can sell games to. It’s hard to sell games to angry people.

There is very little of the bloggers of The Border House seeking out games with these sorts of positive portrayals. Granted, part of that might be that it’s really hard to find a game that positively portrays black handicapped lesbians, but I have a feeling that even if such a game came about, they would prefer to criticize it. After all, Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday is coming out soon, and Aya Brea is a strong, independent heroine–men help her, but they never rescue her. However, the Border House’s remarks toward Parasite Eve 3 are almost entirely about the horrors of battle damage to clothing and sexy alternate costumes, and how it’s doing nothing but making Aya into an object of lust (which seems to imply that attractive women would never want to wear sexy clothing, or that people playing the game would never want to see an attractive woman in a sexy outfit, and regardless of whether or not these statements are true, women should never ever be portrayed as sexy for fear of making them into ‘sex objects’). One blogger, a fan of the Parasite Eve games, even went on record saying they hated The 3rd Birthday without ever having picked it up, and did not ever want to play The 3rd Birthday because of Aya’s shower scene. (Though they did not object to the shower scene in Parasite Eve 2, calling it ‘tasteful’.)

In the end, I probably won’t end up playing any of the games they criticized in The Border House, but that’s not because of the misogynistic portrayals of women, it’s because I’m not an FPS player who has been waiting eagerly for 12 years for Duke Nukem Whenever, nor am I a player who has followed the Parasite Eve series. I don’t begrudge them their opinions, but I do wish they could find games they enjoyed for all the right reasons, and would instead turn to praising them and supporting the studios that make games with positive minority roles.

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