Weekly Wringer #98: It's All About Control(ers)

If you’re anything like the Commodore, you have a bunch of old controllers lying around collecting dust. Controllers also tell us a lot about the games we play (or struggle to play) with them. With the new consoles finally seeing the light of day, the influence of controllers past are just as evident as ever. Does that make any controller the best of all time? Today, the Commodore looks back through a few of the many controllers in the collection to highlight suggestions from the community and to talk about his pick for best ever. Then it’s time for a thought (and perhaps debate) provoking question about gender roles in videogames. Inching toward 100 with a doozy! It’s the Weekly Wringer!

MP3 Download:Weekly Wringer 98

35 Comments

  • jaysquiggles
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Hmmm so you have big hands? I notice your big forearms… wanna explain? Must be all the “gaming,” no?

  • jaysquiggles
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    hmmmm so your hands are “completely around the controller?” So you putting all your power into that controller, aren’t you Commodore?

  • jaysquiggles
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Commodore, I really hope you continue to do these shows. I love Roo’s 16 Bit Gems and both of you doing the livestreams. Thank you.

  • jaysquiggles
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    The Commodore is the best controller of all time. He is the controller of the Weekly Wrangler and that show is awesome!

  • jaysquiggles
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    The idea of the controller and gun being separate may sound like a great idea – but what about the people who aren’t so mechanically inclined? You’ll end up having people like me pistol whipping the system! :) Sorry for “trolling” in these replies but I loved the show, as usual!

  • jaysquiggles
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I, personally, would prefer if we could occupy a peanut or almond while playing games. Then we’d be gender neutral yet still have nuts! :)

  • NightWolf
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    The last gender-neutral character I played in a game was the one from Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness. The character was designed so that you couldn’t really tell if they were a male or female, which worked for this game since, as a silent protagonist, you want to be able to project yourself onto the character you’re playing. I think this is a good design choice for RPGs- instead of trying to decide whether the protagonist should be male or female, just create one gender neutral character to keep everyone happy.

    Journey is another great game with a gender-neutral protagonist. In his conference at GDC, Jenova Chen explained that he wanted the main character to not only be gender-neutral, but race, orientation, and age neutral too. This works great with Journey because the developers didn’t want the connection you create with your companion to be influenced by anything other than the in-game events.

    Therefore, no, it is not always important to occupy a specific gender in games, however, when it comes to a story-based game it’s often necessary. In Journey and Minecraft, there is no story other than the one you create when you play the game. But for any game wishing to tell a story with it’s characters about anything having to do with love, parenthood, relationships, etc., it’s highly relevant and necessary. Not every game needs to specify the main character’s gender, but sometimes when dealing with specific scenarios is would feel odd or forced to leave those details out.

  • Markies
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    There are many games out there that has a male lead character. A simple and easy example is the Mario series as the character plays as Mario.

    I have also played some fantastic games where I was a female. The Metroid series, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, Final Fantasy X-2 and even some games that I got to choose to play as a female such as Saiyuki: Journey West.

    I have also played many games that star genderless characters such as many games from the Atari age. Space Invaders, Asteroids and Galaga do not have any characters in them and if they do you cannot tell if they are male or female.

    With that said, I think occupying a specific gender in video games is a necessity. To me, it is just a character trait. It’s like knowing the character has brown hair or is tall or were abandoned by their parents. It helps build the character and really lets me connect with them. I don’t think differently if the character is male compared to female, but it is a very nice aspect of the character that helps me attach to them more.

    Not having or even knowing the gender gives me a bit of a disconnect. It’s like the character is just a mold of clay or a faceless slate. I really don’t have any interest in the character itself and just focus solely on the game itself.

    So, to me, if the character and the story of the game are super important, then I think it is important to know the gender of the character.

  • DTX180
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Commodore, i was wearing the exact same shirt to work today. Weird lol.

    For this wringer, I think it is another one of those “it depends on the genre/objective of the game” type situation. One thing I never liked about WRPGs was how gender neutral they are. WRPGs are supposed to be very story driven and I like protagonists that have defining traits. I always thought it was really odd that WRPG main characters frequently lack physical features (hair color, gender, height, etc), and JRPG main characters lack personality features (silent protagonist such as a Crono or Cloud/Squall types). Kinda shows the difference between US and Japanese cultures imo.

    Anyway, I think that for a good story to be told in a game, you need to flesh out characters. The whole “the main character is supposed to be you, that’s why they lack physical/personality traits” is poor story design. You are supposed to identify with a character in some ways, and see foreign perspectives in the same character. You can’t do that as much when you completely customize the character at the start of the game.

    Now if the game is say, Super Mario Brothers, or Mega Man, or Metroid, or Call of Duty, then no. I don’t think gender really matters. Those games are not story driven, so who cares what gender a character is? But if the game is trying to have a compelling story, then yes, I think it does matter.

    With all that said, I do think there could be a bit better of a job done to get rid of certain stereotypes in gaming. Finally, I just would like to say that people should be able to identify with a character even if they are the opposite gender. One of my favorite characters in all of media is Elaine from Seinfeld, mainly because of the crap she has to go through in every job she ever has.

  • Vulcan Assassin Vulcan Assassin
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    This is a difficult question to answer, as I can take it in so many directions. SO I guess I’ll just have to make a few key points from my thoughts on the question.

    First, I don’t really care if I have to play a Male or Female as long as I can have fun playing the game. However as a Male I can see where a Female gamer could feel like Male characters are much more common in games, or even that sometimes the Role of the Male characters may differ in ways with a game with both male and female charcters together.

    An example would be RPG’s; where it sometimes seems the female characters have weaker attacks and spend more time nursing the health and status of Male characters who get more of the glory and/or action in battle.

    Second, this question is makes me think of the games I have played over the years that I didn’t have a choice of what gender I could play as, and how some of them would have impacted me or the general public if you had a choice.

    A prime example of this would be the “Leisure Suit Larry” adventure game series I played back in the 90′s on my PC. Could you imagine if that game had given you the choice to play the identical (or for that matter switching genders of some NPC’s in the game depending on the gender you chose as well) game/story as a female or a male? Consider it in it’s release time back in the 80′s – My guess is the Media would have had a bit more interest in the games and what you could make women do in it. (and I don’t mean offense personally, I just mean that some may have been even more offended by the games than they already were at the time)

    And Third, it make me think of how some games I have played that put a lot of emphasis on the fact that the Main character was a certain gender. How would games like Perfect Dark, or Tomb Raider been different (to me, as a male) if they weren’t gender specific? To me the fact that Tomb Raider had a female portraying something like an Indiana Jones, or Perfect Dark having a female portraying a James Bond/Mission Impossible secret-agent type, was a powerful defining characteristic of those games. To be honest I don’t even know where to begin on that, other than I don’t think they would have had the same impact on the public.

    It’s hard to explain, but it brings me back to a memory. A friend of mine was showing his new PlayStation to our circle of friends one Friday after school (all of us males). The game he was showing was the Tomb Raider (freshly released at the time on PlayStation). That whole afternoon, it seems the highlight of his demonstration based on crowd reaction and the fact that every one who played it for a minute did it EVERY time they climbed something was watching Lara Croft do the Handstand & Flip move she could do while climbing. Would it have been as amazing to us all that day if the character had not been a action packed woman with guns, long legs, a tight shirt and short shorts? I am not afraid to admit, it may not have been. TO the very least, they probably wouldn’t have kept doing it every time they climbed something. And that opens up a can of worms it self that I am just going to leave out of this one.

    So yeah, it’s a tough question, because it forces me to wonder about it based on other questions it leads to. But like I said I don’t care about the gender when I play, I have chosen both before.

    The ONLY exception to all of this for me was the game “Phantasmagoria 2″. That game to me was just bizarre and uncomfortable dues to the background, taboos, and mental issues the main character experiences. And if it played the same as it did with a female character, it would have been a lot more uncomfortable to me, maybe even more offensive. I only finished it to begin with because I really liked the first Phantasmagoria game, which was ENTIRELY different. It the Phantasmagoria 2 had been identical but with a female character, I think I may not have finished it at all. – This goes back to the point I made in the first sentence of my response, which is that I did NOT have fun playing that game.

    (And just to explain to those of you who have played that game, it’s not the homo/hetero lifestyle of the main character: I could care less about that. it’s the other content that really isn’t a comfortable subject in conversation.. ever. so why would it be comfortable in a game? And if you haven’t played it trust me – enough said)

    Probably rambled on too long this time, but it’s there, and it is what it is I guess…

  • Red Mage Red Mage
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I think the answer to the question lies with whether or not a game has a strong narrative element if gender of the playable character is important. Even then it depends on the game itself.

    For many classic games, gender is not important and in fact it’s not really specified at all. Who really knows who’s flying that triangle shaped craft in Asteroids? Is it a dude or a chick piloting the ship? It could go either way and frankly it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t impact the game in any meaningful way.

    One of the special things about the original Metroid, the character was a non-gender descript space bounty hunter that was revealed to be a female at the end if a player beat the game fast enough. But even without that scene, would be basically fundamentally the same.

    However, in a game like Suikoden V, the gender of the main character plays a big part in the narrative. The main kingdom Falena featured in the story is a matriarchy and the main character is the prince. The main character is of actual little political importance in his own country and the main story arc revolves around a family of senators staging a coup involving the prince’s younger sister who is in line to be queen to gain political power. In that game’s setting , gender is very important. The Godwins (the villains) could really probably care less about the prince other than the fact he’s leading a rebel army to save his sister. If the main character was female instead, it could have huge ramifications in regard to political succession. But that is thinking a bit too much about that particular game.

    Ultimately, gender could important if the main character has a strong involvement in the narrative and their own gender has impact in that also. For example if Crono in Chrono Trigger was instead Crona (female) it wouldn’t impact the game much at all other than a few romance elements with Marle. Not a huge loss in my opinion. That is the case with many games where the game could easily gender swap the main character and largely feel like the same experience.

  • mrandycretin mrandycretin
    Posted Jun/24/2013 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    for me, the gender of my video game characters is of near-zero importance. i don’t really identify with them as if they’re an extension of myself.
    if given the choice, i’ll take a badass female over a wimpy male. if they’re of equal badassery, i will probably go with the male about 99% of the time but that’s just because i’m a male.
    when it comes to a game such as your final fights (for example) it depends on what style of character i’m in the mood for. if i want someone faster, i’ll go with the female. if i want someone more slow, hulking, and strong, i’ll choose mike haggar. but if the female played slow and strong and mike haggar was fast or weak, it wouldn’t alter my decision; i’d still choose based on how they play. i don’t think of them as real people so their gender doesn’t come into play when i’m selecting.

    also: i read this article recently and i think the topic’s just relative enough to justify including it.
    http://thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=sexism_videogames

  • Mr. K Mr. K
    Posted Jun/25/2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I think the point we’re all getting at here is that utility and functionality aren’t the same thing.

    Utility being how they perform. If it’s something as innocuous as Street Fighter’s Chun Li doing the lightning leg kick, or Smash Bros.’ Peach with her parasol, no, it doesn’t matter. It’s part of the utilization of their character.

    However, if their functionality is relevant to the plot, then it is a big deal. For instance, Lara Croft. The stories are tied to the fact that she is a rich woman who lost her father, and that she’s such an anomaly in anthropological society. Good at her job, but in a field dominated by old, male professors.

    On the other hand, it DOESN’T matter if Samus Aran is a woman. In fact, whoever wrote the NES instruction booklet automatically assumed Samus was a man. At least, it didn’t matter that Samus was a woman until Other M. Which Team Ninja took a lot of shit for.

  • DJ_ConWren DJ_ConWren
    Posted Jun/25/2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Ms.Pac-Man.

    I love you guys in the comments, but I have to say I disagree, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

    Let me start by saying I’m a guy & I’m straight, one of my best friends is transgender & being able to play female characters was always a huge deal for her (used to be him) video-games can be a form of escapism & when your struggling with those kinds of issues it can be a huge liberator.

    I remember when Everquest came out having the option to choose a female character & pick the face was a huge deal for her, now I know why.

    When characters are gender non-specific I always thought it was an attempt to have characters that transgender (or gender confused) people could associate with (which is a big thing/ more common in Japan)…(watch “taboo”)

    To me personally I like the option of choice. It makes replay of games a lot more fun for me, or sometimes I’ll just be in the mood to play one or the other (or the other). There is something cool about a super-strong female character especially when they look dainty/ a Super lightening fast ogre dude.

    Gender specific / non-specific characters (mostly in role playing games) have opened my mind across the years to different idea’s about how men & women can think, & act. They also kind of give you a glimpse into what the other side(s) have to deal with. That otherwise I might have never thought of.

    This is a huge (+10) point for the argument of “video games as art” Art tends to push boundaries & video-games (in the gender sense) do that in such a well executed way. By forcing you into controlling the character of another gender.

    & yes I’ll admit… I made Lara Croft swim a lot more then was needed to complete the level.

    -Con

  • Posted Jun/25/2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I assume based on context, that this is geared towards gender referring to sex and not social constructs, because there is a difference between the two. To my understanding, the process of creating a gender is following the stereotypical “act like a man/woman” mindset. To avoid the controversy attached to that concept, I will assume we’re talking about sex here.

    I think that the sex of a character is as important as the writers allow it to be, so I am in respectful disagreement in some respects with many of the sentiments thus far, but in agreement with others. There are games like Portal, where the sex of the main character was an after thought and would have basically would have been avoided entirely as the character was not the focus, the main character making the story unfold around her was. There was time and care put in to create gender-neutrality in her design, a goal I think they achieved in many respects.

    In the case that has already been brought up with Samus in Metroid, I would like to turn the situation around and say that her being female is incredibly important. Yes the instruction manual did make reference to her being male instead, which made the ending all the more surprising, that is not the important part. The importance is placed on the gender role reversal, as in many cases within gaming and other mediums up to that point (and often still), the female character acted as some sort of an object encompassing weakness and utter dependence, waiting for a man to come save the day. Samus on the other hand, is a female who is strong and independent; she does not need to be rescued by a man, she has the strength and determination to achieve success with the tasks at hand. I think that roles like this where there is not hyper-sexualization, just a strong female lead is incredibly important in terms of a life lesson perspective; we all know franchises like Dead or Alive or God of War aren’t doing women justice in many respects. There plenty of examples of perversion with both sexes, that is not the point here, getting off track.

    Aside from cross-over influences into real life, I believe there are other aspects which make the sex of the character so important as well. One of the most important qualities of a game, which was talked about in another Weekly Wringer, is the sense of immersion. Where even though players are stuck in completely foreign environments, there is a suspension of reality and certain connections which make the places very real. If a writer uses people’s conceptions of how male and females should act (gendering), they have a tool to make the characters more believable and easier to connect with. For the few that have probably played it so far, The Last of Us, is a perfect example of this (I will refrain from spoilers). The story would not have the same deep, meaningful connection if the sexes of each character were simply swapped, they were designed with certain characteristic in mind and those surrounding them act accordingly.

    Then there is character creation, some people make up stories for each of their characters in games. Not being able to choose either sex (or trans like in Saints Row 2), is a huge deal breaker for some people.

    So yes, gender (sex), is important if the game developers decided it needed to be.

    • Mr. K Mr. K
      Posted Jul/08/2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Gender and sex aren’t the same thing. Sex is what your body physically manifests as. Gender is how you identify. They aren’t the same, but most of the time are synonymous for most people. But not for the transgendered.

  • doomwaves doomwaves
    Posted Jun/25/2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Greetings Commodore. New to this show, but I am big fan of Echo Screen!

    Very insightful episode regarding controllers. I tend to agree with everything you said, including the Anti-Ergonomics of the original DC controller. Personally I prefer a 3rd party Dc controller that spreads out a bit, not unlike the Xbox & or Xbox 360.

    As for the new question, I would have to chalk it up to preference to anyone, but for the most part, I doesn’t make much difference to me. I see games like Phantasy star, where the lead is a female, you’re not given a choice, and it makes no difference. I also really enjoyed Heavenly Sword on PS3, as a female lead.

    Given the choice, I’d say most men are wired to play as men in video games, but at the same time, I would also say, the difference is futile. If the game has a female protagonist, then that’s the way it is.

    Just my thoughts, nothing exemplary here.

    Thanks again & congratulations for your milestone.

  • Posted Jun/26/2013 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    Amazing question really. This is really… amazing. So uh… yeah.

    Is it important? And I say, it depends.

    Kind of like the controller question, there are times, in certain games or genres, that it seems more important than at others. Another thing is, how is the woman portrayed?

    Long ago, some of the only games that allowed you to pick a playable female were in fighter games. In large part, the women were scantily clad and without question weaker than male players. I still tended to gravitate toward female characters in those days, but not just for aesthetics, but my play style.

    In Virtua Fighter 2, my favorite character is unquestionably Sara. Why? Because she has range with them legs and she might not be strong as other players, but she is faster than most. Speed and agility tend to be common traits given to female video gamers. It was easier to identify “me” being a female in that case, but it also suited my play style.

    Moving onto RPGs of the time, female characters were usually healers or given support roles. In large part, they still are. Again, playing on the women are physically weaker. But at the same time, they are vital party members and HOW they’re treated in the storyline is more important to me than the role served. Not all games did this of course, and you could also find ways of defying the tropes. Yuffie was stronger than Cloud for me in FF7, and I love Terra’s storyline in 6. Hell, I loved the romance between Cecil and Rosa in 4 even though she was captured half the game!

    With RPGs it’s a story, and much like a book. When you’re reading something, you should be invading the head-space of your protagonists male or female. You know who they are inside and out and follow them through adventures, so the gender is secondary to their journey.

    But then we get to the games where you can pick your gender. I was THRILLED in Pokémon Gold/Silver which was the first time you could differentiate a male or female character. I felt thrilled about it because it wasn’t Ash Ketchum’s story, in spite of the cartoon – it was MY story as I made my journey to becoming a Pokémon master. I not only controlled who fought for me on my team, I told them who I was and I made a name for myself.

    I carried that mentality to other games I play. In Skyrim I chose a High elf protagonist because of my play style, but I made her a female (who is mercifully not overly sexualized!) because she would be MY avatar in the world. I gave her my own fictional backstory, but she was mine to control and I was living her life. She is me in Skyrim, shouting Nords off cliffs and speaking to Mario on mountains. (Charles Martinet = Parthuurnax and Mario/Luigi. Your childhood is either now more awesome or shattered, you’re welcome.)

    In online MMOs I almost always choose a female character to serve as my avatar. I recently started playing Age of Wushu (which has absorbed much of my free time lately) and one thing I was very impressed with in the game was how conservative the women’s clothing is… which leads me to what I tend to more or less understand, rather than endorse.

    SEXY FEMALE CHARACTERS!

    No small secret that Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider series is actually very well made, but also sold on Lara’s … assets. I respect the character far more in the series reboot than the original games as her over-sexualization turned me off. On the other hand, I had absolutely NO idea that Samus Aaran was a woman originally, and that made her more awesome… and then I saw the Zero Suit and died a little inside. Did you have to stuff her into a skin tight— sigh….

    I’ve played DOA2, so in something like that, the women are SO out of whack that I find their jiggle physics hilarious. The bouncing jubblies are amazingly laughable. Hell, one girl fights with her ASS given certain moves, and I fanservice people with Kasumi all the dang time! But nobody who bought DOA2 bought it for a realistic depiction of women, or storyline, if you did I am so sorry.

    I find it mostly disheartening when a game franchise is trying to be serious or take itself serious, and then sticks its main in something skin tight and flesh revealing. The time I spent on WoW, I had to roll my eyes whenever I’d get stronger armor, and less and less of ‘my body’ was actually covered with anything remotely protective. It was to a point where I considered rolling up a male character so I didn’t have to deal with that. Then I ruefully wondered why most games don’t have the ‘male stripper’ type option so the ladies have something to oogle as the men who create these games seem pretty focused on the female form. Hell, I’ve heard of MMOs that have 5 slider adjustments for breasts and I am NOT joking.

    Silent Hill 3, Heather does have some alternate costumes such as a Sailor Moon type getup, but it’s done tongue in cheek. For the main game campaign, she is very reasonably dressed. In fact, her weakness and how overpowering the enemies are or can be actually ads to the tension on the game. And you’re not distracted by looking at her tatas half hanging out of anything.

    Most recently, I got Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It’s going to be a game I’m playing a while. I always pick a female character. I suppose another reason I do this is because of the kind of game it is – aside some dialogue options – it doesn’t matter if you choose a boy or a girl, they both play the same. So the only reason I would choose a boy is to see the different options.

    So, this is how I feel about a female character…

    How and why are you doing it?

    If the character is an avatar for me and picking male or female will affect NOTHING in how the game plays (true of Skyrim, Animal Crossing and most MMOs), then there is no reason not to pick a female.

    Gender is completely irrelevant to me when choosing a character suits my play style. I like speed + range.

    When a game has a narrative that determines the character’s gender, then the character is only as good as the story. Terra, Rydia, Yuna, I’m looking at you and loving you. I also like Mint (Threads of Fate/Dewprism), Ellyham (Xenogears), Midna (half way through Twilight Princess), Zelda (Skyward Sword specific) etc, but then you have characters like Lightning (FFXIII) and Kid (Chrono Cross) who I couldn’t care less about if I tried.

    *as a side note, I did create an alt character who’s a Shaolin monk in Wushu. Shaoliln is the only male specific school, while Emei is female specific. I did it because of the skillset, again playing into the style. The guild I’m in has a lot of members who choose female characters even though they’re not women (or in the Emei school), but I understand it’s eye candy or pleasant to look at. It doesn’t bother me in Wushu though because the women aren’t obnoxiously portrayed and male/female has no bearing on your stats.

    Part of MMOs or games with long term goals is – this is who you’re going to be staring at for HOURS of game play, hope you like what you picked. And with that, I think I’ve rambled on enough.

    Most of the gaming market is male driven and I don’t think that will ever change, but there are definitely more women playing games these days to where we are a significant part of the community. I also understand that the cheesecake will never go away, but it does limit my ability to enjoy certain games.

    • DJ_ConWren DJ_ConWren
      Posted Jun/26/2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      “Most of the gaming market is male driven and I don’t think that will ever change” -SONICROSE

      Don’t be so sure, my youngest cousin (female) had a GBA before I did, & she’s been rocking the WII & WIIU since there launch dates. She is not a hardcore gamer (yet!) but from what I can tell her generation does not have the same “games are for guys” mentality that was around during my youth. She seems blissfully un-aware.

      MMO’s really lend themselves to this question.

      • Posted Jun/26/2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        I would have to agree here. I was looking at a study done by the ESA, and if it is true and they are reputable, females make up for just shy of fifty percent of the gaming community. So the times they are a changing (for the better :)).

        • Red Mage Red Mage
          Posted Jun/27/2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

          What percentage of that ~50% play home consoles games vs social networking games by Zynga and or simple mobile games on their phones? I have noticed that more females playing games in my social circles but they are generally not embracing home console gaming by buying a PS3/360 but rather just open to playing something like Cut the Rope on their phones on occasion.

          • Posted Jun/27/2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

            I wish I knew exact numbers. Yet again, assuming the data is correct and reputable, about 70% of males and females do their gaming on a console, indicating there is a good chance it is not just a social network game. It would be interesting to know, I would love if there were a study done coast to coast, a thorough one.
            Any of the women I know who play games are playing on a console of sorts. My wife punishes Skyrim like nobodies business haha. I hope we get to a point where no one really cares which sex is playing games and that neither have to make a point of it. We should celebrate the unity of gamers. We have enough trouble with people fighting over the ‘best consoles, game, theme tune, etc.’, we don’t need to add sexes on top of it haha.
            Interesting question and thoughts Red Mage!

    • Mr. K Mr. K
      Posted Jul/08/2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      I had to respond to this, as I’m replaying through Xenogears (Ramsus just killed Miang). Elly’s name is Elhaym. Not Ellyham.

  • wookieelocks
    Posted Jun/26/2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Hey Commodore, this is my first time posting (on time! I missed you last time around).

    I think that this question is dependent on different things – like Sonicrose said – there are different times where this is more or less important. I’m currently playing a few games at a time, one of which is The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Clearly Link is your playable character – “you”, if you will. As a female, I’ve never found this lack of choice to be an annoyance. In this situation, you’re playing a game where you choose to occupy a certain character directly, ie Link. Not Link’s cousin, Bob, or a random female look-alike. In a sense, it’s no different from a human – choosing to be a character of an Elf or Orc race on an MMO – they’re not really Orcs or Elves, and I’m not really a male with flowing blond hair, lol. Nor, do I turn into a wolf…

    Now, on the other hand, when given the option I do choose a female character. For me, it helps me fit into my fantasy a bit more. Another race, sure, but I’ve always chosen female. But my best friend is male and almost ALWAYS plays a female character when given the choice. (Straight and married.) He very frequently makes the joke that if he has to stare at someone’s butt all day, it may as well be female! He has male characters as well, but his main is almost always the same female with each game.

    I think that while women are definitely pushing up the numbers in the gaming community, there are people (yes, female too) around trying to be negative about it. Pushing “equality” and feminist references in games when it’s just not entirely needed. Pushing for “equality” sometimes has the opposite effect. Suddenly we have to have an entire second version of a game that includes things deemed “female”. While some games are a little intense (Sonicrose: “I’ve heard of MMOs that have 5 slider adjustments for breasts” eesh!) I think that generally we all just want to play and enjoy living through these characters. Just because I’m female and play a female character on a game doesn’t mean I have to wear a bikini and dial-up killer breasts! No one’s forcing anyone to do one thing or the other.

    Mario, Donkey Kong, Bastion, many many others – I’ve never been bothered as a female playing a male.

    Using the example of Minecraft – with skins readily available (and even before that) – does it really matter? Personally, when I play, I prefer to see what I’m doing, working on, etc. I don’t stare at my character the entire time. And that being said, BOTH genders could get tired of being Steve, right? It’s not like women are the only ones using skins. I’m pretty sure if someone creates a game that this many people play and get sucked into – the guy can choose what gender he wants the main character to be!

    All in all – the answer is yes and no. No, I don’t think it ALWAYS needs to be a choice. Nor does it always make a difference. But yes, for me personally (and as a female) when given the option, I choose a female character. For me, it helps me to better fit into that fantasy that I’m signing on to.

  • Siska83
    Posted Jun/28/2013 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    For the weekly question, the answer for me is simple and has already been what seems to be agreed upon. It depends on the genre of the game and the story being told within it.

    One thing to mention however, in a lot of popular titles with a male as the main character, there is a female of “equal” importance in the game. I say equal in quotes because you’re obviously not putting 20+ hours into a game as that character, but they have been the driving force (at least initially in the series) or they are your guide/aid throughout the story.

    Mario would of probably stuck to his day job if not for Princess Peach, Link had Zelda(and the game wasn’t named after Link) etc. Final Fantasy 3(6) had Terra as the reason for the back story if I remember right, and FFVII had Aeris who turned out to be essential to Cloud being able to defeat Sephiroth. Even in more modern titles like Uncharted, you were accompanied by a female character as backup and to help guide you through the game, and now again in the even more recent The Last of Us.

    I know the majority of titles don’t have the above mentioned, potentially “hidden message”(at least that I’m aware of). And even still the ones I mentioned still fall into that “It depends on the story” category, but it kind of makes you wonder, at least for me, as to how much extra thought goes into developing a story when it comes things like the gender of the main/playable character.

  • Young-blood Young-blood
    Posted Jun/28/2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I know I’m getting off on a slight tangent with this, but I don’t feel the need to represent either gender, or their stereotypes, when I’m gaming. Tabletop or Video.

    However, for me personally, that may partly be because I don’t fully identify fully with either gender anymore. I will leave this point there, because it is not what the Commodore asked, and, if he wants to open a Pandora’s box, I believe it should be on a day of his own choosing.

  • DragonChi DragonChi
    Posted Jun/29/2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    For the most part, I don’t think it matters if I am playing male or female character. But there are some occasions where, you are not given a choice in the matter. Simply because the story being told is meant to be through the perspective of a male or female on purpose.

    Easy Example, Take Link. You will never see a female Link, or it is at least HIGHLY unlikely. They have set in stone that you will always play as the Iconic male Hylian hero of time, cause that’s just the way Nintendo have built up that universe. It is the classic story of a male hero rescuing a princess. I have never seen the reverse of that. Or it is very rare, and I haven’t heard of it.

    So I think it just boils down to what kind of story the game director wants to tell. That will be the deciding factor. If it works out, and makes sense, that a male or female character can be chosen, they will go that route. Many action RPG’s do that, like Diablo 3 or MMO’s. Which is where it usually works best. There are games out there that are specifically made from a heroine’s perspective as well. Like Lara Croft, Samus or Lightning (FF13). Games with Iconic characters will remain that way. Even new IP’s that are invented. If you are planning to make a new famous character series. You have to commit to one gender or the other. I’ve never seen a character with a male or female counterpart.

    I think a lot of times, game developers prefer to stick with one gender or the other, because it’s easier to attach yourself to one character with a specific personality that is built to match the scenario/story. Having 2 genders to choose from may cause contradictions in some cases. As different genders have different ways of feeling about things. If the dev team wants you to feel a certain way on purpose, that you would only get through one or the other (male or female) perspective. They will do that. So it will make sense in the context of that game.

    This will probably remain the case for a long time. If not always.

  • The Male White Mage The Male White Mage
    Posted Jun/30/2013 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    I really don’t care about gender in video games as I just want to play the game even if it may involve a love story with a prince… (Fun game Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure was though.) However if I am given a choice I pick the female since most games you are playing as a guy, that and with females they have the nicer clothes when it is not one of those games where they wear less clothes over time.

    The one thing that annoys me about gender in video games besides a female warrior wearing armour that is shaped to her breasts (Why? It is a liability since someone could aim for the middle of your chest and their weapon has something to catch on to) is why are classes written with a gender in mind? Classes are just occupations. In some games you pick a character than a class so the class should not be written with a gender in mind. One thing I like about the first Final Fantasy (NES) game is that in the manual the classes were written gender neutral and I wish more writing was done like that.

  • TreuloseTomate TreuloseTomate
    Posted Jul/01/2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve played a lot of TF2, a game where the only female character is the invisible announcer. The game doesn’t have a story, but the 9 classes are all famous for their stereotypical characters, like ze german Medic shouting “OKTOBERFEST!” all the time. But there are no female versions. I’m not sure why, maybe because it would take twice as many voice soundfiles. But female players don’t seem to be bothered. Interestingly *most of them tend to play as Pyro or Medic. The Pyro’s gender is still unknown and ze Medic is the non-fighting healer class. Female Soldiers and Demomen are a rarity. This is just my observation.
    When a game allows me to choose I usually pick a female character. I’ve played one in Fallout 3, Fallout NV and Mass Effect. Also in fighting games I like to play the fast and agile character who is for some reason always female like Chun-Li in Street Fighter or Sheik in SSBM. What does that say about me? A frustrated inner woman trying to get out? Other than that, I don’t care if I play as MegaMan or MegaWoman, Terra or Cloud, Mario or Luigi, if the story commands it.

    This reminds me of a PA article about Remember Me, where the Devs talked about the arguments they had with some publishers about Nilin, the female protagonist: “We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin’s private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy. We had people tell us, ‘You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.’”
    I’m not sure whether this is more insulting to male or female gamers. But it’s not a problem unique to the videogame industry.

    One more thing: I’d like to see Nintento make a Zelda spin-off in which you play as Zelda/Shiek. Not just for the sake of reversing the gender roles. I think this would be a good opportunity to spice up the Zelda formula a little. It should still be a Zelda game with 6 to 10 dungeons, a huge overworld, Triforce and stuff. But just because of the fact that Zelda is a girl and has other abilities, the game would naturally evolve in a way different from other Zelda games. I would buy a Wii U for that. And it will never happen, because Nintendo…

    • Red Mage Red Mage
      Posted Jul/01/2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Technically, there are two Zelda games where the player controls Zelda instead of Link… Unfortunately, they (Wand of Gamelon and Zelda’s Adventure) are on the CD-I and are horrible games all around. Zelda’s Adventure is the better of the two games because it as the top down view of the classic Zelda games but it’s still a mess of a game.

  • TreuloseTomate TreuloseTomate
    Posted Jul/01/2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Unrelated (sry): http://ff6.ocremix.org/
    Finally! \o/

  • I Feel Asleep I Feel Asleep
    Posted Jul/01/2013 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I would say that gender isn’t that important to a game. While I agree that it helps to flesh out the characters in some games, I like the Bethesda approach to gender so it is never really an issue with the way that the stories are written. To me a game’s protagonist is my avatar to the game world and so regardless of gender if it is well made then I’ll feel drawn into the world. Most games that I can think of could change the gender of the main character and it would still have the same impact.

  • pranavmeno@gmail.com
    Posted Jul/03/2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Hello- my name is pranavmeno, and I’m kind of new here. I’ve been a “silent viewer” of CotGW shows for a while, but this is my first time watching the Weekly Wringer- I thoroughly enjoyed this show, Commodore! Please continue making them.

    As for gender embodiment in games, I don’t think that it makes a major difference. However, I think that gender is used to an influential effect in modern gaming.

    Many games are fairly gender neutral- Pokémon, for instance. I’ve played as both male and female protagonists in the games, without any noticeable differences. I believe that Ruby and Sapphire (or maybe Gold/Silver) were the first titles to introduce the gender option, but most of my female friends have still played the older, male-only games without missing anything.

    Yet, in other games, I think gender embodiment is used unfairly to perpetuate what Susan Douglas christens “Enlightened Sexism”- archaic gender politics are subtly “taught” to growing generations through various forms of media. Cooking Mama is a capital offender- there’s no “Cooking Papa”. It hearkens back to the ’50s ideology of housewives doing work in the kitchen with a smile. And back in the days of the DS, all the young girls in my family circle owned every iteration of the game and played it to death.

    Other titles propagate such ideas in more covert manners. The original Kingdom Hearts has the female lead Kairi enter a comatose, useless state for much of the game, only to be “rescued” by a big strong man (Sora) and later to be left in safe old Traverse Town despite her desire to aid Sora in his quest. Final Fantasy is infamous for making petty white mages and sensitive characters out of female heroes. And then of course you have games like Smash Bros. Brawl, where female combatants attack with frying pans and where full dresses (I’m looking at you, Princess Peach). Young kids grow up seeing these things, and begin to accept them as fact. It’s pretty sad.

    There are of course destabilizing images and exceptions to this theme; Mirror’s Edge puts the player in the shoes of Faith, an athletic and powerful young woman capable of outrunning and outgunning (metaphorically) male oppressors. Lightning and Fang from FFXIII are badasses from the get-go. And even Aqua from Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is made a Keyblade Master and is responsible for saving the lives (as best she could) of Terra and Ventus, her two male friends.

    I could go on about this forever, I really could- being the only dude in a class run by an ardent feminist, I had to learn a lot fairly quickly :)

    “Enlightened Sexism” by Susan J. Douglas is a good read for any people intrigued by modern sexist ideology. It mainly addresses TV and film, but the argument carries over to gaming without a hitch.

    Thanks for reading, I guess- keep ‘em coming, Commodore!

  • demman8
    Posted Jul/04/2013 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Regarding last weeks question about controllers, I was looking through the comments and there was little love for my love, the Dreamcast. Am I the only person who actually liked that controller?

    Regards,
    A big handed lurker of the weekly ringer.

    • demman8
      Posted Jul/04/2013 at 1:06 am | Permalink

      Adding on to my last comment for being an idiot and ending it soon.

      I do not think a game needs to be gendered based. Personally, being a guy, I would prefer to be a guy character. The only game I can even think of where I could choose to be a girl was in a pokemon game. FPS shooters such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, and others seem to be directed towards the male population. The gender in it doesn’t really matter in the game anyways, as it really has no story as said above.

      While writing this, I thought of FTL, Faster than Light. In the game, names are randomly generated, or you can set them yourself(for your starting crew). When I would get a female character I didn’t really care as the game doesn’t matter if someone is a certain gender.
      Sports games are certainly based off gender. If you’re playing Madden, MLB, or NBA it would be all guy players since it’s a guy league. If it was softball or WNBA, it would be women in it.

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