Letter From the Editor: Creative Control and the Female Protagonist

letter-to-eic-female-control

I try to stay away from the topic of ‘sexism in gaming’, mostly because at this point in the discussion, it’d be like trying to sift through ingredients that are being blended; I wouldn’t be able to sort anything out and I’d lose my fingers for trying. However, it hasn’t made watching the assorted elements being cut down to a brown sludge any less frustrating, and you can guarantee that when the resulting ooze is poured out, it’s going to stink, taste foul, and ultimately be a waste of everybody’s time.

Recently, I read a tweet which proclaimed (presumably from the back of a stallion rearing in the sunset) ‘We should always be lobbying for new non-white male protagonists, not just when it’s time for a new Doctor [Who]. #Confessyourunpopularopinion’. Leaving aside for a moment the gravity-bending pomposity of the statement, let’s have a little chat about a little element called ‘creative control’. For newcomers to understanding how reality works, creative control is the power an individual or group of individuals have over a project or an artwork or a task. While it is possible to influence both individuals and groups, it would come down to aggressive coercion (ie a gun in the mouth) to really ‘force’ them to do anything.

Still with me? It means the artwork and its direction and execution belongs to the artist/s.

So here’s my problem thus far: from what I can tell through podcasts, videos and articles, the gaming media industry (oh look guys I said media industry instead of industry, glad we sorted that out), in general, seems to believe that those who complained about the ending to Mass Effect 3 were ‘entitled’ and should have just dealt with it. As I recall, one of the ways in which people dissatisfied with the ending ‘lobbied’ to have it amended by donating cupcakes, which in turn got delivered to a shelter. A bunch of other people did the usual death-threats, but as the cupcakes actually manifested themselves in reality and went to those in need, that’s what I’d personally focus on. Why? Because one takes access to a keyboard, and the other takes organisation and money, and money is everything (but more on that point later).

cupcakes Letter From the Editor: Creative Control and the Female Protagonist

Mmmmmmm cup cakes.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. I don’t think it’s entitled to demand a better ending. If that’s what you want, go for it. If you’re not satisfied, say something. Let everyone lament just how ‘entitled’ you are about, what is for better or worse, disappointment over the quality of a mechanical artwork. This is while we’ll readily say ‘well that’s just their belief’ when someone fundamentalist whack-job smiles as they tell the world, quite fucking happily, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that it’s traditional, and tradition is good.

Gosh darnit gamers are just the worst.

I hope you’re holding onto your pants, because it’s going to get interesting-er. While I think it’s 1000% fine to yell out your complaint, and to lobby, or shit your pants, or whatever it is you want to do, it’s equally as fine for those in the chair of creative control to not give even half of an iota of a damn. Please, lobby for a female protagonist. I’m dying to see what two dimensional excuse for a heroine they come up with to tap into that market.

And believe me, you are a market.

Remember when I talked about money in a few moments ago in the article? This article that you’re probably skimming through to find things you disagree with? Well, it turns out money makes everything happen. The control and spread of resources is what life and humanity are all about, and in our current society it is represented in the form of dollar dollar bills and numbers on a screen. Ever since the fiasco with Remember Me, with the development team being told to change the protagonist from a female to a male (and great job there, guys, way to make a female character who is completely indistinguishable from any macho, thinks with his fists, male lead) there’s been a thought that, maybe, maybe, publishers are sexist.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, that’s giving them too much credit. You see, the thing about businesses is that they’re not too dissimilar from your average psychopath. They don’t care if you’re sporting a dick or a vagina or even a eggplant between your legs. All they care about is your money. Ask yourself, truly ask yourself – if a company knew they could make more money from selling games with female leads, what is the first thing they would do? Would it be

A) Sell games with female leads in order to get that sweet, sweet dough

B) ENSURE THE PATRIARCHY CONTINUES ITS DOMINANCE OVER THE FEEBLER SEX

It’s A. Please, for the love of all that is good, tell me you knew that instantly.

remember me nillin Letter From the Editor: Creative Control and the Female Protagonist

Nilin from Remember Me was close to becoming a male, due to publisher pressure.

At this point, I don’t see why you’d want to lobby it. Why wouldn’t you want a heroine to come out of a labour of love? I’d like to think that, with the vision of someone who truly cares, someone who understands characterisation and narrative, someone who wants their character to be as close to alive as possible, you’d get more than just a statistic of male/female lead ratios – you’d get art.

But the kickers to this keep coming. If you check out the third video of Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes vs Women’, Anita details a game with a female protagonist that she’d like to see. Basically, the outline is a princess gets kidnapped, she basically waits around like a wet mop to get saved by a prince, and then decides she’s done enough…sigh…damselling, and only then has the bright idea to save herself…by punching an iron door off its hinges, beating the snot out of a guard, stealing his armour and weapons before going into the Generic Forest of Banal Setting.

Now, I want you to think: is this really a good example of a heroine? A chick who gets kidnapped, and despite having the strength and ability to not only punch an iron door from its hinges can also handily knock out a trained, fully equipped guard, somehow figures the best course of action is to not fight until she realises a prince isn’t coming. What a useless, moronic twat. If I had a friend who was kidnapped that possessed similar abilities, and they said “oh I didn’t fight back because I thought I would be rescued”, I probably would have asked them things along the lines of

“Why was it important to be saved later if you could have avoided the mess at the start by using your ridiculous strength and skill?”

“Did you want me to worry unnecessarily?”

“If no-one knew that you were captured, getting tired of waiting around makes you look like a dumb-arse because you had no idea if anyone was coming. I’ve never told you this, but you’re a jerk, and everyone, in the world, helped the kidnapping take place” (and what a god damn twist that would have been).

Some of you (who most likely read) have figured out the author of this simple (and by simple, I mean in the very special sense) tale has forced the concept of the damsel in distress trope onto the character. She didn’t need to wait for a prince. The only reason she got sick of damselling is because the enforced rules on that universe made it impossible for her to feel otherwise.

All I can hear when I watch this part of the video is the self satisfied, wet smacking of someone masturbating to their own greatness.

Remember, ladies and gents, this is the idea of someone who cares about the issue. And it’s still garbage. Further, the character is a moron and literally only possesses physical strength as a characteristic. For a better version of how I feel about this, check out this article on the matter.

Lastly, as I said in my last Letter From the Editor, be the change you want to see. Go learn game development and make a great game with a female lead. Hell, I’ve started a little written project on a lady viking character I’ve thought up. Just remember, if you don’t like it, you can always lobby me.

And I will choose to not give a shit.

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