As gamers and consumers we have a certain amount of power. Power that we don’t seem to realize and power that we don’t readily and regularly use. We have economic power. We have the power to throw our support behind a title, a developer, a company…or not. I for one find myself getting better and better at just this thing. I don’t buy Jimmy John’s and I don’t pay for jiggly boobs. So maybe I am unfairly pointing out jiggly boobs here. It’s not so much the boobs that jiggle, but what they represent. The gratuitous sexuality and sexism that runs rampant in games. If your idea of making a female character better is to spend untold hours and dollars on making breasts jiggle and sway in time with music or some such foolishness then you apparently don’t want me to buy your game. I have nothing against breasts. I have a couple myself, but I am more than my breasts and I want the female protagonists in the games that I play to be more than theirs.
It seems that the folks over at Square Enix just don’t get this…or just don’t care. While for many of us hardcore Final Fantasy fans we had hoped that Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII would be the comeback game that we were hoping for. I am the first to admit that the franchise has been waning for a long time and that other than the DS re-releases I haven’t played and enjoyed a FF title since the PS2 (but I have tried them all). But thanks to the recent discussions with developers about the devs’ desire to make Lightning’s breasts larger and jigglier in an attempt to “defeat Skyrim” has just pushed me over the edge. Final Fantasy has historically given us strong female characters who were on par with their male counterparts and now this? Now breasts beat narrative? Final Fantasy has been struggling for a very long time and it seems that XIII is going to be the nail in it’s coffin rather than the savior of the franchise that we had originally envisioned.
The same hold’s true for Vanillaware and Atlus’ latest game, Dragon’s Crown. When I first heard about the game I was super excited for another solid JRPG from the folks who have developed and/or produced the Odin Sphere and Persona games with their edgy takes gender and sexuality. And then I saw the Dragon’s Crown screen shots and my stomach turned. Are we really back at a point where woman with overdeveloped (and ill covered) breasts and butts are seen as being acceptable in games? I canceled my pre-order. Another company taking a huge step backward.thought that it would be.
Negative, over sexualized representations of women aren’t the only reason that I have pulled my economic support from a company (and that is exactly what I see buying a game as…supporting a company or franchise). As an RPG junkie I have NEVER played a Penny Arcade game even though I think that I would be intrigued at the very least. Based on Penny Arcade‘s sexism, homophobia, and embracing of rape in their comics and forum it is no surprise to me that there are regularly reported sexual assaults at PAX cons. And while the folks in charge at PA, Tycho and Gabe, say that they don’t support any kind of violence against women or prejudice in general the very tone of their whole outfit uplifts it. How in the hell do they think that glorifying fruit raping robots, dickwolves, and other casually thrown about misogynistic, homophobic, and racist references not foster a community of bigots. And that is a community that will not be supported by my gaming dollar.
As a gamer, this means that I sometimes don’t play the games that everyone else raves about. (I couldn’t bear to play Red Dead Redemption after the prostitute was taunted, raped, and murdered in the middle of the street because I couldn’t save her fast enough). It also means that, unfortunately, I may actually pay for some games (like RDR) before I realize that I would have rather not have done so, but it also means that sometimes I have enough of a heads up via trailers, images, or word of mouth to know that a certain game or game franchise is not something that I want to have supported in any way shape or form.
And finally, some may ask what does this refusal to engage some games say to my work as a writer and scholar. And the answer to that is simultaneously a lot and nothing at all. As a person who thinks, writes, and talks critically about games and the games industry, my refusal to engage with some companies and games give me the opportunity to put my money where my mouth (or keyboard) is. But that being said sometimes it is necessary to engage with media in order to think and talk about it in the manner that it was intended (interactively) and in those cases I make it a point to rent or borrow the game in question whenever possible. That, in my mind, cuts down on amount of revenue that is gained by company. It is all a bit of a gray area, but it all comes down to whatever helps provide some balance and comfort to my conscience. In short, whatever gets me through the night!