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Jun. 23rd, 2014

pip
So while I wait for Fable III to get here (ALL OF YOU GO PLAY FABLE NOW) I've picked up The Witcher, which is a horribly-plotted, sexist, nonsensical mess with an awful combat system in an interesting setting that's keeping me from ragequitting.

I'm of the mind that "for its time" is a valid excuse, to a point-- Fable I, for instance, was before the big push for more gender inclusiveness, so I don't really begrudge it not having a female player character... especially since they added one in the sequel and then went on to have perhaps the most equal treatment of male and female characters that I've ever seen in a video game. They did something passive, realized they could do better, and did-- totally cool. Doesn't detract from the quality of the first game.

However, Fable I also never had the clear objectification of women that Witcher does. You could tell it was really trying to have a varied cast made up of important characters. It even subverts some tropes! Dead mother is an important badass, maybe-dead sister is like the most powerful character besides you, your rival is a girl, etc. Dead dad literally doesn't matter at all!

There are women! They do things! In that setting, it doesn't sting as much to not get to be one of them.

There are no women in Witch, though. I'm more than two hours into the game, and I've met a full three, while including bandit NPCs I've killed, I've easily met a hundred men. The token woman on the main cast is involved in a sex scene before the prologue ends, she's constantly described as "beautiful oh and also kind of powerful maybe she does get in the way a lot," and she dresses like this, with generous jiggle physics. Also, after the post-prologue plot recap (don't. ask.), we get to sit and just stare at this image on a blank screen for a little while, which was fun for me. Also someone on the dev team had a serious redhead fetish and it's creepy.

It was unsurprising to me to see, then, that the sequel absolutely did not feature a female PC.

I was recced this game as an immersive open-world RPG, and the upcoming Witcher 3 claims to be "20% larger than Skyrim." But what the hell use is that to me if I can't be myself? How "open" is it if it's not open to women? I don't give a fuck how big the map is if I'm not free to roam it however I want, as I was in Skyrim.

But then I thought, well... that's not really fair. A game can totally have a male protagonist lead a trilogy and not be exclusive, in the same way a female lead doesn't exclude male players. So why has my kneejerk reaction to this totally valid setup been annoyance?

The obvious first reason is prevalence. Everyone and their mother has made games featuring a male protag forever and always. It's. Fucking. Old. It's uncreative and annoying, and God knows this game doesn't need more of that (it can't even decide if the protagonist has amnesia or not; it hasn't reached "reinvent the wheel" levels of capability quite yet). When so, so many games have a male lead for absolutely no reason, the ones who do have a reason (and a real story to tell) get slighted, because they become rote and get less of a chance.

However, and this is the reason I brought up my feelings (LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE SQUEE) about Fable, the fact is the narrative of The Witcher is deliberately excluding women. From the option to sexually harass a waitress to the default outfit for NPCs apparently being "cowl neck down to navel," this is not a game that gives a shit about women.

That makes me not give a shit about the game. Because when I see that, I start to make assumptions about other aspects of the game. I assume the story will be adhering to other tired, uninteresting tropes in all ways: characters, plot, setting. I assume the PC isn't supposed to be ~dark and gritty~ so much because the writers equate that with depth, but also because he's the typical Steven Seagall-style male power fantasy, and I empathize with him less. I forgive less about other areas, because a signal flag that the team didn't give a shit about the broader context of their story has gone up already.

So when I see that a female player character is never introduced, instead of thinking, "Well, that's because it's the story of This Guy, and it wouldn't make sense from another perspective," I think it's because they don't really care how women feel. And that's annoying and it makes me want to get out of the franchise, which I will.

I haven't yet ragequit the game, as so far it's badness has been of the laughable variety, such as characters having complete conversations about the world at large and then the PC going, oh, BTW, I lost my memory, I kind of forgot about that (and seriously, the jiggle physics. Look up Triss' first cutscene, totally worth it). But it kind of makes you think, that there may be a lot of stories out there getting slighted by the lack of variety. This isn't one of them; this game sucks. Yet, what if the next series that I pass over for being yet another story about Men saving the world actually was really good and had something important to say?

Because there was no way for me to know that Fable I was actually really inclusive (for the time) despite a male PC until I'd paid for it and played it, and I may not have done that based on the specs of the game alone if I hadn't already heard you could play as a girl in the sequel. There's no way to know until you try, and it's a minefield, so you have to get really really selective, and possibly make selections in seemingly-unfair, book-by-its-cover ways in order to save money/sanity/time (here's looking at you, Tales of Xilia, you piece of misogynistic horseshit).

And I think that probably slights a lot of good games.

No idea if any of that makes sense, but thoughts.

If You Want to be Friended...

pip
The ol' LJ has gone friends-only. After 742 entries of open-ness, it's all a big secret now.

Anyone who would like to be added, do comment. :)

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