Some pretty amazing things are happening right now in the world of video games. Beyond: Two Souls had its premiere not at a gaming expo, but at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, marking the second time a game has broken this kind of new ground since L.A. Noire first did it two years ago.
This comes on the heels of the rabble-rousing artwork of Dragon’s Crown, a fantasy-themed sidescrolling beat-em-up from Vanillaware and Atlus that has the audacity to feature giant NSFW Gamer-friendly breasts on one of its female playable characters, the unnamed Sorceress. People seem to love and hate it for its art, praising its Dungeons and Dragons-inspired setting or wishing development studios would “stop hiring teenagers.”
Excuse me for a moment while I dust off my platform and put on my shoes.
Plenty of us started playing video games before we had to do things like pay bills, pay for car insurance or even tie our shoes. We learned how to spell, learned how to sit in class and pay attention or at least pretend we were doing so, and when we got home, we forgot about doing anything constructive regarding school and played a game. For some of us, this conjures images of Mario, Link, Sonic or a wealth of other mascots…actually, it should, because you’re supposed to be at least 18 to be on this website. Little perverts.
If you were like me and you stuck with gaming as more than just a hobby that you grew out of when hair started growing on parts of your body where it had not previously sprouted, you started to get a firm grasp on what kinds of stories you enjoyed. Sure, we could always go back to the carefree days of mindless fighting games and sidescrolling platformers, but at some point we wanted more. Technology got better with each system and whether it came in the form of RPGs on consoles or adventures on the PC and Mac, older teens and adults had something to cater to their expanding pallet. Yes, I always had Mario, but I will never forget the first time I played Metal Gear Solid and was introduced to the horrors of nuclear proliferation, genetic engineering and psychological warfare. Not having a stellar computer for gaming, it was one of the first times I felt exposed to a new world of games where the object was about more than just rescuing a princess.
As I approach three decades of existence, I do it at a time when the games industry begins to approach several obstacles. The future viability of consoles is heavily contested, the cost of game development is through the roof, and the issue of gaming’s need to “grow up” is a passionate issue for some and a “Who gives a fuck?” for others. Seeing Beyond with a subsequent panel that includes Ellen Page is incredible, but games don’t need star power. They need fun. As much of a fan as I am of David Cage’s work, he’s going to have one hell of a time besting Bioshock Infinite for any sort of Game of the Year title. I am not one of the camp who thinks Beyond should just be a movie, but if the point is well-argued, I understand his detractors.
What does this have to do with Dragon’s Crown? The bulk of the controversy began when Jason Schreier, one of the few respectable journalists left in the world (he actually investigated the Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle. Imagine that!), likened the character design of George Kamitani to that of a 14-year-old boy. This was followed by exchanges between the two that lacked proper context and translation, comments which I don’t feel the need to rehash here. What caught my attention was this piece where Schreier brings up all of the problems women continue to face in the gaming industry.
Perhaps you have read about them yourself: the harassment at conventions, the discrimination in the workplace, the general disrespect shown to female gamers and the lack of any true female leads in gaming. Even Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth was confined to the back of the game’s cover art after initially appearing alongside Booker DeWitt. I’m aware of it, I don’t like it, but it isn’t like games are the only place where this is some kind of chronic issue.
Hollywood pumps out comic book movie adaptations at a rate of what seems like one per month. Have any of them starred a female superhero? It took more than 80 years for a woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director. There are zero female action heroes, and this is only referring to the movie industry. Sydney Bristow is a distant memory, and I don’t remember the name Jane Bauer torturing terrorists for information on 24.
It’s worse outside of the entertainment business. Have you ever worked inside a kitchen? A construction yard? Men who claim to be hardened joke veterans would cringe at some of the things you will hear in these environments. Don’t believe me? Go spend a day in your life inside the back of an Olive Garden.
Raising awareness is valiant, but for every #1reasonwhy there is also a #1reasontobe which tells me that there are plenty of women aware of the issue, and rather than whine about it, they plow through the bullshit and go on to do some great things. Good on them.
There might come a day when two games as far apart in execution and design as Beyond: Two Souls and Dragon’s Crown can coexist without setting off a firestorm in a bunch of comment threads across the internet. For that to happen, video games have to be allowed to just be games, not the last bastion of creativity and expression in the real world. There are movies out there meant to make a statement just as there is a place for simple porn. It is okay to enjoy and support both without developing a hernia over your own public perception.
Dragon’s Crown Sorceress: Official Website
Samus: Ivan Flores, Crimsonjassic