Sunday, January 30, 2011

Where Have All the Gaming Girls Gone?

Ever notice that the magazine racks at your local newsstand/bookstore feature predominately pictures of women? Even magazines specifically targeting men will have an attractive female on the cover (or in some cases sharing the spotlight with a muscular alpha male). I always found this a bit odd, but then again video games are drifting toward the opposite extreme.

Now I know what your probably going to say "There are plenty of games out there that let you choose your gender and appearance" to which I would answer "Of course there are, but those characters are very much blank slates devoid of any personality save that which you give them."

No, for the purposes of this observation I'm only interested in game titles where you can play a female protagonist more or less exclusively in which said woman has a distinct personality (or at the very least a set of characteristics which define who she is). So what comes to mind? Samus Aran? Lara Croft? Jill Valentine? Granted female protagonists have always been in the minority, but check the list of women that popped into your head. Notice something most of them have in common? Sexy?...well yes, but I was thinking more about birthdays. Particularly the fact that they're almost entirely products of the 80s and 90s.

So this begs the question (especially when it comes to this console generation of games) "Where have all the ladies gone?" Well...the truth is they don't sell like they used to. One only needs to look at the sales figures for Samus' latest outing on the Wii (or if you want to go back into slightly more dated titles Heavenly Sword) to realize that games staring female protagonists don't exactly make the big bucks. Conversely, short-haired, scruffy faced, gravelly voiced male protagonists seem to be all the rage these days.

Maybe some of you readers are thinking "Good riddance!" and I wont disagree with the sentiment since I too prefer to play characters of my own gender. But I can't help feeling that gaming would be better in general if the sexes were more equally represented. As it stands now only Lara Croft still really holds a place in the limelight of iconic gaming characters. Even then I wonder if she'll be able to keep her place now that  her next outing will feature her with a realistic bust size. I guess only time will really tell.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Multiplayer Meat Grinder

Ever notice the online play in most games basically consists of a lot of people randomly murdering one another? Either that or team matches which amount to nothing more than two gangs if thugs fighting an endless war of attrition.

My hope is online play will eventually evolve beyond these mindless digital slaughterhouses into something with a bit more depth. For now we’ve seen some baby steps in a good direction with increased co-op play and interesting variations of what we traditionally consider online multiplayer in games like Demon’s Souls. But as of now there have yet to be any non-MMO triple “A” titles that have really pushed the boundaries of online play.

Even excellent games such as Red Dead Redemption suffer online from a lack of truly significant innovation, particularly with respect to the default online mode “Free Roam.” To give a clear example of what I’m getting at here let’s say instead of just having players randomly blow each other away only to re-spawn seconds later in RDR how about implementing a bounty system similar to what is used in the single player experience? So, anytime one player kills another without just cause “The Law” places a bounty on that murder’s head. Of course if the murderer gets killed there won’t be a bounty placed on the player that shot the murderer since that’s simply justice served true to the style of the Wild West.

Of course there can still be settings for death match, team death match and pure co-op for those who want it, but at the very least the Free Roam setting would greatly benefit from this relatively simple action/consequence mechanic. If such a thing existed players would have to consider the long term results of violent acts and the Wild West concept of bounty hunters and outlaws will doubtlessly be reinforced.

While it’s not likely we’ll see this kind of system in the near future perhaps Rockstar Games will consider such an idea for their next big sandbox title. Personally, I’m hoping for a GTA meets Mount & Blade, but that’s another story. Until then I look forward to That Game Company’s Journey and beyond.