The phrase, “women as background deco in games” stung me to the root. When I first watched this women vs tropes episode, I felt battered and abused as a female. Maybe it was the deadpan delivery; maybe it was the barrage of blood-splatters mingled with breast jiggles; but maybe it was just the utter lack of positive production.
As a female gamer, this video just salted an age-old wound. I love many of these decried titles and I shouldn’t feel guilty or hegemonically dominated by the graphic imagery just because I choose not to take a stance of gratuitous feminism. When I pop Dishonored into my ps3, I want to traverse a metaphysical realm with double-jump and shadow-stalk. When I switch to Bioshock Infinite, I want to explore the irony of innovation with a fistful of lightning. I lose myself in these magic circles for emotive promises such as escapism, power, and progress; not because I want to turn the tables on my oppressors. I know these games don’t offer an avenue into its surrounding material world, nor do they pretend to.
If tropes vs women wants to issue change, why don’t they highlight positive examples of strong female protagonists? Instead of criticizing the stale, de-saturated aesthetic that plagues the triple A industry, why not explore games that have used female avatars to build rich, holistically satisfying experiences devoid of gender? Such titles as Mirror’s Edge, Portal, and Mass Effect have handled the issue with grace and civility by not marking the female entity with a distinct power level.
Criticizing the environmental decoration of a game doesn’t move the genre any closer to a gender-neutral space. If you want to see action, action that will spur real change, the campaign shouldn’t direct its efforts to static atmospheric embellishments, but gameplay itself. Processes within game are the surrogates for real cultural processes. Gameplay is the imaginary space where the real individual gets to express agency against these pseudo-ideologies and makes this engagement vivid and impacting.