TwitchPlaysPokemon is the birth of a new genre. Never before has there been a game where thousands of users are all commanding the same avatar. And though it’s frustrating to watch simple tasks made near impossible…it’s exhilarating when against all odds, things come…
Just found out one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting earlier this month is gone.
I bought a JewWario pin from him for a buck, ha ha. I’m never not wearing that now.
I can’t imagine anyone who has even heard of Justin Carmical who won’t be upset by the loss. OUR loss. We lost a good one. A damn good human being.
So in case you haven’t seen it, Anita Sarkeesian released her 4th video in her “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games” series. Her topic of discussion this time was the “Ms. Male Character” and going into its origins and effects of its constant use in video games as well as other media.
I wrote this response to a Kotaku article on the video, but thought it was worth sharing here too. Give it a read and let me know what you think!
I’ve been watching these videos every time they come out, and feel like I learn something “new” each time I watch them. I say “new” in quotes because the fact of the matter is that somehow, in the back of my head, I always knew the things that Anita was saying. However, watching these videos made me aware which is important if I hope to properly think about them. It’s far more dangerous to not think about these sorts of topics, because otherwise it perpetuates a habit of not questioning the world around us which is necessary to learn and grow (even when we reach adulthood; we don’t just stop growing).
In this episode, I really agree with Anita that the “Ms. Male Character” needs to shrink down in terms of presence in video games. Many other mediums out there are capable of showing varied female casts, and what’s more, not require on “stereotypically” female traits to identify them as characters.
By now, we know that Ed is a girl. But up until the end of the first episode that Ed appeared in, nobody (not even the characters in Cowboy Bebop) knew that Ed was actually a girl. And what’s even MORE important is the fact that Ed being a girl DOESN’T MATTER!
Ed is Ed
Ed is kooky, energetic, childish, a brilliant computer wiz, a pain in Spike’s ass, best friend to galaxy’s greatest Pembroke Welsh Corgi: Ein, and whose past remains a mystery for most of the series. Anyone who knows Ed typically thinks of Ed like this.
BUT… I bet most people DON’T think of Ed’s sex or gender AT ALL when it comes to thinking about Ed as a character.
With the Ms. Male Character, being a girl is pretty much the ONLY defining characteristic that makes them unique. Take away their “Girl-ness” and you have the original male character that they are meant to be a distaff counterpart too. Worse, when surrounded by other characters who are all male, invoking “The Smurfette Principle”, it reinforces that being a girl is adefining character trait.
But females, girls, ladies, women, all of them are NOT defined by their genetics or stereotypical female appearance. Or more accurately, they SHOULDN’T be defined like that.
Take Noa Izumi:
Now if you’re familiar with Patlabor, then you already know which one of the two people in this picture is Noa Izumi; a female. If you aren’t familiar with who’s who, here’s a challenge:
One of the characters in the above picture is female. The other is male. Which one is Noa Izumi?
If you guessed the dark-skinned, long black-haired person on the right…
…you were wrong!
That is Badrinath Harchand, a 15-year old BOY from India who is used by Schaft Enterprises to illegally test out their newest labor. Noa Izumi is the short, red-head on the left who pilots her Shinohara Ingram-98, nicknamed “Alphonse”, for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police to stop and prevent crimes involving labors.
You know the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”?
Just because someone doesn’t look like they’re female doesn’t mean that they aren’t. They still have female body parts like breasts and vaginas, but them being female has very little to do with their characters, situations, or narrative in their respective stories. Noa Izumi is defined by her positive attitude, fangirl obsession of giant robots, masterful piloting skills of Alphonse that let her be one of the best pilots on the force, ability to tolerate the wacky antics of her fellow officers and superiors, and the bizarre situations she and Special Vehicles Division 2 find themselves in. Rarely does her being a woman come into play
In contrast, there’s Kanuka Clancy; also from Patlabor:
Kanuka Clancy has a far more feminine appearance than Noa Izumi. She’s older, more “developed” and her feminine features stand out more. Due to her good looks and appearance, many of the male officers in Special Vehicle Divisions 1 & 2 are very attracted to her. However, Kanuka is also a VERY skilled police officer. As tactical backup for Division 2, she is extremely skilled in the use of numerous firearms, bomb disarmament, fluent in both English and Japanese, and actually is a temporary transfer from the NYPD to assist the Tokyo Metropolitan Police for a short term assignment. She’s a no-nonsense police officer, a capable fighter with firearms or hand-to-hand combat, and can even crack a joke every now and then.
But when she first appears, the first thing that the other male officers in the unit seemed to think of her was “WOW! SHE IS HOT!”
This is why, for some women, they feel that in order for them to be taken seriously as the people they are, they have to “shed” their femininity in order for others to see it. Like Naoto Shirogane of Persona 4:
For anyone that’s played Persona 4, you know exactly where I’m going with this. If you haven’t, WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
When Naoto Shirogane first appears, Naoto presents themself as a teenage boy aspiring to be a detective. As the story progresses, it’s revealed that Naoto is actually a girl. The reason Naoto pretends to be a boy is that, while growing up, she became convinced that the only way she would ever be able to be taken seriously as a detective and prove her worth was if she was a man. This damages her psyche so much, that it’s when confronting the horrific imagery of Naoto’s temptation to surgically alter their body to try and “become” a man that leads to revealing Naoto’s Persona and the boss fight required to help Naoto accept who they are.
In Naoto’s case, Naoto didn’t WANT to be a man, which would, in essence, make her what’s known as “Cis-Gendered” (Someone who identifies their gender with the sex they were born with) as opposed to “Trans-Gendered” which is identifying with a gender that doesn’t match with sex they were born with.
In other words, the notion of being a “man trapped in a female’s body” or “woman trapped in a man’s body” is actually a real thing and not just some phrase or saying.
Science has actually shown that someone born with a male body can have neural patterns and behavioral responses that match more with those typically found in female bodies. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V for short) is the current “bible” when it comes to diagnosing mental disorders and is critical not just for health reasons, but for legal reasons as well. There are Laws that exist which are based around the contents of this manual.
In previous versions, it was considered that the belief that someone was a man in a woman’s body or vice-versa was in and of itself a mental disorder. This is no longer true. It’s actually now considered a normal enough occurrence for it to be natural.
What IS a mental disorder is the feeling of stress, anxiety, and mental trauma brought on by this feeling which isn’t caused by something within the person’s body, but from social factors of the outside world. It’s why psychologists and psychiatrists work with people not to try and change who they feel that they are, but be able to cope with the social pressures and difficulties brought on because they feel that way.
In Naoto’s case, she DID identify as a female born with a female body, but felt that she HAD to identify as male if she ever wanted to be taken seriously as a detective. It’s that stress, anxiety, and psychological trauma that lead up to the big battle inside the Midnight Channel to unlock her Persona.
So… what’s the point of all this writing and lecturing here?
To state that we as writers, artists, musicians, TV Show runners, directors, game developers, producers, etc. should STOP constantly thinking that a female character can ONLY be defined by the fact that they are female. It’s much better to be think of characters as “The biker-gang badass”, or “The bookworm”, or “The computer wiz”, etc. instead of all that plus “The girl”. Or flipping it to “The girl biker-gang badass” or “The girl bookworm” and so on and so on.
It may seem silly that the best way to think about sex and gender roles in video games is to not think about them, but consider this. Did it ever matter if Samus Aran was a girl in Metroid?
All that mattered was that Samus Aran was a bounty hunter with an awesome arsenal sent on a mission to the planet Zebes in order to stop an evil band of space pirates from cultivating a parasitic alien species called “Metroid” for their malicious purposes.
It didn’t matter if Samus was a boy or a girl. All that mattered was that they were Samus… and the galaxy needed saving.
That’s how we need to try and start thinking on a more regular basis.
My favorite parts of this include: The eyebrows, the bad paint, and the smashed up looking face. All around, UGLY!
Submitted by goku-son, who was awesome and submitted a bunch of stuff! I wish you had a blog so I could link to it!
Say what you will about Plok’s character design, his game on the SNES is still one of my favorites to this day, and actually, his creators, The Pickford Brothers (UK born and raised and still kicking it in the video game industry) recently started a webcomic to explain what this guy’s been up to for the past 20-or-so years.
I myself would love to see a new Plok game. The original game had a KILLER soundtrack by video game composer legend, Tim Follin, and could arguably be the greatest work ever produced by the Pickford Brothers. In fact, the ONLY gripe I ever have about Plok is that it doesn’t have a SAVE feature. If I was able to save my progress in that game a la “Super Mario World”, I probably would have played it a heck of a lot more growing up. (I must confess that I could never beat the game without cheating since the difficulty can REALLY ramp up towards the end).
Even so, it was chock full of secrets, a neat premise, and was a FUN game. Here’s to Ste and John Pickford for one of my favorite childhood video games!
This actually not only explains a lot, but also reaffirms what I’ve always believed to be true about Nintendo.
Anyone who watches Game Center CX knows that in Japan, even today, a popular past time among kids, adults, senior citizens, men, women, etc. is to play video games in the same space. In Japan, Game Centers (arcades) are still rather common place and can found in pretty much any major city and at various locations across Japan (No matter how far North or how South you go, as Arino-Kachou showed). So this feeling of “playing together” is something that’s rooted in the culture of modern-day Japan.
When I was a pre-teen, the NES was still in its hey day, and the Genesis and SNES were still just over the horizon, back before there was even an internet, this culture of “playing together” was something existed in the USA (I know Europe saw more success from the Commodore 64 at the time, but that’s another story for another day). With no online-multiplayer, kids gathered around at their friends’, played video games, hung out, drank soda and whatever other food stuffs their parents had stocked the fridge with, and many times kids would just play games, both single player and multi-player, together. Often times one or two people would play and the others would watch, waiting for their turn. Or if the kid was good enough to actually BEAT a game, then the spectating kids would witness something they’d never be able to see otherwise (the incredibly hard game’s ending).
I’m 31 now, and one of my fondest memories from my childhood was spending one summer’s day hanging out at a friend’s house with some of their other friends, playing NES games, ordering pizza and pop, and just having a good time. Online multi-player wasn’t even a thing back then, but we still enjoyed playing games together.
These days, with online-multiplayer, it seems like people in the USA have somehow “forgotten” that feeling of playing video games with people in the same room. That’s not to say everyone has: there’s still LAN Parties, Fighting Game Tournaments, and kids still go to friends’ houses to play games too. But it seems like this next generation of game PLAYERS (not consoles, but players), don’t seem to be able to appreciate the idea of playing games in the same place at the same time with other people.
But Nintendo hasn’t forgotten.
For Microsoft and Sony, both are international, global enterprises. Sony owns movie studios, television studios (they make Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! now!), manufacture TVs, speakers, stereos, and owns the patent for Blu-Ray technology. Microsoft began making operating systems and office software and has expanded since its inception to cover things beyond PC, and its focus has never been on JUST games. They want to embrace online gaming as a means to THEIR ends.
For Microsoft, more people online means they can make their Xbox into a streaming entertainment hub. We saw the effects of exactly what that meant during E3 and the Press Conferences leading up to it. For Sony, more people online means more loyalty to the Sony brand. Sony can deliver electronic accessories, content (Breaking Bad was produced by Sony Pictures Television after all), and devices like Sony phones, TVs, headsets, etc.
Nintendo, however, despite being the oldest company between the Big 3 (It is over 120 years old now), has been very narrowly focused on what they did in the past and what they focus on now:
Nintendo did start off as a playing card company before expanding into toys (and a few other experimental markets) before hitting pay dirt with video games back in the early 80’s. Nintendo doesn’t have other software or devices or TV shows or movies to try and “sell” to their players. All they have, and all they WANT, are video games.
So hearing this from Miyamoto is no surprise. He’s a game design legend who has been making games for decades, and the current Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata, was the man that created Balloon Fight. He made that game pretty much all by himself (not sure if he had any extra help, but as far as programming, design, and development, I’m pretty sure that was all him), so he knows full well what it means, and what it takes, to make (good) video games. They look at Microsoft and Sony and see what they’re doing, and they realize that they are NOT them. They are not trying to get their hands sticky in other markets like TV, movies, etc.
This is Nintendo saying “We don’t care what you other guys are doing. We’re just going to do our own thing. It’s what we’ve always done in the past and what we will always continue to do. We will not change our existing franchises in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. (We also won’t lend our franchises to other developers or movie making people either. We tried that and it didn’t work.) If we want to appeal to a new market, we will make a new franchise just for them. For now, we are just going to continue doing what we’ve always done because we’re Nintendo. It’s who we are and who we always have been.”
Finally, for anyone saying that Nintendo is losing money on the Wii U, don’t forget about the 3DS. Nintendo launched it slow, and now sales of the 3DS have skyrocketed to a point where people are JEALOUS that they don’t have one, and the profits from game and hardware sales of the 3DS alone have covered any losses from the Wii U and THEN SOME!
So Nintendo is fiscally sound. It may seem like they’re out of the loop and separated from reality… but I don’t think they are. Maybe the problem isn’t with Nintendo…
…maybe its with the players?
You have been mayor of this town of animals for a long time. You’ve participated in every event during the year; developed main street to its full potential; packed the museum full of every bug, fish, fossil, and piece of art; and have earned every gold badge from Phineas for every single possible achievement.
You’ve done it all. You’ve seen all the sights, bred every rare flower, unlocked every public works project, and made your town the best there is. It’s now time…
Former mayor Tortimer retired after serving as mayor for many years; why shouldn’t you?
When certain conditions are met, you tell Isabelle that you don’t plan on running for re-election and that you are going to retire. The disappointed Isabelle and the townsfolk are dismayed and sad. Everyone in town is there at your office; all the shopkeepers, residents, and even a few out of town visitors that tend to stop by regularly. They came to ask you to reconsider as they don’t know what to do with you. But as far as you are concerned, that makes the voting for your replacement easier.
You nominate Isabelle to be the new mayor.
The townspeople look at each other and begin to smile and nod, thinking that it sounds like a great idea. Everyone in town knew Isabelle and how hard she worked to make the town great. Isabelle pleads that she is not mayor-material, but you reassure her that after witnessing her dedicated service and hard work supporting the town, you have full faith in her capabilities as mayor.
The vote is unanimous: Isabelle is elected to be the new mayor.
Time goes by, and you’ve gotten all your affairs in order. You’ve packed up all your things, listed your house for sale (which Tom Nook expects will fetch a very nice price on the market given how well you maintained it), and have helped Isabelle get situated in her new role as mayor.
But the time has come to say goodbye.
Everyone is gathered around outside the train station to see you off. Isabelle has passed out her usual poppers and noisemakers to everyone to shower you in confetti as you prepare to leave. Everyone begins to wave as you enter the station. Porter, the loyal monkey gatekeeper who has watched visitors come and go and seen you take trips all the time is feeling melancholy that this will be the last time he sees you at the station.
Before you board your train, Isabelle rushes in with a panicked and sad look on her face. It’s not because you’ve forgotten anything or that there’s something critical to the town’s well being that Isabelle needs. She just wants to know if you’ll ever come back.
You smile and tell her that you don’t know when you’ll be back, but you promise that should the fates allow, you will return and visit. You’ll also send postcards and updates to tell everyone how you’re doing on a regular basis so that they don’t worry. You also say that you have faith that Isabelle will do a grand job of leading the town.
With a parting gesture, the train doors close and Isabelle watches as it slowly pulls out of the station.
The credits begin to roll. The camera pans over the village you worked hard to develop: looking at the tree in the town plaza; standing tall and sturdy. It shows the residents going about their lives and doing what they do best as life continues on. Inside town hall, Isabelle sits gingerly in the mayor’s chair; still a bit nervous about being in charge. Mr. Resetti is complaining about something while his brother Don tries to calm him down. Behind Isabelle, on the wall, hang two pictures. The first is of Tortimer, the same picture that was there when you took office. Next to his picture… is yours. Isabelle turns around to look at it, and smiles.
After the credits roll, Rover the Cat notices you on the train. He walks over and takes a seat. He begins talking to you and wants to hear your tale of being mayor, but first, he has a question for you. “Where are you headed?” he asks.
- Mushroom Kingdom
- The Lylat System
- Donkey Kong Country
- Mute City
- Diamond City
- Dream Land
He says “Sweet!” and comments that from the sound of it, you are about to embark on a brand new adventure.
but all these comics and such with the villagers missing you because you’re playing Pokémon X or Y?
they break my heart D:
(in all honesty this probably exactly why i don’t play games like that in the first place)
I’ve played the first AC and I do advice…
It’s still not nearly as bad as the guilt imposed on you by social games like FarmVille and others like it. Games following the FarmVille model are worse on guilt tripping because the people you are slighting by not playing are FAMILY AND FRIENDS! People like your cousins, grandparents, parents, brothers/sisters, roomie from college, colleague from work, boss, etc. will always be asking for help if you play games like this with them. And should you take time off and not play for a while, then you have REAL PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THE GAME going, “Hey I’ve been sending you this FarmVille request for weeks and never heard back! What gives?”
This is why I find those games worse because it causes actual emotional guilt between family and friends, whereas with Animal Crossing, the guilt is associated with NPCs composed of programming code at their roots. While things can deteriorate and become less than ideal in the game because of your lack of attention, there IS a limit. Due to the programming of the game, a lack of playing only lasts for so long. The town won’t become a ghost town with not even Isabelle staying there nor will it game over. It will take work to get the town back to its former glory, but it won’t be impossible and can be done. So breaking ties with them, while melancholy, isn’t as emotionally harmful or stress inducing as whenever you forget to help someone water their crops in Farmville.
”Didn’t you get those help requests from Aunt Beth? I thought you loved Aunt Beth?! Why don’t you love Aunt Beth?!”
THAT is much worse. There’s even an entire South Park episode devoted to this concept which nailed it right on target when it came to this. Even though you can connect with real people and become in-game friends via Animal Crossing, Nintendo made the smart decision NOT to require these friendships to make progress in the game. It makes people more willing to get into the game because the emotional attachment isn’t as intense as it would be with a social game on Facebook.
They ALSO made the smart decision to not build a “Cop-Out” system using real money which is another factor for people to get involved. The concept of “Pay To Play” can really turn people off and can make a game feel more like a gambling addiction. Not Cool!
Like a lot of people, I’ve sort of left my mayoral duties to Isabelle in order to become a pokemon master.
In two days, I’ll probably be picking up Ace Attorney 5, and next month, a Link Between Worlds is coming out. So busy!
This comic is inspired by a tweet.
This is why even though I’ve begun playing Pokemon X, I still return daily to take care of my town.
Also, whenever you do plan to leave for a while, do the right thing and make the town ordinance to keep the town beautiful. That way, everyone in town, and not just Isabelle, will work hard to keep the town nice in your absence.
This has depressingly few notes.
Gen X, represent.
Yup, I’m old. ;__;
I don’t really identify with Generation X, being kind of on the borderline between it and the Millenials, but I was born in the eternally ominous sounding 1984.
1982 here. Currently 31 years old, and still feeling like I’m in my early 20’s. Whether or not that’s a good thing I haven’t figured out yet.