Click bait worked?
I was reading Izlain over at his blog about Gender Swapping Heroes and started writing a long comment. It got to the point where I figured I should make a post instead. When I cross the 200 word threshold in a comment I tend to do that. The basis of his discussion there was whether or not people should care if Link, from the Legend of Zelda can and should be a woman instead of a (presumed) male figure. While I don’t care what sex Link is in the game it did make me think about the space gaming fills in the world and the different ways I have been looking at that.
My struggle with this is around what kind of medium games are. If they are “art”, then it should be anything the “artists” want. Remember, people have made art out of feces (go ahead and click it, you know you want to. No one here is judging!) and put it on display. They can be far out, wacked out, main stream, boring.. all the things games are today.
If games are a business, then it should be anything the business wants. They will realize that different choices will affect the bottom line and program their business accordingly for maximum return. They can have male only protagonists, female only protagonists, alien only protagonists, whatever they want. Whatever they feel is the right business decision.
Sometimes – rightly or wrongly – it feels like games are being asked to be community services. There is an expectation that they must be inclusive of everything so participants can participate unharmed in safe, inclusive spaces. At the end of the day, most of these games are about killing stuff. Inclusivity for murderous purposes is important, I agree! *smileyface emoticon*
Much like the Bartle taxonomy of gamer types gaming to different people (and different companies) are a mixture of different things. Many would probably assume in the Art Business Community (ABC) scale, Blizzard would be heavy on Business, extremely light on Art, and moderate on Community (Overwatch Assgate as an example). Indies might be heavier on Art and Community over Business. You get the idea. Just another worthless need to quantify things. You would hope that being creative and community minded would lead to good business (which may be true sometimes) but in general, non quantifiable mind you – the highest grossing games are rarely the most artistic or focused on improving historically marginalized communities.
Example – The Division. I rescued the Doctor (not THE doctor, but a doctor who can save New York) who is a largely forgettable main character. I don’t even know her name. This has nothing to do with her being a woman, or a doctor, but just a non-interesting NPC who you interact with on big missions that result in Medical Wing points to upgrade facilities. While largely uninteresting, at one cut scene she mentioned she lost her now deceased wife with the pandemic. Her being a lesbian did nothing for the story, and didn’t really make her much more interesting (although I do remember that she is a lesbian and not her name…) and while it may have been an attempt to tear jerk a bit (loss of a loved one) it wasn’t effective because I wasn’t that invested in her as a person. Now, to be fair, if she had lost her husband to the pandemic it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of how I felt at all either. When that happened it was chalk one up for the lesbians who have representation in a major side NPC in a blockbuster game. Did someone at Ubisoft check a box off to ensure they were inclusive in the title? Is this a mandated aspect to token-ize inclusivness or it was it a genuine effort by the company or a writer to make a LGBT person say “I can identify with her”?
I ask that in earnest, because I am a privileged white male, of course. An open minded and curious one at that.
I believe that games should be run as businesses, and the smart developers will be inclusive in order to make customers happy and get more customers. To add narrative elements to enhance the story or improve the experience – not as a public service of some sort. I think that is the method that feels the most empowering. I am certainly more interested to learn the perspective of those hoping for more inclusiveness on what they think is most effective. What is the best way? Without the outcry or the threats of loss of dollars, would we really just
continue to get all white, male games? Do those games actually make more money, and do gamers actually NOT buy games because of lack of inclusiveness?
At the end of the day, none of those things impact my game play. I can be the lone white male in a sea of LGBT ethnic minorities and it won’t impact my enjoyment of any game. I would play the Black LGBT only protagonist in a WW3 FPS in story mode, as long as the game play and story is good. Sadly, I may be in the minority with that.
Should I tell you how I really feel?
Even though that is a far less eloquent title than normal there is a lot I think I should like about The Division – but a few key items are holding back that full endorsement. I do find it odd that people compare it to Destiny as it is a very different style and format, although I do agree that they compete for the same “time slot”. It’s like having The Simpsons and Family Guy on at the same time. Right now, for me, even with lack of content and progression, Destiny is the Simpsons. It boils down to three simple things, and I will use Destiny as a comparative in them as well.
- Snow: It is the only environment I have seen. I get the feeling that that’s all there is, because of the beautiful way the background has been rendered. In Destiny every planet you went to had a theme so you were able to get a lot of different looks and feels. Right now you have snowy streets, foggy, snowy streets, and snowy, snowy streets. There are indoor zones that have some differentiation but for the most part you are walking down streets. A lot. Snowy ones.
- Gear: I am not even level 20 yet so maybe this does get better but I have gone through over a dozen pair of gloves that may or may not be different. I may have missed it, but can’t zoom in on the gloves to see the detail in the work to understand how they may differentiate. Sure, the shader or color may change from dark blue #544 to dark blue #677 but the gear change just hasn’t been that noticeable. Scarves, hats, etc. are but that is a far cry from feeling like you are moving along the gear train. So far there has been little differentiation and I am starting to wonder if there is even a point. There is SO much variation in Destiny between classes and options (including shaders) that the lack thereof in The Division is very noticeable.
- Dark Zone: No, I haven’t played it. And before you get all “how can you review something you haven’t played” I am going to be all like “I hate it thematically so not going to play it”. I get it, they need to find a reason for PVP. I just don’t like it among the very cool and engaging story line so far. It feels like such a senseless bolt on that they could have done better. I will dip in eventually, but the idea behind it has already left a bad taste in my mouth
- Real World limitations: Because it is based on today / everyday life you can’t go too far outside of that realism. Mechanics are shoot, grenade, advanced things (such as turrets) fit okay, but it is limiting on the types of things you can fight. People. This limits mechanics and other interesting options. It has given some variety so far but it feels (fairly) far more constrained.
I want to like The Division more, and I am far from being done with it – my attention is just being drawn elsewhere currently and I feel like those deficiencies (in my mind) are holding me back from making it a focus. I haven’t done any grouping yet so perhaps that will help. I will play through the story campaign and see if any of the above changes. The good news is, with such low expectations, it will be easy to surprise me.