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    • Video Game Review: American McGee’s Alice
      After the recent release of “Alice: Madness Returns,” I  picked up a copy. With each copy, console gamers also got a free download of  the original “American McGee’s Alice.” Before playing the new Alice, I had to  go back and beat the original again. While many things were just as I had  remembered, I’m glad […]
    • Video Game Rant: Donkey Kong Country Returns
      One of my favorite games of all time is Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2. When I heard they were making a new one, I was super excited, but also somewhat skeptical. So a few months ago, I picked up a copy of Donkey Kong Country Returns to try out the new game. My fiancee also joined […]
    • Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: Movie Review
       (Warning: some spoilers) When they decided to turn this Canadian comic into a movie, I’m not sure they were aware of what a cult smash hit this would be. Topping the charts for Blu-rays on the first day it was released on home video, it’s also been on several top ten lists. It appeals to […]
    • Good Kitty: WoW Feral Cat DPS Rotation
      ***Note: this information is from before Cataclysm. There have been major changes to the class. See my sources below for more updated information.*** When I rolled Druid on the first character I legitimately got to level 80, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I leveled Feral Cat, and when I hit 80, I realized […]
    • Finding a Job
      This is a digression from my usual topics, but I wanted to share some of my strategies with other unemployed or soon to be unemployed people out there. My job search has been the focus of my free time lately, so I figured it would be the perfect topic for my next post. 1)      Assess […]
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Busting Down the Glass Ceiling: Female Characters in Video Games

With game companies targeting their growing female audiences more, numerous games have been released in recent years with gender issues in mind. There are many strong female leads to choose from; Metroid’s Samus Aran, Resident Evil’s Jill Valentine, Yuna from Final Fantasy X, Lara Croft, etc. Now it seems the list of weak or stereotypical female characters is limited to the genres of retro, arcade, and fighting.

Part of the reason is that, like the feminist movement, it takes a while for people to change their attitudes towards gender roles. Take Half Life as an example. Half Life 1 starred a male protagonist and male scientists, security guards, and soldiers (much like Officer Jenny and Nurse Joy from Pokemon). Half Life 2 introduced Alyx Vance, the gifted daughter of one of Gordon Freeman’s colleagues, who does get into trouble a few times (as does Gordon), but is just as ass-kicking as our crowbar-wielding hero.

Several story and gameplay issues are involved here. One is the nature of video game characters and how we view them. If a game to you is just something to play to blow off steam or play with friends, then gender doesn’t matter. When you play Mario Party, do you really care if you’re Yoshi or Daisy (though her annoying voice may make this a moot point)?

Help me Mariobi Wan Kenobi!It also matters how game developers view games. Does it matter that Mario must rescue the princess from Donkey Kong, or is it just a player navigating a virtual world by way of a sprite that just happens to look like a plumber? If video game developers do not aspire to tell stories with their games, then their characters, male or female, are simply placeholders and nothing else.

As game designers change the way they approach games, their stories have become more developed and thus have room for real characterization, more than just sticking a bow on Pac-Man’s head and calling it Ms. Pac-Man. Let’s take a look at the Resident Evil series. Female and male characters alike are developed to various lengths, and there is usually a male and female lead in each game. For example, Resident Evil 4 had two returning characters, Leon and Ada, and both are zombie-killing machines. RE characters run the gamut from pathetic Sherry to Wesker the badass, and everything in between. Some are stereotypes (Ashley, the damsel in distress) and others have a bit more depth (Claire the biker chick).

The point is that gender is not a factor here. Jill may be stacked like older video game icon Lara Croft, but she can decapitate a zombie faster than you can say “objectify.” And we have a variety of macho and not so macho guys to choose from for our protagonists (there’s a reason Chris has been in more games than Steve). In this series, it is character, not gender that matters. I take this as a sign that video game stories have seen improvement in the way women are portrayed, and I predict we will see even more development in other aspects of storytelling and social issues as well.

Rant of the Day: Video Game Inspired Movies

Penny Arcade "I Wanna See STARS"

Penny Arcade "I Wanna See STARS"

Am I the only one who is tired of watching a commercial for an upcoming theater release of some hyped up action movie, and thinking ‘Oh wow, that looks kind of cool, I’d totally go see that,’ only to see the title of the movie is the same as a video game? The excitement turns to horror as yet another terrible video game spin off is unleashed.

Movies completely ruin it for fans and gamers alike. Very few video game movies are successful in any sense of the word; the best you can hope for is Snakes on a Plane-esque B-movie hilarity, or the least amount of butchering as possible of a prized childhood game.

Browsing the interwebs, I found a list of the top ten worst video game movies ever here. The big names are included, from House of the Dead to Tomb Raider, with some lesser known flicks like Wing Commander and Alone in the Dark, to the first and worst VG film, Super Mario Bros. The 90’s did a number on action/fighting and horror video games especially, lowering the prestige of the games just by association with the movie spin offs, but the catastrophes just keep on coming.

I am such a die-hard Resident Evil fan that I cannot even speak the names of the associated movies without a good deal of cringing and angry muttering under my breath. I have come up with numerous ways to denigrate those so-called “R.E.” films, some of which are too filthy to post. Crappy zombie movies abound; why did this one have to take the name of my favorite survival horror games and pretend it was somehow inspired by it?

My main issue with that series is that when they tried to incorporate elements from the game, they failed utterly, taking the worst parts of the game rather than the best, like babysitting middle schoolers (no one liked R.E. 2’s Sherry, why should they feel any better about Angie?). Most of the time the directors simply went off in a completely different direction, making some superhuman heroine beat up on insipid monsters, removing all of the suspense and atmosphere that is one of the hallmarks of the series.

If you want to make a mockery of video games, do it on your terms. Don’t give them the same name, because that implies that people who liked the games will like the movies. Call it a parody of the game, because that’s what it is. Look, I’ll even get them started: House of the Deceased, Super Crapio Bros, or Quiet Hill (hey, this new title also reflects how few monsters were featured in that movie). I for one am not going to support this VG-degrading marketing technique by never paying to see another VG movie again. Now who’s with me?