Published on July 3rd, 2023 | by Ali Arkani
The Feminist Gaming Discourse Is Broken
I recently read an article on Kotaku about the alleged backlash over the female protagonist of Star Wars Outlaws and it made me wonder what has happened to true progressive gaming journalism. Is it extinct just like dinosaurs? Have I become too old for this sh**t?
Firstly, I have never heard about this alleged backlash before reading the article. Prince of Persia the Lost Crown received backlash from people -including myself- because the protagonist Sargon looked more like Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger rather than an ancient Persian soldier. Starfield’s 30FPS lock on Xbox received backlash. Yet Star Wars Outlaws’ alleged backlash was either non-existent or so minor that it is not even worth mentioning. We all know that no product can satisfy every single consumer or fan!
Secondly, the writing and logic of the article were so abysmal that it felt like something by an elementary school student; especially since the writer’s reference for recognition in gaming dates back merely to 2014’s The Game Award. Just imagine playing Metroid, Lara Croft, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Tekken, StarCraft, and Mortal Kombat back in the 80s and 90s and suddenly someone in 2023 tells you that gamers are misogynist pieces of sh**t that hate female protagonists!
If the writer just googled the “10 most popular video game characters in the US”, she would have found out that three of them are women and only one of them – Kratos – is a male human being! Yet, this article and those like it are not written to open the door for discourse or address an actual issue while providing solutions. They are there just to further polarize the gaming community and point fingers which is obvious in the writer’s harsh tone toward men, making fun of them by saying “Men don’t know everyone has a thin layer of hair covering their entire bodies”. Imagine a man generalizing women in an article and the response to that! Wow, that would be misogynistic, wouldn’t it?
That brings me to the third and main issue: Why the Feminist gaming discord no longer makes sense? A Plague’s Tale, Horizen, Deathloop, Dishonored 2, Bayonetta 3, The Last of Us Part II, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Nier: Automata, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Returnal, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Resident Evil, Control, Celeste, The Medium, Life Is Strange: True Colors, these are just some of the female-led successful games of the past seven years. Video games are one of the most progressive entertainment branches when it comes to paving the way for heroines.
There are far more original female protagonists in video games than in Hollywood action movies. If we consider Mario the first video game franchise with a male protagonist that still sees regular releases to this day, the first female-led title with the same criteria would be Metroid which was released just three years after it. When it comes to the same comparison in cinema -between the first release of Sherlock Holmes and Halloween – the difference is 62 years!
There are truly important and pressing matters regarding women in the gaming industry such as the constant and shameful harassment of female gamers in online gaming communities recorded and reported by many media outlets including the most recent one on The Guardian. This is unacceptable and should be worked on every day. Male gamers must treat their online counterparts with respect, period! But there are also self-made issues like Dove’s latest Real Beauty campaign asking why the women in gaming should be super beautiful!
Yes, people are asking such questions and claiming that more than 70% of female gamers feel underrepresented in games because of how different they look compared to female video game characters. Do you think I look like The Prince from Prince of Persia? Does Jason Schreier have the godlike body of Kratos? Maybe the streamer Ninja is a 2-meter-high war machine like The Master Chief or perhaps Shinji Mikami has the devilish charm of Dante. According to this campaign, the male gamers all have the mentality of Nietzsche’s Übermensch and Superman’s physique because nobody claims they feel underrepresented.
We don’t look up to our heroes because they look just like us! We look up to them because they personify our most sacred values; they are the godlike creatures that we dream of becoming knowing we never will! It is the pursuit of dreams that fuels the man’s ambition and its realization is actually the end of the story, not its beginning.
Pointing fingers and calling names also won’t make things better. It only adds more gas to the already heated debate. We need to work together to make gaming communities across the globe a safer place for everyone. After all, video games are our blissful escape from the horrors of the real world and in that we are united! Video games are there so that we can accept ourselves the way we are, not to reflect our insecurities on them. We don’t need to falsify others in order to prove our truths. The sooner we realize that, the more we can enjoy life and endorse others in enjoying it as well.