Tag Archives: Red Dead Redemption

The Soapbox Talks Sex — Treatment Of Females In MMO’s

Defiant TrainerEliot Lefebvre unleashed a relatively impassioned soapbox piece on Massively this week.

I agreed right away on the example of Rockstar as a developer that tends to be sexist. I’ve commented on this before here on my blog. I really wish Rockstar would get with the program and let us play a female protagonist.

Based on poll numbers I’ve seen for other games, I would guess 50% of players might play as a female, with 30% as a real preference. Googling to test my guess, I find a poll on the All Points Bulletin forum that shows nearly 50% would make a female character, for example. Other polls for open-world single player games like Oblivion are far more favorable in terms of actual female players.

Infer what you will. I’ll just keep lamenting that Red Dead Redemption made me play (or rather not play, and send the DVD back to Gamefly) as a male. I could have been in a world of gun-toting cowgirl joy.

It’s very complicated, of course, but surely given the enormous amount of investment to make a game, asking for equal treatment in voice over, cutscenes, and romances isn’t asking too much.

In the above pic that I cut from a Rift screenshot, you can see the treatment of women in Rift. I really don’t have a problem with this Ethian-style desert dweller look, although the shoulder guards here are just plain awful. I also don’t have a problem with this sexualized fantasy art style, which has been a cultural norm since Frazetta, Vallejo, and Royo.

My logic breaks down, however, as the Massively article and Spinksville point out, because of the huge non-equity. If loincloths are the going style for the Defiant culture, then the men should be wearing them too.

I should be seeing oiled gladiator pectorals shining in the sun, just like I see in the art of the above-mentioned venerable fantasy art standard-bearers. Instead, we see full suits of armor. And then you’ve got Shyla, queen of the high elves, who fights in her panties.

Wanted: Red Dead Redhead

We played Red Dead Redemption last night after renting it on Gamefly. My premise was as follows. I enjoyed Mafia 2 a lot, despite being forced to play a male protagonist. I enjoyed GTA IV for a while, also despite the male protagonist. RDD is a highly acclaimed, very highly rated game by Rockstar. I expected to enjoy RDD. RDD is a beautiful, classy, and very playable RPG, but I was wrong about my preconceptions that I would enjoy it.

What was wrong with RDD, causing Yolari and I to give up and send it back after only a few hours? It was the very slow pace at which the story evolved, mainly. We just couldn’t get to a classic hook that made us want to keep playing, like Mafia 2 offered us. We needed something substantial and soon to offset the fact that from the get-go, we had no connection to John Marston. We really didn’t even like him.

While Mafia 2 allowed the protagonist some narrative cut scenes to explain things, we got nothing like that in RDD, only mysteries unexplained. Yolari was particularly frustrated with controlling the horse. I was a little dismayed that I couldn’t stop and chat with people, which seems like a standard in an open-world RPG. I loved chatting with Easy Pete on the porch of the saloon in Fallout: New Vegas. He didn’t have a quest for me, but he made me feel like a welcome stranger. I didn’t feel welcome in RDD.

Why does Rockstar insist on making these male protagonist only games, when just about every other big name modern RPG maker is on board with the equality program? (CD Projekt of The Witcher is another exception.) Apparently Rockstar thinks that because the player is controlling a bad-ass dude with a gun and a big knife on his hip, that’s all they need to interest a player immediately. In this case they were wrong. If RDD had sported a bad-ass girl with a gun and a knife though, I admit my attention span would have been much higher. Who knows. I might have even purchased the game. As it was, no connection at all with the character, no hook for the story, no background, no clue, no emotional connection or dramatic moments that made me really feel what John Marston was feeling.

Contrast the opening experience in RDD to Mafia 2. No contest whatsoever. The story and character got me, despite my differences with him. There is probably no contest either in terms of profit between RDD and Mafia 2, and that’s a shame. I bought GTA IV for $20 last year and I enjoyed it for a while, but that’s the last dollar I give to Rockstar until they end their male chauvinist ways. And it’s not like they can’t do it. THQ did it for Saint’s Row 2. Y’all get with the program, Rockstar, ya hear?