I rather enjoyed Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man comic series. Currently I’m reading (and finishing) bell hooks’s Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. This idea came from watching the following video (I swear, my life is not normally this synchronous):
It seems to me we could give players a lot more ways to examine the world concerning gender, sex, and the current state of the world.
In Y: The Last Man, every male on Earth save Yorick and his Capuchin monkey Ampersand die off due to an unknown illness. The series sees all manner of females emerge from the ruins in which this leaves the world, and illustrates a lot of the problems inherent in today’s still gender and sex restrictive society. Consider how many females are pilots, running utilities, in the seat of government, et cetera (here’s a hint, not many). Along with that fact that nearly half of the world’s population (according to the CIA’s estimates, the total population sees 0.92 males per every female) is suddenly dead, this creates for a very different look at a post-apocalyptic world.
While the comic series is being made into a film, I can’t help but wonder what a game universe as such would look like. Especially as, to me, the really interesting part of the story is that which we don’t see every panel. Militant groups labeling themselves Amazons derisively sneer at anyone who still buys into the patriarchal structure, the fight for whom will be president of the United States, the rumors of one last male left on the planet, et cetera. These women are learning to readapt and rebuild their world.
What if one were to be given the task to play as these females? Imagine a Sims-like experience where one has limits on one’s Godlike power that very clearly illustrates our current position. Or, what if this were from a perspective of an engine like Oblivion, where one has to carve some manner of niche from the ruins? One of the first females Yorick meets is an ex-model who just had a breast enhancement before the catastrophe hit. When she meets Yorick she’s working with the CDC to clean the corpses off the street by driving a garbage truck. This led me to think of ways to illustrate actual feminism (not just the myth of the bra burning, man-hating lesbian) into videogames: subtly, directly, tangentially, and various other methods. This was just one idea (it should be noted I have no experience in the games development industry, so this is all purely theoretical).
However, as Brecht states, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” For many reasons, feminism is seen by many as revolting and is clearly misunderstood. As hooks states, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” Amusingly enough, there is no real mention of which sex this helps more. Yet, there is no denying, every source of media can be quite guilty of all three.
From what I’ve read of bell hooks’s writing, she is not a particular fan of videogames, falling into that group of people who see them as violence trainers and providing the wrong values to our youth–particularly males (I have the unfortunate tendency to roll my eyes whenever anyone brings up ‘values’ as if there is one definition of the term). I would probably counter her by showing her the early history of film, novels, comic books, and even point out their current state to show videogames are no worse than any other medium. But, is that really any excuse?
Tomorrow I believe I shall start a weekly tradition (we’ll see how I fare dealing with it) of examining the use of masculinity and femininity in games from a gender studies background. I’ve loosely done it before in some posts, but I believe it is something which could benefit from a more thorough analysis, and I certainly have the library of books to help me along the way. While I could just focus on females/feminist ideals in videogames, I believe there is a rather large gap in masculine studies with which to begin, and want to round out the discussion on both ends. As hooks’s statement illustrates, we all seek to gain from feminist ideals.