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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

All-female protagonist September: a lack of casual games and contemplations on the female body


Blog by Lindsay M.

I’m going to be upfront: the first few days of September have been more of a casual game detox for me than a foray into the world of women in video games. I complained an excessive amount about the lack of casual mobile games with female leads. Pokemon Go, Tiny Tower, Disney Crossy Road, Marvel Tsum Tsums… these games are now in a folder marked with a blank face emoji. The notifications popped up consistently for about a day, reminding me that Disney Crossy Road has new features (some of which are for a limited time only, because someone at Hipster Whale is torturing me) or that my hat shop needs restocking.

Someone asked me if I was playing Pokemon Go. “No,” I snapped at them. They asked if I didn’t like it, and that sent me into a long-winded version of the above paragraph. I love Pokemon Go. I still see its charm. But the characters are selectable and so it’s not applicable to this month. Why did I set these restrictions on myself? Oh God, I’m so bored. Bus rides are boring. Walking doesn’t hatch eggs. The sky may as well just fall on my head, because without these games life is not worth living.


It turns out I may be slightly addicted to my phone. I never thought I was that bad, but clearly this is something I need to examine further (and in a later article). But once those few days had passed and the weekend appeared, it was as though a heavy grey sky had parted and warm sunshine shone through. There are so many games on so many systems that I can be excited for. If I am craving something mobile, I can play Lara Craft Go — it’s set up on my iPad and I am a few levels in, but I should sync it with my phone as well for those times on the bus that I just can’t take the boring any longer.

The weekend also provided me a chance to finally sit down with some long-ignored console games. The choice was between Final Fantasy XIII and Lollipop Chainsaw. Lollipop Chainsaw won by a landslide: I am ridiculously stressed right now (buying a home for the win!) and needed to let out some of that pent up energy, impatience, and aggression. A zombie hack-and-slash is exactly what the doctor orders in the circumstances.

Actually, that should be a thing. Therapists who recommend what game to play to deal with your life right now. Someone get on that.


Anyway, Lollipop Chainsaw! I love games where I can just mash buttons and hope for the best, and odds are it will work out. I also love games that let me select my difficulty: the easier the better so I don’t just end up more angry. Early on in the game, while I'm not sure WHY nobody is treating a zombie outbreak like a big deal. Leading lady, Juliet, is portrayed as strong. Sickingly sweet and scantily clad, yes -- but she's the one kicking ass and taking names while her classmates either run and hide or get trapped and must be rescued.

While playing Lollipop Chainsaw, I wondered if this is it for the physical representation of women: super fit because they have to be (you can’t kill zombies or plunder tombs if you don’t go to the gym), pretty yet accessible. A few days later, I still question the same thing. I’m trying to think of some game, any game, where the woman featured has a physique that is perfect when compared to today’s media and the “perfect” woman image it puts forth. There must be something — and I’m hoping that someone can fill me in so I can play the game immediately!

Related reading: Lollipop Chainsaw made our list of the top 100 games ever — but where did it land?

That being said, I understand the reason for it to a degree. Video games are often action-centered, and an obese woman wouldn’t be believable as someone who can knock out a half-dozen enemies with a single swipe of her sword. But when you consider RPGs, for example, there isn’t that obvious of a reason for each character to be a new representation of the ideal woman. Do mages really need to weigh 100 pounds of pure muscle when they tend to be away from the action, casting spells at a distance? What about archers? And princesses — why can’t a spoiled princess weight 400 pounds due to sheer overindulgence and gluttony? While men aren’t always portrayed this way, it has been known to happen and nobody blinks an eye.

I’m still not entirely sure where this month will take me. I also don’t know why I’ve posed restrictions on myself that just upset me, although I accept that the break from consistent mobile game notifications is quite peaceful. I’m starting to question my femininity since I am most certainly not like the females I am embodying through games thus far, although they certainly have traits to admire (strength and perseverance are at the forefront of that list). Hopefully as the month goes on these thoughts become something more cohesive.

- Lindsay M.
News Editor


All-female protagonist September: a lack of casual games and contemplations on the female body
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