Writing about the opposite sex in video games; a Nathan Drake and Lara Croft comparison

Video games have changed, dramatically and at a very fast pace. Only a few years ago were we playing a pixelated character you didn’t really care about but now we have well developed characters with incredible stories. Unfortunately, this creates a few problems too. The industry has huge pressure on them to do something new, realistic and fan pleasing. Standards have gone up tenfold which means the players aren’t always happy.

The latest uproar comes from the Tumblr community. It’s about how Tomb Raider apparently promotes “rape culture”, you can see the post (and my rant at the end: here). They largely argue that male developers should not write a female character, ever. A statement which I find hugely offensive. It says that men don’t know women at all. A fair statement but what women knows what all women are like? She only knows her own personality inside-out but she couldn’t understand her polar opposite point of view. Every human being, whether the opposite sex or not, is complicated. Hell I think most people don’t even know themselves very well. My point is that if you say men can never write a female character, you’re also saying a woman can never write a male character.

So in that case, what about Amy Hennig? She is one of the most influential women in the gaming industry and is known for her writing of the Uncharted series. She created Nathan Drake, one of the most likeable video games characters in the world. So, if men can’t write Lara Croft then who the hell is this woman to write a male character!? Oh no, we’ve all been mistaken she’s done such a poor job because she wrote about the opposite sex. Furthermore, we should also slander all the books that have ever been written by a man about women and vice versa, I mean, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about right?

I would be down-right offended if I was a male writer/developer and someone told me I couldn’t write about a woman. It’s sexist. End of. Women are not “better writers”, you get bad and good writers of every gender, race and background.

Now the issue of rape in video games. As far as I know, it’s an issue that has never really been tackled and from what I can gauge from the TR trailer, it doesn’t really look like it’s tackled here much either. Although, it’s only a clip, I could be wrong. However, we all know rape is horrible and it can be a very difficult issue to tackle. Many films and TV shows have tried and succeeded at tackling rape, you only need to watch any soap on British TV to see this. Some have failed too, naturally, but if TV shows can tackle such sensitive issues, games should be able to too. We want more adult games because video games are made by adults mostly for adults, we don’t want to be treated like children when it comes to playing a good, in depth story. For me, there’s no reason why rape shouldn’t be addressed as almost every other serious issue has been in games.

Some argue that the “rape” scene in TR is used to strengthen Lara and that in itself is wrong. Again, I don’t expect that particular scene to hold any significance over everything else that happens to Lara. She’s thrown about, captured, tied up, shot at, threatened…a lot of horrid things happen to the poor woman. That’s what makes her stronger. It’s perhaps a bit cliché but how do you make a character go from never firing a gun to becoming a bad ass? It would be unrealistic to say Lara was born a bad ass, this is an origins story after all. Let’s look at Nathan Drake again, the last game only just touches on his past and how he became the man he is today but it’s easy to tell he’s gone through some rough times. He’s very young, he’s by himself and almost gets killed when Sully finds him. He’s gone through trauma, it’s changed him, we’ve seen dark sides of Drake before and they are yet to be explained. Drake goes through shit too, he’s also threatened, thrown around, shot at, drugged, etc. He hasn’t had it easy. Characters need that emotional background to give them depth, we need to know how they got there, how they became the person they are.

Amy Hennig, creator of Uncharted

It’s insulting to say a female character can’t be put through trauma because it’s cruel if you’re then happy to say it’s okay for men to be put through that same trauma. When the Hitman controversy came out, many newspapers picked up on how horrible it was to see women get killed and taken out in such a violent way by Agent 47. That’s sexist because if those nuns were say, monks instead (i.e. male), they wouldn’t have a problem with it. We can’t cotton ball female characters in such a way if we also want them to be treated the same way as the male ones.

Oh and all the complaining about Lara’s “moaning” and heavy breathing? She’s exhausted, she’s hurt, I’m pretty sure I’d make similar noises given the situation, it’s an attempt to make it realistic, not sexualising it. Drake heavily breathes too and talks to himself, it’s not there for women to touch themselves over it.

The TR origin story may not be perfect. I don’t know, it’s not out yet, I’ll have to wait until next year to see. Maybe I will eat my words but for now we need to direct our anger at the real issues in video games, and to stop being so sexist ourselves.

Why I still love Resident Evil

Image

Ever since Resident Evil 5 came out, fans and non-fans have claimed that Resident Evil has changed. That it’s no longer Resident Evil at all. There’s too much action and not enough survival. I cannot disagree, it has changed but I believe that change is for the better.

Change can be good. Things have dramatically changed since the first Resident Evil on PSone, the graphics have improved, we have better story-tellers, technology has leapt forward and games are much longer than they used to be. Imagine if games companies kept using the same tactics over and over again, no one wants to play the same game twice. When a sequel comes out, we think “what’s different? What’s new?” Which is why games have to keep evolving. Look at Spyro, it was a failing game franchise, doing the same things but worse with each release and then Activision had a great, money making idea for Spyro and it’s popularity has sky-rocketed since. Spyro has been reborn, all due to one fantastic idea. 

It was a similar story with Resident Evil, even gamers now will tell you how great Resident Evil 4 is and how it’s the best in the series. It was different to the previous games, there was more action, more suspense but it still managed to hang onto that horror feel. However, Resident Evil 5 was not given as many praises even though it’s the best selling Resident Evil game of all time. Many felt the African setting wasn’t scary enough, it wasn’t dark enough and I agree but RE can’t keep doing the same thing.

Image

It seems that many fans would rather Resident Evil was constantly set in a mansion, walking down long, dark corridors, waiting for things to pop out at them, but hasn’t RE done this so much already? It’s old school and sometimes old school is good (see the DLC for RE5) but it can’t be done all the time, we would get bored. As much as I love Albert Wesker, if he was the villian in every RE game, I would get bored of him.

RE6 is trying out a lot of new things. It has three stories instead of one, which intertwine and though it will be hard to get right, it will be amazing if Capcom pull it off. There’s new characters, there’s old characters, friends are fighting with each other, new enemies, new inventory system, the list goes on. RE is a series that needs to be kept fresh or it will go as stale as a zombie rotting in Raccoon City. It may have moved away from it’s roots but most games need to in order to survive among the action-packed modern day games.

For me, Resident Evil is still Resident Evil, it has the characters I love, the zombies I like to shoot but with a new twist, something that keeps it fresh. Yes it may not be a traditional RE game any more but I played RE5 to death and if millions of people enjoy playing it as much as I do, who are you to argue otherwise?

Film review: Rock of Ages

Get ready to clap your hands, nod your head and mouth the words to your favourite classic rock songs in Rock of Ages, the film version of the highly popular stage play.

Set in 1987, Rock of Ages is the story of small town girl, Sherrie (Julianne Hough), who travels to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a singer and Drew (Diego Boneta), a city boy working in a Rock bar who also wants to live out his dream of becoming a rock God. The couple meet and immediately, they are in love. Meanwhile the bar Drew works in, is close to closing down and Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand) are doing all they can to save rock and roll from the team of Christian women (headed by Catherine Zeta Jones) who are trying to shut it down.

The love story between Drew and Sherrie is sickly sweet and almost becomes too much but then Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) steps in. Cruise playing a drunken, sleezy rock God may be his best role yet. The girls faint, kiss him and sleep with him, the ultimate roll model for every wannabe rockstar. Stacee unintentionally makes things to go sour between Drew and Sherrie, causing them to go their separate ways and proving it’s not as easy to achieve your dreams as you first hoped.

As you can tell, the story isn’t brilliant but boy does the rest of the film make up for it. Not only does it contain some of the best rock songs of all time including: I love rock n’ roll, Sister Christian, Don’t stop believing and We build this city, the acting, singing and dancing are all incredible. The two lead singers, Drew and Sherrie have amazing voices and really pack an emotional punch. Rock of Ages also does a great job of mixing several songs together at once as well as intertwining each of the characters separate stories and backgrounds to keep the audience interested.

Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx and his baboon, Heyman, definitely steal the show. Stacee is effortlessly cool and sexy but has also gone a bit bonkers, certainly the star of the show. But Baldwin and Brand are also fantastic as the club owners, it’s the perfect role for Brand and I guarantee even if you usually hate him, you’ll laugh at him in this.

Catherine Zeta Jones has some great parts too – especially “Hit me with your best shot” where you see her singing and dancing in a church doing some incredibly high kicks. Props to you girl!

Rock of Ages is a great summer film for all the family and for anyone who’s a fan of classic rock. It’s funny, it’s sexy and it will have you singing along for days after you’ve seen it.

Rock of Ages is out this Wednesday.

4/5

Journalism standards in decline – the fault of journalists or the audience?

The Sunday Sport ‘journalism’ at its best…

Today, CVG has caused a hell of a hullabaloo with their article about the E3 booth babes of 2012 just after a week ago, Sarah Ditum wrote an article about how sexist the new Hitman trailer was (which I wrote about here). What adds insult to injury is the words that accompanied the booth babe pictures: “We here on CVG like to use a 10-point review system, but if you’re more simple-minded you could just settle with ‘would’ or ‘not with yours, mate'” The staff at CVG are starting to sound less like journalists and more like sexist pigs.

But whose fault is it? Just a quick scan of the comments will tell you most CVG readers seem to like these sorts of ‘articles’, so is the audience to blame? Perhaps the average teenage boy, young man, old geezer on the street wants to look at sexy ladies, giving the site hits and adding sales figures to the delightful Sunday Sport. However, lads mags are meant to be in decline so is this really want readers want? After all, CVG is a video games website, surely readers go there to read about video games, not the women who dress up to endorse them. If they want to look at sexy ladies, that’s what the copious amount of porn sites are for.

Why do they still have booth babes at these events anyway? It could be argued that most journalists are male, as are most video games developers so someone, somewhere in the PR department thought they could persuade journalists to talk positively about their game by pushing a cheerleader with a push-up bra in front of them. “Sex sells” people say but does it? It’s an old fashion view, that tactic might have worked in the past but now more and more men are thinking, hang on, this is getting a bit ridiculous.

You could say the same about all the celebrity news and nonsense that is constantly written about in cheap magazines – many complain about this type of journalism but these magazines sell, a reflection of the kind of society we’re currently living in. Perhaps we’re no longer bothered about ‘hard news’, we’re more interested in who Katie Price is now sleeping with…

I hope to be a games journalist someday and I would love to go to events like E3 but I would hope the booth babes saga was starting to fade out by then. This video by the BBC showed how uncomfortable women in technology felt at the CES convention because of all the booth babes. I would feel the same. It was bad enough during Eurogamer last year, some stalls did indeed have booth babes and as I was out with a group of mostly male friends, I felt uncomfortable. Some made jokes, some stared and I just wanted to play video games. It’s actually rather upsetting to be a woman and to be put in that situation. You might laugh at me and tell me I’m stupid but that is how some women feel and if you want more women in our industry like so many articles are going on about at the moment, companies and journalists need to change their attitudes.

The problem with Prometheus (warning: spoilers!)

Image

Ridley Scott originally said Prometheus was to be a prequel to Alien then he changed his mind and announced it was completely separate to the series but let’s be honest, it’s an origins story. A theory of how humans were created and, more importantly, how the aliens came to be. 

Prometheus is not a bad little sci-fi film. Before seeing it last night I’d heard all sorts of terrible comments and as a fan of (most of) the series, I was worried. The problem one critic seemed to have with it was the film moved “too fast” and the characters didn’t have time to develop. I, however, never felt that. No, the real problem was all the gaping plot holes and unanswered questions the film left like a nasty after taste. 

The first half of the film is rather confusing, not because it’s hard to understand what’s going on but because you don’t know what they’ve found. Which is fine but then the captain of the ship, who, as he says, ONLY drives the ship, comes in and explains to the main character what’s going on. Firstly, how does HE know more than her!? It’s essentially her mission, her work, he is just a driver. It seemed like a random way to explain what was going on to the audience. The synthetic poisons her partner for no other reason that just to “see what it would do”, thus killing him and almost sacrificing the entire mission. It’s made obvious that he is just a curious character but it seems a little off to me that a robot would be so irresponsible. But that’s just me being critical if anything.

Image

Later on, when Elizabeth has evacuated the alien-being inside of her, the rest of the crew just act normally when not five minutes ago they were trying desperately to contain her and put her back to sleep. But now they just stand around ignoring her and think “yeah it’s ok for her to come out with us again”. What!? She’s just given birth to an ALIEN and you’re just going to ignore that. Uhm, ok. Also, at the end when the creator of the humans gives birth to what looks like an early version of the Alien – where are all the others? There were other bodies of the same species with burst chests yet no aliens? Only those strange snake things which are possibly an early form of face-huggers. Do these Aliens come around because the evolve? My boyfriend argued they take on the DNA of whatever they’re inside but if that was true, Elizabeth would have given birth to an actual Alien and not a weird tentacle monster and there would have been more aliens running around but we saw none. IF the Alien at the end was the first of it’s kind then why was there an Alien depicted on the wall of the first room they find? Where did that come from? The strange green rock is also never explained.

Of course the main question you’re left with is “why?” Why did our creators want to kill us and why was infecting us with another life-form a good solution to that? It leaves it open for a sequel which saddens me because Scott really just needs to leave the Alien universe alone now. Perhaps I am too critical or reading into the film too much but you cannot deny there are too many unanswered questions for it to be considered an excellent film. Maybe Scott has just cut out half an hours worth of footage which will appear and explain everything when the inevitable directors cut comes out. It seems though that Prometheus just isn’t enough for us Alien fans. It’s a shame because the characters are great, the acting is superb and the special effects are pretty awesome too. It’s still worth seeing and I did enjoy it but it so could have easily been so much better.

What did you think of the film? Please comment below, I’d love to read your thoughts.