HOURS we had spent, the two of us, scrambling for survival on an infested space station. How many corridors had we pushed through? How many enemies had we slain, this hero and I?
Then, the final boss fell, crumbling like a Greek bank. The hero of the game, my all- action digital counterpart, removed his helmet in triumph.
There was an awkward pause, as long golden hair tumbled down from underneath the visor. My hero wasn’t a man — it was a woman.
That moment came in 1986, when Nintendo’s Samus Aran was revealed to be female at the end of Metroid. Since then, she has become one of gaming’s most iconic characters. Yet, despite that, in 2015 we are still talking about the uneven portrayal of women in gaming.
It’s been a slow process, one hindered by the trembling hands of uncertain executives, the suits questioning who really buys their games and for what reasons. A new study, however, has hinted that their fears were unfounded.
In the US, by far the biggest market for gung-ho male leads, 41% of middle-school boys and 61% of high school teenagers agreed that women were treated as sex objects too often in games.
The study was taken across 1,400 students and the result printed in Time. So have those executives been wrong all along? Are teenage boys (and, indeed, grown men) getting bored of one-note female characterisation in gaming?
In Australia, at least, EA Sports put that notion to the test. They asked gamers to vote on who should make the cover of Fifa 16 alongside Leo Messi.
The results came in this week, and Steph Catley was chosen to stand alongside the Argentine magician. It’s the first time a female footballer will adorn the cover of a Fifa game.
This is a nice step forward — congratulations to Catley on being chosen — but it also highlights the elephant in the room. Shoe-horning female representation into male-dominated genres isn’t likely to make much difference to gaming culture. What gaming needs is more big-budget games that reflect different human characteristics. Then the discussion can finally move on.
Speaking of moving on, the CEO of the online Reddit community resigned this week, after a series of controversies during recent months.
If you are surprised that Reddit even had a CEO, then you’re not alone. Ellen Pao resigned after “mutual agreement” with the board of directors. (Yes, Reddit has a board of directors, too.)
More than 200,000 people signed a petition asking Pao to leave her position, after she fired a much-admired moderator on Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ board.
She also shut down five ‘subreddits’ for offensive language and behaviour. The key issue here seems to be a lack of communication — Pao didn’t consult the community before making this decision and the masses spoke.
The masses have been kind to Marvel over the last decade, flocking to the Marvel cinematic universe in droves and making the company billions. It feels like a long time since Iron Man kickstarted that big-screen success and ushered in a golden era of superhero movies.
So the question must be asked — where are all the games? The (largely) brilliant Arkham series of Batman games has shown the potential of superhero games done right, but Marvel has so far failed to capitalise on that potential.
Marvel Games producer Mike Jones addressed the issue at Comic Con in San Diego. “We are very much focused on what our console strategy will be for the future,” Jones said non-committedly, prompting a slow clap from nearby politicians.”
Realising this was something of a non-answer, Jones elaborated. “We are very much taking a controlled, less-is-more, quality-focused, developer-focused strategy,” he said, shifting uncomfortably on his feet.
It will be interesting to see how Marvel approach their digital universe after such success on the silver screen. Games are much harder to do properly, of course, but no less lucrative if the magic formula can be found.
An Iron Man, Captain America or Hulk game practically writes its own code. Then again, Jones could prove a point and lead with Ms Marvel. Or would that make the executives nervous?
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