I was bawling as I sat on my couch, watching various names scroll across the TV screen before me. I grabbed my phone to text someone, anyone. I needed someone to anchor me to reality. Because this? This was just so, so sad.
I have come close to crying in a movie theater, but I’ve never actually cried. The closest I’ve come is when I saw the climax of Toy Story 3. I don’t cry in movie theaters. I don’t like the moment when you exit and you see someone’s ruddy cheeks and nose and the stains of old missed tears stuck to their face. It feels like you’re intruding on a private moment. A moment shared with dozens of others.
Movies have made me feel many things. Games have made me feel fewer. I have grown attached to game characters, I have watched in disbelief and shock as something horrible befell them and their polygons were lost to me forever… At least, until my next new game playthrough. I felt twinges of sadness, but never anything more than that. Never have I felt even the urge to cry.
And yet there I was, sitting on my couch in my apartment and crying ferociously over the end of the Walking Dead. I’ll admit, when I first felt the urge to cry I was weirded out. I remember thinking, “Video games don’t make you cry.” No more than a minute later I decided to let go of my silly preconceived notions and just let loose.
I finished Gears 3 last night. This is a series I’ve followed since the first game made an appearance on the 360, and it’s one that I’ve loved from the get-go. My friends and I would gather around and play the first one together, remarking on the controls and the cover system. I played Horde mode non-stop once the second came out, and I was immediately the best of my friends. At this year’s past E3, I waited a little under an hour in line just to play a few rounds of Horde mode in the third game.
While Zelda: Ocarina of Time will forever be my most favorite game ever, the Gears series is definitely my favorite as a young adult. Why?
A year ago, I would have given the answer, “It’s simply a fun, well-executed game. The pieces all come together. The result is cinematic and epic. I feel like a hero.”
After finishing up this last entry, I want to bring up another aspect that has caused me to enjoy the series even more. It’s something that Gears detractors (one of them a dear friend of mine) enjoy bringing up and ridiculing.
The character insight given to players in Gears 3 reverses previous notions of an all-brawn-but-no-brain cast, and the characters become stronger and more developed in simple moments throughout the game.
Spoilers, from here on out.
I read last week an interesting article on how liberally Batman: Arkham City slings the word “bitch” about. I don’t yet have the game myself–of course I’m itching to play it–and I’ll wait until I get my hands on it to pass judgment. The articles that have stood out most to me have been Kotaku’s own articles on Batman’s weird “bitch” fixation and the hypersexualization of female characters in game worlds. I thought these two to be well-written articles that certainly incited a lot of discussion in their comments. That is, of course, never a bad thing–discussion begets critical thinking. Hopefully.
Female characters in video games can often be described as slight variations of one of three archetypes: the helpless, hapless damsel in distress; the coquettish, alluring vixen; and the cold-hearted, distant embodiment of stoicism. In addition, the majority of women in games are heavily and overtly sexualized for mass male consumption, thereby providing slight variations of the same visual across several different games. Many lauded video game members have taken issue with the current state of women in games and have offered their own viewpoints in order to fix it. Leigh Alexander writes in an editorial for Gamepro Magazine that characters such as Bayonetta “[take] the video game sexy woman stereotype from object to subject” in which “the game itself is an artistic representation of the concept that female sexuality is its own kind of weapon.” Others disagree, believing that “characters [should] reflect the harsh lifestyle of their world in a much more believable way” (Hamm). Both offer interesting yet opposing solutions. However, both solutions can go much further in creating believable or truly empowering female characters. The hypersexualized dominatrix invoking female empowerment is a dramatic knee-jerk response to the objectification of women in games. The normal, average woman with a matching attitude and manner is currently the method being taken for game developers wishing to inject their games with respect for females. Video game females can be so much more than either of those two proposals. The change the industry needs for their female characters is to make them more multifaceted by giving them unique strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and personality traits. Female characterization needs to evolve to better reflect where females are today, instead of the antiquated false notions of what they were and perhaps should have been in the past.