here has been a quiet roster of characters from the annals of video games who have done the woman gamer crowd fairly well. If we are going to be stuck in the gender binary for characterization we might as well be looking for the best ones we can find. For every five or six tropes and hypersexualized characters we have, there are a few that shine for various reasons.
One trait I see portrayed frequently but not often discussed is mental illness and how it is used as a mechanism to propagate or explain away the actions of characters. Often, I see mental illness used as a tool to demonstrate just how terrible a character's actions are when their actions could be held up to scrutiny on their own. The use of mental illness as an agent of character development is an old trope that has been used time and again, often marring really great games. Outside of social justice circles, though, I don't see a lot of pushback against these depictions.
I had the wonderful pleasure of talking with Ashley Soriano, professional gamer, future game designer, and all-around swell gal. It was an interview that was so awesome I had to cut it in half and hope I will have time to post the rest in the future. Enjoy!
Ashley Soriano is a multiple-title first-person shooter competitive gamer. A frequent competitor within the Major League Gaming Pro Circuit, she started her competitive career as a professional coach for the Shadowrun team Secret Weapon. After two years later within the Halo 3 and Halo: Reach circuit, she moves on to compete within Call of Duty: Black Ops this MLG season. In addition to national gaming competitions, she produces videos under partnership with Machinima and writes for a gaming blog Partybomb.net. Currently living in Los Angeles, she majors in Interactive Entertainment at the University of Southern California
Now that I have showered some well-deserved praise on BioWare for Dragon Age II, and also engaged in the almost 60 hours that it took me to get to the bitter and mind-wrenchingly disturbing end, I have a few thoughts. For all of my waxing poetic about how fabulously progressive BioWare has been with their slick political messages and wiggling new ideas into the way we consume and play video games, there was this thing tugging at me as I took my Hawke faffing about Kirkwall.
Please take note Gentle Readers: This post contains some fairly significant end-game plot spoilers for Dragon Age II. If you do not want to have this roller coaster ride ruined for you, please consider moving on. You have been warned.
The Dragon Age games are some of my favorites, and while they are not without flaw, I have played my money's worth of them for sure. Part of what has endeared them to me is the progressive feel of the character interaction and the way that they smartly raise political issues within story lines. Attentiveness to QUILTBAG issues is, in my mind, a welcome and refreshing thing to see and hear from the industry.
Gaming is interactive, and I would like to hit the pause menu and turn back to all of you, the faithful who have come 'round to engage me in these discussions (don't worry, I won't let the Deamons' Souls get you, this pause works, go answer your phone!). Consider this the cut scene before Act II or whatever.
People with disabilities have long had difficulty accessing video games for various reasons and with varying degrees of limited accommodations. Game play details ranging from color schemes in darker settings to story lines and fight scenes that can overwhelm cognitive understanding have left many games out of the question. Controllers have been too difficult or impossible to use, and the mechanics too fast or the quest chains too long and tangled. The canyon of hardcore games almost seemed, at times, to bar disabled gamers from their guild.
The concern that casual games are going to ruin the gaming market plays on a couple of assumptions: 1) That "hardcore" means "difficult," something that only a veteran gamer of many years should be able to play intuitively, and should only appeal to that certain narrow demographic. 2) That hardcore and casual gamers are two ends of a wide canyon and they shall never cross the divide into local co-op mode.
The Age of the Internet has brought many advances in the way that we play games. It usually breaks down into three categories, and I like to chunk things neatly for the sake of paragraphs. The Internet has brought we the gamers The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. The Good is that it has opened up a whole world where we can interact with other game enthusiasts and engage in our favorite games together from miles away. Bungie Games has banked on this for years now. The Bad, I would say, is lag. Lag kills, and as wired as South Korea is, they haven't solved this problem for me yet, as too many times I am looking for my corpse in some Azerothan forest. The Ugly, however, would be the freedom that so many feel that anonymity permits them to ruin the experience of online gaming for the rest of us.