As I’ve stated before, I’ve wanted to be a hero since I was little. It’s hard to tell if that stems from or helped cause my love of video games. I mean, we can go right back to the beginning. Super Mario Bros.
Here we’ve got an overweight Italian plumber from Brooklyn in a strange world trying to save a princess from an evil monster. An unlikely hero …to be sure, but he fights anyway, to save the girl and win her heart. A classic tale, to be sure, damsels in distress have been around for centuries.
But why wasn’t there a game about an overwrought faux-Italian hairdresser from Jersey in a strange world trying to save a prince from an evil monster? Why must it be a damsel in distress? Couldn’t it be a…what would you call that…a damsen? A…dams? A damseler? Damnit.
Mario saves Princess Peach. Link saves Princess Zelda. Kuros saves a harem of women wearing standard-issue “dungeon bikinis” before rescuing his nameless princess. I can name a bunch of examples of this in current and retro games, but I can’t think of one where the roles are reversed – unless the game allows you to choose the sex of your character – which is still a pretty recent innovation.
I liked to think that if I made a game, I’d be above that. But I wouldn’t be – the stakes are always higher for me when a woman’s life is in danger. I don’t know if that’s instinctive or learned, but it’s true. I will leap faster, try harder to save a woman.
It’s not that the hero has to be male, though. In fact, more often than not, if I can choose the sex of my character, I’ll pick female. Phallic imagery aside, there’s something ultimately more badass – and attractive – about a woman who holds a gun or a sword like she knows how to use it.
Is that sexist of me? I honestly have no idea at this point. Thinking this deeply about gender issues and analyzing my reaction to them is rather dizzying. I want to save women more because I’m more likely to care about them (which isn’t sexist, I think) – which makes me a male hero trying to save a female damsel (which is sexist, I think). I give up.
The best example I can think of is the recent Modern Warfare 3 DLC. There’s a mission where you have to save as many hostages as possible – all men. I lost more than ten, but it wasn’t a big deal, because I still accomplished the mission. In Fallout 3, on the other hand, I would get very upset if I failed to save the female slave with the exploding collar. Despite the fact that she is wholly imaginary and digital and no one ACTUALLY died.
Is it just ingrained in me by virtue of being male? Is it simple genetics? Is it the last vestiges of chivalry? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I believe it’s worth exploring.
Now, there’s obviously more important gender issues in gaming, such as women being primarily used as sex objects (I’m looking at YOU, Team Ninja). But that’s a topic for another time.
For now, I just thought I’d muse on why saving women is better, in my eyes, at least. And to all those who would argue about that: WOMEN HAVE BOOBS. YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID. (so much for not being sexist)