Girl in the Machine
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Gender Switcheroo

Happy Halloween, Readers!

After I’ve played a game a few times, I enjoy thinking about what would happen if one or two small things about the game had changed. Some people might not consider it such a small thing, but I like to change the sex of one or several of the characters in my imagination. The idea is that our assumptions about the essential nature of the characters haven’t changed, but our expectations make the situation somehow different.

In the spirit of Halloween, masks, and passing, here are a few of my favorite considerations:

Final Fantasy X: Surfer girl Wakka and that gothed-out punk Lulu make one helluva pair. It makes me giggle to think of spunky, carefree girl-Wakka terrorizing the quiet and withdrawn male-Lulu. Poor guy.

Final Fantasy X-2: Imagine the campy adventures of male Yuna, Rikku, and Paine. Oh, wait. It’s already painfully campy. Maybe we just shouldn’t think about it at all?

Thousand Arms: This is an old one. I really would have enjoyed the game so much more if Meis had been a woman (or gay) and surrounded by a harem of men. It just sucks that, on top of the crappy game play, you have to go on dates with the women to power them up! . . . Nelsha in particular would’ve been so adorable!

Phantom Brave: This game just makes me melt as it is—I love the dynamic between poor Marona and Castille. If one of them were to become a boy, I would insist that the other change sex as well. Their relationship is so pure and sweet because it lacks romantic potential. Of course, they could be homosexual--and I totally support the idea that they're gonna grow up to big big ol' lesbians together--but I don’t think it would be so overt (Although Nippon Ichi does try to pull some pretty interesting things with its characters!).

The Legend of Zelda: My mom has been playing Twilight Princess on the Wii for a while, and it’s a trip to watch. One of the best parts is that she renamed Link “Princess.” When I pointed out that Link was a male, she countered with, “No, Princess is a butch lesbian.” Touché.

Kingdom Hearts: Sora, Riku, and Kairi—changing the sex of any one of the characters makes the story far more interesting to me. Imagine the lesbian tones of female-Sora and Kairi seeking to find each other. Female-Riku could have added an interesting jealous love triangle to the game. . . but who’s to say that isn’t already there? Then there’s the full-blown homoerotic adventure when you include male-Kairi, making the Kingdom Hearts series my number one candidate for giving a character a sex change.

Feel free to share your own ideas in our comments section. Also, let us know if you’re doing any video-game related costumes to celebrate, and watch out for crazies tonight!

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 Posted by Calabar
 5:45 AM + Link to this post

Monday, October 29, 2007
No, not so peachy.

I know I can't be the only one who's disappointed that Super Smash Bros. Brawl has been delayed until February. Like many others, I've been watching the official Smash Bros. Dojo like a hawk, trying to guess who Nintendo would include (or, as the case may be, not include) in their ever-exploding cast next. Other updates to the site include descriptions of the combatants' Final Smash moves -- super special attacks that typically blow away everyone on the screen.

And man, do they look cool. Mario unleashes a smoldering eruption of fire, Fox's Landmaster tears up everything in sight, and Bowser balloons into the mega-scary, mega-awesome Giga Bowser that I'm sure many of you remember from Super Smash Bros. Melee. Clicking through the characters, it's not difficult to get excited about each one, and you start to guess what the next Final Smash move could be before you scroll down to check it out for yourself.

I got particularly excited about Peach. How was my favorite Super Mario character going to kick ass? Was she going to arm herself with a gigantic parasol that has the power to wipe everyone from the screen in a single swoop? Or perhaps she'd fire a wicked laser from her blue brooch because no one has any clue why she has always had it anyway?

What could it be?
Oh, she's about to do it, guys! I am so pumped.

Aww, cute, it's like a photobooth.

Wait, wha?

Peaches?! She just gets peaches?

That's right, folks. Mario may be able to conjure up a volatile pillar of surging flamey death, but the best that Peach can muster is a sleeping spell and a bushel of fresh, fuzzy peaches. To be fair, one can conceivably kick ass while everyone's dropping off like it's a Sunday morning, but what are normal kicks and punches when you could sprout celestial wings and belch torrents of fire? Even cute little asexual bundle of puff Kirby does some damage with his formidable Stew Pot of Death, and yet Peach is left twirling around as Ambien incarnate. Awesome.

Why? Why stick Peach with the lame defensive move? Isn't it enough that she's always getting Koopnapped and having extreme hormonal mood swings? A comically huge frying pan would have been better than this, or even explodey peaches that fall, ticking, from the sky and blow up on impact. Peach can hold her own on the Smash Bros. battlefield and yet her silly moves have got all of us laughing at her again.

And don't get me started on how Samus's Final Smash blasts off all of her armor.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 9:56 AM + Link to this post

Friday, October 26, 2007
My Sims, My Choice

The first thing most people notice about My Sims for the Wii is that it is sickeningly cute--in place of the realistic proportions of the Sims 2 franchise are cutesy, blocky little Sims that look downright huggable. The main plot of the game is different from its PC counterparts as well: new to a small town that's seen better days, it's up to your cuddly little Sim to spruce the place back up to its former glory. You can do this by implementing classic Sims elements, from socializing to showing off your flair for interior design. It's a fun, lighthearted game that, although not without flaws, is worth picking up. My Sims also includes a feature that is easily overlooked but something that makes me very happy to see.

The Sims has always been a franchise I've enjoyed--although it does have its problems. While creating a Sim has always allowed a good amount of artistic freedom, games like The Sims 2 have some surprisingly strict gender roles. Areas such as facial features and makeup remain equal for both sexes, but the separation begins at clothing. For example, as I was creating a female Sim who I considered to prefer pants over dresses, I came across a problem as I reached the formal wear. With no mods installed, I realized every bit of clothing in the formal wear section were dresses! Not a single suit could be found for the women. Bathing suits were all classic bikini-cut bottoms with no boy short choice as well. It was a small detail, but it dramatically affected how I played the game from then on.

This is where My Sims shines. This game has no gender roles whatsoever--it doesn't even ask for you to specify your Sim's sex. You have full access to the My Sims wardrobe with no strings attached. Want to pair a curly mustache with a party dress? Go ahead. A snappy suit and lipstick? Sure. Or would you rather go completely androgynous? No problem. My Sims gives you complete freedom over the look of your Sim without forcing you into any preconceived gender stereotypes.

If you see My Sims hanging around at the video game store, why not pick it up and give it a try? This game has earned my love in a myriad of ways. From its cuteness overload to the complete gender freedom, My Sims is a game I highly approve of. It sets a precedent for gender freedom that I would love to see repeated in the future.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 12:44 AM + Link to this post

Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Coming Out of the Gaming Closet

A Brief Look at the Past

[Editor’s Note: October is LGBT History Month, and so I have decided to spotlight a series of LGBT characters.]

Even though we can see gender and sexual orientation inequity in video games today, things have improved by leaps and bounds over the last twenty years.

When I sat down to do research on queer characters from the earlier days of gaming, I didn’t come up with much. While society and “the times” play a significant role, the lack of diversity is largely due to the actions of the game publishers themselves.

For example, Nintendo has always been a “family friendly” company and remains so to this day. In the past, however, it had a strict code for monitoring the content of its games. Anything from drugs and tobacco to religious imagery to sexually explicit content was banned from their games. It was this very same code that resulted in Super Mario Bros. 2’s Birdo, the first transsexual video game character, becoming censored into a female in 1988. Nintendo’s main competitor of the era, Sega, also had a video game censorship policy. While Sega’s policy was decidedly more liberal—such as allowing blood and female enemies—homosexuality remained off limits.

Early depictions of homosexuality were either highly feminized and comedic or lecherous and predatory. We haven’t fully escaped such stereotypes today, but it often appears as though there are more positive models in today’s games than before. Shadow Hearts: Covenant’s Joachim can be over the top, but he’s nothing compared to the Cho Aniki brothers. If nothing else, games like The Sims and Fable that allow characters to choose their character’s orientation are a major step, especially since it results in no significant change to the game play.

All I can hope is that in the next twenty years, people look back at the games we’re playing now and wonder, “Why are there so few queer characters? How strange!”

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 Posted by Calabar
 5:48 PM + Link to this post

Monday, October 22, 2007
Monster Mashup


There's nothing like getting into the spirit of the season with some heart-exploding frights in a Clive Barker game. Monster design is a huge part of a Survival Horror game's terror parameter, and when you're wandering through the pus-strewn landscape of Al-Khali and alluva sudden this thing starts coming after you -- well, don't feel bad about squealing just a little bit.

Survival Horror is, obviously, my favorite genre, and this is mostly due to the state of mind in which it puts you. I'm happiest when I've found a game that proves to be a truly engrossing experience, and, when it comes to excellent monster design, I find that I'm squealing more out of delight than out of fear. The uglier and more brutal, the better in my book.

But, as with seemingly everything in this world, I have noticed some unfortunate disparities in my wonderfully gory encounters. When you think of a truly scary monster, what's the first thing that pops in your head? Perhaps it's a putrid, rotting zombie, or a hellspawn demon spattered with blood and roped with muscle. Imagine the ugly, twisting leers on their faces as they lumber toward you! Maybe something a bit like this?

Rotting flesh . . . check. Ugly leer . . . check. Clearly a dude . . . double check.

Oh, yes. That's almost a requirement, is it? Just as with the differences between male and female protagonists in this genre, it doesn't take much to see those within the baddies as well. Male stereotypically means tougher, stronger, and thus far scarier, while female must be lighter, weaker, and totally hot. Right? Right, Eve?

I mean, come on. Even in the Clive Barker picture I linked above, Decaying Nazi Chick still has a slim hourglass figure. The hammer-wielding maniac from Clock Tower 3 is practically 'roid raging while the only female boss of the game, Scissorwoman, flights about pretty as a butterfly. The Resident Evil games are swarming with a disproportionately male coterie of walking dead.

Is there already some fear there, perhaps? Frightening monsters hold some measure of power over those that they scare, especially if they're distorted, unrecognizable, difficult to understand. As I found with the depiction of women in power in video games, female monsters are so often kept much more recognizably human than male, and even sometimes keep their sex appeal of all things (succubi or sexy nurses anyone?), which leaves this measure of power in the hands of those who would control them (men). Instead of frightening us with their bodies -- as all good monsters should -- many are simply alluring, or even comical in their femaleness.

Wouldn't it be amazing to see a truly disgusting, scary-as-hell monster that was actually female in some way? Nothing about a woman's body is resistant to grotesque amounts of muscle or fetid, dead flesh.

Another popular way of presenting female monsters is the good ol' Creepy Little Girl staple, which is still problematic. From the knockoff of the Ringu girl in FEAR or the Little Sisters of Bioshock, Creepy Little Girls are good and eerie but still weak and remote. They don't exude nearly the same kind of threat as, say, the Creatures of Darkness. As amazing as Bioshock is, pairing the Little Sisters up with the hulking Big Daddies is a more than direct example of the differences between the sexes in these games.

Fortunately, there are some games that deviate from this norm. Many of Fatal Frame's skin-crawlingly eerie ghosts are female, and they aren't afraid to tread into the grotesque with spooks such as the disturbing Long-Armed Woman or the Blind Demon that wanders about wailing, "My eyes! My eeeeyes!" with her eye sockets spewing blood. Just as pleasing to me are the eccentric, ambiguous designs of the Silent Hill creatures, who, particularly in Silent Hill 2, often stagger around on what would normally be considered very attractive legs . . . if they weren't attached to Saran-wrapped burn victims that disgorge corrosive black acid from their gaping wounds.

I understand that in many games it's a matter of context, but I would really love to see more female monsters get the Scary As Hell Treatment and fewer appear as Ew But Somehow Still Sexy or Graagh What A(nother) Creepy Little Girl. All body types are fair game as far as some delightful terror is concerned, and it would definitely be a great way for women to feel even more like we're actually a part of this world rather than standing on the outside looking in.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 9:24 AM + Link to this post

Friday, October 19, 2007
Pwning n00bs for the Cure

[via Game Girl Advance]

Okay, so this is really awesome, guys: the Halo gaming community Cavegirls is holding a Halo 3 tournament on October 20th to raise money for breast cancer research. Anyone with an Xbox 360 and Halo 3 can participate, and it only costs ten bucks to enter. Last year they raised a whopping $777—huge for their first tournament. And it's only going to grow from there.

I can’t commend the ladies at Cavegirls enough for this amazing event. One of the best things we as people can do is use what we love to help change the world for the better, and that includes gaming.

If you’re looking to prove your Halo mettle and help find a cure for breast cancer, you can sign up for the tournament at the Cavegirls forums. If you don’t have a 360, feel free to make direct donations here. Don’t forget, the tournament goes down tomorrow, so sign up and get ready!

Blowing away the competition has never felt so right.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 12:03 AM + Link to this post

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The Ultimate Test, the Cruelest of All Trials

Joachim and the Man Festival in Shadow Hearts: Covenant

[Editor’s Note: October is LGBT History Month, and so I have decided to spotlight a series of LGBT characters.]

Joachim is one of your supporting members inShadow Hearts: Covenant, and from the very beginning he comes off as a little odd. His flamboyant gestures, unusual catchphrases, bear-like physic, and butterfly mask may lead the ignorant to pin him with some stereotypes. . . but in this case it isn’t far from the truth.

In fact, Joachim holds the third highest position on’s Top 20 Gayest Video Game Characters.

Each character in Shadow Hearts: Covenant has a sidequest or two at the end of the game, and Joachim’s revolves around the Man Festival. The video below includes all of the relevant scenes from that event.

The Man Festival is one of the few instances I can recall in which a gay video game character's sexuality is so explicitly addressed. It's also one of two or three moments in the game where Joachim's sexuality is completely transparent. I appreciate that, much like Brad Evans in last week’s article, Joachim’s homosexuality doesn’t take center stage throughout the entire game. It’s just as well--an entire game revolving around Joachim’s sexuality would be too campy for words.

Just as when I first played this game, I am delighted by Joachim's gayness. I always had my suspicions about him, even after the bondage scene with Veronica, but the Man Festival left no room for doubt. I forgive his stereotypes and flaws within the context of the game, as the Shadow Hearts series isn't known for its historical and cultural accuracy.

Consider, for example, the fact that Joachim, a German vampire over four-hundred years old, seeks the tutelage of the Great Gama, perhaps from India. The Man Festival of 1913 is held in Tokyo, Japan, in a one-hundred stories tall wrestling ring. On your way to the top, you fight scrawny men wearing curried dishes on their heads as mini-bosses. Your companions in this endeavor include (among others) a wolf, a female German officer, and most startlingly of all, the Russian princess Anastasia.

Clearly, this is not a game to be taken seriously. While I am inclined to say that stereotypes should always be analyzed and understood, I consider the Shadow Hearts series exempt from that rule. It’s absurd to the point of satire. I'd like to believe that on some level Joachim's role is to point out the ridiculousness of those preconceived notions about the gay community that he embodies.

Either way, Joachim comes off to me as a fun and interesting character. He's by no means a model for the ages, but he does demonstrate that homosexual characters have come a long way--he's a sort of stepping stone on the road to unbiased representation. Next week, we'll talk more about early representations of gay and lesbian characters and see just how far we've come.

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 Posted by Calabar
 6:09 AM + Link to this post

Monday, October 15, 2007
Live in Purity and then Die

In the Playstation 2's chilling 2001 release, Fatal Frame, an ancient custom called the Strangling Ritual ensures that the gate to hell beneath the Himuro Mansion remains shut. When the ritual goes wrong, however, the consequences bring hell itself to life. To ensure success, the Strangling Ritual requires what come as no surprise for such a religious and superstitious practice: the passive, virginal bodies of young women.

The central figure of the Strangling Ritual is the Rope Shrine Maiden. Chosen at age seven from a group of other young girls, the maiden is sequestered away from all human life for ten years. Even her attendants wear masks to hide their faces. When the day of the ritual comes, the maiden knows nothing but her own suffering, and, after purifying herself in the Moon Well, willingly submits to her own sacrifice. Her wrists, ankles, and neck are tied to wheels, and, as they are turned, her limbs and head are strangled from her body. The bloody ropes are used to bind the door to hell.

It isn't difficult to see the "virginity on a pedestal" themes in this ritual. First of all, the word "maiden" itself denotes an unmarried woman, implying virginity. Secondly, it is imperative for the success of the ritual that the maiden maintains her purity through her own isolation from anyone who could possibly corrupt her. The maiden is chosen as a child, and her imprisonment preserves this childlike purity by suppressing education, information, and relationships.

It's important to point out that the people overseeing this ritual are all men, particularly the Master of the Himuro family. The young girls do not choose to compete to be the next maiden; the maiden has no say in whether or not she wants to fulfill her duty. While the ritual requires the maiden's willingness and dedication to her duty, neither of these are necessarily genuine. They are coerced, brainwashed into a young woman who has spent more than half of her life in captivity, isolation, and suffering, making her a passive pawn rather than an active player. To underscore this passivity, it is not even the maiden's body -- secluded and abused -- that closes the gates of hell, but the grisly ropes that tore it apart.

The most notable shrine maiden, Kirie, is the one that defied this ritual long before the main plot of Fatal Frame takes place. When Kirie's ten years of confinement end and she is briefly freed, she meets a beautiful visitor to the Himuro Mansion and the two meet frequently in the garden to talk. When the Master discovers that she has formed this attachment to the living world, he becomes so furious that he has the unnamed visitor put to death. When Kirie is sacrificed, her heart is full of regret, tainting the ritual and cursing the mansion.

Kirie's curiosity and love for the stranger figuratively deflower her, rendering her completely useless for the ritual. The current Master -- a male relative of hers in great power, possibly her father or grandfather -- is enraged at the idea that she finds favor in something other than her intended purpose. The unnamed lover, who deigned to show sympathy for a woman, particularly a woman whose body does not belong to her, dies for his transgression. It's a fantastic situation that, disturbingly, mirrors real life in more than one way.

An important trait of Kirie's character comes into play during Fatal Frame's multiple endings. Both Normal and Nightmare Mode endings involve Kirie's ghost assenting to her "duty" and tying herself to the ropes on the Hell Gate, closing it and freeing the souls trapped in the mansion. Ultimately, it is best for her to shun herself to protect the greater good, and while this can be seen as a noble example of self-sacrifice, it also coincides with the inevitability of female submission to male will.

However, the Xbox release of Fatal Frame has its own special ending. In it, Kirie's ghost is joined by that of her lover's, and, instead of Kirie tying herself to the gate, the two join together to seal the gate and free the lost souls. Admittedly, it's a cheesier, "they all lived happily ever after" sort of way out, but it also avoids the implication that it was Kirie's disobedience and not the cruelty of the Strangling Ritual itself that brought ruin to the Himuro family.

Fatal Frame is, in my opinion, one of the most terrifying experiences on the Playstation 2, beating its two sequels by a landslide when it comes to scares. Its estrogen-enriched cast is one of its many perks, and a storyline that details young women overcoming the cruelty brought upon them by old, superstitious tradition is a more than relevant parallel to the experiences of women today.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 12:01 AM + Link to this post

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'm winding down from a long week, so here's a few news blobs you might find interesting (via KillerBetties):

Adult's Approval of Children's Video Game Play Centers on "Casual," Eschews "Hardcore"; Child's Gender Plays Major Role.

Action Games Improve Women's Spatial Abilities, Says New Study

It's a cornucopia of sexism! Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Plasma out to get some sleep.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 1:20 PM + Link to this post

Thursday, October 11, 2007
Faith, Creation, Resurrection

Beyond the blood and the rust and the Saran-wrapped burn victims of Silent Hill, the eerie dogma of the Order permeates everything. A cult as twisted and complex as the town itself, the Order's faith is directly involved with the existence of the series's signature monsters and terrifying Otherworld. While its tenets are heavily rooted in the Christianity of Silent Hill's original settlers, many of its key players -- including its deity -- are female. From the Holy Woman sect to the canonized Jennifer Carroll, the Order is awash in sacred femininity.

As many religions have done in the past, the faith of the Order originated from a blend: specifically, that of the aboriginal Native Americans and the Christian settlers that invaded them and set up camp in a place that would eventually become Silent Hill. The members of the Order were always a minority, however, as they eventually faced terrible persecution under the Christians. It's unclear why the Order's god is female (perhaps the natives worshipped a goddess?), but it isn't farfetched to suspect that this was one of the many factors involved in the Christians mockingly naming her Samael, a title typically thought to be the true name of Satan.

Along with the persecutions came martyrdom, ironically bringing the Order even closer to its Christian roots. There is a statue in Rosewater Park that's dedicated to the slaughtered Jennifer Carroll, who in her death was elevated to Saint Jennifer, a true servant of their god. From Jennifer's canonization stems the Order's Holy Woman sect, in which Dahlia of the original Silent Hill is a priest.

The Order's god as a woman has always fascinated me. In many ways, she acts just like her derivative Abrahamic god, and could have very easily been male. The caveat, I suppose, is her resurrection, a "second coming," if you will: she must be physically born into the world. While reproduction is central to this process, it is interesting that there is no man involved in the process; a ritual impregnates a girl with god, and, in the series, this has been instigated twice by other women (Dahlia and Claudia).

Women are saints, and their god is a woman -- is this a matriarchal organization? Surprisingly enough, no. There are both female and male priests, and no clear hierarchy that orders them. Interestingly enough, there does appear to be a bit of a divide in the sects: Dahlia is the only specified member of the Holy Woman sect, and the only specified members of the Valtiel sect are men.

Valtiel: an angel, an attendant of god. The Valtiel sect was founded in his honor by Jimmy Stone, and, instead of focusing on the Holy Woman's ritual for resurrecting god, the followers of Valtiel seek the fulfillment of the 21 Sacraments, kicking off the plot for Silent Hill 4. Even a male "host" is used in this process. It is important to note, however, that Valtiel is a vassal of god, not her replacement, and the end goal of the 21 Sacraments is indeed her revival. I'm not certain if the gender divide was done purposely, but it does open some fascinating doors.

So, if the Order celebrates womanhood so much and in such an unusual environment, and if all the (genuinely faithful) cult members want is the second coming of their god so Paradise can be delivered, how did everything get so horribly fucked up?

Let's consider the effects of Silent Hill itself. So many horrible, hateful things happened there, and the mind easily shapes the world around you. The many paintings and teachings about the Order's god differ greatly from how they actually appear -- Valtiel the red angel is actually a scrabbly butcher who chokes nurses; God herself looks like a corpse. Based on the grisly hatred used in the ritual to nurture god in Silent Hill 3, we can only assume that the world will be just as fucked up if the god does come back and gets her way. It's the effect of the town, cursed since the Christian settlers first arrived and attacked its original inhabitants.

It's vital to remember that The Order has real power in the world of Silent Hill. Its tenets actually exist, from the incarnations of god to the angels (Valtiel) to the saints (Jennifer Carroll) to even god herself (albeit in a twisted, mutated sort of way). So, perhaps at one point, god really did look kind and nurturing and Valtiel was a sprightly little angel helping her along the way.

In the end, god is weakened and warped by human thought, like so many things in Silent Hill. The hatred and cruelty provoked by Claudia (and Dahlia) twists her. The persecution by the Christians, and even that of the Native Americans themselves changed everything. Though the Christians dubbed God as Samael, Dahlia refers to her as such in a powerful example of the evil becoming truth, not just in mind or in theory but in actual living, breathing reality.

Silent Hill is defined by the Order, and probably would have stayed a nice little lake town if not for the fear and acrimony that drove them to mutate their own god. It presents a very new take on women's roles in religion, and how everyone -- both male and female -- weaken and suffer while trapped in their own enmity.

(Thanks to Zone of the Gamers for the amazing pics.)

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 11:03 AM + Link to this post

Wednesday, October 10, 2007
To Be a Hero

Retro Spotlight: Brad Evans from Wild Arms 2

[Editor’s Note: October is LGBT History Month, and so I have decided to spotlight a series of LGBT characters.]

One of the first three characters players meet in Wild Arms 2, Brad is a wartime hero who was imprisoned for his involvement in the Slayheim Liberation Army. Despite his incredible battle skills and fighting abilities, Brad is a truly compassionate man who looks forward to the day the world no longer needs heroes like him.

When I first played Wild Arms 2, I took notice to the relationship between Brad and a friend of his from the war, Billy. The two of them are very close; in fact, Billy is Brad’s only friend left from the war. Unfortunately, Billy suffered several injuries during the liberation war and has since endured significant brain damage. Brad sticks with him through it all, and many fans believe that the two were/are romantically involved.

I find all of the talk surrounding Brad Evans to be fascinating. Many hardcore fans violently protest the possibility that he could be gay. They ask, “Why is Brad gay just because he’s close friends with Billy?” In response, I ask, “Does being gay make Brad less of a hero?”

I prefer to think that Brad is gay. It’s a nice departure from games that indulge in stereotypes. In a way, I almost think that it’s good that his homosexuality was underplayed because it demonstrates how being gay is only one part of a person’s larger identity. I mean, let’s face it—the whole relationship with Billy is merely a side-story in the grand scheme of things.

The truth of the matter is that we don’t have conclusive proof one way or the other. In the English version, at least, players have to read between the lines to catch Brad and Billy’s relationship. Supposedly, their relationship is more open and apparent in the Japanese version, but I honestly can’t say that I have the linguistic ability to verify this claim.

But what’s all that matter? The fact remains that, gay or not, Brad has some of the highest hit points, defense, and strength in the game. Go Brad! Bust some skulls!

Wild Arms 2 is probably third on my list of favorite Wild Arms titles, but that’s not as low as it sounds. The characters are memorable and the music is amazing. I’d definitely recommend checking it out—if you can get past the graphics (which really aren’t that bad for the PSOne), the gameplay is awesome and the storyline is top notch. For that genuine retro feel, dust off your good ol’ Playstation One and get to gamin’!

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 Posted by Calabar
 5:48 AM + Link to this post

Monday, October 8, 2007
Interview with Cerise magazine

Hello, all! BomberGirl here to remind everyone that the most recent issue of Cerise magazine is out -- and it's Survival Horror themed! Make sure you go check it out, and don't miss Robyn's interview with the three of us at Girl in the Machine!

(As for my article this week, I've just gotten back from a pretty slammed weekend, so it'll be a little late. Even if it's Tuesday or Thursday, I'll post it, so don't worry!)


 Posted by BomberGirl
 9:03 AM + Link to this post

Friday, October 5, 2007
First Friday Drinking Game

It's October folks, and you know what that means: time to break out the leaf blowers, stab a few pumpkins, and warm the hearts of young and old with some zombie-blastin' goodness. Welcome to the latest installment of First Friday Drinking Day!

Today we'll be setting our sights on the charming games of the Resident Evil series. As much fun as it is to mow down insane flesh-eating skinbags, there are plenty of drink-worthy moments in store. Pour the shots, pull up a chair, and follow these easy-to-remember rules:

1 drink for every zombie dog you encounter
2 drinks if zombie dog bursts through a window
1 drink whenever you're cornered in a tight hallway
1 drink for shooting a zombie in the head when you "totally meant to"
2 drinks for shooting Ashley in the head by accident
2 drinks before facing the chainsaw guy in RE4 (you'll need the liquid courage)
1 drink for every grating voice actor
2 drinks for: Jill Sandwich! (Why God? Why?)
1 drink every time the shitty controls of REs past lead you into the loving arms of a zombie
3 drinks for every Crimson Head you allow to manifest (shame on you)
1 drink every time Nemesis's tentacle makes you feel really dirty
1 drink whenever you applaud the realism of limited space and curse it bitterly at the same time
1 drink every time you think it would be faster to just dig the lock out of a door with a spoon than hunt down all the items required to open it

And finally:
Finish your drink when you come to the sad realization that playing Jill over Chris is like selecting easy mode

Warning: Excessive drinking during game play may result in even more impaired controls, inappropriate giggling and excessive head-munching from zombies. Play with caution!

Think I forgot something? Suggest a rule in the comments section!

What drinking games do YOU want to play every month? If there is any genre or specific game you want featured in FFDG, drop me a line at PlasmaRit at gmail dot com.

Plasma out to tear some zombies up, yo.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 12:13 AM + Link to this post

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
The Quest for Humanity

Retro Spotlight: Asellus from Saga Frontier

[Editor’s Note: October is LGBT History Month, and so I have decided to spotlight a series of LGBT characters. I didn’t realize BomberGirl was also doing a focus this month, but I’m so excited about this topic that I can’t back down. Enjoy!]

In the game Saga Frontier, players can choose one of seven characters in a large, open-ended adventure. The world remains the same no matter which character you pick, but the stories are vastly different. In all honesty, I find many of them to be forgettable. However, one character, Asellus, has remained close to my heart since I first played the game in 1998.

Her quest begins as Asellus wakes up alone in a strange castle of thorns, and after some exploration she learns that she has become a “prince” of Fascinaturu, the kingdom of the Mystic race. She was killed twelve years ago when the Charm Lord Orlouge trampled her in his carriage, but he took her back to his castle and, thanks to a transfusion of his blood, managed to revive her. Unfortunately, Asellus is no longer human; through Orlouge’s magic, she has become the world’s first and only Half-Mystic. Like all women brought to Orlouge’s castle, Asellus is destined to become his bride. Horrified by his nightmarish world, Asellus flees with the help of White Rose, the kindest of all of Orlouge’s princesses.

I find Asellus simply amazing because of her delicate position in the power structures of her world. Not only is she treated as an object by Orlouge’s patriarchy, but she also suffers from the prejudice of both humans and Mystics who are unable to accept her mixed heritage. Despite this, she manages to overcome the obstacles before her and gather together a female super-team (several members of which are Orlogue’s other wives) to slay the Charm Lord and end his cruelty once and for all.

One of the most compelling aspects of Asellus’s quest is her bleak search for her own place in the world. She must make choices about whether to hunt for the remaining shreds of her humanity or to embrace the powers and privilege of her newfound Mystic heritage. The game has three endings to reflect the player’s choices.

Personally, I like seeing the happy ending where she regains her human capacity or the bittersweet ending in which she finds a balance in her new life as a half-mystic. Maybe it’s the “cheese factor,” but I like to imagine that everything works out okay.

In the chilling “Full Mystic” ending, Asellus takes Lord Orlouge’s place as Fascinaturu’s tyrannical despot; she has taken the human girl Gina as her first bride, and the other Mystics fear the beginning of her cruel reign. Yes, that’s right. Asellus takes Gina to be her bride.

Throughout the game and regardless of the ending you receive, the local Fascinaturu dressmaker Gina always speaks of Asellus with open affection. Similarly, later in the game, we see the relationship between Asellus and Princess White Rose develop into a romance.

I find Asellus to be a refreshing change from the usual straight white male protagonist and the scantily clad, big breasted female protagonist. While her costume is somewhat immodest, it was chosen for her by Orlouge (and the game designers), so I feel that it’s unfair to hold it against her. Besides, she’s actually the strongest character in the game because she combines all of the best parts of human and Mystic stat gains. Not to mention how awesome it is to play as a lesbian character who doesn't fall prey to countless stereotypes.

I fully recommend giving Saga Frontier a try if you didn’t play it back in the day. Asellus’s quest alone makes the game worth it. It is a truly gripping story about a young woman desperately seeking a way to define herself.

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 Posted by Calabar
 5:46 AM + Link to this post

Monday, October 1, 2007
The Journey to Paradise

(I'll be celebrating the entire month of October with Survival Horror themed posts! Today I'm kicking things off with a character spotlight on Silent Hill 3's astounding antagoniste, Claudia Wolf!)

(Silent Hill 3 plot spoilers follow!)

To be honest, Claudia Wolf forever changed my view of female villains. After finding myself surrounded by an endless parade of whip-snapping dominatrices and smoldering temptresses, I was resigned years ago to a general dislike for the baddies of womankind. If every villain was just going to be shallow, written for men, and busting out of her bustier, then why shouldn't I shun them all?

Oh, how wrong I was. As soon as Claudia's eyebrowless visage appeared on my TV, I knew that I was in for something big.

And it is her appearance that hits you first. The white-blond hair, the blanched skin, the black schoolmarmish dress, and, yes, the lack of eyebrows collectively give her character an odd, unsettling air. She's like nothing you've ever seen before right off the bat, drawing you in, leaving you curious about where she's come from and what she's doing in a shopping mall that's about to be transported straight to hell.

As a priest of the mysterious Silent Hill cult, the Order, Claudia is a devout believer in this crazy religion without coming off flat. She possesses neither the flowing robes nor the enthralling charisma of a stereotypical cult leader, and nor does she come off as apathetic and unfeeling as a common sociopath. In her conversations with fellow priest Vincent -- who funds the cult for the power instead of the faith -- she appears to be a bit of an underdog, alone in her struggles to hasten the rebirth of the Order's god. As well, the discovery that Claudia grew up alongside Alessa (and thought of her as a sister, to boot), paints an unusual shade of sympathy into the woman who has Harry Mason eviscerated.

While I love a villain I can absolutely hate, I still find myself intrigued by Claudia's almost anti-villainhood. Being raised in a doomsday cult is no picnic, I'm sure, and, when that cult's solution to a world entrenched in suffering means the apocalypse, it's not difficult to see where her motivation comes from. Throughout the game, Claudia is unwavering in her faith, stating over and over that what the world needs is God. Granted, in order to bring about Paradise she undergoes some pretty unspeakable acts of cruelty and violence, but it's clear that she genuinely wants to end all hardships. It's a warped form of altruism, and she even cites that she does not expect to be accepted into Paradise when all is said and done.

Faith and a lifetime of apocalyptic dogma aren't Claudia's only motivating factors, however. At one point in the game, creepy-ass Vincent reveals that Claudia was physically abused by her father, Leonard:

The pain and suffering of the world has been very real -- and very personal -- to Claudia since she was just a child. Faith in the Order's god and in the possibility of Paradise are survival mechanisms for her, desensitizing her to the present suffering of others if it means a beautiful heaven for all.

In short, Claudia renewed my faith in the awesomeness of female villains back in 2003. It just goes to show that a single shining example within a limitless sea of darkness can do wonders for the battered psyche. Now if only other games -- particularly those of the mainstream -- would just take the hint.

Readers, who are some of your favorite female baddies?

(Thanks to Gamespot for the pic.)

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 3:17 PM + Link to this post

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