Fellow blogger Katherine Coble is concerned about romance, and I can’t blame her. It’s hard as a writer to realize you could write things that might have harmful effects on people, and be good at it. I know I could do the same in other genres, or even in my own; part of the difficulty I have editing Dead City is that I worry about the level of violence in it. But this isn’t really about that. I wanted to commiserate with her about the perils of finding good things to enjoy in the genre you like, too. For her it’s been Christmas romances, for me it’s video games.
Here’s a video of what I currently play, and like. It’s the opening to Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny:
RF is a game where you help others, farm and fish, find a husband or wife, and on the side save the world. The series is a spin-off of the sleeper series Harvest Moon. I like the mix of daily life and fantasy. Now, this is what I see whenever I walk into a Gamestop:
Image is from Rockstar’s site. Yeah, I see point of sale materials with that guy and his dog, but it’s a bit worse because they have him with a bandanna covering his mouth. I’m not getting into the whole stereotype aspect of this, but just the idea that one of the biggest series of the gaming world uses this kind of imagery.
In fact, when I go there, I usually see the same things. Either some space marine, dark fantasy wanna be, soldier, thug, comic book hero, vaguely Indiana Jones-ish guy, or some paragon of masculinity with huge muscles and a buzzcut stares back at me. They almost always have guns or swords, the more jagged the better. The ones that aren’t ripped are cocooned in mechanical body armor that bulks your average guy up to bodybuilder levels.
It’s gotten to the point of parody. There’s a lot of justified anger about how the games industry sexualizes women. But what’s funny is that the push to realism in gaming has altered male images too, by a constant release of realistic or dark soldier games.
Halo, Call of Duty, Mass Effect, Skyrim, and many other big hits dominate, and create an image of gaming that’s really at odds with what a fair amount of us play. For a contrast, look at Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series. While Link changes appearance from game to game, it’s done in anything but a soldier style. There’s more of a classical hero sense with him. He doesn’t look like he was just poured from a vat of super-soldiers.
I can understand Katherine’s troubles. It boils down to the genres we like no longer focusing on us. In her case, the demand for emotional and even actual porn in romance. For me, the increasing push for soldier and dark hero games over more relaxed and playful ones. Fifty Shades of Grey and Xbox Live trash talking spring from this, and make those of us used to other things feel like we are looking in from the outside as the things we like get pushed to the side.
Change happens, and there’s little that can be done. You have to look harder for the things you like, and ignore the mainstream when you can. But I can really empathize with Kat’s problem, because in a way I feel it too.