June 12, 2012

I can't bring myself to care about E3

In the last couple of years I used to do an analysis on the big three conferences.  I would detail good business moves and bad ones, interesting new ideas coming out for the console, and horrible ones.

This year, I honestly am not invested with what's going on with E3.  

Just starting to watch the conferences just makes me depressed.  Sony wasn't super bad, but I'm not convinced that some of their exciting titles will stay nearly as exciting as they were presented.  Beyond is a story that can easily be fucked up, and boat stuff from Assassin's Creed's new installment looks totally staged.  Those are obvious complaints though.  The not so obvious complaint is that it seems Sony took many of the strategies that Nintendo and Microsoft introduced the last few years and just put Sony paint on it.  Also, there's not a lot of genuinely new things to be excited about, but that is a problem with the console industry as a whole.  Really, it's a problem with the video game industry, but that's another post for another day.  Sony is a frequent offender.

I love Nintendo like family.  It is the company that introduced me to gaming and the company will always hold a special place in my heart.  But man, did that conference have too.  much.  talking.  Nintendo is also a great example of focusing way too hard on social networking.  Most social networking that is successful evolves more organically than what they're trying to do.  Also, I have to agree with Cracked.com that there will be phalluses all up on your screen with WiiVerse.  Last year Nintendo won back the hard core gamer, just to lose them again this year with karaoke and online theme parks.  However, I'm sure they'll sell more unit again WiiU is being sold as an all around entertainment system, not just for video games. 

Microsoft had the longest conference, and it had some of the most exciting points.  Too bad those exciting points were not about genuine electronic entertainment.  It also had some of the least exciting points.  I will admit that I'm not a sports fan at all, so devoting a fifth of the presentation to sports game did not inspire me.  And then to add another huge chunk of "look, I can watch movies, and then I can watch them in Spanish!" was not impressive.  Voice control no longer a huge deal, since you've presented it the last three years.  And  no, Usher, despite being an attractive, rich singer, is not going to entice me to play your games.

I think, my fellow gamers, we have to admit to ourselves that we can no longer look to E3 anymore to provide us what we're looking for.  It is now officially covering the broader market of Electronic Entertainment, not just video games anymore.  Sure, there were some relatively smart business moves made this year, but none of them were really for the hardcore gamer, or even a gamer period.  They were for a broad market of consumers, broader than those of us who have lived by the high score and the controller.  

E3 is no longer for us, it's for everyone.  

We should've seen this coming as soon as the Wii became as popular as it did.  I don't want to fault Nintendo for the whole evolutionary change of E3, but it was the beginning of a new era, when it wasn't just for the elite fan who grew up with an Atari or NES in the living room and has had a console ever since.  Sooner or later a company would've have branched out in this way, and it makes sense it's Nintendo, who unlike Sony and Microsoft are, or were rather, wholly invested in video games.  To stay big, they had to branch out, and preferably be the first to do it.  Of course this is the solution.

For those of you feeling abandoned or neglected, do know that there is still a ton of devoted companies hoping to gain your allegiance for their video games, hoping you'll like their new thing.  I'm noticing most of the new things are on the PC, or come out on the PC first before graduating to digital downloads for Microsoft of the PS Network.  But it's definitely no longer going to be about the new video games at E3.  It's only going to be about new entertainment.  

Next year, I think I'm going to be even less invested in it.  I doubt I'm the only one.

June 8, 2012

Gender Analysis: Half Life 2

Hello everyone.  I apologize for the delay and I will tomorrow be posting about the abysmal showing at E3 (the structure of the critique will be a bit different this time) but I need to keep to a promise I made.  I am introducing my Gender Analysis on Video Games.  I decided to start with a game that has gotten some acclaim for representation of women--Half Life 2.  Specifically, the representation of Alyx has been hailed for being one of the best lead female characters ever in the field of video games.  But how revolutionary is the game itself in regards to gender equality?

We've tackled physics and crab zombies, let's tackle social constructs next.

My standards I discussed in April post introducing the idea can be found here.  For this test I played the first five hours of the game and with the help of Mystic took the necessary notes for the review.

Gender Ratio of Main Characters (female to male)

The side characters did seem evenly dispersed, but when it came to main characters that affected the plot overall, it was heavily male.  For every 3 main characters that are male, there's only one woman.

Sexualization of Characters (female to male)

There were no characters whatsoever that were sexualized in this game in the first five hours.  Not even close.  Considering the setting, it makes sense that no one is worried about that.

Gender Assumptive Dialogue
0 counts

Although there was an old doctor hitting on Alyx that kind of gave me the creeps, there was never anything spoken that had to be qualified with gender.  Getting hit on isn't a gender thing, even if it's creepy.  Also would like to note that the two female main characters I met were possibly breaking a couple stereotypes by being scientist and engineers, meaning they're well educated and savvy with math.  Not something that gets recognized a lot in the real world, let alone in fiction.

The Bechdel Test
Did Not Pass

Alyx speaks with Judith Morrison for 20 seconds about something other than a man.  May I also add that they're bickering about something.  Not only are there only women you see in the first 5 hours, they're not allowed to like each other.


The main character line up unfortunately falls short.  You also don't have women have a decent conversation amongst each other.  The trope of women being against each other because women can "never get along" is overdone.  But women are obviously equals, not sex objects or people to be rescued.  They are equals when they are given a chance to shine, and they can look out for themselves and be intelligent allies.  I can see where Alyx has received the praise she did, and I honestly wish there were more female characters like her--strong-willed, smart, and not an object to be won. 

I would rate this game above average for a video game.  It's a step in the right direction to making women equal and not other.  If more video games took this step we'd be on the right track to better representation.  But there is still work to be done.

I said I wouldn't do a number rating because you can't necessarily put a quantitative conclusion with all the numbers we will be looking at.  They just help show why the quality of a games gender quality is better or worse than average.  For this spectrum of quality we'll be looking at, I would definitely put Half-Life 2 closer to true equality than not even though it could take wider strides to have women better represented.

I'm going to go through what I have in my gaming library first and then branching out to other games, we'll look at past and present games to see how things have changed and how they've stayed the same.  Feel free to recommend a game or two.  Remember, the analysis isn't to seek out what games are most women friendly per se, it's to see how the industry as a whole is in it's mindset toward women.