Breaking the Narrative Episode 5: 2006-2012, Before the Dark Days Came

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As I am starting to write this latest episode #ShuffleGate has become a thing. Zoe Quinn high on her own arrogant egotism and unable to realize that she is nothing more than a shallow Nixon allegory whines at Nintendo. A company who had reached their last peak in this era. Why do I mention this of all things here? Because this era is where Sarkeesian and her ilk, the Literally Whos of gaming, try to pick their cherries. This era where video games were at their most bland, their most processed, their most mainstream.

In my humble opinion its because in this era of games we have the largest overall amount of games being released with the least quality control. Ubisoft alone would be evidence of that travesty with how Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed and  a few other flagships came off. However, this is also when the two weakest consoles still running at this point had the most games on them, the Wii and the PS2. Granted, the PS3 is the flagship console for Sony this gen, but several games were still being released on the PS2 as this was happening, partially because of the popularity of both it and the Wii. The PS3 started weak early on due to its exorbitant price point, so they had to make up for it somehow. With most gamers, the 360 was king, this being evidenced by the picture Sarkeesian decided to take with a bunch of game cases. They were mostly 360 cases and that was why; they were the most popular.

So how are we going to demolish her narrative this time around? If this is her cherry-picking yard we are gonna have a hard time killing it, yes? That’s the beautiful thing good reader. Its not that hard at all.

We will start with the casuals on the Wii. Got to work up to the good stuff right? We’ll begin with something that was launched along with Japanese ports to the Wii’s Virtual Console, the Sin and Punishment series. It started on the Nintendo 64 and was originally dubbed into English but only released in Japan. The nature of the game is a 3rd person on rails shooter akin to Space Harrier from SEGA. The sequel, known as Star Successor, was released over here near the same time. In this game the female protagonist, who is partnered with a male half alien, is named Jo Airan. Throughout the two games she is not only bonded to the male character but saves him using that very bond all while fighting alongside him against the aliens invading the Earth. She is also the one in this game who ultimately wins the day, then passes the torch to their descendant Isa. (source: http://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/fUsYu7drPXbMr1GXFOb4OcqwFFeWC_CG)

Now for a little bit of fun, I mentioned in the first episode of the series Castlevania in passing. There was a reason I was saving it for this point: I could bring up their whole history of female protagonists through one misguided but still technically relevant game: Castlevania Judgement. Now I know this was a poorly designed fighter. I played the thing. In fact I used to own it, but it does grant us the very unique opening. Due to its time-traveling nature, we have Sypha Belnades, who is a 15th century witch employed by the Vatican to fight Dracula. She eventually aids and potentially gets together with the third game’s protagonist Trevor. Her line ends up leading to Maria Renard who aids her cousin Richter and later Alucard, who was one of her ancestor’s fellow hunters in the third game. Her line leads eventually to Carrie Fernandez, who was in the horrible Castlevania 64, and then to Eric Lecarde, who eventually aids another descendant of hers named Charlotte Aulin. Charlotte Aulin somehow begets the grandmother of Yoko Belnades who is active 100 years later. That is simply linking up one clan of strong women throughout nearly 500 years! Don’t forget the amnesiac Shanoa or the villainous Carmilla and the historically influenced Elizabeth Bathory.  Too bad Konami has since fucked all that up – #FuckKonami. (Source: http://www.vgmuseum.com/mrp/castle-old.htm)

I think the Wii has had enough fun. Lets go cross-platform to yhe Tales series. Sure, the series started on the Super Nintendo. However, nearly half of the series was on the PS3 and 360. It is loosely similar in nature to Final Fantasy, in which not all the games are set in the same universe. Ever since the beginning, there are strong women fighting alongside the men with a desire to see justice done. One such example is from Tales of Vesperia in the form of Estellise Sidos Heurassein, or Estelle for short. She is the next in line for the Imperial throne in this game and was trained by knights in the art of sword and shield combat, essentially making her a full Paladin with her healing magic. She aids and travels with the group known as the Brave Vesperia with the intent of learning everything she can about the world in which she lives so she is capable come the time she ascends to the throne. So while shown as naive in the game she is far from foolish as she has the right idea. She isn’t the only example of a female lead like this either in this series. Its wrought with capable yet imperfect and likable women and men, as many RPGs tend to be.

Speaking of RPGs, how about we go the exact opposite direction and show an example of an attempt at a strong female lead gone horribly wrong. It is important that we also understand how NOT to do things. Bethesda is usually a good company to go by when it comes to game development. Its treatment of games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and most recently DOOM show that it knows what its doing. However, even the best make mistakes. WET is one such mistake. In  WET you are supposed to play as Rubi Malone, a self-styled mercenary and “problem solver,” one whose tactics typically relate more to Team Fortress 2’s “Heavy” in that she can’t seem to find a man who can outsmart a bullet. Now she does pull the whole Tarantino Bride approach to problem solving alright, except she is shown as not nearly as intuitive as a bounty hunter typically is. I’ve seen a few real life female bounty hunters in a couple of states. They typically aren’t as brutish as Eliza Dushuku, the voice chosen in this game, decides to depict her. They essentially took ‘grindhouse’ and botched it. But she is still an example of a strong woman in a video game from this era. Let this be  a lesson on how to try and balance intelligence with strength with what happens when you don’t. (Source: http://www.rubiwet.com/)

For our fifth example this time around we’ll go for a PC game. Perhaps something that was in that huge stack Sarkeesian showed just to rub salt in the wound. OOH I know, Velvet Assassin! This is still not a very good game and in fact I also remember playing a flash game based on the story of Violette Szabo back when I was still in college on Newgrounds. Good luck finding it now though, considering how poorly that site is archived. Now in the game we are actually talking about, you play as Violette Summer, a spy who is working in Germany for the British Secret Service without their official support. This involves stealth mechanics and bad gunplay mechanics, which might actually be accurate, because Szabo was known not for her aim but for her ability to get in and out unnoticed. What is most unusual about this game is the entire period of gameplay is set during a fevered recollection of the events in question, so on top of that, reliability could be called into play… although the game’s “Morphine mode” could be a play on false recollections and how some people have to be goaded into telling the truth through external means. (Source: http://store.steampowered.com/app/16720/)

Now that we have some fairly entertaining examples, how about we look into some female devs of the time? We will start with Jade Raymond. She started off with Sony Online, but didn’t get into game development until EA hired her on in 2003 and 04 to work on The Sims. After that, she used her experiences at EA to go to Ubisoft to be the lead programmer of a little project known as Assassin’s Creed. Granted, this could also be why the series is known for their early glitches and shoddy development schedules as she also heads up the Watch_Dogs team. Today she heads her own Motive Studios as well as Visceral, she is starting work with Amy Hennig on the next series of Star Wars games. Now for a fun twist on things, a known transgender game dev. Jennell Jaquays (born Paul) started out working with Dungeons and Dragons in the 80s before being introduced as a level designer at id Software for Quake during that series’ initial run. After that Jaquays went to Ensemble studios to work with

Now for a fun twist on things, a known transgender game dev. Jennell Jaquays (born Paul) started out working with Dungeons and Dragons in the 80s before being introduced as a level designer at id Software for Quake during that series’ initial run. After that Jaquays went to Ensemble studios to work with ex id developers and started out the video game education program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas known as “Guildhall,”  going on to design the entire course structure and material. Jaquays is now a level designer for CCP Games, the studio known for the popular EVE Online MMO. (Sources:http://www.jade-raymond.com/, http://oldeskuul.com/index.php/jennell-full-bio

So what we’ve done this time is not only show that feminists are really the three mystic apes. They speak no truth, hear no truth, and see no truth all at once. Not only are women not hated in the industry but the industry openly accepts transpeople without much trouble. Admittedly, much like the Wachowskis, Jaquays didn’t come out until she was very well established. However, her family and her workplace seem to be very accepting of the self professed lesbian. Go figure. We could effectively stop here but we still have to go for recent history….and beyond. Until next time, please add in anything else you find in the comments and game freely.

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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.
Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.

By Alex Tinsley

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