Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Constantly Treading Old Ground

I almost feel bad about even mentioning it (and I'm not providing a link), but the GameOverthinker is promising another Metroid: Other M video. The defenders of Other M are few and far between, and the general failings of Bob's arguments aren't helping his cause (of course, when it all goes to shit he claims he was trolling us for the website hits).

First things first, his rampant Nintendo fanboyism is so well known it's not even worth discussing. Suffice it to say Metroid: Other M is a Nintendo game, therefore he will defend it. Secondly, he seems to be one of those people who mistakes personal opinions for objective facts. Bob likes retro-gaming, therefore retro-gaming is the best gaming, and anyone who disagrees is wrong and a jerk. It's the same logic as 'I think guy-on-guy is icky, therefore homosexuality is an abomination before the Lord.' Lastly, and the point I really want to address, good ol' fashioned argument redirection. Apparently if you think Other M is misogynist, then you are a racist.

Stereotypes have some basis in truth, the problem is that it's wrong to assume that the trait in question applies to all members of a group. Not all Asians are terrible drivers, though my Dad happens to be a terrible driver. Not all Russians are alcoholics, but my Uncle is. You shouldn't judge an entire people based on the actions of a few, but at the same time it doesn't mean that the few aren't guilty. It's a stereotype and a fallacy to assume all Japanese men are misogynist. It's just as much of a fallacy to assume that NO Japanese men are misogynist. Really you shouldn't assume anything at all, the actions and words of the individual in question should speak for themselves. So I don't assume Metroid: Other M is misogynist because it's made by Japanese people, the game itself demonstrates that it hates women.

Now, Bob does have some semblance of a point that Samus Aran hasn't been fully developed as a character until recently and most of what we assume about her are just that: assumptions. Actually, more like educated guesses. She's a space bounty hunter with a preference for armor and big guns. And she works alone, always. I'm sorry for assuming, based on all that, that she had deep-seated co-dependency issues. As Extra Credits pointed out, bad characterization is not a step up from no characterization.

If you really want to see a female game character that got screwed by their parent company, feel bad for Aya Brea. Really, if the Parasite Eve games had done better, she should have been the poster girl for strong characters who are female. Unlike Samus, Aya is from an RPG so she has pages of dialogue and characterization to fall back on. She was strong, independent, took no shit, and her constant JRPG yammering meant that all of this wasn't just the audience putting words in her mouth. Then came The Third Birthday, a game so shameful it wasn't even allowed to be called Parasite Eve 3. Now she's suddenly a simpering girl-child who likes to strip down and bake muffins for all the boys.

When we first discovered that Samus was a woman, it was supposed to be a surprise. Back then female characters weren't the leads, especially not in action-adventure games. Her gender quickly became a non-issue, whatever you thought of women you still accepted Samus as a character. Most of us assumed she was about as feminine as Ripley as portrayed in 'Aliens'. It should be noted that, in the original 'Alien', the writers were told to have another female character so they simply changed all references to Ripley from 'he' to 'she' and that's all the changes they made. With Other M, it's not really that Samus is particularly feminine, it's that she's particularly weak. She has dependency issues and wangsts constantly. That feels like the writers hated the character. That the character is a beloved symbol of empowered women makes it look like woman hating. And the game could have been made in Sweden and we'd still be making the same observations.

1 comment:

Matoushin said...

The "no characterization" argument is simply wrong anyway, Samus was implicitly characterized in the original Metroid. The strength of video games as a medium is their ability to teach us about our characters through doing. In Metroid we learned our avatar was a strong, resourceful badass who could take on an entire army of enemies solo in an extremely hostile environment.

By the end of the game the strength and independence of our character was unquestionable, and that is why the big reveal was so potent. If we could have simply turned around and said, "I guess we were playing an emotionally fragile and weak woman this whole time" it wouldn't have been such an iconic moment. The reveal was equal parts "the badass was a woman!" and "that woman is a badass!"

The lack of explicit dialogue or story doesn't equate to lack of character in the world of video games. That Samus became a symbol for strong, female characters wasn't a coincidence, it was the point. The big reveal wouldn't have had a point or shocked anyone otherwise.