Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Meme: Video Game Covers I Want to See

I interrupt the silence on this blog in order to bring you the question of the hour, as asked by Brand over at Yudhishthira’s Dice:
Ladies, what RPG covers (or interiors) have you seen that involve a woman in the
art that make you say, “I want to play that” or, just as good “I want to play
her.” Or that make you feel like it is a game you could like, or be included in
by a group of guys you’d never met and whose maturity you didn’t necessarily

Tekanji decided that this was a great topic for a meme and I agree. The rules:

1.Copy the text of the original challenge from Yudhishthira’s Dice and give a proper link attribution.
2.Copy these rules exactly (including any links).
3.Find images of game covers (interiors are okay, too) that make you want to play the game. Any kind of game — video game, card game, tabletop RPG, etc — is fine. Post them and include a short (or long) explanation on why the image makes/made you want to play the game.
4. The original challenge is about finding out what women think about how game art is marketed and therefore it is targeted at women. I’d like to keep it that way, please.
5.You can tag as many or as few people as you want. You do not need to be tagged to participate in the meme.
6.When you make your post, please post the link on this thread so we can all see what others have said.
First on my list is the cover for the Sega CD version of Lunar: The Silver Star. This was the RPG that made a gamer out of me. While it doesn't score high as far as gender issues go in regards to the content (small town boy saves amnesia-stricken goddess) the story was engaging and addictive. What initially drew me to the cover was the striking character designs. Though the evil Magic Emperor dominates the frame of the image and literally holds the fate of Lunar in his heads, Luna--though hovering slightly behind Alex--is dead center. She has a sly smile on her face that is indicative of her role in the game. Even though she's the girl you get in the end, she isn't passive. Rather, she's capable of great power and has a knack of rallying people behind her, as she did with the other young girls who were captured. I also enjoy that I'm able to see much of the supporting cast of Lunar, for it provided anticipation as to who I was going to meet during my journey.
Next is another RPG, Xenosaga II. Though the second game of the Xenosaga trilogy may not be considered the greatest, the cover sure is. Kos-Mos dominates this cover (as she does in the first and third) yet she is not diminutive or sexualized. On the second game's cover, we are given the profile of Kos-Mos and the faces of some of the other important characters of the game. (Though, woefully, Momo is missing.) Kos-Mos is larger than life, staring blankly off into space. This speaks to her importance but also to the questions that her existence brings to mind. We know by this point that Kos-Mos is more than just a tool, but we are also wondering as to who she directly serves--Shion or someone evil?

Third is the cover of Silent Hill 3. Silent Hill 3 was my first hesitant venture into the Silent Hill universe, and it was Heather who guided me there. When I saw this cover at Gamestop I was struck by the amount of emotion that was held in her face. Namely that it seemed to ask "What the hell am I doing here?"--a feeling I've encountered more than once in my life. I felt that I could relate to the young woman on the cover, and that feeling carried me on through the game.

Next is the cartoony and cluttered cover of Dark Cloud 2. Max poses confidently with his wrench, while Monica is leaping into action, sword hoisted above her shoulder. While I'm not too fond of Monica being positioned behind Max, I'm glad that she's captured in an action shot. Monica's the warrior out of the two kids and from this cover that's obvious.

The last cover that I'm choosing to highlight is from a game I've never played: Digital Devil Saga 2. In fact, I haven't played any of the games from this series, though I desperately want to. I've seen other character designs and know that they come off as pretty androgynous, something I always like to see. On this cover, I've deduced that the character who is being framed by a funky monster is a woman. She stares out, sullen, her left hand a fist, her right arm transforming into something other-worldly. She looks tough, like someone not to be messed with, despite her short stature. She looks like a character I'd like to kick some ass with.

From these examples, it seems apparent to me that I prefer covers that relate to the plot and characteristics of the game. I often enjoy when many characters are included, for they add an element of foreshadowing. I also favor covers that convey a strong feeling, such as tension (like with Digital Devil Saga or Silent Hill 3) or mystery (Lunar and Xenosaga II). Sexualization of a character on the cover of a video game for the sake of nothing else but turning a profit will turn me away. I want covers that are thought out, striking and pertinent to the game at hand.

I tag: Brinstar, Amy, and Guilded Lily.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Quick Note on Employment

Since my last tirade, I’ve been quiet about my unemployment because who wants to hear about annoying temp assignments, job interviews and staffing agencies when there’s Zelda to talk about?

Last week, amongst the Chicago cold and snow (god, I want spring) I landed a temp to perm job. I have no idea how long it’s going to last, or if they’ll want to hire me on for full time eventually (so many factors beyond my control) but at the very least, for some amount of time, I’ll be earning a steady paycheck. Go me.

Of course though, with this comes all the usual anxieties of starting something new. You’d think I’d be getting used to it by now. I keep on thinking to myself, “Oh god, oh god, oh god, Excel.” And of course, “Will I be utterly bored?” I’m starting the job tomorrow, so I expect that I’ll be sleeping with my fingers crossed.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A very low toned and gruff warning to all those who have not played Gears of War.

Before my rant, I just wanted to put out a reminder that the 10th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy is up. Check out all the great posts at Adventures in Lame.

So recently I got to take a crack at Gears of War, courtesy of my brother's Xbox 360. The gameplay felt like a breeding between Resident Evil 4 and Halo. I enjoyed everything it took from RE 4, such as the camera, the aiming, the atmosphere, the interesting villains and AI. (Though I still like RE 4's a lot better.) The cover system was fun, and it kept me playing--though for only about 5 to 6 hours, because that's how long it took me to beat it...on Hard.

I'm really glad I didn't buy Gears of War, cause geez, it's short (and kinda easy too). There were a couple of tough parts, but it was pretty straight forward: shoot at things until the level ended. I don't understand why a 5 hour game has gotten so much attention.
Though that's not the worst part. I can deal with a short game, as long as it doesn't bombard me with images and concepts that all proclaim the glory of white men. This game does not want you to forget that these Gears carry packages. The creators took the idea of the super masculinized action hero of the 80's to such an extreme that all metal within a 10 foot radius of the T.V. has now formed a nice, manly rust. All of the characters have the proportions of a small truck, and grip mighty phallic machine guns that not only shoot hot lead, they also moonlight as a the manliest tool around: a chainsaw. CUT CUT CUT! MMMMaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrr! I was shocked at the extent in which they packed every male stereotype into this game. If I didn't know any better, I would think this was a joke, or some ironic piece of pop art.

Even the uberman's feelings toward others was well represented, for what's a Gear without his female supporter giving helpful tips over the radio, far removed and safe from mucking up all this manly action? And if I remember my American History X correctly, who could deny the convenience of the curb stomp? Why, a busy Gear can proclaim his love for hate crimes in one press of a button!

Rounding out this package of privilege is the Gear's always-entertaining black sidekick for comic relief. A man who not only has to be saved at first, but his name is 'trane--short for Coltrane.

Writer: "How should I name my token black character? What's a good 'black' name? Well...jazz musicians are are black, and they have names! Now let's think of the two jazz players I know..." (flips coin between Armstrong and Coltrane)

But apparently this character wasn't screaming black stereotype enough. The writer really wanted to flesh out his creation, so why not give 'trane a past career?

Writer: "How do black people make money? Oh yeah, they play football."

A professional football player. Sounds like the perfect combination of a shallow black character to me. All the writer had to do to capture his subtleties is to make 'trane smack talk the ground aliens with puns based off of his name. For instance: "Get off the tracks, cause the 'trane's coming through!" I must say, great writing for this post-racist society we live in.

Let's all celebrate this groundbreaking achievement in video games.