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January 7, 2006

Just because I'm a girl...

doesn't mean I can't kick your ass in video games.

I came into video gaming at a later age than most. I was lucky enough to be able to play Pong and Asteroids at my friend Debbie's house. She and Janet and I would spend hours playing, then we'd watch Bugs Bunny cartoons and laugh ourselves silly. The pizza place I worked at then had a tabletop Ms. PacMan that we all loved to play whenever it wasn't busy (there went my paycheck every week!), and the arcade was one of our favorite places to go with our boyfriends during my senior year. Unfortunately, I was dating a guy that only liked pinball and if I wandered off to play anything else (Ohh, shiny!), he would grumble about leaving without me. Yeah, you guessed it, I spent a lot of hours watching him play pinball, pretending to be interested, gazing longingly at the shiny digital portals to nirvana that stood mere feet away.

Once I left high school, my crowd changed. Debbie and Janet went off and got married and started popping out babies and I went off to college. I spent much of my free time reading or in the theater or at the radio station or playing pool in the student union. My friends weren't arcade people (they were drinking, Uno and Trivial Pursuit playing theater people) and I didn't have the money for a console or a computer of my own. During my marriage, the x only liked playing minigolf and skeeball and I, once again, was relegated to waiting for him to finish playing before I could have a turn. Seems he only liked playing games he could win because as soon as I got good at minigolf, he decided he didn't like it anymore. Puss.

I lost touch with the 'gamer girl' inside until about 7 years ago, shortly after I got my first computer. I played several online games and a old friend of mine sent me FFVII for the PC ... I loved that game but my system was sluggish and struggled to run it. A few years later, Santa gave us a PlayStation and a copy of FFIX and that was it. I got hooked over Christmas break and slowly began looking for games that would interest both me and my kids. Yeah, that's me, I can't buy anything that's just for me ... justifying spending money on myself so that I can PLAY is unheard of.

I've since found other games I really like and am really good at. Running Wild is a racing game (you run a footrace as an animal against other animals) and I usually play as the Zebra, Brazz, a cool dude who wears a leather jacket and jeans and is pretty easy to handle. The Crash Bandicoot and Spyro series make up the bulk of our collection and, of the two, I'm more partial to Spyro.

This past year, my boyfriend and I went in on a Gamecube together and worked out a schedule where we could share his PS2 and the Gamecube ... naturally, that opened up a whole new expanded library of games for me to try and fall in love with. This is our month with the PS2 and that means Katamari Damaci and We <3 Katamari are in da house! Yup, officially the first game that I got hooked on. I absolutely love this series, it's quirky sense of humor, non-sexist animation and insane music keep me entertained for hours on end. The attention to detail is amazing.

For those that have never played, I'll try to explain. You play as the very small son of a very large king. He gives you a Katamari, a ball, that you are instructed to roll around a house, picking up objects as you go. The more you roll, the bigger you get and you are able to roll up bigger and bigger stuff. Let me tell you, there is nothing as satisfying as rolling up people, cars, houses, skyscrapers, islands ... and everything you roll up makes a noise so the aural chaos is intense when rolling through a city.

Some people have likened the Prince rolling his Katamari to a dungbeetle rolling his ball 'o dung (including the fine folks at Namco) but this is prettier and probably smells a good bit better.

What captivates me, as a gamer, is the attention to detail. As your katamari grows, your perspective shifts subtly so that you can see more (and less) of what is around you. What seems like an endless field of tacks and paperclips eventually turns into a desktop. Animals that attack you when you are small suddenly get frightened of you when you pick up enough stuff and turn on them. Revenge is sweet.

Eventually, if your katamari gets large enough near the end of your time, your vision is obscured by the clouds. I'm convinced that this is because the game is coded for a player to get only so big at each level and, when you approach that point, they slow you down and reduce your visibility until time runs out. It's quite a feeling to know that you've gone beyond where the designers ever thought you would go. It's even sweeter because I can totally kick my son's ass in Vs. mode. All this in a game that only uses your thumbs. I applaud Namco for having the guts to launch a franchise this quirky and non-mainstream and would encourage others to follow suit.

The other game that caught my interest (and my heart) this year was Lego Star Wars. Oh. My. God. Too much fun. Tim and I had a BLAST playing this game together, laughing ourselves silly, joining forces in battle and figuring out puzzles together. We have fun kicking the snot out of each other in the Diner (where losing studs and lives doesn't matter) and we both love killing JarJar. I mean, come on, who wouldn't?!?!

And don't even get me started on Animal Crossing. While Tim and I both enjoyed this for the novelty of it, my daughter absolutely loves it. I could keep playing it forever, and I will continue to visit every time the 'Cube is here, but I've met most of my goals and my only choice is to move into the next town and start all over there. Not sure I'll do that but my character, Booger, has a pretty sweet pad and more money than I'll ever have.

If it sounds like I only like non-competitive, fun kiddie games, I don't. I've enjoyed playing First Person Shooters like Halo and Metroid and I enjoy the Tony Hawk series, even though I suck at it. I really think that I would like a fighter, since I'm taking karate. I wish I could find a fighter that is close to real karate, though, something that celebrates the honor code of the samuri, either bare handed or with weapons. For realism, it would be open hand, gradually allowing the use of weapons as you advance.

Unfortunately, most of the fighters I've looked at seem to be more focused on the characters and the flash (of skin), kind of like the difference between real wrestling the WWF. Seriously, what self respecting fighter would fight in high heels and a strapless gown or, worse yet, a thong bikini held together with ribbon.

Now before you go off saying "Oh, she's just another chick that is pissed because the girls in the game are hotter than her." let me just say two things. "DUH!" and "That's not the only reason I get upset." I'm all for strong women characters but the sexist representations are just beyond me. Tim attributes it to a cultural difference (most fighting games are Japanese) but I would think that Japan would celebrate its rich cultural heritage (at least in a fighting game) rather than exploit it. I'm thinking 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' would make a fabulous game with a strong female lead who kicks ass and is also gorgeous.

My karate class is filled with gorgeous women that kick ass, from my daughter to Michele and Kelly to Lee, our Sensai. They are all gorgeous powerhouses with strength and depth and they would never think of sparring in high heel boots and a thong ... unless they had to. *ahem*

I bring all this up because of #5 on my Uberlist. Tim is a gamer through and through and it's one of the many things we both enjoy. We don't play many games together - we are both solitary people that enjoy playing single player games - but when we do find a game we both like and we can play together (like LSW) we enjoy the hell out of it.

My desire to be a better gamer is two (or three) - fold.

1) I would like to be a better gamer so that I can keep up with him when we play together. Several times, he has handed me the controller for his 360 and I won't take it because I am not familiar with the interface ... and I HATE being stupid or inept.

2) I would like to be a better gamer because I would like to experience the gameplay of some games that I won't try because of their sexist stereotypes. That way, if the gameplay sucks, I can legitimately say "I've played it and it sucks and it's not because it's all jiggly bits and things." I can't spend my life complaining about bad games ... I'm going to learn what works and what doesn't and maybe I'll come up with some legitimate ideas for games, who knows? And I know just the programmer to help with the execution.

3) I would like to be a better gamer because I am on a quest to have more fun in my life and I know that the better I get, the more fun I will have.

I'm looking forward to the release of Okami later this year (Hmm, US release in May '06, just in time for my birthday!!) and am looking for other games that I might enjoy. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to speak up. I'm all thumbs ... umm, ears.

Addendum: I just read an article (a winded, convoluted article, at that) over at the Escapist that just pissed me slam off. It started out talking about how the gaming industry doesn't understand women, delves into evolutionay psychology for several pages and ends with the following paragraph:

All this leads to a suggestion for what might work for women in games: social reasoning. The ideal game for women, according to this simplified model, would be some sort of interactive soap opera or bodice ripper, presenting the player with complex social problems as she seeks the ideal mate. Contrast this with the kind of software currently being offered to women and you can see why so little progress has been made with this group.

To that I say a hearty "SCREW YOU!" I may be an anomoly but I don't watch soap operas, I don't read bodice rippers, and I'm not on a life-long quest seeking my ideal mate.

shut up, match.com doesn't count! just 'cause I met him there doesn't mean anything. that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I'd rather play a game where the men and the women were on equal footing with equal strengths and weaknesses. As a female who has spent the last 10 years being both the hunter/gatherer and the nurturer, I sayjust give us a game that doesn't assume that we are all simpering prissies, that some of us actually enjoy stategy and action.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Prosemonkey published on January 7, 2006 4:59 PM.

Uberlist 2006 was the previous entry in this blog.

The sounds of Sunday is the next entry in this blog.

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