Why I Don’t Play Lara Croft et al. (NSFW!)

gaming avatar

There’s this purview in business that says: “We’ll make the same old, same old because that what sells to our target audience.” So, naturally the reason why there’s this big upheaval in the creative arts is because new demographics who couldn’t buy comics/stories/games/etc. now have access to these things without ever leaving their home. They can read reviews, share information, try something new and they don’t have to walk into a store. (To be clear: I feel that where you shop is a personal choice. I proudly support our local book/game/comic stores when we can.)

Anyway, point made. So, when I say that I choose not to play Lara Croft and other female-lead games like Bloodrayne… It’s not because these games are not unknown or accessible to me. And it’s NOT because of this:

Bloodrayne

Or this:

Lara Croft

Or this, though… Oy. I’m surprised Ivy doesn’t fall over on a regular basis.

Soul Caliber 4 Ivy

Now, if Lara Croft, for example, looked like this…

Gender Bender Lara Croft

I might play, but it’s still not a guarantee. So the question is: why. Why wouldn’t I go out and support games with a female lead? Because these games were obviously not designed with me in mind. Tried playing Bloodrayne, but even in the demo portion there were… Well, I get to some of that later. You get this glorious butt shot, of course. But the mechanic to feed just put me over the edge. I want to play the game, I don’t want to play a game and look at butt cracks.

That’s the difference between me and other gamers, I suppose. There are two things I like in games. Good stories and kicking ass. I like to play Ivy from Soul Caliber on occasion because she has a chain sword. CHAIN SWORD! Lara Croft I like in theory, but I have no interest in looking up her bits just to swing from vine to vine. If I’m on a vine, I’m not thinking: “Oh baby, please admire me because my boob crack is so awesome and my abs are rippling.” I have other problems with Lara Croft. Which is sad, really, because kick ass female archaeologists a la Indiana Jones and Alan Quartermaine could be pretty effing cool.

This is why I tend to play games by certain companies. I know what I’m getting if I buy a Square Enix or a Bioware game. Is there weird sexuality/attractiveness in Final Fantasy? Dragon Age?

Well, there’s… I don’t even know what’s going on with Kuja.

Kuja

And there’s…

Rikku

Mind you, Final Fantasy X-2 was a bit too girly for me in some places. XIII is what I would consider my favorite in the franchise next to X, which has a much clearer story. Lightning is the lead, by the way — and that should not be overlooked given the popularity of the franchise. But if you want the guy to save the world and his “girl,” you can get that in Snow.

And in Dragon Age there’s Morrigan. Who, incidentally, was considered one of the twentiest “least” sexy video game characters on account of her biting sarcasm and general bitchiness. Oh boy, if that was an indicator of sexy I think the entire female gender is in trouble. ‘Cause newsflash: we ain’t just crabby during that time of the month. Holy hell… Since when did women have to be all sweet and nice and never say anything bitchy?

Morrigan Poster

This desire demon is not a player-character, but one of the monsters. Kind of a seven deadly sins thing going on there.

Desire Demon

Now, there’s a huge difference in playing style between Bloodrayne and Dragon Age. I feel party-based games in an RPG style (still can’t bring myself to call a video game an RPG…) offer more variety for different types of players. Is there romance in an RPG style game? Yes, sometimes. Possibility of being consummated? Yep, it can be. Gay smexx0rs? Yeah, Dragon Age made a lot of waves because it gave that optional storyline.

Am I a prude? No, there’s a difference between being shy and saying: “PUT AWAY ALL THE SMEXX0RS I NEVER WANT TO SEE THEM IN MY GAME ZOMG.” Shy, yes. Puritan? Not remotely. I recognize when a game is not designed for me by the following criteria.

Form: When every possible chance you get, you zoom in on the cracks of an exaggerated women’s figure… It’s a distraction to me. What does that have to do with me earning XP or being a terrifying min/maxer? NOTHING. It’s much worse for me if *only* the female figures are exaggerated, but the males are not. This is why I’ve played Mortal Kombat and Soul Caliber. Both are ridiculously out of proportion, but it’s a fighting game with multiple characters so what the hey. If I don’t like a character or get tired of Ivy’s massive chest interfering with the chain sword CHAIN SWORD I can choose another one.

Function: RPG, first person shooter, or not… If you require me to play this game and have romance/boobs/rippling chests tossed in my face, I’m not your target audience. I played an hour of Bloodrayne and I just couldn’t get past the humping. Mind you, if there was ever a persnickety vampire player, that’d be me. Vampires shouldn’t have to hump to feed. The physics of that are totally super awkward and unnecessary — they’re not frogs!

Story: Oh, this is a big one for me. For example, will I be playing Duke Nukem? Not a chance in hell. To me, that’s not charming, that’s a turn-off. Hey, only the sexy women are being stolen from Earth and I have to save them because I’m a maaaaaaaaaannnnnn. Whatever. OBVIOUSLY, though, that game is not designed for all players, only a portion of them.

So where do I find games to play?

I buy games from companies like Sony, Bioware, Nintendo, and Square Enix. I read reviews before I make a purchase, too. Sometimes, I even play games like Kingdom Hearts, Sonic, Super Mario Brothers, and the Legos series because I like the story and the playing style without the smexx0rs. A better variety of video games from companies that don’t assume, by default, that women only play crossword puzzles and word games. Am I asking for all women and men never to be hypersexualized ever? No. Am I demanding that all of these games be stopped? No, that will never happen. Sales will only die off when demand decreases, so for my part I don’t play those games and I don’t buy them, either. It’s silly to think that all games will be for all people.

So what do I want?

That more game companies start looking at the full package (no pun intended) for different game styles. Make a first person shooter that men and women can play. Broaden your audience. Find playtesters that are women! Discuss what makes a good game experience, not what makes a sexy character. You can build a game around a sexy character. You can have sexy characters in a game. You can’t just create sexy characters and slap on a story/game environment willy nilly and call that a game. Video games are an immersive experience. If you want sexy characters in a game, take a page from the RPG style games that have sold millions of copies — offer a variety of them. Customization. Give people the opportunity to make the game personal and they’ll have a better experience all around, which means more players.

Over the years, of course I’ve played games with smexx0rs and exaggerated characters in them. But I stopped playing because when games are built to exploit that character’s sexuality, that fantasy is so obvious to me it rips me out of the game experience. I have no other option but to like that character and that character alone. Men, women… Makes no difference. If there was a game that, every time you walked in a weird angle, the camera rested on the guy’s crotch, I wouldn’t play that, either. Does any of this mean I’m right and you’re wrong? No, this post is about my personal preferences based on my experiences.

The only thing is… I can’t think of a game that’s like that? Where it’s really about the male crotch shots and the big bits and the tight butt cracks. Can you?




Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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