Friday, August 9, 2013

Female Friendly Narrative Modding in Games

Why is it that there are still so few video games stories with awesome female protagonists that don't play into the usual gender stereotypes? What's a gamer to do if he or she wants to experience more of them today? Narrative modding might be one minor possibility...

I started my journey into female friendly narrative by randomly looking up a link I've had saved up for a while: Ada: Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology.  I found an interesting article called Self-Saving Princess: Feminism and Post-Play Narrative Modding.  It discusses the idea of modding not the game itself with editors or code, but the modding of the narrative outside the technology, that is, "modding that takes place through player and critic participation after the game has been created through discourse."

For example, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency is discussed as someone who has modded the narrative of games with respect to how women are portrayed in them. 
Her call for funding for a series of videos on this topic was met with outrage, disgust, threats, anger, and resentment from some sectors of the gaming community online. ... But anger wasn’t the only response to Sarkeesian, and in fact, it seems that the anger and threats of violence incited more support for her project than had existed previously (and may have existed at all).
And now, with three videos published from the Tropes vs Women series on video games, Sarkeesian is calling on players to look at female characters in games in a whole new light.  This is narrative modding because "it fundamentally changes the way that players are able to engage with the game because of their knowledge of her critique and the community’s response to it.  Once these tropes are exposed and brought into mainstream discourse, the player’s experience of the game is modded."

The latest Women vs. Tropes video, Damsel in Distress: Part 3, embedded above, mentions explicit narrative modding, albeit briefly.  One well-known projects that changed Link into a girl through a Wind Waker mod came from a fellow Carleton University alumnus, Mike Hoye.

Initiatives like these are very cool, but the fact that any sort of narrative modding is even necessary has to make you wonder when video games are going to grow up and offer more female-friendly stories.  I'm hoping it'll be in time for my daughter to enjoy them when she's old enough to play.  (She's almost 2 now, so get on it, industry!)


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