Have you ever had an idea or written something that felt like it was bigger than just your own feelings? That's how I felt with the latest feature for RPGFan, The Best (And Worst) Female RPG Characters. Most people would think this list was about ranking babes, but what I've created, with the help of other staff members, is something preaching against that. First off, I decided not to rank these females. I do not want to diminish their role or do a disservice by putting a number on them. Women have been ranked for years, and that's unfortunate. I also decided to make the feature about their positivity in the gaming world. For some time I've received criticism about fighting for stronger female characters, and this is me fighting back with something positive. The feature encompasses the well-written female. I can only hope more of these magnificent ladies and their stories come to the surface. But why is this so important to me? I'm just going to let it all out...
It's no secret that I have been growing more and more passionate about the writing in RPGs, female characters, in particular. There are more girls gaming today than ever before - and I want ladies for us to admire, and for the younger girls to look up to. Call me crazy, but I'm still seeing a step backwards in a lot of games. I want characters full of passion and depth, ones that have a story worth telling. Perhaps it was growing up in the whole "the princess is another castle" era. It perpetuated the classic gender role, but you can't really blame that on Nintendo. That gender role has existed for centuries and we've accepted it for the most part. Why? I think it's hard, because we don't want to bring gender into the equation, but here's the thing: we can't deny a big part of who we are. It was like in one of my previous entries when I came to terms with my health condition, it's always going to be there, and to deny a part of yourself - that's no way to live.
It's strange; for months I have agonized and felt like I had to keep silent over what I found to be female characters not being done justice. One of my favorite journalists happens to be a feminist, and if you don't know her name, get on it: Gloria Steinem. She's a big part of the Women's Liberation Movement. She has passion, zest, intelligence, and fought to give females more opportunities than they ever thought possible - denying Steinem's influence on me is next to impossible. The woman had substance and drive, but she also came with words of wisdom that I can still apply to my life today. I keep thinking of her famous words, "Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status-quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood."
How odd is it that we're in 2011, and I can still apply that to the resistance I've faced being a female game journalist? But look at that last line "She will need her sisterhood," I wholeheartedly believe that all of females in the industry need to stick together, only we can know the same struggles and offer guidance to get over the hurdles. And if I sat here and kept quiet, because I was afraid of being faced with any negativity, then I'm turning my back on all the women who fought for me to have that opportunity - that voice. I also have a social responsibility - I'm going to choose my battles and how I perceive things. Stronger writing of females characters in our games is something that's worth fighting for, call it silly, because to some "it's just a game," but we all know if it was "just a game" we wouldn't get as wound up over them as we do. These characters matter, they've helped many get through darker times, they've brought many joy, and have etched long-lasting memories.
I'm not saying it's all bad. We've made great strides as females, and I'm not denying that. However, we're still experiencing some resistance, and I'd like to change that. It's hard for anybody regardless of gender speaking their mind. Even as a reviewer, I've come a long way to find my true voice, and not put so much stock into the negativity that follows. There also are some great female characters out there, to be honest, doing the feature put a lot in perspective for me. Originally, we thought we wouldn't be able to fill the list, and then there was an outpouring of suggestions, and we even had to debate. I'd be happy to do a part two of this feature to showcase some of the ladies that just missed the cut, they're there, and I'm thankful for every one of them. If we can keep them coming on a more consistent basis, I think we're getting somewhere, but to keep our mouths shut when they are done poorly - that's not going to make anything better.
I should end this with saying, I've never been one to take up a cause or crusade, and I hate segregation of any sort. I'm not trying to say the writing issue is all black and white, because it isn't. I'm also not trying to say males probably don't have some of the same issues that I do with writing. I'm just trying to say, a little sisterhood every now and then never hurt, and it's definitely a throwback to all those women who fought the good fight.
Before I end this post, I just want to highlight a great podcast I've recently started listening to called GameDames, an all female podcast, that's more than refreshing to hear. They don't entirely focus on gender, which is great. But what they do offer is a way to get a female perspective, and maybe not feel so alone. Just remember we're all in this together, and as Gloria once said, "We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach."
If anybody wants to get in touch with me to discuss anything I've listed above or just needs someone who knows what they are going through, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org