Thursday, July 22, 2010

Girl on Girl Games: Introduction

Ok, so every once and a while, people start talking about video games and gender roles. They discuss whether or not violent tendencies are reinforced in males, and so on... and then they begin turning a hard eye toward a genre known as "girl games". You've seen them; usually pink, often sporting a "z" where an "s" rightfully belongs, and always based around a stereotypical female pursuit, like fashion, unicorns or baskets of kittens. Because games of this nature can be so irritating to many independent women, it is easy for them to overlook a wide sector of gender neutral games, which I call "games", and announce for all to hear that "girl games" are what they want us to play!
Dead or Alive, while once a rather unique fighting game, is now built on the wobbly foundations seen above.

Let us be completely honest for a moment. There are some pretty stereotypically male games out there, which, I believe are just as ridiculous as the so-called "girl games." Why doesn't anyone get worked up over this? Because it's too easy to catagorize all games without pink labels as "male" games--and we can overlook garbage like rasslin' games, hunting games and games about ladies with huge tits. Those, naturally, are not aimed at the lowest common male denominator. Right.

The cross-promotional outing of the Cabbage Patch Kids on the Colecovision.
Let's face it: those steaming pink piles of ribbon and rainbows are very easy to target. Those are not for burly men with tattoos. They aren't even for skinny men with antique furniture collections. Those games are for little girls who (of course!) aren't any good at playing video games. This is where the gender debate turns ugly. "This is what they expect our daughters to play?" Sometimes this collective female voice harkens back to the very beginnings of "girl games" and blame them for impacting generations of girls.

Just one problem with that: many of these games suck, or are percieved to suck, and no one plays them. And with a few notable exceptions, especially with the advent of the all-gender-popular Nintendo DS, they aren't very popular. Even among girls. The games are too easy, people complain. They aren't relevant, they cheapen the potential of girls... you get the drift. Because games like WWE Smackdown vs. Raw really help Johnny realize his full potential.

In short, I've decided to play some girl games. Yes, I dare say, I'm going to try to play all I can find. Because it's too easy to glibly dismiss these games as mere garbage, to read that a game is about glitter hairspray and determine that the game has no value, sight unseen. In the interest of fairness, I'll be reaching as far back as the Atari for vintage girl games and looking to the most current contributions whenever possible.

Why, you may ask? Because I am (or was) the main target demographic for these games. I'm not a child any longer, but I still remember what it was like to play video games back then. I truly don't believe all of these games are terrible...and I definitely don't believe all of them are as detrimental to girls as we all fear. Oh, I've no doubts that some will curl my hair--figuratively, that is (unless the game is about curling hair.) But I think many more can be relegated to the heading of "harmless".
Yes... Even this kind of thing.

In this series, I will examine a different "girl game" every few weeks (to the extent of my patience) and attempt to assess its potential dangers, values, and basic fun factor.

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