i was upset and angered to be alerted of a blogger pulling an andrea dworkin on erin robinson and heather kelley. robinson and kelley took part in a challlenge (along with i think four other participants, all men) in which they were asked to design a game about their first experiences with sex. blogger jenn fang thinks it’s irresponsible of them to design another game in which women are sex objects. nevermind that they’re the subjects of these game designs, the actors, not the objects. but let’s not get ahead of myself.
there are legions of homogenous gaming drones who, when anyone expresses an opinion of videogames that’s in any way negative, come out of the woodwork to shout at that opinion until it can no longer be heard. they’re especially hostile against feminism. so, as a big fat dyke, let me say that jenn fang: you’re full of bullshit.
How blatant, than, is the anti-feminist message communicated in this winning video game concept? Female protagonists in Kelley and Robinson’s game concept exist only for sex with an anonymous male partner.
this seems to be fang’s primary criticism. i shouldn’t have to even point out the flaw in it, it’s that obvious: the reason the protagonists spend the game preparing for and having sex is because the game is an autobiographical story about preparing for and having sex! if they’d written about their first sexual experiences in the form of a short story or comic book, the same criticism could be leveled at it.
but that’s exactly the issue: this is a videogame. fang’s fear – and not an unjustified one, since the vast majority of women characters in videogames exist to be either prizes or monsters – is that robinson and kelley are contributing to an existing culture in which women characters are created by men for the consumption of male players. videogames have a shitty track record!
the obvious difference between some suit-and-tied dick in an eidos office brainstorming his new strong female protagonist and her strong female tits and erin robinson and heather kelley participating in “my first time” is that these two designers are – bravely – telling their personal stories of sex. and their stories absolutely do portray sex as awkward, complicated, and fraught with pitfalls – but that’s because they’re autobiographical. most peoples’s first experiences with sex aren’t negotiated as thoughtfully or socially responsibly as they might be. when was the last time i complained about there not being enough honest talk of sex in games, or not enough autobiography? was it yesterday?
so, yes, the concept of virginity and the weight our society places on losing it is problematic, as are the rituals associated with it. and yes, i’m absolutely sure that conference room was packed with the kind of snickering goons that fill the seats of every igf event. but no, i can’t see any fair reason to criticize erin robinson and heather kelley for sitting in a room full of men and telling their own stories. as women game designers, we’re entrenched in a culture that sees and speaks from a male perspective. to turn that perspective to our own is a great and necessary thing.