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marurun
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by marurun Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:56 pm

So, I've been a little disappointed about the lack of discussion about representation of women in games in the 80s and whether or not having a female main character changes or alters the play experience. Is there anything different about these games you are all playing from their contemporaries at the time?
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by Ack Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:03 pm

marurun wrote:So, I've been a little disappointed about the lack of discussion about representation of women in games in the 80s and whether or not having a female main character changes or alters the play experience. Is there anything different about these games you are all playing from their contemporaries at the time?


In the case of Flicky, no. Flicky's gender isn't in any way related to the game. There are no specific identifiers, stereotypical or otherwise, to denote that Flicky is a female. Flicky is also not the mother of the baby birds you are helping; sources instead simply state she is a friend of the babies. Frankly, Flicky could have been called a male with no change to the game whatsoever.

I think this should be considered a strength of the game though, at least as far as inclusion is concerned. There is no specific reason why Flicky has to be female, yet there is no reason why Flicky shouldn't be either. The adventure works just as well, and players may well get into the game never realizing Flicky even has a designated gender. In many games, gender is often typified by stereotypical designations or sex appeal; Flicky has none of either, the main character is simply a female bird rescuing other birds from predators. Flicky is a hero, and her gender has nothing to do with it.
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by Exhuminator Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:18 pm

Looking at what I've beat so far...

Dirty Pair: Project Eden
The protagonists in this game were female, because the game is based off an anime movie where the protagonists were also female. The protagonists in the Dirty Pair series are clearly meant to be eye candy. However, the two ladies are never shown to be incapable weaklings by any stretch. Quite the opposite actually. They just happen to dress skimpy. Changing the girls to guys would have denied contingency of the source material.

Layla
The protagonists in this game are both female. The reason I believe is because this game is highly influenced by Metroid, and Samus is a lady. Neither Layla nor Iris are really shown to be sexually fetishized or anything. They are instead highly capable space heroines. Changing them to males would have had no effect on the gameplay, nor the story really. Although it's fun to play as a girl sometimes, it's really as simple as that. Variety is good.

Gall Force: Eternal Story
All of the protagonists in this game are female, because it's based off an anime where that situation originated. I think this game (and the anime itself) goes the distance to show these ladies as highly capable space pilots. If I were a little girl watching this show in the '80s, I'm sure I could have found a female hero to look up to, in at least one of the pilots. I don't think the Gall Force characters were particularly sexualized either. Changing these pilots to males would have neutralized the unique hook of the series as it were, but would not have altered the game's actual play.

Space Hunter
The protagonist of this game is female because Samus was female, and I believe Space Hunter is loosely inspired by Metroid. The protagonist is not sexualized, nor ever shown to be incapable. She's portrayed as a powerful cyborg, the only cyborg capable of taking down the rebels. In that regard I believe Space Hunter positively portrays its protagonist as a strong female. However, if you replaced her with a dude, that would not have changed the gameplay. Actually the only genres where replacing females with males might affect the gameplay, is likely to be RPGs or adventure games which utilize dialogue. Pure aught action games aren't nearly as affected. You could change the protagonist to a walking pizza and it'd still play the same.
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by nullPointer Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:36 pm

marurun wrote:So, I've been a little disappointed about the lack of discussion about representation of women in games in the 80s and whether or not having a female main character changes or alters the play experience. Is there anything different about these games you are all playing from their contemporaries at the time?

What a great question! In the games I've played thus far, you could swap the protagonist sprites out with male characters and there would be no difference whatsoever. In the case of The Great Giana Sisters I would say that female characters were used as a shorthand means of distancing itself from the fact that it was copying Super Mario Bros. in most regards. I had wondered whether The Colonel's Bequest would be more representative of the feminine experience being as it was written and created by a woman, but if those elements are present I really haven't seen them yet. I would go so far as to say that we really didn't start seeing games which clearly identify as feminine perspective until sometime in the 00's. The first one I can really think of is Beyond Good & Evil, and even that might be a bit of a stretch.

The Colonel's Bequest Progress Report:
The bodies are really starting to stack up in the Dijon Manor! It's too funny, but on more than one occasion I've walked out of a room occupied by a character, then immediately reentered the same room only to find that character having been suddenly and inexplicably murdered. Sigh ... I also had my first (and I'd wager not the last) reminder of why I find parser based adventure games to be quite maddening at times. I was trying to operate an elevator that I was pretty certain could go up one more floor if only I could unlock the controls. I tried several variations of 'use key on controls', 'unlock controls with key', etc, etc. until I was fairly convinced that I was wrong about the whole elevator plan in the first place. As a last ditch effort I googled the solution only to find that it was a slight variation of wording that I hadn't tried yet, 'put key in control'. :x I'm still enjoying the game quite a lot, but yeah this is why I'll take a good point and click interface over parser based any ol' day of the week.

And on that note, Happy International Women's Day y'all! :D
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by Ack Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:05 pm

Since I also played through Gain Ground, I figure I'll speak to that one as well. While Flicky doesn't highlight the fact its protagonist is female, Gain Ground instead offers a variety of characters, up to 20, of which only 4 are obviously women. Of these 4, two are variations on the other two; while there are several instances of near-duplicates among the male characters, it makes the females feel even more marginalized. But then, the vast majority of protagonists are white males in Gain Ground. Of your 20 characters, 1 is a black male, 1 is a Japanese male, 2 appear to be fantasy races (they look like a stereotypical dwarf and elf to me), and 1 is indeterminable due to wearing a mask. That leaves 11 white males in the group, over half. Admittedly I could also be completely misunderstanding the two fantasy race characters, who might also be intended as white males.

The point is that Gain Ground really didn't do much with its female characters. I think they were little more than an opportunity to be used as a scantily clad marketing device, as the one female of the starting 3 characters is shown in artwork to be wearing a bikini. Also, turn the female sprites certain directions, and they're shown to have ample...qualities in particular areas. It stood out at the time I was playing as a weird and unnecessary touch; I was playing a war game, I didn't need eye candy, I needed soldiers. And the 4 women in the game weren't of much use to me in just about any level. There is no reason that more characters could not have been women or at least useful, though it's not the most egregious issue I had with the characters in Gain Ground. That goes to the black man who throws spears.

Look, I really liked Gain Ground. It's a fun game. But it definitely could have done better with its characterization. Shoot, it could have done better with its character roster in general, as most remained used only in specific situations or not at all.
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by Exhuminator Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:25 pm

nullPointer wrote:Happy International Women's Day y'all!

Nice of you to point that out.

Something mildly relevant for the thread...

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Eighties' lady playing eighties' games in the eighties'. You go girl. 8)
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by PresidentLeever Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:29 pm

marurun wrote:So, I've been a little disappointed about the lack of discussion about representation of women in games in the 80s and whether or not having a female main character changes or alters the play experience. Is there anything different about these games you are all playing from their contemporaries at the time?


There isn't a lot to say about Märchen Maze in this regard, the characters and story are more of a backdrop for the action but I suppose it's a "net positive" for the time. It's based on Alice in Wonderland and even stars a girl named Alice, but the plot is simplified to a few sentences about saving the world from an evil witch queen and alice being "the only child with enough love and courage to restore peace", which translates to shooting magic soap bubbles at a bunch of weird creatures. Märchen means fable or fairytale.
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by Sarge Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:23 pm

Psycho World would have been similar if it had been a dude. Valis, perhaps, would classify as a bit different, as it does emphasize some skimpy attire, but Yuko is portrayed as quite capable. Golden Axe has the usual skimpy female, but at the same time, the dude falls into the same category. They're obvious Conan-style stand-ins. The only one that is rather egregious is Phantis, where the lead character is very well-endowed. But then again, she's portrayed as a kick-butt space marine or whatever. It should also be noted that they basically did swap her out for the protagonist of Game Over in the UK, to no ill effect. Unless, you know, you miss that eye candy.
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by marurun Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:57 pm

I feel like the message I should be taking away from this is, "It was the 80s. Just be glad there was a woman in it who wasn't the one being rescued."
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Re: Together Retro: Eighties' Ladies' Night

by Ack Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:12 pm

marurun wrote:I feel like the message I should be taking away from this is, "It was the 80s. Just be glad there was a woman in it who wasn't the one being rescued."

Yes and no. Some of the responses have definitely leaned towards "These characters were being used for sex appeal" while others were knock offs of one of video games' most famous female protagonists(who appeared in a bikini if you got a really quick run...). One thing I did notice was how many said gender didn't matter or play a part in a given game, which implies to me that we should have gotten more games with female leads. If the takeaway is that it's not a big deal, why then were there so many fewer female protagonists? And how many of those were there purely for sex appeal?

Also, Null's bringing up his views on the game he is playing, which was principally designed and developed by a woman, serves a great point. Null said he didn't feel the game is shaped by the lead dev's gender, which says to me that the industry should be more willing to continue to strive for greater inclusion. After all, if the absolute worst it might bring us is pretty much the same as we already get, what is the harm in being more welcoming?
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