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So apparently there's going to be a Borderlands 2 skill tree that emphasizes a support role, where the character can summon a robot to tank for her. And the lead designer called that "girlfriend mode." This actually happened a bit ago, and the president of Gearbox has since come out against the nickname.

But still. Um... wow.

As full disclosure, I have not personally played Borderlands. I watched Mike play it, and it looked kind of fun if you're in to first person shooters, which I am manifestly not. I haven't liked them since the first time I tried one out, which was, oh gosh, back when Doom first came out. I find them a bit stressful for something that's supposed to be fun.

I also have ovaries. Personally, I don't think these two facts are related.

I could go on and on about how girls do too play first person shooters, but I'm not going to. A lot of other people already have. The thing I'm more annoyed by is the way playing as support is often couched in incredibly dismissive terms, which is why I think it's worth pointing at an article that's over a week old.

To begin with, often in classical fantasy literature and roleplaying games, the healers and support characters are depicted as women. That's probably where a lot of this got started. Maybe we're supposed to be more nurturing, and thus somehow averse to hitting kobolds in the head with a club. That's transfered through into video games as well - in any of the rpgs I've played, one of the female characters is always the white mage/healer.

I played World of Warcraft for years; during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion I actually raided 3-4 times a week and eventually took down the Lich King. I didn't hear that kind of dismissive talk in my guild - considering my co-GM and I are both women and both played healers it would have taken a special kind of dumb to say that out loud even if someone actually thought it - but it's definitely something that was around in the wider game. Gaming culture in general has a misogyny problem.

This is the reason it bugs me, though - support is hard. I've played as all three roles - tank, healer, dps - in a multitude of game. I tend to find dps kind of boring, particularly ranged dps. (Face roll to victory, guys!) I actually did enjoy playing as tank, but only did it infrequently because I got tired of people being giant shitcocks to me. (Why people are jerks to tanks, I will never understand.) Healing was where I spent most of my time. I found it just as challenging as tanking, and honestly more interesting. Keeping someone alive while they're being punched repeatedly in the fact by a giant monster is not a simple task.

I think there's a consistent narrative about women playing support in those kind of games because it often does shake out that way. The most challenging roles are tank and healer. If your boyfriend or husband is already a tank, it doesn't make a lot of sense to roll another tank. And you want to play together so - aha! Healing! It's challenging, important, and you get to stick with your hubby. But then, as with anything, if a lot of women gravitate toward a role, it gets pigeonholed as a "girl thing" and thus seen as lesser, not as difficult because our ladybrains can't handle games or something.

Now, Borderlands is not World of Warcraft. But I think the narrative is the same. Oh obviously girls just do support stuff. Haha, healing, it's so stupid despite the fact that without it the monster would eat your head and the game would be over. Maybe calling it 'girlfriend mode' wasn't intended to be dismissive, though it sure came out that way when coupled with the idea that girls don't get first person shooters. The wider culture of seeing roles and games that women like to play as worthy of mockery doesn't help. And the implication that women only play games because we're giant tag-alongs to our boyfriends and husbands makes the comment extra douchey.

The sad thing is, them adding a support role to the game means I'm actually curious to try it. Because I find that way more interesting than shooting things. I just hope they don't make it too easy; support isn't supposed to be.


Aug. 30th, 2012 02:21 am (UTC)
I think there is a large disparity between what girls want from games and what boys want
my brother is a gamer, he is hard core gets invited to beta test games you've never heard of from the developer kind of thing and the vast majority of games that he plays I wouldn't touch with a bargepole,
they're all the same, FPS (although I'm half convinced that the s should stand for strafe because seriously watch people playing halo in teams and all you'll hear is someone shouting strafe! strafe, what do you mean you don't know how to strafe?", beat'em'ups, driving games (rolls eyes, how boring are they to play?) stealth games (if I wanted to hide I wouldn't be playing as this bad ass now would I?) etc
whereas girls tend to go for things like hack'n'slash and survival horror and those weird ass games from Clover and Ico and stuff like that
games that tend on the whole to have much stronger narrative progressions
I don't know about you but I will play a genre game that I would normally avoid like the plague if I think the story is interesting
but give me a character with a sword and the basic instruction - go there and kill that and I'm happy
I LOVED Onimusha! where I know lots of men who said it was too slow, too hard, actually kinda boring. And Okami, and Legend of Zelda and Castlevania, all three of which are "hard core" games with insane levels of difficulty but are primarily played by women
we're also more likely to grind, because being pigeonholed into support roles means we have to work three times as hard to level up

borderlands looks a bit boring really, Darksiders 2 however is apparently as hard as the nails in chuck norris' boots and features a sword and impressive narrative - I've got it on back order!

Also something I noticed, there is a game on the ps3 called Dark Souls and it came over from Japan and is so impossibly difficult most people haven't finished the tutorial because they wiped so many times doing it. I'm halfway through level 2 and I like that it's hard, that everytime I approach a fight I can see where it's going wrong and why I wipe so I can fix it next time. I've been playing it for months - but in that time Boy (my brother) has gone through something like 30 games.
And I loved the witcher 2 where you are your own support role and if you play the support part right you make your tank almost invincible but it's not mandatory and I've had people ask me how I finished it (three endings now out of 40+) and things that seemed natural to me from playing support roles in things like WoW, or DCU, were anathema, like actually thinking to make health potions (although in the witcher you have to take it BEFORE the battle) and reading what the spells did
Aug. 30th, 2012 04:04 am (UTC)
I think there might be some disparity in what different groups want from games (boys vs girls in this case) but I've seen enough crossover between the two groups that I don't think it's quite so simple as that.

And yes on grinding. The one thing I've really loved about WoW is they got really good about giving XP to healers so long as you're in a group and participating via healing. Thank goodness or I would have given up on that game long ago.

Games that are too ridiculously hard just make me ragequit. But I know people like you who just love the stuff. XD We're all really different I guess.
Aug. 30th, 2012 12:55 pm (UTC)
ah the rage quit,
the throw the damn controller away because clearly it is the problem
but sometimes you just get this "inspiration"
like a final fantasy character you go "right you bastard" and limit break
or you take a break, cool down and rage quit again when you start playing

with dark souls it's a skill game, it's not that it's hard, it doesn't punish you for dying, you have to learn how to play the game and play the game well, you have to learn how to use all the abilities or you will die a horrible death on super easy
but it's designed that way, you know that if you didn't use your shield enough you'll wipe, so you do it again and use your shield

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