RPG Classics Mailbag
Looks like a bunch of other people liked this topic as much as I did. The topic, of course, was about the roles of women in RPGs. But before we start, Lunaris, say something totally wrong.
...er? Why again?
Because I'm your boss and you gotta listen to me.
...Let say it true. Ozzie is inteligent....No wait..too cliche....Hmmm....Cid can end up with good topics? Nah, too unoriginal..hmmm....Oh! That it! I'm a pacifist!
Ooh, there's a good one! I now get to present you with this brand new mirc-Chat-Room Version of the You Messed Up Award!
.....*blinks*What the? Who made it?
Well, Wertigon went and made it and I was too nice to not use it. So here goes the mailbag. Again, sorry to anyone I wasn't able to print, but there's just so much room here, and I got about 18 responses to this one. First up we have Alistair Jacklin.
Women don't normally seem to get a particully good representation in RPGs as probably for years the RPG has been the domain of the Japanese who prefer there classic RPG's to have classic roles for there women. How many games can you name with a women as the main charector? Not many (I exclude FF6 from this as it really doesn't have a main charector). Also look at the jobs they take; In Final Fantasy 4 they are all mages of one kind or another, where is the kick ass fighting women breaking the nuts off evil monsters (you may notice I am a final fantasy fanatic). So what I believe should happen is a breaking of these stereotypes with a little more imagination form games developers.
Actually, FF's been pretty good with females; FF7 through 9 have all had strong female companions, if not main characters. My personal opinion about that is that since (as Chris Beaton said last week) most RPG players are male, they would feel more comfortable controlling a male character. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's a hell of a lot of fun to play as a girl; but many people just like playing as people whom they can relate to more. And as for factual evidence, may I point you in I Abdide's direction?
Let me begin by saying that this is an excellent question which really deserves a term paper for its response.
And people say I can't come up with a good topic. To you I say: HAH!
Err... you *didn't* come up with this one.
Well, it's the principle of the thing, innit?
What I say below is only a mere fraction of what can be said, so I have tried to boil down my babble to leave only the most essential points behind. The role-playing game of today is surprisingly friendly to women, moreso than most people would think, and I would definitely like to point out that little secret to the best of my ability. That said, here comes the deluge.
Console-based role-playing games take a "layered" approach to Womanity that requires a great deal of examination. On the surface, the female characters of the genre seem to play, for the most part, supporting roles in which they are eye candy, healers in the back row of the adventuring party, and love interests for thick-headed heroes. However, once that surface is peeled back a bit, a number of interesting things emerge. First, female leading characters, from Alis / Alys (Phantasy Star I and Phantasy Star IV) to Terra Branford (Final Fantasy VI) to Aya Brea (Parasite Eve series), are actually pretty common. Second, there are just as many female warriors and female combat wizards, from Maria (Final Fantasy II) to Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) to the famous Samus Aran (Super Metroid), as there are stereotypical healers. Third, female characters can have a number of male love interests, too -- keep in mind the whole female cast of Star Ocean: The Second Story.
Now, peel back that layer, and follow my reasoning a little more deeply. I have noticed that female characters are, in many recent games, more central to a story than the male characters to whom they are supposedly playing a second fiddle. I call this phenomenon of characterization "the Aerith type" in honor of what I think to be the best example of its coming into play. Those who have played Final Fantasy VII through to its conclusion will notice that Aerith Gainsborough is integral to the story, and prominent in quite a few of the relevant full-motion videos. In fact, and please be aware of the SEVERE SPOILER WARNING I insert here, not only does she have a more important role in saving the Planet than any other major character, the player is led to believe, at the end of the game, that Cloud Strife will always care about her more deeply than anyone else, even with Tifa Lockhart at his side. I am convinced that Final Fantasy VII is more the story of Aeris Gainsborough than it is the story of Cloud Strife, but it is not the only game in which this phenomenon occurs. Other games in which female supporting characters turn out to be the keystones of the story include Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (Luna), Star Ocean: The Second Story (Rena Lanford), Suikoden (Odessa Silverberg), and Thousand Arms (Sodina Dawnfried), but there are surely many more. "The Aerith type" is surprisingly common, and always fascinating to uncover in a story.
Thus, women are almost more than the equals of men when it comes to the major parts they play in video role-playing games. Admittedly, airheads, damsels in distress, and back-row beauties still exist, but I am convinced that they are actually in the minority. Unfortunately, those who play role-playing games are not those who are contained within role-playing games, and I am sad to note that almost all gamers are male, as they always have been. Given the elevated status of female characters in games of this sort, one would think that they would attract more female gamers. This is another instance in which tradition (please refer to my previous Mailbag post with regards to the definition of a role-playing game) can damage the genre, since gamers have almost always been predominantly male. I sincerely hope that, in the future, the word gets out about this underrated forum for Womanity, so that more of them will join the ranks of those who love to live out a story.
You know, he's right: where a game has a character-based plot (as opposed to, say, Tales of Destiny, where you just go around fighting bad guys in different places) the plot is usually centered around a female. Xenogears, FF6 (and 7-9, come to think of it), Chrono Cross... most of 'em, actually. I wonder why that is? Anyway, to try to dispel your idea that all gamers are male (you chauvinist) I bring you Shayera the Starsword, a female! Er... well, since she's the only female who wrote in, I guess it doesn't really disprove you at all...
Well, well. I'm Shayera the Starsword, and this is the first time I ever write into this mailbag. I've enjoyed reading it for quite a while, though. I guess I was just waiting for the right topic to turn up :)
This letter will to be long, so please bear with me...
NO! Let me out now! Please! I don't wanna listen to the whole thing... *sob*
Oh, all right. But there's only one exit.
Through the floor, right?
Yup. *presses a ridiculously overused button which is starting to get worn out at the edges, and smiles in satisfaction at the ensuing thump* We now return you to your regularly scheduled insanity.
First of all, I am a 19-year-old female - a woman. Do I hear a gasp?
That wasen't me, trust me on that. Just a personal comment: Were starting to see more womens in onlines games nowdays, very good thing. Yepyup, Even Quake-likes...And a lot kicked my butt. Even though it not hard with a Sniper Rifle...er..anyway, do continue.
Yes, women do play these games. And I don't see why not? I like RPGs for the same reasons you guys do - the story, the characters, the music, strategic and innovative battles, and the epic struggle to save the world. I just happen to be a woman. (I'm sorry for this little rant, I just felt a bit insulted when Chris Beaton seemed to imply that all gamers are male)
Another basic is that I believe that men and women are equal - that is so obvious that I don't need do discuss it, so I won't.
Aha! Do I detect a flaw in your logic?
Huh? What the hell you ramblin'bout?
No, no, I definitely detected something. Can't remember now, though... sorry, what were you saying?
So, on with the topic. What is the role of female characters in an RPG? Hmm. Might as well ask what the role of male characters are. ^_^ Maybe an idea for a future mailbag? *heh* Actually, I've given the matter some thought, and found that there are three main female stereotypes that seem to appear in most RPGs (there are corresponding male stereotypes as well, of course, but that's off topic):
- The "gentle healer" type. Frequently the girlfriend or love interest of the hero. This is the oldest stereotype, and all the classic princesses that needs to be saved fall into this cathegory. Other examples are FF4: Rosa, FF5: Lenna, FF7: Aeris, FF8: Rinoa, CT: Marle, SO: Rena, the girl in SoM... The list can go on forever. This is the type of women I always end up hating when I play. However, they always turn out to be either are neccessary in battle due to their healing abilities, or neccessary in the storyline due to their connections with the Hero...
- The "strong" type. Women with strong attack power, especially physical, fall into this cathegory. In the storyline, they are more independent, since they are not immediately assossiated with a boyfriend. They seem to act as a counterweight in many cases to the "gentle healer". This kind has actually existed in RPGs since the time of FF2, with Layla, who was a Pirate captain (Faris wasn't the first one!). Other examples are FF5: Faris, FF7: Tifa, FF8: Quistis, CT: Ayla and SD3: Lise. I ususally like these kind of characters (I'm a fan of Faris ^_^), but sometimes they are too exaggerated (like Ayla).
- The "perky/cute" type. Little girls and/or spoiled brats that seems to be there either to annoy you or charm you... I tend to be annoyed. I think FF4 was first with this type, and it had a boy as well (Porom and Palom). Others are FF5: Cara, FF6: Relm, FF7: Yuffie, FF8: Selphie, SD3: Carlie and ToD: Chelsea. What can I say? I hardly ever use these characters unless I have no choice in the story. Why do they have to be girls, though? Is there a good reason I haven't seen a "perky/cute" boy since Palom?
Of course there is! We just don't feel like telling you.
Of course, all females don't fall easily into these three types, as these are just generalizations. For example, I have a hard time placing Terra and Celes of FF6 (somewhere in between "gentle healer" and "strong" for both of them, I guess). Two of my all-time favorite RPG women are also hard placed: Lucca of Chrono Trigger must be somewhere between "strong" and "perky", although I prefer to call her smart and with an attitude ^_^ and Rutee of Tales of Destiny is "strong" in the story line (yeah, she does fall in love, but not in the cheesy way) and "gentle healer" in battle (this was her Swordian's fault, it didn't fit her personality at all).
Sorry to interrupt yet again, but you could give Rutee's Swordian to (say) Philia, which would make a lot more sense...
Some roles in an RPG has yet to be filled by females to my knowledge. I would like to see, for example, the "cool" character (a la Magus, Kain, Shadow, Vincent, Leon in ToD etc.) be a woman. Faris came close, but not quite. Also, I would really like to see a male "gentle healer". That'd be original! ^_^
Billy in Xenogears and Noel in Star Ocean 2. There, you're done.
More female protagonists? I don't really care. I'm so used to "taking the role" of a male in RPGs, it would almost feel weird. Sure, if they handle it as Terra in FF6, she's a good character. However, in Star Ocean 2, for example, I didn't hesitate in choosing Claude as my main character. Rena is... well, she's the "gentle healer", and I don't like those much. I like Claude a lot though. I was really surprised when I browsed the net later and found out that most people like Rena better!
Finally, an opinion on females as "eye candy" in the games. Honestly, if the guys who play like pretty girls, it's OK with me. I don't know if you've noticed, but MALES can be eye candy as well... Ah, those anime bishounen! ^_~
Brrrr, that sent a shiver down my spine. That was a pretty good roundup of the situation; I can tell you've put a lot of thought into this. But of course we have to go back to the moron guys who think like this Feathy person.
Hey Cidolfas, it's Feathy again. If you don't post this I'll eat you. Now on to the question. Women and their roles in RPGs? This should be fun. In the past of RPGs (by that I mean pre-Playstation), women have usually just been normal characters. For the most part, they're just there to help along the story, fight with you, etc. Not much of a difference from the guys in RPGs. FF3/6j even has a female main character. Of course, there are some exceptions (Angela - SD3, Nina - BOF2, etc) where they're obviously supposed to be hot. Now here comes Playstation. Now women are basically reduced to sex symbols (Tifa, Rinoa, etc). Aya's a main character, but she's still hot. Just about any RPG woman nowadays has big breasts and a cute face. The guys have gotten more macho to fit the cute girls. Except for Squall, he's a wuss and doesn't deserve Rinoa. Nobody deserves Rinoa, she's too stupid. So I guess it evens out. But back to the question. What do I thinks should happen? I think it's fine the way it is. Most RPG gamers play too many games to go out on a date, so to make up for it, we have our Tifas and Quistises. Thanks for listening and have a good day.
So we now have RPGs filling in for dating sims, which are very popular in Japan, but not a one of which has come out in the US. And for good reason, because anyone that desperate either lives in Japan or has probably commited suicide by now. Let's get back on topic with Fuyoko.
Hey! I'm a firstimer on the mailbag, so don't count this one out! Besides, I have to state an opinion on this, because it's been on my mind for a very long time.
The women in games are usually the weakest ones compared to their male "superiors". They are usually the spell casters, who pretty much go down in one giant attack from some big boss (or at least get 2/3 of their hp lopped off). They usually only have spells that heal, or spells that attack, which barely do any good against those real tough bosses who are practically immune to magic attacks. Some spells barely do any damage to real tough normal enemies (yes, I said "some". A few spells actually do kick some butt). The one real good thing about these types is that they have very good defense against enemy magic (I'm talking about real magic, not those attacks that involve the enemy actually hitting the character and stuff)and get only 50 or so hp off, whereas the guy characters get about 200 lopped off.
But some female characters don't use magic, they specialize more in the attack field, but they still have lower hit points and their attack power is still pretty low compared to the men. And even then they usually have the pretty crappy weapons. Okay, knives aren't really THAT crappy, but still... Swords seem more fitting. Well, I'm getting a bit off subject, so I'd better redirect myself.
Usually the "main" female character is the one that falls in love with the hero guy. It's just that pattern. Elly with Fei, Nina with Ryu, Lufia with (Enter Hero's name here), Selan with Maxim, Noa with Vahn, and various others that I can't think of at the moment. But it is a pattern. You play a game where the main character (male, duh) usually meets up with some girl, and anyone can think "Well they're gonna fall in love at the end". With Star Ocean: The Second Story, it was the other way around. You played a girl character, she met a guy. You could still know that they'd like each other in the end (I never got through the whole game, but there are slight hints). But still, the girl was slightly weak and had to be protected from this giant gorilla thing by a stronger guy.
I need to quit getting off subject.
Anyway, here's what I think the role of a woman in RPGs should be. They should be more than the characters you leave at the airship or base or wherever the extra characters are kept. They should be more than characters who are magic users or warriors with low hp and attack power (it'd be nice to have a female knight, or a kickass martial artist who actually does as much damage as the men do). They should also be more than the hero's girlfriend or whatever.
One more comment. Yeah, the last one. I think Final Fantasy 6 (or 3.. whatever.. there are too many of them!) didn't completely go with the whole "men are the main characters" thing. I mean, you started the game with Terra. Basically, the storyline sort of revolved around Terra. I mean, she was cool! She was the spellcaster, but she could also do some damage.
And then there's Wild Arms 2. The character Kanon. She ruled. She had high hit points and also very cool (and effective) attacks. Only downside is that it's pretty hard to get her to learn new attacks.
This pretty much ends my comment.
That seemed to be more... statistically based than others, but it made sense, so it went in. ^^; I want to say some things here... I've noticed that basically everyone has been going after the "gentle healer" bit, and I don't agree with that at all. There have been some great physical female warriors as well. First off, the much-aligned Rena from SO2 actually has great attack power. Chrono Cross had a huge amount of great warriors (Orlha, Kid, Leah, and Steena, to name a few). FF9 had Beatrix, FF6 had Celes, FF7 Yuffie, FF8 Quistis, FF Tactics Agrias, and even back in FF Mystic Quest we had Kaeli. The SaGa series has had some nice ones too: Katrina and Sara (just two of many in RS3), and Emilia in SaGa Frontier (never played 2, so can't comment on that). Emeralda in Xenogears. Mary in Tales of Destiny. The list goes on.
I might add: That there only about...1 or 2 "Gentle healer" like you say it in RS3, the rest? All warriors. Or bowomens. Ellen is a good example...the BEST fighter in the friggin' game! Boths Axes and Martial Arts! Can ya belive it?
There you have it then. So while, I agree, the "healer" females are in the slight majority, they're not the only ones out there. For a bit of a change, we now turn to "Shade, just Shade."
Well, this being my first time sending an E-Mail to the mailbag, I ought to introduce myself. You can call me Shade.
I already did.
I would have sent one for the last mailbag, but I... Well, I kinda put it off 'till it was too late.
Anyway... What was the question? *Waits until Cidolfas is done yelling at him*
I don't want to talk to you, no more, you empty-headed animal, food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! You mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!
What happened to the family-rated mailbag?!
Sorry, I went into Monty Python mode. Pray continue.
Oh, right! The role of women in RPGs. Um... Well, let's see...
Female characters in RPGs are often relegated to positions such as the hero's girlfriend, and if they are the hero's girlfriend, then very rarely are they playable characters. And the ones that *are* playable characters are typically very weak, and only able to use white(non-offense) magic. Do you think that's fair?
Don't answer that.
*keeps hand on mouth* Mrhmphrgmph...
As for a female hero (or, shall I say, a heroine) in an RPG, don't you think it would be just the slightest bit funny if Link was kidnapped by Ganon and Zelda had to rescue him? Oh, wait. No one considers the Legend of Zelda games to be RPGs. How come Mario got an RPG? Link was better suited for an RPG, and all he got was a goddamn cameo! C'mon, Nintendo! We want LOZRPG! Instead, we get SMRPG. Damn you, Nintendo! This is why I want a Playstation! Um... I think I'll stop ranting now.
Back on subject, FF6 had a female hero. You know, Terra? She could use quite powerful magic, and she was half esper! Perhaps that's why...
Well, 'till my next message, it's been nice talking to ya!
Frmphhrrrmghp... *takes hand off mouth* Actually, quite a few people considered Zelda an RPG (see last week's mailbag). But who knows what the future may bring? While there were a lot of female warriors as I said, I can't recall any of them actuall rescuing a male from a a bad guy. Oh well, some things might never change... On to our old, dear friend Megaman984, whom I'm told has just come into a very large inheritance and would be willing to share with a poor mailbag person who is nice enough to print his letter every single week... unmarked bills, corner of 34th and Main. Tomorrow. Pay up or the Mystic gets it.
The roles of women eh? Well, this topic seems to just ooze of political correctness. I hate political correctness. From now on to be politically correct, I'm not going to call myself Caucasian. I'm going to call myself a Multi-European-Heritage-With-Some-Cherokee-Blood-American. But I digress.
The role of women in most RPGs has generally been a princess needed to be rescued or a sidekick that is only good at healing people. Some people may not like this, but look at the time period RPGs are loosely put into. Most RPGs generally take place in medieval times with knights, kings, castles, and all that good stuff. During those times, women didn't have many rights. They were subject to the will of men, so they never really could make their own decisions or be free. They relied on their husband to survive. With this fact in mind, it makes perfect sense for women to be helpless in medieval RPGs.
Futuristic RPGs are another thing. Take Alys from Phantasy Star 4. She is a strong and is the leader of the group for a while. In futuristic RPGs, society is usually more enlightened, so women should be treated at about the same level as men. The way women should be treated in RPGs changes with the time period that RPG is loosely set in.
As for the sex symbols thing, that just depends on whomever is making the game. Women have always been treated as sex symbols, so it makes sense that they'll be treated like sex symbols in most RPGs. I mean, when game developers go and design characters like Tifa, that character can't help but be treated like a sex symbol. Maybe they should start making fat girlfriends for the hero.
Yeah, right, and who'd buy the game then? Seriously, girls don't have to be sex symbols to be easy on the eyes. She could look *nice* but not in-your-face. The only fat woman I've ever played was Macha in Chrono Cross, and I hated her because she just wasn't useful. Ah well. We now go to PsiDreamerOmega, what a lovely name, PsiDreamerOmega, how do they introduce you at parties? "This is my friend Psi. But we call him PDO for short."
The past roles of women have become so habitual that they're practically stereotypes. Almost all females in RPGs are either a mage (Paula) or fighter (Ayla). Sure, that's rather broad, but think about it: The mages are always at least adequate (Like Mara, and every once in a great while you get a Bleu), but hilariously physically weak and wouldn't know what to do with a sword if you dropped it on her head. About half the time she's an old friend (Lucca, even though she uses guns, only her last one is of any use) /in love (Almost an FF female lead) with the main character. The fighters are all tomboys to some degree, ranging from rough-and-tumble (Yuffie) to butch (Alena). This is in comparison to the guys, which range in types from clones to monks to dragons to well, whatever the company thinks will attract boys into buying their game. Now, I'm not saying girls don't play RPGs, but do you really think Cloud with his 7 foot broadsword and Tifa with her twins were marketed to girls? I don't think so. Also, even though times they are a-changing and all that, little has changed in RPGs over the past decade, other than the fruitless growing obsession with graphics. Heck, some character designs are practically recycled for new games. So, ylike Dagger, eh? She's pretty much rehashed Rydia. Not to say Rydia doesn't rule, it's just not much change. Nina has remained pretty much the same in all four BoF games. Wow. It's nice to have consistency, but it's also nice to have some freaking change. The future looks pretty much the same as the past to me, which is too bad. I wish more games were built like Dragon Warrior/Quest 3, which had differing genders for all the classes, or 4, where you could choose the gender of the wrecking ball that was the Hero. Oh well, it's probably just wishful thinking on my part, but it'd be nice.
Come on, admit it: would YOU know what to do with a sword if it dropped on your head? Me neither. And I always thought Dagger was a rehashed Rinoa in terms of looks and basically a rehashed Terra in terms of personality. And as the following wacko says (can you spell "favoritism", kids? No?) there are *some* games where you can choose your gender...
Greetings once again, the Holy Vault Dweller is speaking once again!
Alright, what the failed topic this week.......Women's role in RPG? That dosen't sound like you made that topic up, Cido.
Yeah, like if he could come up with a topic like that....
Hey, quit with the interruptions! You're not allowed to interrupt yourse... your buddy, anyway!
'Nyway, still a topic, eh?
Leta-see....Hmm, I really don't know where to start... ......Oh wait, here it goes.
Womens that are the Main Heroes in RPG are pettry rare. No one can deny it. Sure, they can be the game's seconde hero, but usualy, it mostly a male as REAL Main char. I DINT saide that there no rpgs with females as the mainchar, just saide they were rare.
Why? Who knows, maby, back in time, it wasent felling heroic engoud? That a big bulky paladin saving a princess in distresse is more heroic than a beautiful amazone saving a poor farmer from a bunch of orcs?...
Er...maby it IS.
...What I was speaking about again? Damn Mentats addiction....affect the brain...
Oh yeah! I remmber now!
Like I was saying, somes thinks that womens are equal to mens in RPGs and games. Well, sadly to my observations, they are not. Mostly used as sex-symboles(I can say that in this G-Rated mailbag, at least?), the perfect example is Tifa. Or Lara Croft, in Tombs Raiders.
Well, at least, it getting better and better nowdays, were seeing more games with females main chars, while I see less in RPGs. Strange, insint? Seems like girls are stuck to be saved from big bulky paladins for a while.......So to speak....But it getting better, at least.
And then, you have the Non-Linears games, where a LOT of them you can customise your char(Thus choising the sexe). However, it merly for Role Playing, and most of the time dont really affect the gameplay(Except a few Mature RPGs, like Fallout2)...And I forgot the SaGa series. Well, seemingly it one of the few Jap non-linear games I saw, it just for battle skills/abilities/weapons and some story lines stuffs.
Oh well, I could go on ranting like a old fool for the few next milleniums...so I'll stop.
...And dont worry if much of what I,ve saide dint made sense: Blam my new Mentats addiction....damn IQ Drugs....
The Vault Dweller from the Holy Vault 13, saying "Don't do Drugs, kid! Even thoses that raise you inteligence!" while singing off.
Mentats? Oh, just some lowsy drug that raise intelligence and perception... Very addictive. That from Fallout games. You want somes?
Er, no, I'll pass. My perception is too high as is... Anyhoo, the mailbag's getting too long already, so we'll sign off with one more ridiculous song in a second. For now, I want to end off with our first "corny" topic for over a month, adapted from a rather more specific one sent in by Megaman984. What do you think is the most ridiculous wardrobe in an RPG? Which one did you like the best? Which one would you actually wear in the company of the opposite sex? Write in or I'll stuff you into my Moogle suit. The address is email@example.com, the date is next Sunday, and...
Hey, wait a sec! I never said I was finished!
Hell no! I got this very very very insane letter from T.G. Flintedge and he said he'd kill my family if I didn't print it. Otherwise I never would, I swear. Anyway, he made another song for everyone to groan over. Disclaimer: RPGClassics is not responsible for any heart attacks, defibrillator malfunctions, or homicidal tendencies brought on by this entry. Cidolfas shouldn't be responsible either, but he probably will be, because he's responsible for EVERYTHING, including death, taxes, and the greenhouse effect. Anyway...
Can I go now?
Oh, all right.
To honour the great females of video games, I wrote this song. And you’d better post it, it took me a long time to write it!
If there’s women in a game…
In this game before we’re through…
I believe it’s my guy-given right…
THAT IT! The next who end the mailbag with a parodie song like that gonna get his head blasted off for all the headach I had!!!
AND I MEANT IT!