Archive for May, 2010

The future of women in video games

Think of a game with a female protagonist. Done? Who did you think of? Chances are it was either the Metroid series (Samus) or Tomb Raider (Lara Croft).

There simply aren’t many female protagonists in video games. After reading this article in Game Informer magazine, I started to understand why a little bit better.

Female gamers have been a growing population since the dawning of video games, but they are still the minority of the whole of gamers. According to the Game Informer article, female gamers make up about 30% of all gamers today. While it’s good to see this number has grown and still is growing, I would really like to see male and female gamers be an equal 50-50. I’d even be happy to see the percentage of female gamers shoot up to 40% or 45%.  Let’s make it happen, ladies.

The Game Informer article mentioned that females make up the majority of PC gamers. Interesting, eh?

Another reason that women often do not make it into a game as a protagonist is because it’s tough for the developers to decide how to draw them. Of course there is that awful existing standard that all women need to be ridiculously hot and have unrealistic proportions on their bodies. Female protagonists should also be perceived as strong, and developers can’t seem to decide how to draw a strong female who is also really attractive and not too “butch” like. Game developers need to figure out how to create an average looking female protagonist who is still perceived as strong or intelligent; whatever the desirable trait may be for that particular protagonist.

Female characters are becoming more common in video games these days. Women aren’t only perceived as helpless princesses that need to be saved anymore. While this may not seem like much (and it isn’t, really), it is still progress, and it can only move forward now. Let’s all hope that as the percentage of female gamers continues to rise, so will the amount of female protagonists in video games. Also, let’s hope for a future where women are depicted in video games not only for their cleavage and as an object of desire for a male protagonist, but for anything and everything that any video game character has to offer, and that more and more of them will be doing what male characters have been for years: kicking ass.

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Heavy Rain review

Having finally run out of survival horror games to review, I thought I’d go ahead and review a game that is definitely worth bringing to gamers’ attention. Heavy Rain is one of the most talked about titles for the PS3, and there’s a definite reason for that. Be warned: this review will contain some spoilers.

One of the things you’ll commonly hear about this game is that it starts off very slowly. This is true, and the slow beginning can even take up to a couple of hours. However, this is necessary to both introduce the story of the main characters (you’ll switch between four main characters throughout the game and your goal is to keep them all alive) and to get you used to the controls, which are quite unique.

This game uses button press combos throughout. If you’re into nerve wracking, fast-paced, and sometimes demanding requests for responses from you, this is the game that’s perfect for you. If you’re not good at button press combos, you should probably skip this game. In many scenarios, if you miss even one button command, the character may die. Once one of the main characters dies, they’re out of the story for the rest of the game. Trust me, you will grow attached to all four characters and want them to stick around for the whole game so that you can follow their stories and also have them interact with each other.

Let’s get into the story part of it. The first of the main characters, Ethan, begins the game as a happy, family man. A tragic accident leads to the death of his son Jason, and also puts Ethan into a coma for six months. His wife blames him for their son’s death, and she leaves him. Ethan has another son, Shaun, who becomes a victim of kidnapping by the Origami Killer…a man who kidnaps children and puts their father through a series of trials to force them to prove that they are a good father. The victims are kept in caged tank that has rain water draining into it. This is where the game’s title comes in. If a father can complete the killer’s trials before the rain water accumulates enough to drown their child, they are happily reunited. (It pours rain almost constantly throughout the game). Upon beginning this game, no father has successfully completed all of the trials and been reunited with their child. So, as Ethan, a lot of your work will be completing these awful trials which include driving against traffic on a highway, crawling through a pipe maze that has glass shards all over the bottom of it, cutting off the last section of one of your fingers, navigating through electrical charges, and killing someone. As Ethan, you can either complete or refuse these trials, but depending on which ones you refuse to complete, you may not be able to save Shaun.

The other main characters are Shelby, a private investigator, Madison, a journalist, and Jayden, a new cop. All of these characters are interested in the case of the Origami Killer for one reason or another, and because of this they all end up interacting at various points throughout the game, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of it.

This game starts off bright and sunny and happy, but (relatively) quickly begins to get darker and more and more depressing. Rain starts pouring almost constantly, and sadder and sadder stories keep unfolding. This game is not for those who are faint at heart.

The story and control scheme of this game are brilliant and enough to make me recommend it to anyone. However, the voice acting is some of the worst you’ll come across in today’s era of gaming. This could be due to the fact that there is so much voice acting required by this game. Throughout play, you can press a button that corresponds to a topic the main character is currently thinking about, and hear a brief statement of their thoughts. This can aid you in your journey, or just be amusing depending on the scenario.

Heavy Rain‘s graphics are good, but not as remarkable as other games out there.

All in all, this game is excellent, and has one of the strongest stories and most interesting control schemes that I’ve seen in a long time. If you have the stomach for it, and you’re not too much of a sap, you shouldn’t miss this game.

Check out IGN’s highly favorable review of this game.