Dear people who make video games,
I am straight. I’m pretty damn straight.
I am married to a woman. I’ve only ever had sex with women. I don’t mind too much, but on the whole I’d rather not look at another man’s penis. If I had the choice to look at a man’s penis or not look at a man’s penis, 90% of the time I’m going to go with option b.
I am overwhelmingly white. I might actually be the whitest person I know.
The last time I went to the beach I did a quick survey. Yep. I was the palest, whitest person within three square kilometres. Then I went home. I was sunburnt. I’d been topless in the sun for roughly 45 minutes.
I am a man. In a lot of ways, you might even categorise me as a ‘bro’.
Here is a list of things I like: video games, sports, exercise, eating meat. I could probably grow a beard if I wanted to. If I was single and in my early 20s, you might even catch me in the gym getting ‘ripped for Stereo’. The only strike is my inability to consume alcohol, but this in negated by the cold hard facts: I am in possession of a penis.
Just checked. Yep. I definitely have a penis.
My favourite film of 2013 was Frozen. Frozen is a Disney movie about two sisters who are women. It is a movie that subverts previous Disney tropes about romantic love in a number of interesting ways. It is a movie that celebrates sisterhood and the power of sisterly love. It made $1.25 billion at the box office.
Here is a list of video games that I have recently played and enjoyed: Tomb Raider, Mass Effect, Child of Light, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. These are also, coincidentally, video games that either exclusively asked you to play as a woman or provided players with the option to play as a woman.
Here’s a thing that happened about a month ago: I was playing Dark Souls II. In the game I accidentally stumbled upon a coffin and the game allowed me to enter that coffin. Turns out that coffin was the harbinger of a strange curse that allowed my character to change sex. It transformed my male character into a female character. The game allowed me to change back if I wanted to.
But I didn’t, because who gives a shit? My precious stats remained precisely the same, and I enjoy playing video games with female protagonists. I went on my merry way and completed the rest of Dark Souls II as a female.
Here’s another thing that happened.
During its E3 presentation Nintendo showed its latest Zelda game for the first time. I noticed that Link, the game’s protagonist, looked more feminine than usual. After the conference people began to speculate: is Link, the perennially male main character of the Zelda series a female?
Here’s what I didn’t do: I didn’t vomit blood, I didn’t brutalise a nearby wall in fit of pure masculine vengeance. I didn’t even get angry. Here was my legitimate reaction: I got excited. ‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘How incredible would that be. What a refreshing change of pace! Wouldn’t it be great to play a Zelda game where the protagonist was female?
‘Nah, that’ll never happen,’ I sighed.
Here’s one more thing that happened.
During E3 news broke that Ubisoft, during the development of its latest Assassin’s Creed, had been considering adding a female assassin to its roster to compliment the game’s latest 4 player co-operative mode, but quickly scrapped it because the “reality of production” would have made their inclusion too costly.
“It was really a lot of extra production work,” explained creative director Alex Amancio.
Here’s what I didn’t do.
I didn’t nod my head and say, ‘well, that’s the reality of video game production’. I didn’t laugh and say, ‘take that feminism!’ I didn’t twirl my non-existent moustache and cackle, ‘another one in the can for the straight white man.’
My first reaction was disappointment; because I often enjoy playing as a female character in video games.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I am going to exercise the rights and power that my privilege as a straight white man has bestowed upon me: I am going to inform you that, when it’s reasonably fair, I expect to be able to choose between a male and female character. As a straight white man I’m going to demand that. Alongside the other bullet points on the back of box -- alongside hundreds of multiplayer maps, side missions, guns, blood, explosions, whatever -- I’m going to demand the ability to play as a woman, because I am your main demographic. I am the type of person you care about, and this is what I want. This will help inform the purchasing choices I make in the future.
I am a straight, white man with disposable income. I want to play as a woman in your video games. Please give this thing to me.