This Week in Girl Geek: The Women of Red Dead Redemption. We See What You Did There.

Posted at 5:00 AM Feb 26, 2010

By Kiala Kazebee


When I first saw Rockstar's new trailer for Red Dead Redemption introducing us to the women of the game, I was super-excited (they were real characters! Not naked!), until I was hit with the cold water of knowledge dropped on me by my husband via chat messenger.

First, the trailer in question:

And next, the cold, hard truth:

Dane: Ladies in video games ... wearing clothes GASP!
Kiala: And doing stuff on their own!
Kiala: Without MENS to protect them!
Dane: You can't play one, though
Dane: You play a dude
Kiala: GAH
Dane: Well--it's not an RPG
Kiala: So? They could have picked a lady as the main character
Dane: At least it has tough ladies
Dane: They also could have picked a monkey
Kiala: It's irritating that we have to be cool with playing dudes but dudes don't have to be cool with playing ladies
Kiala: And monkeys are racist
Dane: What about Tomb Raider?
Dane: Or Bayonetta?
Kiala: Yeah, but look at those ladies ... all sexed up for men's eye pleasure
Dane: OK. I see what you're saying
Dane: But this game is primarily targeted at men
Kiala: Women like Westerns and I WANT TO PLAY IT
Dane: YOU CAN!  As John Marsden like the rest of us
Kiala: I am going to punch you
Dane: Will you be wearing spandex when you do it? Cause I'd be fine with that.
(Dane would like me to mention he was "sort-of" kidding about the spandex part and if I "decided on [my] own" to wear spandex, he wouldn't second-guess me)

Anyway, I still want to play this game and this "The Women" trailer is a nice nod in our general direction (marketing-wise), but I still want to play as a woman. I feel like this gambit is a salve to soothe any female hurt feelings out there, and while I appreciate the consideration and see it a step in the right direction, I wish they'd think of their entire audience from the GET-GO instead of throwing us a bone here and there.


The Admiral said:

I always prefer to play as a woman (being one myself) but it doesn't seem to happen in "story games" - the blockbuster movie-like games like this one, Bioshock (1 and 2), Modern Warfare (admittedly the main character probably wouldn't be a woman, but still), etc. Sure, Bayonetta is a woman, and she was designed by a woman. To be gawked at by men. Fine. I guess I could gawk at Nathan Drake or even Kratos if I were so inclined. I guess I'll just have to wade through these games and then return to my KICK ASS Commander Shepard - saving the universe one planet at a time.

Off topic - has anyone played Heavy Rain? I know critics are dampening their undies over it but what is it really like? I bought it, just haven't done anything with it.

Seminymous Coward said:

That the "ladies" are "... all sexed up for men's eye pleasure" would only be a valid complaint if you ignore that people overwhelming prefer especially attractive leading characters, regardless of gender and medium. Even most novels' protagonists are attractive by the author's standards.

Therefore, I assume your complaint has to do with the "men's" part of your claim. I'm not so sure that men and women from the same culture have terribly different standards of attractiveness for women. We're not a monoculture, anyway, so there are plenty of women who like how Lara Croft looks and plenty of men who don't.

That the gender balance of playable characters in games is off is a valid complaint. It's true outright, but it's worsened by the fact that lots of games with female PCs are terrible or anti-feminist. Specifically, there's plenty of All Star Cheer Squad, Charm Girls Club, and their ilk. If these were on a level footing with similarly earning male-PC games in terms of quality in terms both of mechanics and of agency, assertiveness, and awesomeness of PCs, the imbalance would be far less pronounced.

In summary, women need to buy good female-PC games like Mirror's Edge and not buy bad or insulting games. If Ubisoft can make much more with far less expense and risk making an Imagine game than Beyond Good & Evil, it's the market's fault when they make 29 times more of the former than the latter.

Also, I feel compelled to note that the issue is somewhat obviated by the games that feature a party of PCs as opposed to just one. Valkyria Chronicles, Mass Effect and Dragon Age have great casts of party members of varying gender and sexual orientation.

Transfer of good female protagonists from other media into video games could be used as a training wheels version of making good games with good female PCs, if only most licensed games weren't distinctly in the mediocre to terrible quality range.

Bobbyskizza said:

When I'm playing a game where I have a choice of gender I like to mix it up as to weather I play as a guy or a girl. It means that when I play through the game a second time I get a different voice actor which varies things. Also I am a big guy with short hair, when I play a game I want to escape so I have no interest in playing a big guy with short who just happens to go to the gym more than I do.

Devonian said:

I would buy the fuck out of a game that let me play as a gunslinging monkey...

Seminymous Coward said:

Devonian - TimeSplitters has that in every installment but the first.

Sherri said:

Grr! That sucks. I was getting spoiled with customizable female playable characters in Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Fable 2, etc etc. That they do not allow you to play as a girl is missing out on the fact that women are now very close to 50% of the game market.

My boyfriend and I love playing co-op too - were currently playing Borderlands (which also allows me to play as a girl). I find it more immersive this way.

For shame Rockstar. Tsk.

Michelle said:

I'm okay with being a DUDE because then I can find a NICE girl and settle down with her :)

Like Fable 2 I made the mistake of playing a GIRL and married a weak little guy..who I married Jen the SWEETEST middle class lesbian ever! lol wish I had started as a guy though because she got HUGE

I just want to know CAN you get married in Red Dead Redemption???

Steph said:

Check out what this guy says about it:

while I should be offended, and I am actually, I found his take on the game morbidly funny. But as a feminist and a gamer, it was pretty disturbing and I'm not sure I want to pay money for it now. History is history, but it does leave me wondering what the devs were thinking, and ever since GTA I knew they were kind of sexist, if not entirely.

Misty said:

Red dead redemption is the best game I have ever played. And there is a fighting farm girl named Bonnie. I am a girl too. And I'm so happy that there are other girls that like this game to!

Misty said:

Red dead redemption is the best game I have ever played. And there is a fighting farm girl named Bonnie. I am a girl too. And I'm so happy that there are other girls that like this game to!

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