Women in video games – Metroid: Other M

So, when Metroid: Other M came out I was excited because Metroid is a great video game series with one of the most bad ass female lead characters ever.  And, she is not objectified as being only a sex object.  I didn’t think that’s too much to ask for, and for the most part, this series proves that it is not too much to ask for.

I’ve loved all of the previous games and was initially worried about team ninja’s involvement. (Since they are notorious for the objectification of women in dead or alive.)  But, since it came out, I’ve seen lots of it, and I don’t see anything wrong with the game.  For me that’s a success, not only is the game good, but they didn’t go and fuck up one of my favorite characters so they can have a sales boost from gape jawed men.  So, all is fine and well, right?  Nope.

I just saw a G4 review of the game and they complained about the portrayal of the lead (female) character, Samus Aran.  For one thing, the reviewer (a woman herself) complains that Samus is too emotional.  But actually, the character is no more emotional than any male character in a similar story.  It’s not annoying or unrealistic, it’s just humanizing.  Also factor in that in the story, she loses more than one close friend and you’ll find that her reaction is not too strong at all.  Also, the reviewer complains that the lead character is sexualized and takes opportunities to show her body for no reason.  Honestly, I saw no such thing.

I understand, though, that I am not a woman myself and maybe I don’t quite understand the problem here.  But I can say that as a male, if the point of the game design is to excite men sexually, they didn’t do a very good job at that.  And finally, the sickest and most disturbing thing that the reviewer claimed is wrong with the game is that the main character’s story mostly revolves around her being in love romantically with one of the male characters.  The problem with that argument, though, is that that particular male is in no way ever implied to have any potential of romantic relationship with the main character.  As a matter of fact, he is a great deal older than her and partially raised her.  She sees him as a father figure and caretaker/friend.  Claiming that their relationship is sexual really upsets me.

And the repeating theme in all of the reviewer’s complaints is that she argues that their are sexist stereotypes, but I don’t see any of her arguments from the same point.  I think that perhaps that is a result of her looking for these sexist cliche’s and not taking all the details for what they are.  Their are surely better examples of female characters (especially in video games) being objectified or not being as good/strong as their male peers.  A great example that comes to mind is Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.  Sure she’s tough, but they gotta make her super-sexualized with double D breasts.  Why?  And as I mentioned already, Dead Or Alive does the objectifying, which also confuses me because the game would be good with or without exploiting women’s bodies, the only difference is that I’m upset by the game because of something that has nothing to do with how well it plays.

I really have no idea why people are as okay as they are with the games that have females as sex objects, but the one female character that I feel is treated the most equally with men gets called out on being a sexist stereotype.  I just don’t fucking get this.  If there’s anyone here who has suggestions about why the worse things are overlooked, I would love to hear that.  Or if anyone does have a problem with Other M, I would also really like to hear that.  Maybe women can see something wrong with it because they have experienced certain things and I have not.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted September 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    i haven’t seen the game, so i couldn’t say if it’s sexist or not. it’s good of you to acknowledge that there may be something that you didn’t notice because you haven’t been put in that situation as a man. i do think that women see those things more clearly from experience but by being on a site like this and educating yourself, you will grow as a feminist and be able to see sexism more. but there are some women who get so fed up with sexist stereotypes that they don’t want to show emotion since they are afraid of being labeled as hysterical. but the real answer to the problem isn’t hiding all emotion but allowing men to be emotional too and knowing that every human being feels things, men just as much as women.

  2. Posted September 8, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Whats wrong with Metroid: Other M is how wildly different it is from previous Metroid games. This series is over 20 years old and back in 1986 when it was revealed that Samus was a woman was shocking like “Luke, I am your father” shocking. Despite gaming’s bad history of portraying women, Samus stood apart and is still one of the best women characters in video games. So Samus suddenly having this deep love interest which is supposed to be romantic and that is coming from Team Ninja themselves. Samus suddenly having this deep love story with a character we barely know is just out of character and reeks of the writing falling on basic tropes. Also the main complaint is how Samus takes orders from Adam without question. So far she has been portrayed and a strong, silent, and independent woman like a more awesome and female version of Gordon Freeman. Suddenly she is just taking orders from this guy and its not like this is a prequel or something where she hasn’t built up the character she has shown before, chronologically this game is second to last (before Metroid: Fusion) so this sudden change in character to fit what is classic female stereotypes of being overly emotional and needing Adam to tell her what to do is a step backwards. The worst part is that you are told that Samus has all her weapons but can’t use them until Adam says so, this isn’t just demeaning the her character and history its just poor writing and game progression. Also she suddenly seems a lot weaker than other games, at a few times she is frozen with fear when encountering monsters which is strange because she has never done that before, again playing on the stereotype of women being psychologically weak. As for the sexualization I definitely took notice they tried to get her in the zero suit when possible, and while it’s not horrible it is something to take notice. There are other thins wrong with the game which hurts as a fan of Metroid series but the article was about the characterization. As a man also i clearly saw the downgrades of the character of Samus which is a shame because she was not just the best female character but one the the best video game characters period.

    • Posted September 9, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      You make good points. But, the only characterization thing that really bothers me is that Samus is scared stiff when she sees Ridley. Which isn’t AS bad because this is the first game with voice acting(along with more of a focus on story) and Ridley is the most decidedly dead after Super Metroid. Still, I don’t think it makes up for that one entirely. As for Adam, I really had no idea that he was supposed to be a romantic interest. You do get a feeling that Adam is important to her from Fusion. It also seems to be implied that samus has not met and reconciled with him since leaving the galactic federation. I think that would explain a lack of detail about him until this point. Also, I feel that having to take orders is not related to the fact that she is romantically interested in Adam. Samus chooses to follow orders because she knows that if she didn’t cooperate with the Galactic Feeration team very closely that they wouldn’t let her help (since she is a free agent and has no commitment to them). So, I really think that it’s more like she’s going along with the orders because she knows they need her help. I also think that being a fan of Fusion makes this game more enjoyable. I’ve been dreading the day that they add a voice for Samus, but now that it’s here, I have to say that it could have been a lot worse.

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