Straight Male Gamers
She directed it to as a starting point for a post about poor representation of homosexual relationships in video games. However, I won’t be discussing that topic, since I feel that games don’t tend to be a great space for showing off romantic relationships at the best of times, straight or gay, so it’s not really an issue that’s crossed my radar much. However, it inspired another thing to talk about: the suggestion that games need to be aimed at the Straight Male Gamer.
I am a Straight Male Gamer, and quite frankly I wish the games industry would stop catering to the Straight Male Gamer. The obsession with this particular demographic has resulted in some pretty bland games, and sucked all imagination out of a lot of mainstream titles.
You see, aiming at the Straight Male Gamer means that games are constantly being aimed at the things the Straight Male Gamer apparently likes: big guns, moody protagonists with crew cuts, gore, explosions, female companions in skimpy outfits who always require saving, brown and grey scenery because colours are for pussies or something, and lots of dudebro bonding.
As a Straight Male Gamer, let me be the first to say that I am pretty goddamn BORED of the moody dudebros with big guns. Here are my opinions on all those things that a Straight Male Gamer is supposed to like:
I only like big guns when they’re absurd (see: Ratchet & Clank).
Moody protagonists with crew cuts are boring and one-dimensional (as a writer myself they offend me).
Gore only works well when appropriate and explosions are overrated.
Female companions need personalities too and should be protagonists themselves more often.
I’m a big fan of colour and think there should be more of it.
Truth is, if I see another dudebro shooty game with bland scenery and a protagonist with the personality of a brick wall, I will go to the developer’s studio and I will start flipping tables. I mean it.
My main issue is the protagonists. They’re set up to be characters I can identify with, but generally, I don’t identify with them because they’re largely emotionless shells. When they do show emotion it tends to be anger. They like to swear and grunt and generally be manly men who punch walls to solve problems.
I don’t identify with this because, hey guess what, I’m not a robot. Like all human beings I have a range of emotions so when a game developer tells me I should connect with Moody First Person Shooty Man #273624, I instead find him laughable and imagine him struggling with everyday tasks. This ultimately leads me to imagine Kratos from God Of War waging revenge on the gods simply because he mixed colours in his laundry and his togas are now all pink.
My god they need to chill out. If I find myself playing one of these games, I actively find myself trying to make these angry dudebros look silly at every opportunity just because I don’t like them. They are terrible characters and they all blend into one another. They even look alike. When you put these games next to each other and every cover looks the same, then we have a problem.
Plus, isn’t it kind of boring to have every game feature these bland dudebros shooting other bland dudebros with big guns, in a plot that’s little more than an excuse to shoot dudebros with big guns because the plot is usually “there is a bad dudebro, kill him with guns”? There is honestly little distinction between a lot of modern gaming plots and the plot of Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja from 1988. At least that game had ridiculous Engrish to make it more entertaining.
This is why games shouldn’t be aimed exclusively at the Straight Male Gamer. Games should be aimed at everyone. By aiming them at everyone, there’s an opportunity to create more diverse characters and stories because you’re not trying to meet the expectations of a stereotype.
It should be noted that one of the most interesting characters of the last generation in my eyes is a passive-aggressive sentient AI. A female AI, I must add. And hey, she was popular, and people loved Portal as a game in general. Maybe, just maybe, the general gaming audience isn’t insistent on a game being aimed at Straight Male Gamers and instead is insistent on providing some top notch entertainment?
So there you have it. I may not speak for all Straight Male Gamers, but I’ve a feeling my desire for more imaginative, entertaining games is shared by more gamers in general than one guy who feels a bit icky over gay relationship options in Dragon Age.
What say you, readers? Would you rather the industry stuck to games for the Straight Male Gamer, or instead just stuck to making whatever games the developers think are fun? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me @TheCheapFerret.