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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor spoilers for some Lost Tales of Greece in AC: Odyssey

Butch:

This day gaming is seriously making the blog cold opens a pain in the ass. It’s all out of whack. But, as it would be tricky to start posts midday and go until the next day, even for one with your editing skills, we must forge on until the school schedule sorts its shit out.

But, as I can scour the internet, I can lead with at least some gaming tidbits, like….uh….it’s been confirmed that Death Stranding has, not only stealth and creepy babies, but a bit where there’s singing while bathing in a hot spring.

So that’s another reason to play it! Right?

I gotta play.

Feminina:

Well, did you finish up with the bad day yesterday? We could talk about that.

Or about the beginning of the Daughters of Lalanai or whatever. I finished the bad day and then raced right over to Phokis. Talked to the magistrate and her sister, rescued the huntress, got some ore for the blacksmith, advised her to focus on weapons instead of armor (haunted by doubts about the decision) and went hunting with two other women.

I think next I have to go talk to the sisters and help them fight the Sons of Xerxes.

Interesting “battle of the sexes” thing going on here, with the Sons vs. the Daughters. It was also a very interesting comparison to the bad day stuff I was just doing–helping a blacksmith, helping unskilled townspeople prepare for battle–but with a different focus that made them both seem like intentional twists on a formula, rather than more of the same.

Butch:

I did not finish. But you did stuff! And I did notice the twist! And I had the same misgivings about weapons! Especially as the hunters said they can black out the sky with arrows.

But, as you say, interesting battle of the sexes which is why I want to ponder the following: We played this game as Kassandra. With Kassandra as the main character, this reads as an empowered woman empowering other women to stave off the men and be self sufficient. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. But we chose to play as Kassandra you see where I’m going here.

I get the sense that, had we played as Alexios, this would have a totally different read. This would read as poor, helpless women needing the big, buff man to save them. Worse, it would be poor, helpless women needing the big, buff man to teach them how to survive, govern, feed themselves, do just about anything. It would be offensive. (Even more so when you get to the end. We’ll talk. Later.)

I can’t remember a game I’ve ever played where the player’s choice as to play as a man and a woman would have affected the whole message of a quest like this one. I don’t know exactly how to critique this quest in that regard. As Kassandra, this is inspiring! Modern! Progressive! Yay, game! As Alexios, it’s everything that’s wrong with video games, and sexist as hell. Is that good writing or bad writing? Can it be both?

Feminina:

That’s a very interesting question.

I think maybe we can look at it not only in regards to how it looks from the viewpoint of Kassandra or Alexios, but also how it looks from the viewpoint of the women.

Regardless of who helps them, they are, in one formulation, weak women who need SOMEONE to come and teach them how to do everything. Is it less troubling that they need help, based on the sex of the person who’s able to provide it?

I think it could be mildly sexist either way because it assumes that women are naturally the underdogs and obviously need our help (whoever we are): when we quite similarly helped the townspeople against the pirates in the other quest, there was none of the same concern, because helpless townspeople are an inoffensive underdog. Unless you’re a townsperson, maybe. (Damn it, I live in a small Ancient Greek village and I’m sick and tired of mercenaries assuming I’m not effective in battle, just because I have zero training or experience with battle!)

On the other hand, they’re a bunch of people who haven’t been specifically trained to the roles they’re now being called on to play, so their needing help is understandable and not a reflection on their general skills or competence. Again, with a mixed-gender bunch of townspeople, it means nothing in particular that they don’t know how to fight.

Of course, we’re not talking about a mixed-gender bunch of townspeople, we’re talking about a group that is specifically written as women only, and we have to consider the story from that standpoint–but I still think that part of judging how sexist something is can be thinking about whether or not it would make sense the other way around.

The damsel in distress story (if presented without twist or irony) is inescapably sexist, and we can tell it is, in part, because it wouldn’t make sense to us if the hero were trying to rescue some random guy. We accept that he can be trying to rescue some random attractive woman and that this is worth any act of heroism it takes, with no further explanation, because attractive women are natural prize-objects for heroic men: but if the story is that he’s scaling mountains and fighting dragons for some random attractive dude, we need further explanation. Obviously, that story could be told! But it’s not a trope.

On the other hand, I think, a story that still makes sense with the genders reversed is less likely to be horribly sexist, because it’s more likely to be a story about some people with specific issues, rather than one powered entirely by unspoken sweeping generalizations about gender roles.

And here I think “helpless townspeople need helping” is enough of a video game trope that it does help counter the (eternal in all media) trope of “helpless women need helping” — especially since the women are not actually presented as completely helpless. They need teaching, but they’re ready to learn: they don’t need me to hunt for them forever.

I also think that while it definitely comes across differently depending on the character we play, the fact that we HAD a choice of characters to play makes a difference. They wrote this story not JUST for a big buff man, but also knowing that the rescuer might be a big buff woman. It would feel a lot different if this was a game where we only had one character option. Say, if Edward in Black Flag were to take on a similar quest? We could only read it one way.

But here, it’s much more complicated, as you say. Hard to know exactly how to approach it. Interesting stuff.

Butch:

While that more than merits a response, it’ll be a better response if you finish the quest, as the ending may well influence your thoughts on this.

That and I’m at the store so can’t type.

We’ll talk. Later.

Feminina:

All right.

In the meantime, you can finish the bad day and we can talk about that!

Butch:

I tried dude. As soon as I sat down, nana and niece showed up.

Sigh.

Feminina:

Oh man!

Come on, nana! That’s your sweet grandbaby, you really want to share that precious time with your boring son?

Nah: she really just wants your help amusing the baby.

Butch:

She does. She really does.

She was all “She wants to see her cousins!” to which I said “Well….they don’t get home for two and a half hours….you know that……” and she said “We wanted a change of scenery.”

It was uncanny. Loaded, changed my helmet, ran twenty feet, started talking to horse lady and boom. Didn’t even finish the conversation.

At least I changed my helmet.

Feminina:

Oh, thank the gods you changed your helmet! At least she left you time for that critical detail.

Thanks, nana.

Butch:

We were doing so well….

If I hear rain rain go away again…….

Or “my favorite things…..”

I do not miss this age. Or how grandmothers react to it.

Feminina:

“Here, niece! Let me show you how to stealth assassinate a bandit. That’s going to come in WAY handier than the words to ‘rain rain.'”

Butch:

That would rule.

My brother would kill me. They don’t allow her screen time except Sesame Street and Mr Rogers.

See how long that lasts.

Feminina:

Ah yes…I too remember those days.

Sort of. We always had nana undercutting us with the nightly news or something.

I still miss Peg + Cat, damn it. Introduce her to Peg + Cat! It’s educational!

Butch:

I pushed Peep and the Big Wide World. How can you hate on Peep? It’s PEEP!

You can keep Pinkalicious, though.