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September 11th, 2009, 23:22
Beyond Gender Choice: Mass Effect's varied inclusiveness explores gender issues in Mass Effect - particularly the sexualisation of the Asari race:
Obviously, my problems with how one Asari character is written shouldn't condemn an entire species, but the Asari as a race are also problematic. In short, they are every female stereotype or cliche rolled up into one new species. According to the codex, the Asari have three stages of life: the Maiden, the Mother, and the Matriarch (otherwise known on Earth as the "crone"). These stages just so happen to correspond with what were, until fairly recently though arguably still today, the three acceptable roles for women in society. Making these archetypes an explicit aspect of an alien race that just happens to be all-female is at worst sexist and at best lazy and uncreative.
In addition, the Asari are sexualized to a much farther extent than any other species (partially as a result of point two, below). The first Asari the player meets in the game is called the "Consort," and yes, she runs what amounts to a brothel: clients meet her for her "services," which may or may not be sex. Walking through the Consort's chambers, the player overhears nervous aliens telling the Consort's aides that this is their "first time." While the consort is not explicitly a prostitute, the situation is clearly meant to humorously resemble a brothel. The player can also watch Asari strippers dance at the club called Chora's Den. Thirdly, Liara and the codex both describe how Asari can mate with any intelligent being through a sort of psychic mind-meld. Now, I am all for science fiction experimenting with different kinds of sexuality and sexual practices, but this is another case of pandering to straight men. It's no coincidence that the all-female race is the one that can mate with anybody.
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September 11th, 2009, 23:23
Oh boohoo. Another Alan Alda wannabe out to be the most sensitive guy in the universe. Well, Alex, sometimes it's just entertainment, and sometimes we just like what we like. But I hope this bit of drivel impresses your girlfriend.
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September 12th, 2009, 03:55
Funny, I thought they were the ones in control. They seemed to be the ones on the council that the other races listened to the most and defered to them. I guess people see what they want to see.

There is no way I'm going to read that whole thing. Just from this little snip I can see he already has an agenda and has warped the game to fit this agenda.

As for the word matriach there are many definitions. Most of them deal with a woman in power. Only one actually means old woman. Once again, he sees what he wants to see.

Definition of matriarch

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September 12th, 2009, 08:15
Of course it has an agenda. Doesn't mean it ain't so, though. I for one thought the writing in Mass Effect was stupid, clichéd, and juvenile, pretty much for the reasons described in the article:

As I said above, good science fiction challenges our most basic assumptions. Unfortunately, Mass Effect is not good science fiction. In fact, it seems to embrace our own societal "common wisdom" about women and femininity all too wholeheartedly. I can only hope someone on the development team has read Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness or some Octavia Butler before writing Mass Effect 2.
Unfortunately, a lot of complete nonsense gets written about gender issues, which gives the whole field a bit of a bad name. I'm mildly allergic to the topic myself, for that reason. That's a problem because gender issues are very significant and very real, and they do need to be brought into the open. As articles go, IMO this one was a pretty good one — coherently written, well argued, and it made quite solid points. Thanks for posting the link, Dhruin.
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September 12th, 2009, 10:21
Mass Effect is clearly targeted for young males, and I'm sure a lot of guys completed it a second or third time partly to unlock the romancing subplot(s) with Liara. I always found Tali a much more interesting character, though, maybe the Asari are indeed super-cliched.
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September 12th, 2009, 10:40
I thought the article raised some interesting points, although how much was accidental / incidental and how much was intentional to pander to a core audience is up for debate.

Patrick was a writer on Mass Effect, so I'd be interested in his comments. If you're reading, Patrick, I mean genuinely interested and not interested in a lets-sandbag-BioWare way.

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September 12th, 2009, 12:55
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Of course it has an agenda. Doesn't mean it ain't so, though. I for one thought the writing in Mass Effect was stupid, clichéd, and juvenile,
It has an agenda 'and warped the game to meet that agenda'.

Once again I guess my lack of refinement is getting the better of me because I didn't find the game stupid or juvenile in the least. Maybe a bit cliche, but stupid?

I had no problem with Liara. I totally got that Asari lived longer (elves anyone???) and may have been more innocent for longer periods of time. For god sakes when did innocence equal pandering to the male market or 'creepy' as he put it? Why doesn't he write an article about Inomen or Mission or Handmaiden or Arie. Are all of those characters just juvenile pandoring to a male audience? If so then I guess I'm about as old as a teenager because I enjoyed what they brought to the games. Not all the characters have to be cynical and sarcastic.

What about the flip side of this discussion. The males…While Kaiden was no Han Solo, maybe a little bit but his headaches and other problems leaves him out of the 'Han Solo catagory'. Garrus might be a better fit for the typical male sterotype. Anyways as I was saying, there have been many 'Han Solo' like characters in other games like Carth Onasi or Atton Rand? Why not write a whole article about how they sterotype the 'bad boy' image and sexualize the male for the female audience.

In any event, that's it for my little rant. I'm obviously in the minority here and that's ok. I usually am. I just think this article is pompous and selfserving.

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Last edited by skavenhorde; September 12th, 2009 at 13:12.
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September 12th, 2009, 13:44
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
It has an agenda 'and warped the game to meet that agenda'.
Not in my opinion. Sure, he was making a point, and discussing the game from that point of view, but I didn't see a whole lot of distortion going on.

Once again I guess my lack of refinement is getting the better of me because I didn't find the game stupid or juvenile in the least. Maybe a bit cliche, but stupid?
Yes.

I had no problem with Liara. I totally got that Asari lived longer (elves anyone???) and may have been more innocent for longer periods of time. For god sakes when did innocence equal pandering to the male market or 'creepy' as he put it? Why doesn't he write an article about Inomen or Mission or Handmaiden or Arie. Are all of those characters just juvenile pandoring to a male audience?
Yes. I hated all of them, for exactly the same reason. Imoen and Aerie with a passion; Handmaiden and Mission a bit less — the latter largely because (thank God) she wasn't a romance option.

If so then I guess I'm about as old as a teenager because I enjoyed what they brought to the games. Not all the characters have to be cynical and sarcastic.
Of course not. But the characters can have real, nuanced personalities, instead of being one-dimensional cardboard-cutout archetypes. It's not like it hasn't been done in computer games — think Safiya in Mask of the Betrayer or Fall-from-Grace in Planescape: Torment.

What about the flip side of this discussion. The males…While Kaiden was no Han Solo, maybe a little bit but his headaches and other problems leaves him out of the 'Han Solo catagory'. Garrus might be a better fit for the typical male sterotype. Anyways as I was saying, there have been many 'Han Solo' like characters in other games like Carth Onasi or Atton Rand? Why not write a whole article about how they sterotype the 'bad boy' image and sexualize the male for the female audience.
They could, and perhaps they should. The male roles in Mass Effect were, indeed, just as stupid, stereotyped, and clichéd as the female ones.

In any event, that's it for my little rant. I'm obviously in the minority here and that's ok. I usually am. I just think this article is pompous and selfserving.
Actually, you're probably in the majority. That's OK too. Hell, it's even completely OK that you're trashing an article that, by your own admission, you haven't read and don't intend to read. It's a free Internet, after all.
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September 12th, 2009, 14:05
Oh no no. I DID read that article after both you and DH thought it brought something to the table or I wouldn't of had a leg to stand on.

You know what upsets me the most about that article is that it is a fantasy game he is talking about. Keyword in that sentence is FANTASY. If that particular fantasy of rescuing damsels in distress happens to be one that fits with a lot of the audience then so what? It's like he is looking down on anyone who enjoyed the writing. Excuse us lowly humans for enjoying a game.

Oh and that whole ugly thing he went on about. I'm glad they cut that first when they ran out of time. Call me shallow or what have you, but I enjoy beauty and if I had a choice between ugly characters or attractive ones..well guess which I would choose? It's a game after all. If I want reality, I'll look in the mirror.

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September 12th, 2009, 17:24
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
You know what upsets me the most about that article is that it is a fantasy game he is talking about. Keyword in that sentence is FANTASY. If that particular fantasy of rescuing damsels in distress happens to be one that fits with a lot of the audience then so what? It's like he is looking down on anyone who enjoyed the writing. Excuse us lowly humans for enjoying a game.
I don't think that was his intention, skav. He was looking at the text of the game compared to common and, in his opinion (mine too, for that matter), pernicious sexual and gender stereotypes and prejudices, and found that the game is fully consistent with them.

Oh and that whole ugly thing he went on about. I'm glad they cut that first when they ran out of time. Call me shallow or what have you, but I enjoy beauty and if I had a choice between ugly characters or attractive ones..well guess which I would choose? It's a game after all. If I want reality, I'll look in the mirror.
What's beauty if there is no ugliness? My main beef with most video games (and movies, for that matter) is that *everyone* is beautiful. Supermodel becomes the new norm. In that kind of environment, beauty loses its meaning. I would much rather see a game where beauty actually meant something — i.e., most people would look ordinary or even ugly, and the beauty of the rare, beautiful people was significant, either in a good way or a bad one.
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September 12th, 2009, 18:12
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
I don't think that was his intention, skav. He was looking at the text of the game compared to common and, in his opinion (mine too, for that matter), pernicious sexual and gender stereotypes and prejudices, and found that the game is fully consistent with them.
I know it wasn't his or your intention, but still when I read that something I like is considered to be just a sexist sterotype to hook in the male consumer, I tend to get a little peeved.

I liked the Asari race. I thought they were the ones in power over the other races. Sure it was a shared council, but in many cut scenes the other members seemed secondary to them. Even the matriach (which I still think he went too far with that stupid 'crone' remark) was one of the most respected and powerful beings. So what if she happened to be sexy as well. You never met a woman in power that happened to enjoy her sexuality?

It's silly to disect these games like this. They're fantasy, fiction aka not real. I happen to like rescuing the damsel in distress. Is that sexist? Maybe, but so what. What's wrong with fantasizing that you can be a hero? Isn't that why we play these games (other than the gameplay/stats)? I hate that someone belittles or says there is something wrong with this. I would use many cuss words right now, but I'm trying to cut back on the profanity You get my point though, I hope. Sometimes a game is just a game and a story of rescuing maidens and killing the evil dragon is just a story to amuse and entertain.

Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
What's beauty if there is no ugliness? My main beef with most video games (and movies, for that matter) is that *everyone* is beautiful. Supermodel becomes the new norm. In that kind of environment, beauty loses its meaning. I would much rather see a game where beauty actually meant something — i.e., most people would look ordinary or even ugly, and the beauty of the rare, beautiful people was significant, either in a good way or a bad one.
I see your point and agree. However, if it is a choice between the two I would rather the game be full of normal or beautiful people. Reality holds too much ugliness as it is and I'm not talking superficially here. I mean man's ugliness. I would like some area of my life to be full of beautiful people where the good has a chance of winning and where we all can be more than what we are.

So to counter you statement of "What's beauty when there is no ugliness?" I would simply say to turn on the news. There is your ugliness right there. To counter that ugliness, turn on the computer Makes sense in a sad sorta way.

If it makes you feel better, I did think Liara was ugly.

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Last edited by skavenhorde; September 12th, 2009 at 18:37.
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September 12th, 2009, 21:37
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
I liked the Asari race. I thought they were the ones in power over the other races. Sure it was a shared council, but in many cut scenes the other members seemed secondary to them. Even the matriach (which I still think he went too far with that stupid 'crone' remark) was one of the most respected and powerful beings. So what if she happened to be sexy as well. You never met a woman in power that happened to enjoy her sexuality?
I've been lucky enough to meet several, and none of them fit the virgin/mother/crone stereotypes.

It's silly to disect these games like this. They're fantasy, fiction aka not real.
Why do you think it's silly to dissect fantasy and fiction? They tell a quite a lot about the people who make them, and the people who read/play/watch them.

I happen to like rescuing the damsel in distress. Is that sexist? Maybe, but so what. What's wrong with fantasizing that you can be a hero? Isn't that why we play these games (other than the gameplay/stats)? I hate that someone belittles or says there is something wrong with this. I would use many cuss words right now, but I'm trying to cut back on the profanity You get my point though, I hope. Sometimes a game is just a game and a story of rescuing maidens and killing the evil dragon is just a story to amuse and entertain.
I disagree. Games are never just games; entertainment is never just entertainment. Sure, they entertain and divert, but at the same time they do other things — they reinforce or weaken stereotypes and prejudices; they divide or unite people; they express original or unoriginal ideas. IMO it's a very worthwhile pursuit to take a step back from time to time, and examine what the underlying ideas are, how they relate to our ingrained ways of thinking, and what it says about the people who make and consume them.

If you disagree, then by all means ignore any such work. However, if you disparage it as worthless, IMO you're doing the very thing of which you're accusing the critic.
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September 13th, 2009, 02:22
It would've been a whole lot more sexist if the Asari weren't the rulers of the galaxy - the Milky Way is basically run by a race that doesn't even have/need men - it's every feminists dream!

They're the ones in charge, not the other way around.

Edit: That being said, I don't like Liara as a romantic option, so I almost always keep her as a friend.
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September 13th, 2009, 05:27
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Why do you think it's silly to dissect fantasy and fiction? They tell a quite a lot about the people who make them, and the people who read/play/watch them.

I disagree. Games are never just games; entertainment is never just entertainment. Sure, they entertain and divert, but at the same time they do other things — they reinforce or weaken stereotypes and prejudices; they divide or unite people; they express original or unoriginal ideas. IMO it's a very worthwhile pursuit to take a step back from time to time, and examine what the underlying ideas are, how they relate to our ingrained ways of thinking, and what it says about the people who make and consume them.

If you disagree, then by all means ignore any such work. However, if you disparage it as worthless, IMO you're doing the very thing of which you're accusing the critic.
Then I am just as bad as the critic. One thing though. I am not posting articles on the net showing just how right I am. Nope, I'm just posting on a thread saying how sick and tired I am of hearing that games and the characters in them are sexist/too violent/racist. Like I said before, I like being the hero and rescuing maidens. If he or others thinks that's sexist, then I don't really care. They have the right to their opinion, but I also have the right to think he is full of it and a pompous windbag. I want to be a hero and games like Mass Effect let's me be one. What's so bloody wrong with that?

Let's say you're right and games aren't just games. Then what happens next? We make games more politically correct? Great, more censorship. That's all we need. We'll have another Jack Thompson championing the cause of truth, justice and the American way.

Sometimes ….just sometimes…you play a game to just have fun. It's not an academic exercise. I play snakes and ladders with my students. Should we analyze the meaning behind that game? Maybe it's racist or animalist, lol. How about sticky ball? They throw a ball at the board like darts. Let's try to see how we can analyze just how violent that game is.

With all that said, I really do see your point and agree in some ways. Maybe the Asari are a males dream and Liara was your typical maiden in distress. But here is the kicker, it's a fantasy. What about elves? They could be considered a males fantasy as well. Let's dissect elves next and show us just how sexist they really are.

Is it wrong to want to be the hero and rescue Liara? Not in my opinion. If the situations were reversed and the hero was Liara and she had to rescue Shepherd I would still of enjoyed that quest. Maybe they should of thrown that in there, you know mixed it up a bit. I don't really care who needs saving as long as I get to be the hero


I'll never agree that there is anything wrong with some typical fantasies and if he thinks it's sexist well he has that right. I happen to think it's sexist to pay someone less because of their gender or not promote them or believe their place is in the kitchen. Those were real life situations. Rescuing the damsel in distress is fantasy. Which of these situations is actually harmful?

To sum it up, I don't totally disagree with you, I just don't like where this is headed. If it's sexist then great here come the PC police to tell devs what they can and can't make. I also think that article screams of arrogance and how he is showing us poor lowly humans just how wrong we were to like that game. Perhaps if Patrick comes on he can tell you the meaning behind the races/characters. Maybe they were really just pandoring to the male market and maybe not. All I know is that I enjoyed the game and I'll be damned if I don't post a little remark (maybe not so little )about how silly I think it is to try to equate real life sexism with a RPG.

Ahh man, here I go again. I wrote eight paragraphs when I only meant to write just one telling you that we'll have to just disagree on some points. Sorry about that.

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September 13th, 2009, 07:19
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
It would've been a whole lot more sexist if the Asari weren't the rulers of the galaxy - the Milky Way is basically run by a race that doesn't even have/need men - it's every feminists dream!
Yeah, right. Feminism is all about women wanting to get rid of men.

They're the ones in charge, not the other way around.
That's not the point, though, is it? In fact, what you're saying is a really, really, REALLY old canard — I get it all the time when I talk with socially conservative Arabs, for example — "Sure, it may *look* like us men are running the show, but in reality, the women are the ones pulling the strings."
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September 13th, 2009, 07:32
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
I meant to write just one telling you that we'll have to just disagree on some points. Sorry about that.
So did I, but I snipped them. There's only one point in them that needed making, which is this:

I'm totally opposed to censorship, as you should know by now. I believe very strongly in the right to offend, and the right to be offended. That means that I would adamantly oppose any attempt to get sexist, racist, or jingoist games off the market by coercive means.

However, I also believe very strongly that if games are sexist, racist, or jingoist — as in the case of Mass Effect — then that point needs to be argued somewhere. People should be free to make their own choices when it comes to entertainment — but there's no harm in hoping that those tastes might develop into slightly less nasty directions.
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September 13th, 2009, 10:51
Just for the record I'm in total agreement with Skavenhorde on this topic. If I wanted real life I wouldn't be sitting in front of the computer/xbox playing games and if I want ugly I can just look in the mirror.

That said, I usually just ignore rants like this one from Alex, but sometimes the Alex or Jack Thomson or whatshisname is heard by the wrong people and before we know what happens Lucky Luke doesn't smoke because it is political incorrect for him to do so or Captain Haddock from Tintin is no longer a boozer with a foul language because that is political incorrect or the Disney channel is more busy preaching christian values to kids in the form of holier than thou boy bands (Jonas Brothers) than showing good old violent Donald Duck cartoons.

Fiction/Fantasy is a make belief story taking place in a make belief world. If the author wants to make it look like it could have happened for real then of course the same BS rules that apply to the real world should apply to the story world but in the case of Mass Effect we're talking Science Fiction, aliens and the epic save the universe type of story so ANY attempt to apply this to the real world is just foolish IN MY OPINION (the 3 important words that made Alex forgot to mention which made his rant go from interesting to annoying if you ask me).

Anyway, the discussion between PJ and SH was already over when I finally showed up so there is no need for me to go on.

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September 13th, 2009, 11:25
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
Just for the record I'm in total agreement with Skavenhorde on this topic. If I wanted real life I wouldn't be sitting in front of the computer/xbox playing games and if I want ugly I can just look in the mirror.
Do you think that "brainless escapist entertainment" and "real life" are the only two possible options?

What do you make of Battlestar Galactica (the remake?)

That said, I usually just ignore rants like this one from Alex, but sometimes the Alex or Jack Thomson or whatshisname is heard by the wrong people and before we know what happens Lucky Luke doesn't smoke because it is political incorrect for him to do so or Captain Haddock from Tintin is no longer a boozer with a foul language because that is political incorrect or the Disney channel is more busy preaching christian values to kids in the form of holier than thou boy bands (Jonas Brothers) than showing good old violent Donald Duck cartoons.
How is this different from:

That said, I usually just ignore violent, sexist video games like this, but sometimes they're played by the wrong people and before we know what happens there's a rape or school shooting or street robbery or drug abuse or broken families or teenage pregnancy.
(To make it perfectly clear, I think both of these arguments are equally specious.)

Fiction/Fantasy is a make belief story taking place in a make belief world. If the author wants to make it look like it could have happened for real then of course the same BS rules that apply to the real world should apply to the story world but in the case of Mass Effect we're talking Science Fiction, aliens and the epic save the universe type of story so ANY attempt to apply this to the real world is just foolish IN MY OPINION (the 3 important words that made Alex forgot to mention which made his rant go from interesting to annoying if you ask me).
Are you of the opinion that science fiction does not, cannot, and should not, ever have anything to do with the real world?

Specifically, are you of the opinion that the characters, species, ideas, roles, and thoughts expressed in Mass Effect do not, cannot, and should not, ever have anything to do with the real world?

'Cuz I disagree. Big-time. There was a lot of stuff there that was intentional commentary on what's going on in the world now (Ashley's character, for example, the fact that Joker was handicapped, power dynamics in the Council), and a lot more that was unintentional and therefore a good deal more revealing (which is what the article was about).

Again, there ain't no such thing as "pure" entertainment — entertainment says a great deal more about us than most of us care to admit.
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September 13th, 2009, 11:35
PJ, please do us all a favor and skip ME2.
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September 13th, 2009, 11:40
I do play (and enjoy) stupid, jingoist, sexist, racist games as well — if they have other things that make them worth enjoying. That doesn't mean I'm not irritated by the stupidity, jingoism, sexism, and racism, though. I very much suspect I'll find a lot to dislike in Dragon Age, but I have hopes that the underlying game system and breadth and depth of the world will make it enjoyable despite its juvenile outlook.

(Note that I quite enjoy games that poke fun at stupidity, jingoism, sexism, and racism by going way over the top — Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior rate pretty highly in my book, as does the reductio ad absurdum of ghetto chic in GTA: San Andreas. It's the unconscious, humorless pandering to prejudice that I dislike — and ME had that in spades.)

It's quite likely I will, in fact, skip ME2. I was sorely disappointed by ME, so unless the reviews and comments here make it clear that the game really has turned a corner, I won't bother. The final quarter of the game wasn't bad, though, which gives a glimmer of hope for the sequel. But it's definitely near the bottom of my anticipation list.
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