Speaking Candidly, Tara M. Clapper

I make part of my living as a writer. I understand that there are some sensitive subjects and life events which require years before the retrospective lens allows me to see and understand them well enough to articulate on such a topic. I’ve written candidly about going through a divorce in my twenties and losing my job due to outsourcing.

Women in gaming is not that kind of topic. It’s not that I get instantly angry over the topic each time it comes up–I have trouble articulating my feelings on the topic because it’s not something in the past, nor do I want it to be. I’m a female gamer in the here and now–and I have issues with it.

I’ve seen women embrace a feeling of empowerment and team camaraderie in LARPs and MMOs–because in fantasy games, we are all free to be what we want to be. I’ve also seen high-schoolish social power plays initiated by females in LARPs and women who talk about augmenting their bodies because some geeky men expect us to look like an exaggerated object out of a comic book.

For me, the insecurity and confusion boils down to what I like to think of as Lara Croft Syndrome. I love to love Croft because she is capable, crafty, and physically fit–but on the flip side, the original Lara Croft was about as properly-proportioned as Barbie. This
adore/detest feeling is something I feel for many heroines and I imagine something that could be a major source of confusion for young women.

In sci-fi/fantasy/gaming genres, there are many archetypes and stereotypes for both males and females; it’s easy for a woman to become disillusioned by what’s out there.

I am hopeful for a future which challenges the role of women in gaming and these genres openly within plot, much as Joss Whedon accomplished in Firefly. Whedon made me, a serial monogamist, relate intensely to a woman who makes a living by selling her body (among other spiritual and physical talents) because the character was complex. It wasn’t trickery–it was an exploration on the behalf of the series’ creator–something that actually appealed to the audience (if not the Fox network).

Why ignore issues when they could be explored and made more compelling to an audience? I ask the gaming industry to add depth to its characters to create a more relational experience. I am about understanding a character.

When role-playing, I seek immersion and characters that cause me to think. Why are they so hard to find in some games, and the choices so limited?

Tara M. Clapper

[Generic and Possibly Necessary Disclaimer In Case you Need to Know: All opinion based entries are simply that, the opinion of the writer of said entry and not necessarily (but may be) that of everyone who contributes, manages, or supports this blog.]

  1. October 16, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    What are you trying to say with this article? It kind of wandered around and I honestly don’t know what you’re trying to say. More examples of complex female characters could be mentioned, like Jade in BG&E. There are several examples of female characters that are good role models.

  2. October 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Tara, thank you for writing about your experience. It can be difficult to discuss negative experiences and I think that you are brave to address the topic of the portrayal of women in gaming, especially when it appears to be a topic of unexpected controversy! Whoever thought that asking for more thoughtful, complex characters would light such a fire?

  3. Tara
    October 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Jen – I will quote for my points:
    “In sci-fi/fantasy/gaming genres, there are many archetypes and stereotypes for both males and females; it’s easy for a woman to become disillusioned by what’s out there.”


    “When role-playing, I seek immersion and characters that cause me to think. Why are they so hard to find in some games, and the choices so limited?”
    I’m just phrasing the question and exploring my conflicting feelings about the topic, not trying to write a researched article with extensive sourcing. This is a personal experience piece in the style of an editorial. I am sorry to read that you had a difficult time following it. Perhaps you’d like to break ground on the topic to edify specific examples if that is what you are looking for.

    I picked two examples–one from a game and one from a show, and wrote that I wanted to see more in-depth characters in video games, just as they more blatantly appear on television and in other types of games.

    This isn’t to say that all female characters are flat or that Ms. Croft isn’t revolutionary for other reasons. I also happen to think that there’s an overabundance of games (even RPGs) out there with flat and boring male protagonists. I just see the lag in certain types of games and I think it’s time to step it up.

    J.R. – Thanks so much for your comments. I’m just trying to admit some conflicted feelings here! I am also surprised that all of this is taken as so controversial. Of course, I did post a review of the Transformers sequel over the summer, which I found to be overall pretty tasteless, and generally got comments saying that I was imagining sexism and racism in the context of the movie. (http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1874709/transformers_revenge_of_the_fallen.html?cat=2#comment)

    It’s amazing what an opinion can do!

    • November 4, 2009 at 6:02 am

      Transformers is terribly sexist and racist. Michael Bay can’t touch anything without trying to sexualize underage girls, exhibit terrible racial stereotypes or depicting women as ignorant objects at best.

      I enjoyed your review, it was spot-on.

      • Tara
        November 10, 2009 at 5:47 am

        Thanks for reading my review! I’m glad you agree and I appreciate the support.

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