June 23rd, 2007

“Playing Dirty,” the Joystiq column I’ve been writing for the past nine odd months on sex and gender in video games, ended this Thursday (or at least went on hiatus) with a piece called, “Women Warriors and Fairy Queens.” The piece takes an overarching look at gender roles in the gorgeous, pseudo-RPG Odin Sphere. It points to some of the more obvious gender toss-ups in the title (strong, female warriors), as well as the more subtle “feminine” game elements (stylized aesthetics, attention to narrative and emotions). It also takes a quick stab at the way that both men and women are sexualized in Odin Sphere. I mean, have you seen the nipple armor on Lord Brigan?

At first glance, the column may seem like yet another gender/sexuality take on a mainstream game–and, in a lot of ways, it is. But, for me at least, it really does represent some sort of culmination, or at least some sort of answer, to a lot of the work I’ve done in the field over the last few years. Loyal Heroine Sheik readers will remember a somewhat controversial Escapist article I wrote in November of 2005, “Women Monsters and Monstrous Women,” about the possible roles female characters can play in video games. Another Escapist piece of mine, “The Truth about Little Girls,” (June, 2006), talks about how a female child–in her (questionable) sexlessness and her desire for exploration–could be the solution to problems of subjectivity and sexualization that come up in “Women Monsters.”

All of which was more of less hypothetical… until Odin Sphere. Here we have a story of heroines–and heroes–played out in the pages of a book read by a little girl. (Not just a little girl, but a little girl with a cat named Socrates. Does anyone know the reference? Am I missing something when I can’t help but wonder if it leads back here?) I’m not saying Odin Sphere is the answer to all gender issues in video games. I’m just saying that, for the first time in possibly forever, I’ve found a game I’m honestly proud to play.

Tags: avatars, gender, my articles, sex/gender imagery

4 Responses to “Gender Roles in Odin Sphere”

  1. Leokhorn Says:

    Your two Escapists articles made me realize how absent the little girl and the grandma were absent from games. I’m almost ashamed not to have noticed.
    I think I’d like to see something like an adventure game featuring such characters. It would allow for a lot of characterization and give a new perspective : what can/can’t you do as either of them for example.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I totally agree! I could envision something along the lines of a Zelda game, but with younger/older female characters. Any ideas?

  3. Leokhorn Says:

    I’ve submitted the idea in my Visual Novel community and maybe there’ll be some response (it’s such a free medium, free of gameplay constraints I mean, that it might be easier… just telling a story while letting the reader see things through the eyes of the protagonist).
    I also tried to advocate the use of “cool” elder characters. Old people are usually used as perverts or old geezers… but sometimes, they’ll be a wise old female pirate captain… so there’s hope :)

  4. http://eatbytes.com/file/124/Mario-Forever-exe.html Says:

    Mario forever!

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