This is part three of our discussion when three of the members of TFG, Catherine Harlow, Kathryn Cooperman, and Hayley Garden, as well as Julia Makivic, sat down near the end of August to discuss the current situation with the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard. We also talked more generally about how women are represented in video games. We had such a long discussion that we are breaking it up into four installments, so stayed tuned for the rest of our conversation.
The articles either referenced or sent to the team in advance that go more in depth about the lawsuit can be found here: Time’s summary of the lawsuit, IGN’s timeline, and Kotaku’s report of the Blizzcon panel
The transcript has been edited for clarity.
Catherine Harlow 0:01
Yeah, that’s interesting, because that reminds me of my job too because my job we basically make really simple video games for older people who aren’t gamers, and we’ve definitely gotten feedback of “Why can I look up at the ceiling? Why can I look down?” but like you know so that’s it for us, since most of us in the company are familiar with playing games, it seems like well why, why wouldn’t you be allowed to look where you want to whereas you know, when they have no background in it, they’re getting stuck in the corners and not knowing how to get out.
Julia Makivic 0:42
Actually I just want to say, Kathryn, I feel like I already have recommended a few titles to you but there are a lot of new games that place emphasis on story first before any other kind of complicated mechanic that still follow that, like, I guess that point-and-click structure that isn’t too hard. But yeah, they’re like, I don’t like – those are the ones that I prefer, I definitely get put off by a lot of heavy mechanics. I guess for me the the mechanics were what ruined games like Senua’s Sacrifice which is deeply atmospheric, extremely scary, kind of horror game, but yeah like I kind of I reached the point where I couldn’t really get through it and they kind – and I’m definitely one of those people who kind of just wishes that there was a mode where I can be like okay, fight time, jab jab, onto the next thing, where I just, I’m more exploring the world in the story than necessarily, learning how to master a fight.
Kathryn Cooperman 1:43
Catherine Harlow 1:44
Kathryn Cooperman 1:44
Oh yeah, Julia, your recommendations have always been A plus. Yeah, a lot of focus on the story.
Catherine Harlow 1:51
Yeah so I think a lot of triple A titles are making different levels, whereas normal is like the standard experience, there is, you know, some challenge with the gameplay or learning how to fight or whatever, or like there’s easy mode which is designed to just help you get through the story and see the story or hard mode or even extra hard mode to give more hardcore gamers more of that challenge of they really have to work for it. So, you know, I think, giving different modes is relatively, at least from the games that I play and I do tend to play more triple A titles, relatively standard not necessarily always going to be there but I do think it is pretty standard at this point which I do think is a good thing because then it does make it, you know, you can still have the same story and a similar experience but you know, be a little bit more friendly to the range of gamers who might be interested in the story.
Julia Makivic 2:52
Yeah, I think, so it’s true that a lot of games implement this but I think that it’s kind of combination of where I think it was some games that are just sort of specifically known for being hard and they are just, I guess the people who play them appreciate the difficulty because it adds to moments of tension in the storyline, and they believe – and I guess those games don’t necessarily have an easy mode, or anything like that because they’re intended to be difficult. But the people who – but then people are saying “okay you can just have an easy mode for people who don’t – aren’t interested in that,” and then there’s another side arguing that “okay but you’re not experiencing it the same way” if there is an easy mode instead of just having it be as difficult as it was originally intended which I don’t necessarily think I agree with, but I can see where they’re coming from.
Catherine Harlow 3:40
Yeah. Although, that reminds me – I see what – see your point but that does remind me of like, you know when a girl says – like when women say, oh, I’m a gamer, I like the series and then the guys start grilling them on like, oh you’re a fake fan because you don’t know every single detail about the whole series which is just like, ridiculous, it’s like it’s ridiculous gatekeeping.
Kathryn Cooperman 4:09
Yeah, yeah, it can be for everyone to enjoy. It’s not like, I don’t know –
Catherine Harlow 4:16
Games are a hobby that are supposed to be fun, like, yeah,
Hayley Garden 4:29
Yay video games.
Catherine Harlow 4:30
Hayley Garden 4:34
I play a lot of JRPGs though so I love the combat, all the complicated combat stuff, that is my jam. So I did enjoy the Ratchet and Clank remaster because I’m really used to all the different camera moves, to make sure that you can hit. I find that very satisfying, like, doing combos – I love hack-n-slash RPGs, those are my favorites.
Kathryn Cooperman 5:01
Oh yeah, the remaster was definitely more your speed. For me it’s like I like to find the hidden gems and the hidden objectives. If I can’t beat something on the tenth try I’m like, “okay bye, I’m done.” I don’t know it’s just I like the simple story and like finding interesting Easter eggs, stuff like that.
Catherine Harlow 5:24
Yeah, I definitely am the kind of gamer that is like, I must find all of the things before I progress with the story even though I play it for the story but then I did get a lot of enjoyment out of, you know, being a completionist and finding all of the hidden treasure or side quests or side stories. Yeah, although that kind of reminds me like with the JRPG thing that reminds me I’m still currently playing The Final Fantasy VII remake, and in terms of like, with the representation of women in video games, you know, Tifa is one of the characters and, you know, she, she is known for having a very good figure, a very busty figure, when – does remind me of like,
Hayley Garden 6:12
Catherine Harlow 6:13
Yes, yes she does but like. Okay, so just being honest, her boobs are still ridiculously huge, but when her character model was revealed before the game came out I do remember that the people were complaining that her boobs were made smaller than they were before and like what the heck are you talking about her boobs are still ridiculously huge like for the rest of her body she would not have boobs like this.
Hayley Garden 6:45
I’m a big Fire Emblem fan, even though that’s like not hack-n-slash, that’s like strategy, tactics, but Fire emblem is so bad about sexualizing female characters just for the sake of like – at least one character in every game has to have absolutely ginormous tits and it’s like what for? Why? Why do you look like this? There’s no reason for it. And the way that the dresses, that the characters are styled.
Catherine Harlow 7:29
Yeah, I mean –
Hayley Garden 7:31
It feels egregiously offensive sometimes, in JRPGs, and I hate it as a big fan of JRPGs like some of the sexualization of the female characters get really, really, like, I don’t know. Again, definitely not Kathryn Cooperman, but are any of you familiar with Persona?
Julia Makivic 7:58
Yeah, yeah, I don’t play it personally, but my boyfriend is a big fan so I watch him play, I don’t. Yeah, but –
Hayley Garden 8:08
Like, it has – so the whole first arc of Persona 5 is about a teacher who was sexually harassing his students, and, and like the whole, the whole point of Persona 5 is to take down all these evil adults, and so the girl who has been basically the subject of the teacher’s sexual harassment like she has her big moment where she gets her Persona. And she picked it out and it turns out she’s in a skin tight catsuit and she’s like 15 years old, and it emphasizes all her – everything is sexualized, and it’s like okay, way to miss the whole point of your first, of this first arc where it’s about teachers sexually harassing her and her friend, and then the rest of the game has these very specific camera shots of – that are very sexual and very male gazey. It’s like, first of all, she’s a teenager, why are you sexualizing a teenager, and second of all, why are you playing it straight after you’ve spent the first like, ten hours of game trying to subvert this girl being sexually harassed by an adult in her life and now she’s in this catsuit. There’s a scene where they’re in the desert and there’s a camera that’s panning right at her wet T-shirt it’s like – it was so frustrating playing Persona 5 and seeing them go back on everything that they do – for some reason JRPGs are super sexualized.
Catherine Harlow 9:45
Yeah, yeah, and that’s pretty common in anime as well.
Julia Makivic 9:51
Hayley Garden 9:51
It’s really bad. And I say this as a big fan, but like it’s not good at all.
Julia Makivic 9:58
Catherine Harlow 10:01
Yeah I mean I love, I love JRPGs as well but yeah I definitely, I agree with you, and I wonder if maybe it’s, again, like if since primarily men are writing these characters and maybe it’s a misunderstanding or you know, again playing into the fantasy of like, maybe they meet – at best we can, if we’re going to be charitable we can say they mean well and maybe they think that, you know, if someone has, like, in specifically with what you’re talking about with Persona 5 like maybe, you know – I know that in a lot of Western media that, you know, women are often portrayed as when they’ve been abused like that they need to reclaim their sexuality or take it back and the way that that is portrayed is by becoming very sexual, which I don’t think is, you know, necessarily representative of the reality.
Hayley Garden 11:05
I’ve seen that in a couple of JRPGs, as well, actually, and it’s not an excuse. And it’s not always good character writing. It’s like oh they’re reclaiming their sexuality, or they’re reclaiming their femininity, and that’s why she got in her underwear and that’s why with her earlier outfit. Like, it’s definitely prevalent. I’ve seen it in otherwise really fantastic games, like the one thing that just makes me feel frustrated and just like “why,” like this game is otherwise so excellent, then – and this is literally my favorite game of all time, but Nier is so bad about this. Again, it’s my favorite game but like dressing the characters up in the oversexualized outfits – Why? There’s no point.
Catherine Harlow 12:08
Yeah, and I mean –
Hayley Garden 12:10
And the excuse of like reclaiming sexuality, like, no, it’s not an excuse. There’s never an excuse. Yeah, you’re just, you’re just horny. For a kid.
Catherine Harlow 12:22
Yeah, I mean it definitely is symptomatic of who’s in the decision-making seat, who’s in the writers room, like again it’s very clear that it’s men and men portraying their fantasies. But Julia it looked like you were going to say something so go ahead.
Julia Makivic 12:38
Yeah. I would like to say that this is kind of – I feel like that’s present in a lot of different media, especially like whether there’s games or movies or or even comics, which is the one that I was like, but just what had to come into my mind were like, yeah, like a woman reclaims her sexuality in this very male gazy way that is still palatable to the male gaze instead of doing something, you know, I guess you know handling it differently. And I know it just feels very, like, yeah, like inauthentic and like patronizing in a weird way, if that makes sense.
Catherine Harlow 13:14
It does. Definitely.
Julia Makivic 13:17
Come back for the fourth and final part next week.