The new Grand Theft Auto V trailer was released yesterday, and I gotta admit: It looks pretty fucking fresh. There's all sort of cool new features — most notably, for the first time the game features three lead characters that you can seamlessly switch between. Unfortunately, all three of those characters are men.
GTAV looks like so much fun. There are all sorts of activities that go far beyond just stealing cars and shooting people (early morning yoga, anyone?), and I love that you can switch between three different POVs, each of which has an engrossing storyline. You can plan elaborate heists, with increasing difficulty, and overall it looks more complex and flexible than previous versions. The sandbox just got a whole lot bigger.
I want to play it very badly, but I'm not going to.
Here's the thing: I loved gaming when I was younger, but as I got older I learned pretty quickly that it wasn't a world that loved me back. I'm tired of always being the one to put myself into someone else's shoes, and it's time for the gaming industry to meet me halfway. They must stop catering to the obnoxiously vocal demographic that insists only dudes play games — they're dangerous, and they close off the medium to its full potential.
Lots of men say they don't want to play women because "they don't feel like they can relate". First, welcome to the motherfucking club, dudes; let me get you some tissues and a tiny violin. You know what? You'll get used to playing a woman lead, just as I've gotten used to playing dudes. If a character is great, male audiences can and will learn to love her.
Playwright David Henry Hwang puts it brilliantly:
In choosing works to enjoy, the country in general needs to see past the the notion that a piece's "universality" has anything to do with the race and culture of its characters. Over the past 20 or 30 years, we seem to have crossed that Rubicon in the world of pop music. It's hard nowadays to remember that it was once considered daring to put Michael Jackson or Prince videos on MTV, for fear white audiences wouldn't watch them.
Granted, that's in regards to race and culture in the theater, but the same thing can be said about lady characters in video games. The more that exist, the less weird it will be for everyone. Inclusion breeds normalcy, and the all mighty game creators need to be the ones to lead the charge for change.
As for the people saying that women physically can't perform the same as the male characters — it's a game HELLO MCFLY. I highly doubt any of the people playing the characters can perform the same feats of strength as, say, Chun Li. Or they say that a woman in the world of GTA doesn't make sense. To that I say, well what about Snoop from The Wire? Or, for that matter, the Bride from Kill Bill? Finally, are we really having a conversation about what characters in a video game can and cannot physically do? Because nope. I'm done.
The argument that "ugh all gamers are men and that's why all the characters are guys!" is not only not true, but the thought behind it is indicative of the main problem here. The reason there are more male gamers than lady gamers is that there are very few points of access for women. Yes, thank goodness for Metroid and Portal, and sure, us ladies can play as male characters on other games — and do! — but constantly being forced to do it is getting old. Plus, at a certain point, you begin to feel excluded to the point of disgust and disinterest.
I'm tired of putting time, money, and effort into something that doesn't give a shit about me, and we all have our breaking points. The three male leads in one of the biggest games of 2013? That's mine.