better than the standard misguided lists of games to buy as gifts
Posted by contentgrrl on November 21, 2007
Just in time for the holiday shopping rush, I ran across one lazy AP news item. It paid lip service to how little the industry knows about what girls like in games. Then without further ado, was a short list that had no surprises: Sims, Guitar Hero, Disney Princess, Imagine Babyz, and Hannah Montana Music Jam.
Yes, I know that a large number of girls are still brainwashed into emulating pink and purple princess rock star babysitters. But I would have loved to see more about why the industry knows so little about girls and women, and markets so little for them. I’ll leave the rant to others: There is some research about how game makers are dissin’ the women. And then there’s the GamerGrrls Manifesto, Part One and Part Two.
What about Portal? It’s a great puzzle, set in a first-person shooter world, but instead of shooting bullets, you shoot portals and use gravity and momentum to avoid obstacles and projectiles, and make your way to the next level. My character was a female form, and the system’s voice was a fun female voice. Even if that system voice got increasingly neurotic, it was intentionally funny. And the music and lyrics over the closing credits is totally hilarious. My only problem with this game was a little bit of nausea that has been the norm in any game where your perspective changes from moving from 2-dimensional maps to coming in from above and having to reorient yourself. Just like in Descent’s spaceships (from the ’90s). The nausea probably means it’s time to take a break. But if my 4-year-old son can play it, so can any girl or boy of any age.
What about Tomb Raider Anniversary? Forget that Lara Croft’s physical proportions are modeled after every Barbie doll and superheroine that ever was. Lara’s got skillz. And the play control is so much more user-friendly, that after only a little bit, you can get over the mechanics of how to control movement, and dig into exploring those tombs. And even if you played the original, you’ll be surprised by what’s new.
What about Dreamfall and the original Longest Journey? It’s got plot. It’s got great characters, and pretty good dialogue. It’s got great puzzles. It’s got incredible immersion into another world. And both games feature commendable heroines.
For Role-playing games, I’ve played the heck out of Diablo II Expansion (2001), where I liked building up my character and treasure chest and Baldur’s Gate II (2000), where I liked the dialog, plot, characters, and team strategy play.
I’ve got to give Elder Scrolls Oblivion (2006) marks for character building. You can go with a less combative character of any sex or race you wish. One of my favorite features is getting people to reveal more information or give you better prices: you win them over either with humor, flattery, boasting, or coercion; I’d never really thought of my encounters that way. It’s a bit of a roll of dice, though. I’d rather see them come up with real dialog examples that you could model in real life.
My absolute favorite RPG is Planescape Torment (1999) for its exploration of philosophies (such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on) through gameplay and plot. And dialogue (OMIGOSH what fun colloquialisms)! I loved having a little guide who’s always with you to talk about what the next step might be.
I hope you don’t mind that I’m so PC-oriented. Coming up, I’ll talk up some games my kids love to play for free.