PC Gaming Podcast

Phil takes Adam on a lesson of regional gaming economics as he explains the pitfalls of being a PC gamer living in Germany.  Adam and Phil then begin to discuss PC gaming headaches when the conversation turns to the lack of quality female gaming characters.  To close the show, Adam talks about the fun of Just Cause 2 and Phil speaks on Analogue: A Hate Story.

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  • UK_John

    On the subject of strong women. I would say Europe is way ahead of America. From European developers we have had Lara Croft, April Ryan, Zoe Castillo, In The Longest Journey and Dreamfall, it was the MOTHER Draic-Kin that was the head of the four Draic-Kin, We also have Kate Walker, the attorney, of the Syberia series of Adventures.We also have the realistic portrayal of women in the Witcher series, from the all important and strong Mage, Triss Merigold, to the conniving and manipulating in some cases and weak in other cases, other female Mages. At the same time we had prostitutes, and normal housewives getting together to close down a merchant selling drugs. All through these roleplaying games you had a realistic range of REAL woman. and woman certainly on many levels, paid a pivotal part in the game outside of the main character Geralt.

    In comparison what have we got from the U.S? generally 2D characters there for their boobs or their sexuality, generally. Jade Empire and Mass Effect went 10% of the way, but still played safe
    In games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape Torment there were strong women, but they generally played a subservient role to the men. Certainly of all games made by U.S. developers since around 1997, Planescape Torment does the most in portraying realistic women in realistic situations.

    • http://truepcgaming.com Adam Ames

      When you said Jade Empire, I am reminded of Beyond Good and Evil which is a nice example of a strong female lead.

      • UK_John

        I could have listed so many European titles, and Beyond Good and Evil is another one! :) I could mention the Adventure Secrets of Tunguska, that had a April Ryan type character, or Stolen, a female thief with issues…. Maybe not big hits in the U.S. bit million plus sellers in Europe! :)

        • http://truepcgaming.com Adam Ames

          Who would be your absolute favorite female gaming character?

      • UK_John

        I would say it would have to be April Ryan from the first Longest Journey adventure game that came out in 2000. As an 18 year old young woman she is thrust into events that she initially fights against, as time goes on she comes to terms with her new life as a saviour and slowly grows as a person. By the end of the game she has maturity and sophistication that weren’t there at the start and you really feel the growth the character has gone through. Because the gameplay allows her to comment on any item or person from her point of view, you really get to know her.

        Plus the game has lots of exposition, so, for example, she can ask her landlady what she thinks of April, at the start of the game, you also see her taking part in her normal life , meeting friends at the cafe/bar she works at, etc. All this allows you to know the normal April before the world starts changing and she goes on this fantastic journey, not only to save the world, but to find out who she is.

        I think she is the most real female character I have ever played! Of course we cannot forget the wonderful voice work of Susan Hamilton, who plays April. “The Longest Journey”, to my mind, shows us what gaming could be. When they talk about games being like movies or books, I don’t think it’s the graphics or digitized animations, etc, I think it’s about character exposition and interaction, and story and emotion and belief. The Longest Journey has all this,. and I believe every game developer should play The Longest Journey to see how gaming truly could become mainstream.

        • http://truepcgaming.com Adam Ames

          Phil mentioned The Longest Journey in a previous cast as being pretty good so I may have to check the one out.

      • Phil

        Definitely agree about the longest journey – Amazingly portrayed characters and a brilliant game to boot!

    • Steven S

      I would offset the portrayal of women in The Witcher with the inclusion of the Sex Cards. Now they are all, or almost all, optional but just by them being in the game gives a reason for some to discount the game as immature without looking at any of the rest of it. Not to nitpick but just this weekend while playing The Witcher I had to explain to my wife why my character was talking to a woman who was both completely nude (uncensored version from GOG) and completely green.

      • UK_John

        Yes that’s true about the sex cards, but I think that was about the technology of the NWN engine not being able to provide the lovemaking animations as in Witcher 2. Despite the cards, which were totally optional, there were many strong women in the first Witcher,and even the Brothel Manager was an intelligent woman who challenged thoughts about Prostitutes.

      • Phil

        I have sort of mixed feelings about the Witcher and the Wither 2 – Both brilliant games with some deep characters that have interesting motivations, and the females aren’t portrayed as lame damsels in distress or whatever. At the same time the design of the characters really does feel too sexualized with the skimpy clothes and massive gazongas and all of that. I guess that sort of stuff is part of the source material so to some extent they should get a pass on it but I don’t know, I almost kind of view the series as one that almost had it just right but then they threw in all the ridiculous outfits and proportions and it kind of spoiled it somewhat.

        I dunno, for me it’s actually an interesting example of a game that sort of goes both ways at once with it.

      • UK_John

        I have to say I disagree. What games have a group of 50 something housewives getting together to close a merchant down who’s selling drugs? What about the sub-quest where you find the missing Elven woman who was kidnapped and impregnated, who after giving birth committed suicide? What about in the first Witcher and the differences between the two woman you had to choose to leave Alvin with? The fact is some woman do have big boobs,and some don’t. Some women are 21 and in their prime and others are 50+. Both Witcher games honestly portrayed women. All women. The angelic and scheming. Exactly the same as the men in the game! As for the naked Dryad. They were of the forest, they were of a different race, they had a different attitude to the naked body.

        America is the most puritanical country in the Western World. You can show violence at 8pm without complaint, but show a woman breastfeeding and the phone lines would be jammed! It’s no coincidence that violent games tend to get 15 Certificate and a game with violence and consenting sex, like The Witcher 2, get 18 Certificate. In the U.S. and U.K (But not the continent of Europe), violence is okay on our media, but not sex or even the naked body. There’s something to be said about how Scandinavian countries, that are most comfortable with the human body, have lower crime, less teenage pregnancy, less household violence and consistently come top of surveys of Western Countries for which countries have the happiest citizens!

      • philskium@gmail.com

        Hey dude – Nothing wrong with disagreeing, to be honest I’m not even sure how I should feel about it myself and I see the point of the argument on both sides. In general I thought it did better than most games in terms of the portrayal of women and I do understand that point, but at the same time I think one could certainly get the impression that many of the prominent female characters are designed to be really overtly sexy. Even Saskia who was a character I really liked and found to be cool portrayal of a female had the unnecessary plunging neckline thing going on with her armor. Little things like that did sort of take away from the portrayal of the characters for me somewhat, but since I haven’t read the books I guess I can’t really comment on how thematically appropriate it is or is not.

        I do think you are right about them having a nice portrayal of many different kinds of women (young and old, more attractive and not) instead of just giving every female NPC the same generic “idealized female body designed by a 15 year old boy” character model and calling it a day. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t mean to throw the Witcher under the bus but I guess my point is that it could still be a lot better than it is. Hopefully that is what we will see more of in the future!

      • UK_John

        You’re absolutely right about plunging necklines, but like all fantasy RPG’s, they are based in a sort of medieval world, so you also have to consider the fashions at the time. Plunging necklines were okay at the same time as it was disgusting if ankles were seen in public! :)

  • Lenderz

    Really want to listen to these, any chance of an iTunes upload? Would make listening so much easier for me on the move.

    • http://truepcgaming.com Adam Ames

      We are working to provide our casts on iTunes. The problem is we need to create a dedicated RSS feed. We cannot do that within the confines of WordPress while on their free host. There are other options like Podbean, but their free accounts only allow for a very small amount of bandwidth.

      TPG does not make any money so we are between a rock and a hard place. We want to provide various methods for readers to consume our content, but we also have to play within the boundaries of what we can current do.

      • UK_John

        I don’t want to be nationalistic, but that ad is totally American. It would not be allowed in UK advertising. I come back to The Longest Journey and point out she was a very normal, even somewhat German looking girl up close, not your typical looker at all, She had short hair and was thin as a rake! Despite 2000 graphics, they could have made her look at lot more sexy, but they actually made her unsexy in looks, but sexy in personality. This is a very European way of portraying women in games, but it generally not the American way, as the ad shows.

  • Steven S

    Ah yes, regional pricing or the You Don’t Live in America Tax. Between this and the censorship I think you could find the culprit for much of the piracy rate in the Not America part of the world. Things like SOPA/PIPA just addressed the effects but not the cause. There are real actions the various governments could take to curb piracy, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for it.

    I to would like to see Digital Distribution expand beyond the Steam model. I have long said that Digital Distribution will be the future of PC gaming as soon as Steam gets out of the way. They are not the biggest because they are the best, they got to where they are by getting exclusive AAA Must Have Best Game of the Year titles. I say get rid of distribution exclusivity and allow users to remove titles from their account in exchange for a game code redeemable on any distributors site that carries the same game, then just sit back a wait about 3 years and see the huge changes that take place. I can guarantee you that things like pricing and customer support would be drastically improved.

    One note on the Modern Warfare boycott that never happened. As I have alluded, I am no fan of Steam and I openly boycott any game that requires Steam (I literally broke down and cried over New Vegas; for like 3 weeks!) so I have had the screenshot of the Modern Warfare boycott pointed out to me a time or two.:) The nexus of the boycott was about dedicated servers for the newest release, Valve did not give in and dedicates servers but just before the game launched they did announce that they were bringing new servers online specifically for the increased demand for the new game. These new servers would not be dedicated to any one game however but for those wanting the dedicated servers it was the next best thing. Most accepted this as a viable alternative and thus they did not boycott the game. Now wether or not this means that all those players would have broken the boycott had there not been the compromise is impossible to say, but it does mean that the ubiquitous Boycotts Don’t Work image that comes up all the time is not so cut and dry itself.

    I have several consoles; NES, SNES, PS1, PS2 and an XBox 1. I have about 50-60 games total for all of them, that is for all of them combined. I don’t have any of them hooked up at the moment but I occasionally setup the SNES and play TMNT 4: Turtles in Time with the kids, although my son has experessed a recent interest in MegaMan so I’ll have to see if I can get the NES working. I did recently replay Parasite Eve, but I used a PS1 emulator on my PC. It was just so much easier to pop the disc in the DVD drive than to mess with all the wiring behind the TV. And that is a good segue into…

    Females in Games! I think that Aya Brea from Parasite Eve was a great female protagonist. She wears jeans, a white t-shirt and a bulky leather jacket and it is clear that she doesn’t need rescuing. At the very beginning of the game she is in a long sleek black evening dress, but she is also on a date at the opera. Then the villian shows up and she pushes her big strong date to the ground to keep him safe, whips out her pistol and goes to work. That to me was way hotter than any suggestive outfit or pose they could have put her in. The other example I will offer is Samus from Metroid, under that big powerful armor is a reasonably proportioned female hero who is no more or less vulnerable than any other video game hero. I think that video games are sort of stuck where movies were back in the 80′s. The guys all had big muscles and big guns, dropped a lot of f-bombs and one liners and the eye candy came from unrealistic explosions and half naked women. The film industry grew up because the talent requested it, like Stallone begging for the part in Copland. But no such pioneer exists in gaming, Lara Croft can’t just up and walk out demanding to be taken more seriously. I believe the prejudices in games are more in line with how the studio heads feel rather than we gamers.

    • http://truepcgaming.com Adam Ames

      I would be a proponent of an “Internet PC Gaming Mall” where you could have one client which connected to all other digital distributors. I am not sure about the game exchange. In brick and mortar stores, you cannot buy a TV at Wal Mart and try to return the same TV at Best Buy. I see what you are getting at and agree to a point, but I do not believe that can work. I do believe you should be able to trade/sell your games to friends. Green Man Gaming does this to a degree now where you can return your game to the store for a partial credit towards another game.

      Boycotts are a fickle thing. They do not work unless everyone, or a very large portion, is on board. It also helps to have major players help the cause. I do not think the fight against SOPA/PIPA would have been mainstream if Google, Wikipedia and others had not come on board. If Valve were to have dropped MW2 altogether or made a big stink about it before release, you may have seen some bending by Activision.

      I think Phil brought up a good point about catering to the lowest common denominator. Those in a position of power will tell themselves gamers are 16-year old males who want to see huge breasts. I mentioned the Ghost Recon trailer… well… here it is…. I usually would not link to such a piece of trash, but this trailer brings home the entire point about females in gaming and how they are being marketed.

      Consider this video NSFW.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_ktnjsMoS0

      • Phil

        Hi Steven,

        Astute commentary as usual. ;)

        Regarding the digital distribution stuff, I can only hope we’ll start to see a bit of movement in the more “fair” direction. Being in Germany I have very few options because so much stuff is region locked or just doesn’t work at all, it’s insanely frustrating and I’m sure it leads to a lot of gamers becoming less interested or turning towards piracy. I can only hope more digital distribution avenues start to get bigger, start to get more stuff in their catalogs, and follow a gog-like “no ridiculous taxes or censorship for different countries” policy. One can only hope!

        Another annoying thing about the females in games is that even in a lot of these examples people are throwing out of strong female characters, you get this really over the top sexualization that’s just not there with the male characters. Aya Brea for example works on some level as a strong female character but then they tack on this ridiculous mechanic with all of her clothes getting blown off and they market the game with scantily clad ‘uncensored posters’ of her and it just makes me go “Dammit, you guys ALMOST had it!”.

      • Steven S

        Well the point about the TVs breaks down a bit when you look at televisions as products verses games which are, as game executives have been saying for while, a service. This service model has been used to push back against the nerd rage coming from gamers over a lot of the more unpopular decisions made in the industry of late. Games are a service just like your doctor or cell phone service. Okay, I can go to my doctors office and request all my records to take to another doctor. I can transfer cell phone companies and keep my phone, ringtone, apps and even the phone number. If games are a service then the ability to easily transfer between services should be a given, like transfering gym memberships or mechanics. Could you imagine a cable company remotely deleting everything on your TiVo because you went to a different cable provider? No other service business in the world is holds you hostage like digital distributors do.

        Phil! Buddy! How you doing? Aya getting her clothes blown off must have been in a later game, I only played PE1 and I definitely would have remembered something like that. I heard that they changed a lot of the game mechanics that I liked (combat, weapon upgrades) and deviated a bit from the canon established from the book and the first game, so I abstained from trying out the sequels. There was also the code in Metroid 1 where you could play as Samus in a swimsuit type outfit instead of the armor, but it just seemed too ridiculous to be fighting aliens with an arm blaster dressed like that. But gamers talk about the console codes or download the “nude” mods and we end up with stuff like Lollipop Chainsaw instead of real characters.

      • Steven S

        Well now that I am not at work I watched that Ghost Recon ad. So disappointing. I have long been a fan of the Tom Clancy games. Like his books there was always a sense of realism in the games, like in Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon one bullet can kill you. I even read that Tom Clancy himself had issues with the goggles in Splinter Cell, in real life you have Night Vision or Infrared but not both in the same set of goggles. To see the series go from the ultra realistic combat simulator to Coco in a thong is just…ugh… I can’t even articulate it in words.

        Although the weapon part swap and various combinations does look intriguing, it was hard to get a good look at how exactly that worked. A good weapons modification/customization system is something I’ve been waiting for in a shooter.

      • philskium@gmail.com

        Hey Steven,

        Yeah the “clothes getting blown off” thing is in the most recent game, the one on the PSP. It does seem as if they went more out of the way to sex up Aya as the series went on, possibly because they believed they’d draw more people in that way. As a fan of the original game it really sucked to see the marketing for that one featuring something like that so prominently. -.-

      • UK_John

        I don’t want to be nationalistic, but that ad is totally American. It would not be allowed in UK advertising. I come back to The Longest Journey and point out she was a very normal, even somewhat German looking girl up close, not your typical looker at all, She had short hair and was thin as a rake! Despite 2000 graphics, they could have made her look at lot more sexy, but they actually made her unsexy in looks, but sexy in personality. This is a very European way of portraying women in games, but it generally not the American way, as the ad shows.

      • Steven S

        You are right. Only in America would you see an ad with a woman in a bikini going full auto with an assault rifle on a firing range and the major complaint is that the ad doesn’t show enough of the product. I admit I feel a perverse sense of pride at that thought. Had this been an ad for the upcoming gun show at the downtown convention center it would have worked so much better, but for a video game not meant to be inspired by the Heavy Metal graphic novels it completely misses the mark.