Bitmob community writer Gil Lawrence de Leon has posted an interesting (albeit contentious) article about the recent criticisms that label Samus’ characterization in Metroid: Other M as sexist. The approach taken suggests Western notions of sexism are not at the root of “new” Samus’ submissive traits. Her characterization, suggests Lawrence de Leon, is the result of Eastern traditions of adolescent capitulation to established authorities, thus making the “sexism” critiques part of a “cultural misunderstanding.”
When read alongside Abbie Heppe’s Metroid: Other M review and Michael Abbott’s detailing of the backlash to it, does the Bitmob piece, as well as the comments it has so far generated, successfully reconfigure the “sexist” critique? Or does it end up supporting the very cultural dichotomies it aims to challenge?
How the politics of gender intersect with cultures of video gaming is something that the Play Till Doomsday project is dedicated to addressing. This is the first in a series of features that aim to elicit perspectives on gender issues that exist within the contemporary mediascape surrounding digital games from girls and women who make, study, play, or report on games.
Of course, this topic has not gone unaddressed in academic spaces, as the wonderful work of Brenda Laurel, Mary Flanagan, Suzanne de Castell and numerous others attests, nor gone ignored in more popular spaces thanks to efforts of writers like Leigh Alexander, sites like WomenGamers.com and organizations like Woman in Games International.
However, it is undeniable that the spaces of gaming culture are not always welcoming and tolerant toward women and girls. This reality is apparent in mainstream game designs that still feature frequently sexualized female stereotypes, the under-representation of women as playable characters, and continued usage of archaic damsel in distress archetypes. Outside these design contentions, the place of women in gaming is also challenged, as highlighted by recent news stories about the limited role of women in game development and the all too recurrent rejection of female voices and judgements within enthusiast games media.