Our first 'What's in a Game?' review, from Meeta Sengupta, a Delhi-based Education Management consultant and mother.
Recently, I played a few video games again. Simple, fun adventure quests..Prince of Persia, Lara Croft, my son’s Pokemon and a series that kiddo is inordinately fond of: Final Fantasy. This time, I was on a different quest.. to watch out for gender stereotypes, gender hierarchies and gender based violence. And, I did end up surprised.
Given the fact that Lara Croft is a game designed for female players, though children do play it too, I was expecting a girl power story to emerge. Which, broadly it did. Yet, there were things that were strangely stereotyped. Lara has long hair, tied in a long pigtail, her figure is visibly Barbie like and her tasks a little bit simpler than those of the Persian prince..which was the other game I reviewed. The Prince of Persia game did have a female character..the Princess..who rescues the protagonist many times, knows more than him, but ultimately needs to be rescued by him. While the graphics give her film star like proportions, she comes across as a confident young woman, who has her share of challenges, ups and downs.
The children’s games that I played were surprisingly gender neutral too. At least in the eyes of my child: while it had been noticed that some characters were male, and the others female, it did not seem to affect their roles in the game. Each team had certain requirements, each individual possessed certain skills. The gender discrimination was there, but very subtle. So, for example, a certain female character was faster than others, but her healing took longer.
These games, I realised, had passed through rigorous quality control filters. Each of these had been produced by large companies, censored for various sensitivities and vetted by consumer groups of parents and children. I was looking at a sample where the process had worked really well. In a sense it was a ‘best practice’ worth emulating.
At the same time, I am aware that such rigour is not always found in all games, especially the ones found online. This is where parental control plays a role. Our children are easily led and it is up to us to filter what influences them – sometime what they see and do could be what they become.