The Hero Always Wears Red

I mentioned way back in my first post that I’m a gamer.  My friends and family can attest to this.  I can remember many times growing up when I’d stay up all night playing one game or another obsessively.  Sometimes I even fell asleep while playing with the lights on only to wake up a couple hours later and go right on like nothing had happened.

I was a happy child.

I don’t do stuff like that anymore, because I’m an adult now and I have to maintain a regular sleep pattern so it’s not torture when I have to go back to work.  Also, there’s just a lot of other things that I enjoy doing with my time, like reading, writing, and hanging out with awesome friends, so I don’t play games as obsessively as I used to.

Nonetheless, I do still play games, and the one I’m currently playing through is a fun title called The Last Story.  I picked it up mostly because it was directed by the creator of the Final Fantasy role playing game series.  Overall, I have to say, I think it’s a fun, if standard, Japanese style RPG.

Now, Japan is an amazing place with some wonderful culture.  I admit I went through a phase in college where I wanted to immerse myself in everything Japanese.

It’s okay, I got better.

Hyperdimension Neptunia

Did I forget to mention that being kawaii is not mutually exclusive with being sexualized? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I still think that Japanese culture is pretty nifty, but one thing that I’ve picked up as I’ve gotten older is that Japanese culture is kind of really sexist.  Female characters are typically written and depicted with an emphasis on the Japanese concept of kawaiiKawaii roughly translates as “cuteness.”  It’s not an exclusively female trait in Japanese culture–men can be kawaii too–but it’s highly valued in female characters in certain parts of Japanese pop culture, especially in games.  The way this manifests is usually through the use of bright colors and infantilizing physical features in character designs, and character traits like being naive, passive, or inept.

Needless to say, as I’ve become more egalitarian in my views on the sexes, I’ve found these kinds of depictions of women more and more irritating.  Even more tasteful games than the one pictured above (I’ve steered clear of that series because it apparently goes heavy on the fanservice) still fall prey to weak depictions of female characters.

Now, coming back to The Last Story, I think that’s it’s a very well-executed game.  The mechanics are fun, and the story, while unoriginal, is engaging enough.  I just keep getting hung up on the fact that the female lead is so ridiculously passive!  She’s your typical trapped princess type, and the hero is busy doing all kinds of things to get permission from her overbearing uncle to marry her while she just hangs out in her room (you can visit her regularly throughout the story).  There was one scene where she tells him that he shouldn’t get caught up in politics because it’s not what he thinks it is, but otherwise she doesn’t do anything.  Her uncle, who’s clearly a villain, arranges for her to marry whoever he currently likes best in his court without any real deference to her personal feelings.  I know that technically she loves the hero (it’s a contractual obligation, you know), but even her betrothal to him is irksome because she doesn’t get a say in it.

That’s alright though, because the game has one feature that I’ve used gleefully from the start.  This particular game includes a mechanic where you can customize the appearance of your party’s equipment, including what pieces of armor are visible and what color their clothes are.  The female lead (I can’t bring myself to call her a heroine because she doesn’t do anything) joins your party wearing a typical frilly pink frock, while everyone else defaults to darker tones fitting for a mercenary band.  I balked when I saw what her default adventuring gear looked like.  So I changed it.  She now wears a tasteful blue and purple ensemble that’s designed for easy adventuring.  The hero, on the other hand, wears hot pink light red, and no one else is allowed to wear his colors because he will cut them if they infringe on his look.

I know that’s a cheap joke that still plays on complementarian ideas of masculinity and femininity, but the important thing to remember is that even while wearing pink light red the hero gets to be the hero.  The woman still just hangs out in her bedroom, waiting to go on that adventure she was promised.

Are you guys currently playing anything, and if so, what things do the games do well?  What bugs you about them?

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6 thoughts on “The Hero Always Wears Red

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