In 108 minutes, Wreck-It Ralph accomplishes something the entire video game industry has failed to achieve for more than 30 years:
Three major consoles. Hundreds of major and indie developers. Mobile and handheld gaming. Thousands of writers, programmers and artists. Millions, maybe even billions, in marketing dollars. All schooled by one movie.
I applaud the filmmakers, but I’m utterly baffled, because they made it look easy. And for so long, we have been told it’s “hard” to sell games with female characters we can look up to, care for and relate to. I think $49.1 million at the box office, which is Disney Animation’s highest opening weekend in history, tells a very different story. Listen up gamers, it’s time for a revolution.
Let’s start with Vanellope Von Schweetz and her home game, Sugar Rush.
Vanellope is funny. She’s smart. And she has confidence, despite her condition, pixlexia. She is driven and willing to fight for her rightful place in Sugar Rush, which is largely made up of racing girls - not boys. The aesthetics are a marvel: the racers’ outfits and vehicles may be sugary, but they aren’t princess-y and they aren’t racing on some simplistic puff course either. These girls know how to compete and they talk trash. They want to win - and they aren’t cheering on the sidelines for their man.
It honestly made me tear up - SPOILER ALERT - when Vanellope was transformed into a princess after winning her race, but opted to abolish her dolled up status and instead be President of Sugar Rush. Do you understand the sub-text here? Are you listening, America? Women, girls, OUR GIRLS, they don’t want to be princesses - they want to be president.
And then there’s Calhoun. An argument has been made online and elsewhere that she’s modeled after Samus Aran of Metroid. That could be true, but here’s a key difference: she’s not in hiding. You know she’s a woman. You know she’s in charge. It isn’t some big shocker at the end of the movie that Hero’s Duty has always been led by a strong, tough woman.
And - SPOILER ALERT - it was her husband who got shot, because she failed to take care of him. She put her gun away and he needed rescuing. Not the other way around.
The primary male characters, Ralph and Felix, love these women for these very reasons. They admire them, respect them and even fall for them - because they are a true representation of our modern social relationships. It’s OK for men to be sensitive. It’s OK for them to wreck things and then feel badly about it later. It’s OK for a short dude to fall in love with a taller woman. And most of all: it’s OK for men to ask women for help.
After seeing this movie, I want to play these games. And you know what? So does my boyfriend. And my brother. And my dude friends. Sugar Rush looks like a riot. Hero’s Duty may just be the very FIRST first-person shooter I have ever been interested in. And yes, I want to find an arcade right now and hand over my quarters for Ralph and Felix.
I know many haters will say, well, Ralph is the main character - and therefore sold the movie. Yeah, I agree and you’re right. But this is why the lesson here is so critically important. The gaming industry can continue to sell their games with strong men on the covers, posters and in commercials. When you play, the men can continue to be the primary characters - but I promise you - your game will be better AND more likable if you surround your male characters with women that matter.
Last, but certainly not least, I need to give the filmmakers props for the fact that girls were playing games in the Litwak arcade in equal number to boys. And EVERY kind of game. Not just the “soft” games or the games marketed to them. (Hey Nintendo, we are gamers too.)
Wreck-It Ralph was a joy to watch, but also a major wake up call for me. If we are ever going to see a video game industry with likable and respectable female archetypes, we may just need to bring in some new voices. I think Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack MacBryer, John C. Reilly, Director Rich Moore, screenwriters Phil Johnston and Jessica Lee might just be a great start.
You know those games that hang you up for days? Maybe months? I’ve been stuck on the final boss of Super Princess Peach for Nintendo DS for approximately 2 months. I should be embarrassed, but time gets away from me easily. It’s a great game, but sometimes when I get stuck, I give up… temporarily.
So how am I going to get the gall up to beat that bad boy?
1. Road trippin’ it. I have a long car ride ahead of me this coming Saturday. Nothing gives me more a gaming rush than knowing that I have a deadline for arrival at which point the game has to return to the purse. Road trips are great for your time management skills and the perfect occasion for handheld gaming.
2. Google the goods. There’s probably a reason why you’re stuck on the game of the moment. The reason I’m stuck on SPP? I can’t figure out how to make Peach jump high enough for one particular section and still retain my cloud floating capabilities. Googling may be cheating in some people’s minds, but to me, you’d ask for directions if you were lost - same applies to gaming.
3. Pick a runner-up. There’s usually a game that I’m watching and waiting for to play next. In this case, it’s October 17th’s Professor Layton and the Last Specter. In order to play it, I’m making a deal with myself that I can’t play until I beat SPP. Now all I have to do is be strong and win.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated to beat a game that feels unbeatable?
A week and a half ago, I posted a worthy read about sexism in geek culture, which has received quite a bit of attention on both sides of the issue. Now, here I sit utterly disappointed in the human race after watching the Gamer Girl Manifesto. The video is now in the 6-digit views range, but despite the fact that the message is getting out, many of those receiving it are proving that sexism in geek culture is more real than ever.
Look at that scoring for starters: It’s predominently thumbs down. What could possibly be so offensive that this gets a larger percentage of thumbs down ratings than divisive political commentary? Or videos of Nickelback lyrics scrolling by?
Why is the message of: “Online we’re all on the same team” is so difficult to understand and accept. All you have to do is take a look at the comments to see just how out of touch the vast majority of the viewers have been. This genius had to go so far as to suggest that humility is the issue at heart.
And don’t forget ladies: if you aren’t “attractive” by some random assholes definition, then you shouldn’t even be speaking.
I wish that these comments were few and far between. However, comments like these are scattered throughout and are a sure way to dig yourself in a deep, dark depressing hole.
If you don’t think there is sexism in geek culture: take a look around. It’s not just this video, it’s on the message boards, it’s on Reddit, it’s in the comments section on TechCrunch and every other damn tech blog. It’s online when women are gaming and it’s in comic book stores. And if a woman says anything about it, we should all point out how unattractive they should feel.
I have a proposal: a new hierarchy of nerds who actually embody the lives that we have found refuge in. Their cause: teaching other nerds why their ignorance to these issues and acceptance of it harms us all.
The protective feelings that we have for our beloved characters, games, books, blogs, etc. should apply to one another. It’s that simple.
It’s the final countdown. Christmas is nearly here and you’re freaking the eff out. Don’t fret. I’ve got three things for all the nerds on your list that:
1. don’t need to ship
2. can be purchased anywhere you are connected to the internet
3. will be loved by girl and boy nerds alike
Whether it’s improving their home computer, getting games delivered to their mailbox or just doubling up on their spectacle options, you’ll be loved if you buy one of these. Here we go!
1. GameFly: Gaming is an incredibly expensive hobby, but nothing says, “I’m an awesome gift-giver!” like a monthly payment to subsidize your loved-ones gaming addiction. It starts as little as $7.95 per month. Plus, if they play a game and love it: they can buy it for a reduced price.
2. Vintage-Inspired Spectacles: Daily Candy is offering a complete pair of prescription glasses from LookMatic for only $44. I’m serious, that’s the frames AND the lenses. All you do is buy it up and look for: “gift this” at checkout. It looks exactly like the image at left. Then, it’ll prompt you to gift it to a friend. You can also get them as sunglasses! Any vision-impaired friend would appreciate the thought!
3. Software: Sometimes the difference between a great computer and a mediocre one is the software available. Lifehacker has the same idea and compiled a list of apps that you can buy for your friends and family on PCs that they might find helpful for increasing their productivity with programs like DVDRipper and Display Fusion.
Felicia Day is a seriously hard-working lady geek. She writes and stars in the award-winning web series The Guild, she released a book in December, she voiced charters in the October-release Fallout, and she starred in the SyFy original movie Red this fall. This writer/actress/gamer made a name for herself when The Guild gained the attention of the geek gaming community. The show’s rabid fans helped turn it from a small, no-budget show to a Microsoft supported series with costume designers and all.
The thing about someone like Day is that she has it all. She’s gorgeous, so she’s loved by the male fans, but she’s also wicked smart and has a great sense of humor and comedic voice - which makes her a shoe in with the ladies. That combination is bound to take her from small budget programs on SyFy into larger Hollywood films. Along the way, hopefully Hollywood will absorb some of her spirit and make more shows and movies that reflect the way that women in 2011 really live: we like geeky things, we like video games and dammit, it’s a lot of fun.
Instead of rambling on about how great and funny The Guild is, here’s an episode from Season four:
To keep up with Day, check out her blog, where she regularly updates with cool online games, movies and books worth checking out. For her sense of humor and incredible work ethic, Felicia Day is our Lady Geek of the Week.