Bechdel test on video games

July 19, 2012

In my Race & Gender in the Media course this week, I was introduced to the Bechdel test.

The Bechdel test is credited to Bechdel’s friend Liz Wallace and appears in a 1985 strip entitled “The Rule”. One of the characters says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. It has to have at least two women in it, who

2. talk to each other, about

3.  something besides a man.

In class, we saw a clip from Feminist Frequency which added one other stipulation to her evaluation of movies: it had to include a full minute of dialogue between the two women.

I am still unclear if this actually means it has to be a continuous minute of dialogue between the two female characters or if the total has to add up to 60 seconds.  I sincerely hope it is the latter because I don’t think I want to watch any film that has huge chunks of dialogue without an action break. (I will be at tonight’s midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. My opinion on this is rather skewed. I am a blockbuster junkie). But this particular rule shouldn’t be applied to video games since the action breaks are not the same as a motion picture. Most video games have long pauses in dialogue and poor camera angles. Take nearly any video game’s cut scenes and cobble them together into one video and it makes for very boring watching (Xenosaga is the first that comes to mind).

This week, the Gamelogical Society posted a list of 15 video games that pass the Bechdel test. I would like to add my own list of video games that meet this requirement. Please remember that Bechdel herself notes that her test is no indicator of quality, and that plenty of movies that pass it aren’t worth watching. This is also true for the games in my list and in no way are an indicator of quality. Plus, I am only including games I have actually played. Coming up with this list is more difficult than I thought. I had a hard time finding an Xbox360 game that passed the Bechdel test unless the protagonist was female. Most of these games give the player the option to create their character and choose the gender. Some of these franchises include: Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Saints Row

1. Final Fantasy X-2 (2003, PS2)

Final Fantasy X-2 is the first direct sequel in the renowned RPG series. The story takes place two years after Yuna defeated Sin in Final Fantasy X, and follows Yuna’s journey to find her lost love. X-2 features an all-female led cast. The main characters were fitted with a Charlie’s Angels-like motif (which can be painful to watch at times).

2. Persona 3 Portable (2010, PSP)

This one is a bit of a cheat because Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is an enhanced remake of Persona 3 for the PlayStation Portable.  The most noticeable difference from the original is the player would now have the option to play as a female character (previously male was the only option). This selection alters some aspects of the story: the first Persona gained by the Protagonist, Orpheus, has a different appearance; Igor’s assistant in the Velvet Room, Elizabeth, can be replaced with a male equivalent named Theodore.  The gender choice also alters some aspects of the Social Link stories. Again, this one is a bit of a stretch because all of the dialogues with the Protagonist and the female characters are one sided. The character you play as does not have any speaking lines, but the other characters respond to you as if you have said something. I include this in my list because playing as a female protagonist changes the game play and character reactions to create a different story than the original.

3. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (2003, PS2)

Twin sisters Mio and Mayu Amakura are visiting the spot where they used to play as children and follow a mysterious red butterfly deep into the woods. The two girls are led to a village shrouded in fog. While it seems abandoned, the twins soon realize that the tortured souls of the dead roam, forever reliving the day of the failed ceremony that trapped them in this state. For most of the game, the player controls Mio who is searching for her lost twin. Her only weapon is the “Camera Obscura,” an antique camera with the ability to take pictures of the ghosts and exorcise them. Cut scenes show extended scenes with the twins in conversation. *NOTE: This is probably the scariest game I have ever played in my life. It is difficult to doa full review on it because I was hiding under a blanket for most of the game.

I had never considered the topic of female equality in games before the classroom discourse. I am very aware that most video games are geared toward adolescent males. Most depictions of females are highly sexualized and do not fairly depict females by any stretch of the imagination. Gaming trends are changing quickly as more females are becoming visible players.

In a report, entitled 2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (here) the Entertainment Software Association (ESA)  revealed some new numbers about female gamers, including their growing presence in the gaming audience. As of 2010, 42 percent of the gaming audience is female, up from 40 percent the previous year. And, interestingly enough, turning the whole “video games are for teenage boys” stereotype on its head, women 18 and older make up more of the gaming audience than boys 17 and younger.

-this post was also used as an assignment for JOUR 4250 (Race/Gender and the Media)

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3 Responses to “Bechdel test on video games”

  1. xaphian21 Says:

    This post should not be considered for a grade for JOUR4210, but I wanted to include it. So, there’s that….

  2. Top40 Says:

    I believe this is one of the most significant info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna commentary on few common issues, The website style is wonderful, the articles is in point of fact nice : D. Good task, cheers

    • xaphian21 Says:

      Thanks. Still working on layout. Seems really hard to do anything with a free account. I plan on fixing that soon. I just set up this blog for a journalism course, but I will be maintaining it after the semester ends.


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