Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Last week I wrote about how women's lifestyle magazines aren't just lagging behind the gaming interests of their readers, but also contributing to a pretty toxic view of women in gaming. To prove it is possible to cover games in women's magazines without being patronizing, here's five popular, highly-regarded games that would be right at home in any issue of Cosmo, Seventeen, or even my mag of choice, Frankie. As much as I love Skyrim, I have to admit it might look out of place next to blurbs about HBO's Girls or Adele. Instead, I picked five critically acclaimed games that would fit right in without compromising on quality -- and without any of the pink-labelled crap (Babysitting Mama, anyone?) shoveled at girls and women for years.
These are games that are emotionally compelling and accessible for newer gamers, but without being dull for more experienced players. So this list isn't just great games for women; it's great games for everyone.
5. Assassin's Creed 2
Would you kill to be able to roam the streets of Renaissance Italy's most prominent cities (and beyond), rubbing elbows with the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli? The Assassin's Creed 2 trilogy (Assassin's Creed 2, Assassin's Creed 2: Brotherhood, and Assassin's Creed 2: Revelations) provides you with that opportunity... Even better, since you're only killing virtual characters. Although there's a much newer game in this franchise that takes place in colonial America, I love the awe-inspiring old world playground in which these slightly older titles set the player loose. The gameplay focusses on combat, historical storytelling, and free-running/parkour-like movement that takes you up, down, and all around gorgeously rendered landmarks. It's easy to learn and available on multiple platforms, so it's a great game for just about anyone to try.
Can I just be Lili? Can all of us be Lili? I used my post last week as an opportunity to gush about this unassuming iOS game (and one of Apple's best iOS games of 2012), but I haven't gotten it out of my system. First of all the game itself is gorgeous, easily one of the prettiest 3D games for the platform. The titular heroine is clever and cute with a well-developed story and a well-dressed character, and the gameplay is pretty novel: Lili's not stabbing or shooting or suplexing anyone, but instead picking exotic plants (to research) off the backs of troublesome spirits that she chases down around the lush little island (dodging explosives in the process.) Tackle the spirits, earn rewards, socialize with the locals, buy upgrades... In many ways it's everything you'd expect an adventure RPG to be, wrapped up in a very unexpected package. At $2.99 it's an absolute steal, and it's yet another title just about anyone can enjoy.
3. The Sims 3
I struggled a little with whether or not to include The Sims 3 (and its respective expansions) in this list because it is almost a cliché at this point. Yes, thousands and thousands of women love The Sims 3, myself among them. I recently spent days painstakingly creating a family inspired by Downton Abbey to soothe my post-season blues, and I'm tremendously proud of my sim-Mary who often wanders down into the kitchen to start fights with sim-Thomas. Does it get any "girlier" than that?
But the sexist assholes of the internet love to throw The Sims 3 in the faces of female gamers making points they disagree with. So does that mean promoting The Sims 3 in something like this would do more harm than good? The fact that The Sims 3 is so popular among women isn't a bad thing. It's a great game with a great community, and something for everyone from the homemaker to the aspiring architect. Create, interact, solve problems... or create them; the world is literally your sandbox. Women and men both love this franchise, and for the most part the game itself keeps things pretty gender-neutral. If you remove the audience altogether you're still left with an outstanding game. Women just happen to adore it -- all the more reason for women's magazines to give it a long overdue nod.
Good games immerse you, but great games sweep you away completely. Journey is a great game in this way, but it's also a far from traditional game experience. Between the Grammy-nominated score and the dream-like interactions with the vast, mysterious, and breathtakingly beautiful world, this game has been winning hearts and minds since it was released last year. I've been absolutely aching to play this game for myself but I haven't yet had the chance, so my words may not be as compelling as they would be if I'd done more than watch an endless parade of YouTube videos. Instead, take a look for yourself:
1. The Walking Dead
This might be one of the easiest (and best) game tie-ins that any lifestyle magazine could ask for. The Walking Dead television series is tremendously popular, as are the graphic novels and now this heartwrenching 5 episode adventure game from Telltale Games. This game broke my heart (and countless others) and had me sobbing once it sank in, and it is easily one of the best examples of storytelling and meaningful gaming in 2012. Like Journey, this game just sweeps you away (albeit for very different reasons.) It's an absolute must-play regardless of your gender, whether you want to play it on your iPad, PC, or console.
Let me know in the comments what games you would recommend to women's magazines looking to up their game!Tweet
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.