Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hiro Rule

“Thinking With the Wrong Head”: No matter what they are accused of or how mysterious their origins, the hero will always be ready to fight to the death for any girl they met three seconds ago.

Quite some time ago, I wrote a rather frothing rant about heroism and D&D, and I find myself with this particular cliché forced to cover some of that ground over again. My argument at that time was that the player was not a hero. The response made it quite clear that many people wanted to be heroes - and that I was insensitive to that position.

So much for old times.

It is this stupid cliché above, this nonsensical knight in shining armor perspective on women, that says they have to be protected and that it takes a DUDE to do it, that frankly sickens me. But mostly it is that DMs (and the makers of RPG games) rely so fundamentally on this testicle-generated motivation … I mean, I don’t mind bringing up love in a game, or even pushing a player to accept lust as something they have no control over - but I don’t expect players to sacrifice their character (which has tangible qualities) for girlie NPCs (which don’t).

But - and I hate to admit this - I probably could.

My experience has been that it's shooting fish in a barrel to get a group of nerdy RPGers to rescue chicks from … wherever. I don’t know why. Not getting enough, I guess. It must be that every player needs a “rescued the princess” war story to tell at some mythical gathering of players at some convention or other. As a DM, you introduce the girl, introduce the villain, have the villain openly insult the player and then flit off with the girl (who is sweet and cute and wouldn’t say shit if her mouth was full of it) … and you have a ready adventure.


What is it that turns so many cloistered pud-pounding virgins into macho shitheads the first time they get a chance to roleplay? Very often I’ve had to admit to myself (and to either of my wives) that it is probably for the best that some nerds are rather socially leprous and bad smelling. If they had girlfriends, they’d probably hit them.

That … was pretty low. But if you’re taking umbrage at it, I think you’re ready for a really close look in the mirror. Given the number of times I can remember being at a gaming table and seeing the way the one girl player was treated (an odd combination of condescension and hopeful lip service), I can’t believe that every player who is out there can’t see there being a problem with a certain species of player who must identify so strongly with the squashing-monsters-for-chicks perpective of the game. The console manufacturers make money from it, the film industry make money from it … I’m only laying it out here as it works in the real world.

It isn’t, however, as though the women themselves who play this game identify particularly with the Virgin Connie Swail. They seem just as enriched by blood lust as the men, moderated perhaps by having somewhat less need to save innocents to gratify their egos. Women players play backstabbing thieves, murderous assassins, ball-busting rangers and fire-sacrificing clerics with all the aplomb and taste for rampage as their sexual counterparts … so what is it with all the purity crap?

You should have noticed by now that the cliché quoted above never says that the women the heros are fighting for ARE, in fact, innocent. There is a subtext, however - that it is assumed somehow that no matter what they may be, they are still presumed to be innocent, and therefore to be fought for. Somehow, this hero mindset makes every woman, however presented, necessarily pure … simply because I, Clodd of Oatenchew, shall not let her die!

For shit’s sake.


Telecanter said...

Yes, the idea that it's always poor little women that needs help is assinine, but *careful,* do you really want players that will say "screw her" about the woman you just had abducted in front of them?

I had a party of adventurers come upon a woman in shock (she was a hireling survivor from a previous party) and rather than deal with the logistics of helping her back to the surface they speared her to death where she lay crying.

I think I'd rather have a few pud pounding virgins than amoral sociopaths.

Ben Brooks said...

They are ALL amoral sociopaths, where people draw the line is almost always a matter of convenience or "what's in it for us?" Even if the point is just to get a sense of self congratulation about something.

This is not limited to RPGs of course.

sirlarkins said...

The Virgin Connie Swail! I'd forgotten about that.

Zak S said...


I play with people who are just about as far from virgins as you can get and they all, male and female, go in for rescuing damsels.

Danny, veteran of at least 80 adult films, just rescued a firefly woman for no earthy reason not half an hour ago.

I think part of it is actually just that it's funny.

PatrickW said...

I think there is a flip side to this:
As this trope is used often in TV, movies, and video games, players are prepped to respond that way in game. If the DM sets up the situation, clearly this is where the adventure is. Once they make the choice to act, they're "in it to win it" as players (not characters) hate losing.

Treatment of female gamers is a separate issue, which I think you are spot on about.

Anonymous said...

Clodd of Oatenchew.

Hee hee.

Cayvie said...

why don't you see what happens if it's a male NPC in distress?