Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Comic Book Fan's Quiet Rant Against Video Games

Normally I gloss over these, unless they are really funny in that sad-desperate attempt to catch page clicks, and deserve equally amusing cometary. But Lucas White is someone who I have followed off-hand throughout the years with Shonen Jump, and now TechnologyTell (focusing on the off-shoot articles for their section called GamerTell). He is honest in his responses, but also keeps an objective point of view, even when the product he's reviewing sucks. So his latest editorial "Dear Video Games: Comics can change, why can’t you?" caused me tilt my head to the side.

There are a few reasons for this. First of all, comic books have a century of market absorption compared to video games. Not a 5 year gap, but literally 100+ years. The first published comic book was in 1842. They have had a century plus to grow, change, and find their foothold in the entertainment medium. Video games were first developed in the 1940's, nearly 100 years after comic books, and they weren't popularized for consumer sales until the late 1970's. Video games have quite a bit of growing up to do when you attempt to equate them to comic books.

Second, I think White is intentionally overlooking the controversy and vocal concern from readers over current and past comic book changes that altered characters and story-lines to make them more diverse. Just a quick stroll through, oh, any forum, you'll find people on vehemently opposed to the changes with Thor and Captain America. Marvel has recently announced that Thor will be changing to a woman (which has happened once before!) and Cap will be Black. Even Time Magazine is calling the changes a gimmick on Marvel's part. But this isn't the first time. Remember when SpiderMan had a spin-off series? Peter Parker was replaced by Miles Morales, a black Hispanic teenager. Green Lantern Alan Scott came out gay in 2012. Heck, fans of comics have been upset at comic book movies for decades. It's not a new phenomenon. Is it great that we're getting diversity? Absolutely. But to claim that comic books are more progressive then video games completely ignores the other half of nerd experience: interacting with other fans. Sorry fanboys; you're bringing us down.

Third, while there are more options for comics on the market, it's not as rosey as White makes it out to be. You still have to dig to get to the stories that you want to read. They're not on that front wall that publishers covet. If you're not Marvel or DC, you're in the bins at the back. Video games are no different in this regard, but their perk is accessibility (as White points out). You don't need to have every call of Duty game to understand what the latest version is all about. In a culture of sequels, prequels, and trilogies, it's rare in video games to have games that are in succession. We can thank Mario for that. But the beauty of it is that this ease of jumping into games is allowing more people to play. That's great! We want to see more people game.

It doesn't make for more diversity though. It's the same with films, television, and radio. We see the same stereotypes and tropes over and over again. Comic books are no different. White wants to see a day where a Bat Girl game is on the front shelves of a GameStop store. Well, go to a comic book shop. I bet you won't find more then 1 female super hero comic on that coveted wall space. They'll be in the bins like the others. Is it right or fair? No. But it is the culture that we live in.

I'm not arguing against White wanting to have more diversity in video games. Without the independent and mobile game developers, we wouldn't have products that push our emotional and social standards to include heroes and heroines of all races, religions, and creeds. They're not commonplace, yet (which is why it's considered breaking boundaries that we're seeing these games and comics come out...kind of sad really-it should be NORMAL to have non-white males as heroes, not as eye candy or victims). But we still have a long way to go. We're finally getting a Wonder Woman movie, after 30+ years of comic book films not having a leading female character. Well...maybe. We know that WW will be in the Batman/Superman movie but that's about it. Speculation over a WW movie has been going on since 2008 and no updates or announcements have verified a full picture since announcing the lead actress last year.

Okay that Hailey Barry Catwoman movie technically counts as the first, but I'm more focusing on the Heroine part (villain stories aside). And fans were still not happy with the casting selection. It was also a really bad movie. Gal Gadot, the Israeli born model who was selected for the lead role, has been called everything in the book for "not fitting the Wonder Woman image". Sad. Fans. Grow up. You're seriously holding us back.

I think White is trying too hard to glorify comics. This was probably not intentional. Every entertainment medium has it's faults; yes even theater (do we need to go down the road of Black/White/Yellow face?) But in doing so, he's glossing over the important notes that both comics and video games share: the need to increase diversity. We want games for us. We want comics for us. Comics are just as fault about lacking in change/originality as video games.


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