Down the Rabbit Hole: ‘BioShock’ & Women’s Agency


I had heard lots of good things about BioShock, which prompted me to buy it. (The sale on Steam didn’t hurt either.) I’d heard that the worldbuilding was interesting, the gameplay wasn’t bad, and there were great twists to the storyline to eff with you. Those seemed like good recommendations to me. I had also heard that there was a degree of horror to the game, which I am not a fan of, and that women were not treated very well in the game overall. Since this sexism has been discussed in a number of places, including in the “Tropes vs. Women” series, you can understand that it was with some trepidation that I began to play.

BioShock freaked me out a good bit; let’s get that out right off the bat. The atmosphere of the game, all gloomy, flickering lights, and structures that were breaking down with leaks everywhere was an exceptionally creepy aesthetic. It made everything feel rundown and broken. So, well done there. But that’s not what really got me freaked out. The visuals, while powerful, were not the biggest factor of my fear. The sound work in the game is downright brilliant. While you can hear your own feet and occasionally the panting you do when running (which was very cool), what caused me to hunt for corners was the sound of various enemies wandering about, yelling nonsense and ranting. Just hearing the moans and stomping of a Big Daddy made my heart start to race and check and recheck my ammo. The sound engineering, with the excellent Foley and scratchy dialogue, set the mood far more effectively than any of the visuals were able to manage.

However, that being said, there are aspects of the visuals that are more disturbing than engaging, making me almost recoil from the game rather than stay immersed in the storyline. It wasn’t the creepy shadows, watching the figures of distant people do things, or the ruins of Rapture. No, that fact was the bodies. And, more specifically, it was the fact that the majority of corpses lying about were female. Sure, I got the fact that I was playing in the ruins of the Ayn Rand’s Wonderland pretty quickly as the game is upfront about it—that all the social nonsense had come to play and destroyed itself. But why were the majority of the dead female? That was a nagging thought and made me uncomfortable. Thankfully, the majority of them were dressed like ’50s housewives rather than in very skimpy nothings, but there were a few of those as well. It was … problematic.

Continue reading “Down the Rabbit Hole: ‘BioShock’ & Women’s Agency”


Bi Cassandra Mod Backlash: The Creator Speaks

Dragon Age

[Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual assault.]

I’ve done as much research as I can in order to feel comfortable enough to write this out. I’d like to start off by saying that I am a straight woman who benefits from the current society in which we live in today. Although I am not white (I’m half Japanese), I look the part of a white person and therefore I benefit from that as well. I am represented everywhere—my sexuality, my skin color, the gender that I identify as … it’s plastered in every major media outlet, and video games are no exception.

If you’re unfamiliar with the bi Cassandra mod, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A user created a mod in which the player could romance Cassandra as a woman and, for lack of a better term, it seemed like the fandom lost its shit. To be quite honest, this is the first I’ve been hearing of it. I had heard of the straight Dorian mod a couple months back and that was infuriating. (I’ll come back to that, though.) The creator of the mod reached out to me, and out of respect for their privacy, I will have them remain nameless. When I asked about why they created the mod, it was because:

I always kept an eye on the romance thread there, and nobody had done the Cassandra edit yet, so I gave it a go. It worked. I was pretty happy because wowzas I did the thing. All it required was removing one flag for gender. I was honestly surprised nobody else had done it yet.”

The creator of the bi Cassandra mod had their content deleted and was harassed so badly that they then deleted all of their social media accounts. I want to point out that it is in no way okay to harass someone. It is not justified. Being upset is reasonable, but being so angry that you effectively cause someone to flee from an environment that promotes equality, fairness, and community is wrong. I understand that a lot of the Dragon Age fandom was upset about this mod, but they were in no way justified to react by harassing a user from the community into leaving.

Continue reading “Bi Cassandra Mod Backlash: The Creator Speaks”

Irish Mythology & Ancient Elves: Interpreting ‘Dragon Age’ Lore

Dragon Age

The fun thing about interpretation is that, even if the writers didn’t intend to convey something, it can still be gleaned by someone else. We all like to see our experiences reflected in the popular culture we consume, and my long-standing adoration with Dragon Age is no exception. My father emigrated from Ireland before I was born, and while half my family still calls fair Éire home, I proudly consider myself half-Irish. With my identity steeped in the lore that came before, it goes without saying that days like St. Paddy’s hold cultural significance for me. Thus, it’s basically inevitable that I would interpret my heritage within the world of Thedas. While I don’t presume to be an expert in historical accuracy, I’d like to touch on a few significant points in Irish mythology within the lens of Bioware’s trilogy, particularly having to do with the elves.

It’s difficult to discuss the tales of ancient Ireland without first understanding that much of the stories we associate with that time were primarily shared verbally. When Christian monks put ink to paper in an effort to preserve these myths, you can imagine their own bias misinterpreted or otherwise omitted entire parts of Irish lore. Though even in this, there’s a clear parallel to the history of the elves: what details the Dalish have managed to preserve is, ultimately, shaped by the remaining people who are still able to tell it. Striking monuments of stone and glass are all that’s left of a once formidable people worshipped as gods.

This brings me to the Tuatha Dé Danann, or the ‘People of the Goddess Danu,’ and how they relate to the ancient elves of the Dragon Age games. Prepare thyself for nerdy rambling!

Continue reading “Irish Mythology & Ancient Elves: Interpreting ‘Dragon Age’ Lore”

Vilifying Mental Illness: Horror Games & The Insanity Trope

Evil Within

Mental health in video games is pretty black and white. Think about how many times you’ve seen someone babbling, a person in a straightjacket, or someone who decides to destroy the world because of the voices in their head? This is common among many mediums (books and movies aren’t fault free either), but there is at least some variation in the portrayal of mental illnesses in these other mediums. Perhaps it’s simply because they’ve been around longer, but the truth remains that there are more progressive portrayals of mental illness in other mediums, while video games trail behind.

It was while I was playing some Evil Within that I started really thinking about it. Evil Within has both types of insanity that are common to games. The mad antagonist who puts himself above all rules and sense while a clearly broken boy in a straightjacket mutters and repeats himself constantly. I was trying to think of a game where mental illness was handled differently. Where was the game with a character who has borderline personality disorder and suffered as quietly as they could so they didn’t bother other people? Where was the person with the crippling anxiety, or people who had trouble functioning normally due to the severity of that anxiety? Where were all the people with mental illnesses who were still high-functioning and able to mostly keep themselves on an even keel outwardly even as they suffered inwardly?

All I could think of in terms of video game representation was the idea of ‘insanity.’ Someone who is criminally insane and wants to destroy the world is easy to think of in video games. Also, playing as a main character who is slowly losing their sanity due to the events going on around them. Don’t get me wrong, people can be negatively affected by the environment and their mental health can suffer for it, but sanity is not something that would go down like a health bar. Furthermore, it leaves the eerie suggestion that people with mental health issues are only affected by traumatic events and that they are less complete than “normal” (that’s a loaded word, but I’m using it for simplicity’s sake).

Continue reading “Vilifying Mental Illness: Horror Games & The Insanity Trope”

Sunday Loot: Top Tweets From This Week

This week went by quickly! With spring fast approaching and a whole host of new, exciting developments on the horizon for FemHype, I present another week of all things women in games from the Twittersphere. These are the frontrunners in a fight that is still ongoing, and without their dedication to carving out a safer space for all of us, we would never have reached as far as we have. Let them know you appreciate all their hard work!

Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on your messages today. I’ll be reaching out to 2 winners of last week’s giveaway, which you can keep updated about if you follow our Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook.

Continue reading “Sunday Loot: Top Tweets From This Week”

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