While the rest of us are discussing Olgatha the Argonian's cup size, "Gamers with Jobs" are earnestly exploring the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion gender bias issues currently riling the feminist gamer blogosphere. The controversy seems to stem from two perceived slights that indicate the developers are (in the words of one critic) "blinded by male privilige":
- Oblivion’s character creation system assigns certain bonuses based on gender, which vary from one race to the next. The Prima Strategy Guide notes: “Sadly, only three races offer females with power design advantages…In all other cases, to maximize a given race choice for its best-suited character role, pick the male. Where the stats differ between these sexes, the male gets the better benefit from the difference.”
- All the illustrations for classes and races in the manual are male.
Bethesda's Pete Hines tries to explain it away as offering choice to the gamer, but the ladies aren't buying it. Unsatisfied wiith the mere omission of inflated breasts and dead prostitutes, they want a game where the lizard women can bench press as much as the men:
Though Hines is correct, the majority of the variations, when present, still tend to occur along lines that could be interpreted as following gender stereotypes: a review of the stats reveals that in races where there is a difference, male characters are always stronger and almost always have greater endurance, whereas female characters are always more intelligent, and almost always have greater willpower and personality.
Ah, stereotypes—those useful mental short cuts we all use to make sense of our wacky world. Stereotypes explain why, while none of the girls in my office can beat me at arm wrestling, most can spell Oprah's first name. A few years ago, "Math is hard" Barbie was blasted by critics for turning young girls off to calculus. Will Oblivion teach those same girls that men are dull-witted sword jocks who would rather whack you with a battle axe than engage in stimulating conversation? Furthermore, is the Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Transgendered community too busy counting theirs successes with World of Warcraft to notice that cross-dressing Orcs have been completely left out of this game?
When it comes to political correctness, the PC version of Oblivion is, naturally, a little more PC. There's already an affirmative action mod that equalizes racial attributes for a single gender, accomplishing with a few lines of code what do-gooding social engineers and and burning bras have failed to do in the real world. How long before every aggrieved victim group has it's own special mod? And does Microsoft, as the beacon of progressive corporatism, have a duty to make this stuff available (for 200 MS points of course) on XBLM?
Of course, just when you thought old-fashioned male privilige was on the defensive, Chuck Norris returns to save the day.