Always the centre of much discussion and controversy on the Internet, vocal feminist leader and Feminist Frequency creator, Anita Sarkeesian, was rumoured to have been consulted in the development of DICE’s Mirror’s Edge 2. Initially suggested back in 2012, the speculation triggered a wave of anger and opposition across social networks with a change.org petition amassing over 42,000 signatures as of early-December 2014. EA have since dispelled the myth, claiming she has not been consulted, however, I personally believe the game would have something to gain from any influence Sarkessian could have, assuming she approached the role in an appropriate fashion.
The game’s lead protagonist is presumably Faith, the lead female protagonist of the first game. In the original Mirror’s Edge, Faith represents resistance against the world of corruption, security and control she inhabits; she is undoubtedly a strong character and a positive representation of women, much the same as Samus Aran, Ellie (from The Last of Us) or Lara Croft.
Regardless on where you stand in the social discourse currently occurring in relation to the representation of women in the media, no one can deny that these characters are some of the most enduring in the video game industry.
Faith is evidently a character immensely respected by both fans of the Mirror’s Edge franchise and it’s developers. Anita Sarkeesian’s involvment – I hope – is only to maintain this respect, and more broadly the respect for the gender she belongs too. Hence, fans of Mirror’s Edge should welcome this news. If you care for the character of Faith, why would you not want her to be loved by everyone? Why would you not want her to be admired by male and female gamers alike?
Although I personally do not agree with all of Anita Sarkeesian’s opinions, I have no doubt that serving as a consultant on the development of the game would have a positive influence on the construction of Faith’s character and the messages and themes of the game.
The petition’s claims that she should not be involved as she has “no credibility or experience in game development” is irrelevant. Of course she is not likely to have any direct input into the game mechanics; instead she should focus her attention on the game’s story and characters.
Similiarly, the claim that Sarkeesian “does not speak for gamers, female or otherwise” is unfair. Many people, male and female, greatly respect her views and opinions. She is not the only person contributing to the game; as is the very well trusted DICE development team. There is no ‘one-person’ that can speak for gamers and although she may not have experience developing games, she is no stranger to video games. She is no less qualified then you or I.
That being said, I do share one concern with the petition. It suggests that Sarkessian has proposed a “simplified control scheme” for female players which simply makes no sense. Approximately 43% of all gamers in Australia are female and they play the same games as male gamers with the same control schemes. Her proposal – if true – is insulting; of course male and female gamers can play a game in the same fashion and treating them any differently is just perpetuating the myth that there is some difference in ability between men and women.
So here’s to wishful thinking: hoping that Anita Sarkeesian could have had an influential role in the creation of Faith’s character and her development, allowing male and female players alike to admire her strength and placing her in the realm of Samus, Ellie and Lara.