Easy Mode Is For Girls

I’ve been dabbling with the original Resident Evil Playstation game. You get to choose between two characters and there are three modes you can select from (easy, normal, hard). Starting out with Jill Valentine, I didn’t notice anything to raise an eyebrow at with the game when it came to the sexes. I mean, the girl’s smart, can use a gun, and hey, she kicks lots of ass.

Then I tried out Chris Redfield out of curiosity, as I heard he has a different introduction. And that’s when I started getting annoyed. It becomes very clear very fast that, even when playing on the same mode, Jill is meant to be the easier path.

Jill starts out with a lock-pick, a gun, a survival knife, eight slots of free space, the ability to mix herbs, and a can of first-aid spray. However, looking further into the game, I also found that her version of the story involves more puzzle-solving”¦ and people coming to her rescue when she’s in a jam.

Chris begins with a survival knife, a lighter, six slots of free space”¦ and that’s it. He doesn’t do puzzles because he’s all about the big show of shooting things up as fast as he can. Oh, and he can take care of himself without any help, apparently.

So, not only am I being smacked over the head with Jill being far easier to beat the game with than Chris, but also by the stereotype of the woman being “˜intelligent’ and the man being “˜violent’. Jill thinks through a problem (or has her problem solved by someone else) while Chris shoots his problem in the head.

At least Jill was wearing pants.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    This reminds me of a show I saw recently where the bad guy expressed the belief that women have it so much easier than men because “they can always find someone to take care of them”. Yes, let’s reinforce the idea that if a woman has problems from one man, her solution should be: another man! Because her entire life is just a map of her relationships, not of herself.

  2. Patrick says

    It doesn’t get better as the series goes along. In the third game, Jill wears a miniskirt and tube top throughout the game… and that’s the outfit that she leaves her own apartment to fight zombies in.

    Patrick

  3. Ifritah says

    *Nod* Exactly, it’s really rather insulting.

    There’s this part at the beginning where you walk into a room, grab a shotgun off the wall, and the ceiling starts coming down at you. You freak out, because, well, ceiling coming at head, and BAM, there’s Barry, your male buddy, right there to bail you out.

    Apparently, this is an occurring theme throughout the game. Personally, if I were Jill, I’d of used the shotgun on the DOOR to blow it open. There’s a solution to a puzzle that makes perfect sense to me!

  4. Ifritah says

    *Facepalm*

    Well, on the very very small plus side, at least now I understand why she’s wearing a rather inappropriate outfit in the second Resident Evil film.

  5. SunlessNick says

    I’ve never played the game, so I can’t comment except to say I find all this rather depressing.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    Ironically, as Congress goes bananas over the violence in these games, they aren’t the slightest bit worried about the messages being sent about women. Congresspeople yammer on about issues they believe will inflame their constituents to vote for them. Apparently, their demographics info doesn’t suggest voters care if young boys are getting the impression women are lesser creatures.

  7. Glaivester says

    I remember playing “Ghost Manor’ on my Atari 2600. (I still have the game, actually). In it, you can play a boy or girl rescuing a girl or boy from a spooky house with 3 stories. The game plays exactly the same except that the player’s sprite and the rescuee’s sprite look different.

    Here are some screenshots.

  8. Glaivester says

    I should note that I am not trying to contradict the writer’s experience; what she noticed is probably indeed accurate for many or most of the new games (I wouldn’t know personally, as I usually don’t play video games that date later than 1995 or so). I just wanted to mention an old-school counterexample in case anyone was looking for games that didn’t treat boys and girls differently.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, representation of women in general was actually BETTER in the 80’s and 90’s than it is now. Your observation supports that view.

  10. Ifritah says

    Yes. One of my biggest pet peeves is the constant issue of too much violence in video games. Particularly when there’s far more hurtful messages being thrown in that aren’t even being looked at.

  11. Ifritah says

    Hrm, I might have to pull out my many Nintendo games and do an analysis of this.

    A comparison of games of then and now would likely have some interesting results.

  12. Jennifer Kesler says

    Any messages the game may send about violence are constantly being countered by the rest of society, which is why I consider them harmless. Unfortunately, the message about women is often being reinforced in other areas of society, which is how it begins to sound credible.

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    To be clear, I was talking about pretty much all aspects of culture. I have a feeling that a comparison of games then and now would back up what I’m saying. I’ve never been a big gamer, but I recall a few in the late 80’s or early 90’s where you could play male or female characters, and it was set up so that both would be equally challenging.

  14. sbg says

    Well, they probably think it’s too PC to worry about that.

    Or, even worse – they don’t even see it. It’s a non-issue and doesn’t even register with a frightening number of people.

  15. Ifritah says

    *Nod* I knew you weren’t just talking video games.

    And yeah, I know there’s a couple out there that I can think of that fit real well into your hypothesis. But I’d still be interested in going more in depth. (I blame sociology class.)

  16. Saiyne says

    KotOR

    Knights of the Republic treats but male and female the same. (Expect with “romance” option. Male gets Bastila, female gets Carth)

    But they just had to make the ONE possible, non-sexual, strong female character in Star Wars ‘cannonly’ male.

    I know about Leia and Padme. But lets consider that for a moment.
    Leia: Metal Bikini
    Padme: Torn White Outfit

    ALSO in KotOR 2, if you play as female you HAVE to wear a “dancer outfit” (i.e. “silk”) and dance for a Hutt in order to continue to game, but as a male you can give it to the “handmaiden”.

    And of course, you get the deeb, Disciple, if you’re female, and the kick-arse Handmaiden if you’re female. Also in KotOR there are two possible “romance options” if you’re male. If you’re female: 0. You have a stalker and a hero-worship, with you can’t have “romance” with anyway.

    The good thing about KotOR 2: Kreia, and Mira’s personality (not her non-outfit).

    But KotOR, the first one, BEST. GAME. EVER. XD

  17. says

    All good points, although my impression of the game’s characters was different. With Jill, the game becomes pretty fun while with Chris it becomes endlessly frustrating. On paper you’d think Chris just has to do approximately 25% more running back and forth to swap out items, but there’s much more than that. I could actually never complete the game with him, while I did finish it with Jill.

    I’d imagine for at least 10% of the players Jill offers the only option; the only entertaining, fulfilling or memorable role in the game

  18. Ari says

    I’m not sure they made it explicit in the Resident Evil 1, but they did both the director’s cut and the remake: there are benefits and drawbacks to playing both Chris and Jill. Jill gets the extra item space and lockpick as you mentioned, but Chris is slightly more accurate, slightly faster, and takes slightly less damage. To be sure this still sets up a fairly stereotypical “brain versus brawn” dichotomy, but Jill isn’t meant to be “easy mode” – that Jill ends up being easy mode for a lot of people says more about their play style/item use than the developer’s intent. Those with a very aggressive play style tend to find Chris’ side easier (especially on bosses, oi -___-). For the tactician Jill is definitely easier; for the twitch gamer, Chris is.

    Also in their defense they switched this dichotomy around for RE2, with Claire (Chris’ sister) more physical than Leon; the fact that the man gets the instantly-decapitating shotgun and Claire gets the far less effective cross-bow has led a lot of gamers to label the Leon side “easy mode”.

  19. Casey says

    Ari,

    I must admit, when I played as Chris for the first time EVER in the REmake I was scared since he didn’t have a lock-pick, or 8 item slots or the grenade launcher glitch (plus Rebecca has to play the piano and mix chemicals FOR HIM) but DANG he moved so fast and took so little damage, it was a breeze.

    …Doesn’t mean I don’t like playing as Jill the most, though. :P

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>