Whenever I discuss feminism and social justice mixing with video games, I’m usually not discussing anything good. Usually, I’m sharing yet another example of a hyper-sensitive Tumblr SJW taking something in a video game way too seriously. Thankfully, this is one of the rare exceptions where the two polar opposites actually mix well together and produce something positive.
Unless you’ve been trapped in the Temple of Time, you’re probably aware of the new Legend of Zelda game that was released about a week ago: Breath of the Wild. I’ve yet to play the game myself, but I’m very much looking forward to purchasing and playing it.
Anyway, in the new game, there’s a part where you have to dress up the main character, Link, as a woman in order to infiltrate a city of Amazon-like women known as Gerudo:
Now in a sane world, where people know the difference between "transgenderism" and "cross-dressing", this would not be an issue. However, as the outrage surrounding one infamous My Little Pony episode proved, we do not live in such a sane world.
As can be expected, feminist SJWs with nothing better to worry about were “triggered” by this segment of the game and lashed out against it as an example of “transphobia” in video games.
However, if there’s one light at the end of this dungeon, it’s that this very same video game segment also inspired (albeit indirectly) another more well-written think piece about a similar segment in another video game.
In Final Fantasy VII, there’s a similar mission where you dress the main character, Cloud, as a woman (with panties and all!) in order to infiltrate a harem. As with the Zelda segment, this cross-dressing mission has also raised ire from feminist SJWs, but has recently received praise from another.
Cayla Coats, a writer for Athena Talks, wrote about her experience playing FFVII as a pre-teen and how it helped her come to terms with her identity as a trans person. While she admits that the cross-dressing is somewhat “problematic”, she felt that it helped her develop as a person and eventually come out of the closet:
I bought Final Fantasy VII when I was twelve. My voice was dropping. My baby fat was evaporating, revealing a frustratingly masculine bone structure. Body hair was overtaking everything. I legitimately hated my body. And I hated myself for not being normal. Like many trans kids, I turned to self-harm to try and cope with the runaway train of my pubertal body. Every single day brought me closer to the man my pituitary gland was turning me into, further and further from my experienced gender. I felt hopeless. I would look at the men in my life, and feel my anatomy becoming more like theirs. Facing myself in the mirror became an almost physically painful experience.This is what I love about video games. Like other forms of art, aside from offering us escapist entertainment, they can also provide us a window into our own souls, a chance for us to take a different look at the world around us and even at ourselves.
I jumped into Cloud’s adventure looking for an escape from real life, but found an unexpected sense of solidarity.
The cross-dressing segment, for all of its problems, was the first time I saw any part of my gender identity reflected back at me. This was the first time I saw a male character adopting the vestiges of femininity and not being actively derided or treated as a joke. It was transformative for me to see Cloud’s cross-dressing being portrayed as somewhat normal. When Corneo and his bodyguards regarded Cloud as an attractive woman, I gained a visceral sense of hope for my future. If Cloud, the masculine paragon of the game can become a beautiful woman, maybe I wasn’t destined to be a man. Maybe I could be beautiful too.
This scene doesn’t even pass for a concession to trans gamers by today’s standards, but I cannot overstate how much it helped me upon first playing it through. At a time in my life when I was running out of reasons to keep living, this scene let me know that maybe I wasn’t so messed up. If boys could be girls in a popular video game franchise, maybe it wasn’t such a stretch to think I could escape manhood.
They can do more than simply entertain us. They can influence us, challenge our pre-conceptions, and inspire us to consider different perspectives that we otherwise wouldn’t consider. Most importantly, they can provide us with a sense of comfort that we otherwise wouldn’t receive in our regular lives.
This is how we should consider video games. We shouldn’t force them to cater to our narrow-minded worldviews. We shouldn’t chastise them for failing to meeting our personal standards. Instead, we should have them challenge our own worldviews and re-consider our own standards.
After all, if a video game can help a trans person question their sexual identity and come to terms with their gender dysphoria, imagine how they could help influence other people—that is, if other people allow themselves the opportunity to be influenced. The world could be a better place!