Tell me if this has ever happened to you.
You feel a specific way about something. It can be a cause, a position, or aligning yourself with a group, and then one day, you find out they don’t actually represent you? Maybe you feel mostly the same way, but there a couple of things that you are realizing, you are not in alignment with?
Often times when I hit this space, I have to take a step back and learn more on my journey, until I can separate what I believe versus what I think I believe. This can happen multiple times in our lives, and even many times we change our minds on an issue we are passionate about.
This may manifest many ways, however how I feel about video games has changed dramatically over the years. Specifically in the topic of feminism and gender representation in gaming.
Growing up, gaming was a boy ‘s hobby. I remember a lot of my friends were of the male gender, simply because of our interests. I hated wearing skirts and had no interest in anything feminine. I resisted my mother making me look girly, simply because I loved video games so much, and “girls did not play video games”.
I would pride myself on being able to “blend in” at arcades if I wanted to, but also stand out. My wardrobe of choice through my embarrassing years consisted of everything from oversized jeans, t-shirts and baseball caps, to tank tops and skirts I would sneak out under the oversized t-shirts.
I grew Becky O’Shea from Little Giants, complete with crush on Devon Sawa, except instead of football, I played video games.
There was this need to blend into the crowd, with an internal fight between my masculine and feminine sides.
Back then I believed feminist meant anti-feminine. I felt in order to be a gamer, I had to look a certain way, act a certain way, and anything feminine was not allowed in that space.
Like Becky, I had the curiosity of what it would feel like to be like “other girls”. I felt they were a species I would never get along with, and so the belief was born. Woman who were “girly” were mostly not worth talking to because we could never be friends. I would meet a handful of exceptions here and there, but overall, this is how I viewed the world.
I remember first hearing about Bayonetta from my sister in 2009. It’s interesting how siblings can grow up in the same household and have vastly different understandings of the same principles. She was so excited. She knew it was going to be great. She showed me the trailer, and as much as I tried I couldn’t share in her excitement.
In my closed view, and book-cover-jugdey attitude, like so many who wrote about the character, I could not see past my own nose. My polarizing view on what feminism was caused me to perceive her in a way that fit the narrative in my head. When my sister brought the game home, I never bothered to try it out. My mind was made up, and there was no shifting it.
Fast Forward to 2017
Bayonetta, along with it’s sequel, Bayonetta 2, was announced for the Nintendo Switch and this time my husband was excited. “I’ve heard nothing but great things,” he said, hoping to convince me, since he knew we would have the “extra” money.
”I’ve read articles too.,” I retorted. I explained my position, but also agreed with him that I was definitely judging a book by it’s cover. At that point I recently started mindset work. I told myself that if it was bad, at least I could laugh about it. So we picked up the game(s), and I got to work.
When we first meet Bayonetta, she is wearing a pretty modest nun costume, and praying over a gravestone. I was pleasantly surprised when it became apparent she held all the power here.
Lorenzo seemed nervous, and it showed through his inability to stop talking, while she was clearly ignoring everything he said. Her poise showed that she had done this before, and did not seemed to care that Lorenzo was having a hard time. She never once stopped to comfort him, or make sure he was okay, not without sarcasm anyway. Her existence was completely independent of him.
I knew right away. I was wrong about Bayonetta.
In my head she was an oversexualized prop. A marketing tool used to get people to buy the next devil may cry video, and on the surface it may be just that. If you take a deep dive into the universe of Bayonetta, along with it’s sequel, you can start to peel back the onion, and see all of the parts that make Cereza, her other name, who she is, and how she relates to her world.
When society talks about video games, there are so many wonderful aspects that are left out. From the music, and the emotions we feel while playing them, to the journeys we are able to go on, both in game and in real life. Bayonetta is another hero’s journey about light versus dark, just told a different way.
I am not saying there are no problems in the gaming industry in terms of representation. I am not saying Bayonetta is the perfect feminist icon, nor am I saying that she isn’t.
The morale of this story is to never judge a book by it’s cover, whether that book is a real life person, in game character, or a game itself. You may have a lesson to learn from it, even if it isn’t entirely your cup of tea at first.
Join the conversation!
Have you ever been slapped in the face with a life lesson, even if it was almost ten years later?
What are your thoughts on the Bayonetta franchise?
Please let me know in the comments, and share with your friends so we can build a community of like minded gamers, of every level and play style, and teach the world the good sides of the gaming industry.