One of my favorite genres of video games is the stealth game. There's something about slinking around in the darkness, trying not to get seen, and completing the objective that's so exhilarating.
But recently, I was trying to understand why I love stealth games so much. I was wondering if there was something more to it. Part of me didn't want to believe that it was only the gameplay mechanics of these stealth games that I enjoyed so much. I wanted to examine it from the inside out.
So, if you can, imagine my excitement when I found Riley Macleod's piece on stealth games and queer masculinity. Other than describing their experience as a trans man (which is just as important as what they say about games), they talk about the effect stealth games had on them.
What they said about character design in stealth games is what intrigued me the most (excerpt above). And in the process of examining myself and my own reasons for liking stealth games so much, it became obvious to me that I felt the same way about male bodies in stealth games as Macleod.
Between the way I feel about myself and my physical stature, I find the slimmer bodies found in stealth games more identifiable than the way males are displayed in most action games. I also prefer the style of play in stealth games more than the "run-n-gun" approach that most Shooters (first and third) take.
And maybe that's because hiding has become a natural occurrence for me. I am constantly hiding my identity, the way I feel, and, in a way, who I truly am from the world. I don't fit within the world so I have to exist outside of it, hiding in plain sight -- much like the player-characters in stealth games.
Both Sam Fisher and Snake (from Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid, respectively) are two player-characters in stealth games. They're designed in a way that doesn't show of their physical attributes, they don't have large guns, and they aren't wearing any armor.
They're ostracized by their environment, if they get seen, the game is over. And in a way the same thing can be said about people struggling with their queerness (I've had a pretty fortunate experience in terms of this, so talking about it something that is hard for me). Sometimes coming out to someone and receiving a response that isn't one you hoped for can feel like a bullet to the chest. And in these games, literally coming out and being seen by someone earns you just that.
Stealth games and their main characters all operate on a level that differs so much from other games in the video game industry. The objective of most of these games is to get through a level or stage as fast as possible without being seen. This reinforces the idea that games -- or stealth games in particular -- can be more than just shooting at stuff. This reinforces the idea that the player-characters in stealth games act or "speak" in a different kind of masculine language.
One that is careful and adaptable instead of being focused around brute force and violence. Games still have a long way to go in terms of representation but reading games in this way is a helpful step towards something new.