Last week, I talked a little bit about how anime series that are based on video games tend to not interest me much. I thought a lot about this article and realized there was one other thing that equally bothered me; the portrayal of gamer girls in anime. In specific, girls who play MMORPGs.
We've seen it all. From series like Sword Art Online to new series like How To Not Summon A Demon Lord, there dozens of video game oriented series; so much so that this is pretty much it's own genre in anime now. I could go on for hours how many anime series revolve around a video game plot, like getting trapped inside of a game, but there's something else that seems equally as obvious. The women in a lot of these anime series are extremely dry, written poorly and exceptionally passive.
Rather than rip into the various series I've seen turn girls who play games into fan service, I'd rather talk about two series I really like and why I feel they give something a little different to the conversation.
And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online?
This may seem surprising because it's a harem anime and there are certainly a lot of chesty, fan service moments, but hear me out. The premise of the story is about a guild that decides to meet in person and finds out that they all attend the same high school. In addition, the main character, who goes by Rusian, meets the girl he's married online and finds out that she is, in fact, female. He also finds out that the other two male players of the guild are also girls.
This is important: there's a huge stereotype amongst gaming communities that most players can be assumed male, even if their avatar is female. While the majority of gamers is still male, we've seen that the rate of women participating in games is rising, and sometimes exceeding men depending on where you live.
Rusian had given up on women being in online games because he'd had a bad past with a girl he loved; later we find out that she only said she was a male because she's a teacher at his high school. At this point he decided, it didn't matter because it was only a game. But finding out that most of his online friends were women really changed that.
This isn't to say that Ako, his love interest, certainly has her problems. She's exceptionally clingy to him, not to mention she has an issue differentiating reality from the game. While a lot of her behavior is wildly inappropriate, I have to admit it was really different to see the dynamic in the relationships around her. We don't get many anime series about female NEETs and, rather than glorifying the fact she has a mental illness and clearly suffers from depression, her friends try to be supportive and take part in her healing process. Also, unlike other anime harems that have women compete for a man's affection, this one actually had them work together to set Ako and Rusian up in the end.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Very similar to the last one, Recovery is all about a woman who has decided she's no longer happy with the world and becomes a NEET. Moriko dedicates her life to her video games and even takes on a male persona while in game. Here she meets Yuta, whom she believes is a girl named Lily due to his female avatar.
I really related to Moriko because she wasn't really happy with where her life was going and found comfort in her video games. What's more, she struggles with social anxiety to the max; something I can also relate to. She lets herself go by not really taking care of her hair and doing the bare minimum to get through day to day. Certainly, she isn't the average anime girl and she's definitely not hitting the standard of beauty that anime often puts on women.
It was also really cool to see these two fall in love when they didn't even know that the other person was opposite gender. It was all based on personality and a mutual understanding; something that doesn't always happen for real people who play MMOs.
While her lifestyle certainly can be dangerous, it's different than a lot of what we get in anime. It shows another side to women who just so happen to be gamers. In a lot of ways, they're not unlike some of the male protagonists we've seen in series like Overlord.
This isn't to say that these series are perfect. The fact that they're both love stories is already a little problematic because we give girls so many romantic stories over girls that just want to play games and kick butt for a couple of hours (or days).
It's important to show gaming women in different lighting. It's completely fine to be a super sexy, hyper feminine gamer girl; they get a lot of crap in the real world too and that's also not okay. But this shouldn't be the only narrative. Most importantly, I think the gamer girl characters we see should have more depth to them and their stories.
What are some female gamers you feel have a good story to them?