I agree that the fact that both Chell and GLaDOS are female is irrelevant to gameplay. I think the creators of Portal wanted to make a puzzle game, so they came up with the different levels and challenges, and then focused on the skin of the game (i.e. what the main characters should look like). In contrast, I think the creators of Tomb Raider knew from the beginning that they wanted to feature a female main character in their game. So, they fine-tuned Lara Croft’s appearance, and then developed the gameplay around her. With this begin said, I think the two games are slightly different since Portal is more of a first-person-shooter game and Tomb Raider is more of a third-person adventure game. So, obviously the point of view is going to differ accordingly and the player will be able to see more or less of their character.
As far as GLaDOS, I think the game designers purposefully made her a female voice. In general, I think a woman’s voice is more trustworthy and comforting. This is perfect for Portal since for a large portion of the game you must rely on a mysterious voice to navigate the gameworld. Also, I think having it be a feminine voice allows GLaDOS to have more attitude while remaining ironically funny in some of her statements (especially closer to the end of the game)–if a male voice said some of the things GLaDOS says, players may think it is rude or offensive (sorry, guys).
Lastly, in regards to the ‘Remember, the Aperture Science Bring-Your-Daughter-To-Work Day’ statement, this refers to the background story of Portal, which we don’t find out until Portal 2. Apprarently, the reason why the testing facility is so empty is because GLaDOS went beserk and released a poisonous gas on attendees of Bring-Your-Daughter-To-Work Day.
It sounds like what you’re arguing then, is that while the female voices are not important to gameplay (i.e. the mechanics of the game), they are important to the narrative of the game (i.e. the seemingly soothing and trustworthy voice of GLaDOS). Does that sound about right?
(Even though I believe you meant to say ‘…are not important to gameplay….are important to the narrative’) Yes, that sounds about right! The voice of GLaDOS could be high pitched/low pitched/masculine/feminine/accented/etc. and it would not change the fact that you must go around solving puzzles. However, it does matter in developing the mood and attitude that surrounds the player as they navigate the gameworld.
Whoops, yes, that’s what I meant. I edited that crucial “not” back into my comment.
I think that yes the female voice is important to both gameplay and the game narrative. I guess because I have not picked up on the game narrative I have not found as many references to gender as others on the blog. However, I would argue that it’s the seemingly soothing and trustworthy voice of GLaDOS that affected my gameplay and not my perception of the narrative (since I wasn’t following any). When you hear her opening greeting/death wish, you know that she is going to be the voice to guide you through the game/maze. Also, once you hear her give you the directions (even though you know she’s a loon because of the crazy things she says), you allow yourself to believe she is helping you or relying on your success. At least I did. Every time I would advance through a level I would wait for her to give instructons, and I found myself waiting for them even after I knew she was speaking illogically with instructions such as spreading the sewage all over my face after explaining it could kill me.
At the end of the day I wonder if we are over-speculating. Like it was mentioned in many of our conversations, if the characters were men we would not have a debate about the role of gender in the game because of our male-dominated society. What if the game really wasn’t designed with two leading women to try to spark controversy? What if because Kim Swift is female, she chose a female protagonist and antongonist based on the fact she herself is a woman? I know if I were to design a game for this class almost all my characters would be female just because I know more about who I am as a woman than how I would want to design a male character and give them depth.
It is often argued that the majority of videogame characters are male because of the overwhelming amount of male game developers. People tend to create things in their own image, or things that they know a lot about. In light of this, many studios have attempted to hire more female developers.
In a way we’re over-analyzing, and in a way we’re not. It’s not fruitful to over-analyze the intentions of the game designers; they may not be aware of the implications of their decisions, they may be disingenuous about it, etc. But I do think it’s worth analyzing how the female voice affects the narrative and atmosphere of the game, regardless of what the designers intended.