As part of transferring my blog to WordPress, I've decided to start a new series - reviews of popular games that look at just how well they measure up in terms of body acceptance, sexism, racism, all that social justice stuff. So, let's start at the very beginning - or in this case, with something simple - Minecraft.
You're a blocky, pixellated little dude wandering around a blocky, randomly-generated world where just about everything can be broken and scavenged for building material. It's like Lego in computer form. Build shelters and weapons to protect yourself during the night, when monsters come out to kill you, and build just about anything your imagination can dream up otherwise. It's a game of exploration and creativity, and it will suck hours of your life away, just like Lego. It's mostly twee and happy, with no violence or swearing, but I guarantee you'll be creeped out by the sound of cartoon zombies trying to claw their way through your door. One of those rare games that are easy to get into, but have all kinds of weird hidden depths that lead to days of gameplay.
Pixels. Lots and lots of pixels. Everyone and every thing is a block. You start off looking like this:
...but you have the option to change your skin to something else, if you like. In spite of this, the world is vast and kinda awesome. No high polygon count needed here, no sir.
Can you play a female character?
Yes, if you change the skin. You can make your own skins too, if you have the inclination and a copy of the PC version, so technically you can be anything you want.
Are the women sexualized?
Not unless you get off on blocks. The player models are the same for everyone - only the skin changes.
Is there a similar level of customization for the female characters as for male characters?
Yep, though there tends to be more male skins out there.
Are the numbers of NPCs balanced between males and females, and do they have a similar overall level of power?
There are very few NPCs in Minecraft, so this is largely irrelevant.
Minecraft is a fun all-ages kind of game that doesn't really tackle anything problematic at all. It's like Lego blocks - the game is effectively whatever you make of it. It's not offensive in any way, and the options for customization encourage inclusivity. It's got a huge multiplayer component, so your mileage may vary in online play (and we all know the dangers of hooting dickholes whenever a female ventures into gaming online), but safe to say that Minecraft is a solid, fantastically popular game for women to play that probably won't make them feel like outsiders to the medium.