Friday, June 30, 2006

Etta is a Role Model

Recently at Written World, Ragnell expressed her appreciation for the Golden Age Etta Candy. I’ve loved that incarnation of Etta ever since I came across her: her strength and self-confidence. How she always knew what she wanted. She was a leader, and could help Wonder Woman out of a bind. And most importantly, she took up space.

How could I not write a poem for her? (Granted, at the time when I tried to bring in a Wonder Woman-themed poem every week into my advanced workshop. I admit I'm a bit embarrassed to post this poem, since it's pretty different from the way I usually write. I just had to rhyme it, Golden Age dialogue is so wonderfully cheesy.)

I echo Ragnell’s sentiments, I want Etta returned to her initial self.

Wonder Woman’s Sidekick: Etta Candy

“When you’ve got a man, there’s nothing you can do with him—but candy you can eat.” --Etta Candy

A former patient of Diana Prince’s,
fan-favorite Etta Candy wasn’t your typical sidekick.
She wasn’t quick, strong, or righteous,
was rather, instead, addicted to three things—
sweets, girls and Wonder Woman.

Leader of the sorority sisters, the Holliday Girls,
Etta with her scout smarts and red bloomers
could be contacted by mental radio,
would come to untie Wonder Woman with her enthusiastic “Woo Woo!”

Etta assembled an army of one-hundred glamorous girls,
who she lorded over with a plump fist and box of bonbons.
Together they defeated Dr. Poison’s lecherous horde,
then promptly threw a magnificent slumber party as an award.

In 1986, dear Etta was given a facelift—
she lost pounds, height and self-esteem.
Etta got stationed as an Air Force Lieutenant, instead of queen,
and married Wonder Woman’s longtime boyfriend, Steve.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The other day I found some interesting stats that David J. Leonard used in his article, "Not a Hater, Just Keepin' It Real: The Importance of Race-and Gender-Based Game Studies" that are originally from Children Now's Fair play? Violence, gender and race in video games, a study from 2002. Needless to say, the stats are a little dated, but I think the results are still extremely important to consider.

EDIT: As Steven points out in his comment, it seems odd that there would be such a low percentage of Asian/Pacific Islanders in video games when so many games are made in Japan. I'm having a hard time finding the Children Now's study without having to pay for it, so I can't find out exactly what games they were looking at. My hunch is that the percentages are from American-made video games.

Here's a link to Leonard's article. On the right sidebar, you can download the pdf.

In 2002:
• 64% of platform game characters were male
• 19% were nonhuman
• 17% were female, 50% of which were props or bystanders

• 50% of player-controlled characters were White males
• less than 40% were black, the majority of which were athletic competitors
• less than 5% were Latino
• 3% were Asian/Pacific Islander
• no multiracial or Native Americans

• 80% of female player-controlled characters are White
• less than 10% were Black
• 7% were Asian/Pacific Islander
• less than 1% Native American
• no Latinas
• When Black women appear in video games, 90% function as props, bystanders or victims

Monday, June 26, 2006


I admit, I was skeptical when I heard that Catwoman was going to be a mom. In fact, I was kind of pissed. A short list of my frustrations regarding motherhood:
1) The societal pressure that every woman should have kids
2) The perception that you aren't a real woman until you have a kid
3) Once you do have kids you can't win, be it the division between work and home, staying at home--No matter what, it's impossible to be the perfect mother, yet our society expects nothing less

It's the kind of topic that makes me want to hide my head in the sand. But then I read Ragnell's series of Mama-thon posts, and then I read this post over at P.M. McRae's Take Back The Knight (which is hosted by the invaluable I realized that comics could help me sort out my (ill) thoughts towards motherhood, and that I owed it to myself to check out Catwoman.

I love it. Catwoman is my absolute favorite comic right now. The covers, the art, the dialogue, the story--all perfect. I adore the characters and I appreciate how Selina is portrayed as a mother.

And this page from issue 55 is the absolute best:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Deja Vu

From Ultimate X-Men #71:

"I think Ms. Grey constructed split personalities to help her deal with having mutant powers. Nothing more."

My first thought: "God! They just can't go the route of X-3!"

And while the Ultimate's Phoenix storyline clearly won't, I was reminded all too often how comics have to make room for their blockbuster counterparts. I know the movies probably bring in a good deal of readers--hell, the early 90's Fox cartoon was my introduction to X-Men comics--I can't help but wonder what kind of pressure there is to include (awful) elements from the movies.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Girl Gamers, Once More

The Escapist’s new issue out this week called Girl Power 2, is dedicated to women and gaming. Disappointedly, as Lake Desire has already pointed out, only one article in the issue is written by a woman (it’s a great one, an essay by Bonnie Ruberg that looks at young girls as avatars.)

The only other article I’ve had time to peruse was John Walker’s “Asexuality Actually.” One of the main points of his article is “that the majority of games we play don’t enforce sexual stereotype, gender biases or sexist principles”—that rather, instead, our conceived notions that video games are just for guys has been fed continuously by the media. True enough that the media treats geek girls as anomalies, but are the majority of the games out there asexual (?), or rather, unbiased, instead of being in favor of men and masculinity?

Walker backs up his claim with a list of games he’s carefully chosen:
Worms, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Psychonauts, Zoo Keeper, The Settlers III, Darwinia, IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles, Day of the Tentacle, Ratchet & Crank, Meteos, City of Heroes, Civilization, Microsoft Flight Simulator, The Sims, EVE Online, Crazy Taxi, Myst III: Exile, Descent, Mario Power Tennis, Mutant Storm, Sonic the Hedgehog, Metroid Prime, Tetris, Links 2003 and Fallout 2.

I could quibble with him about a couple of games on his list, but I can see what he’s getting at. If I looks at the list of current popular games off of GameSpot :
Prey, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Formula One 06, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, World of Warcraft, Super DBZ.

I’m not really struck by a lot of these games being gender-neutral. Sure, some are better than others, but some are undoubtedly sexist.

Walker also writes briefly of a “permission barrier” between girls and gaming, in regards to Schott and Thomas who found that girls were hesitant to pick up Game Boy Advances. I wish he would have spent more time on this study (with a link), but I think it demonstrates something important. Even if a girl or woman is attracted to video games, she might be hesitant to pick it up, for whatever different reasons. I was always afraid of trying a new game in front of my brother and his friends because if I wasn’t good, I feared I’d be made fun of for 1) sucking and 2) being a girl. Still today I’m hesitant to join in a round of gaming when my partner has his brothers over because of the exact same reasons. Which brings up another point that I feel could have made it into the article: beyond games themselves, and beyond the media, there is video game culture. Yes, chicken and egg and all that, but it’s important to recognize that women and girls could possibly be deterred by the attitude that uses “pussy” (et al) as a synonym for poor playing (just to scratch the surface). The outlook that uses Dead or Alive to claim that video games are a medium for men—women have shoes, manicures and, you know, Sex in the City.

I appreciate a lot of what Walker has to say in his article, and I too want to see videogames as being an “acceptable pastime for both sexes.” I just can’t help but feel that there’s a steep incline to achieving it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Commercial Activity

Tim from Old Grandma Hardcore has a great new post that deconstructs Kevin Brown’s speech at the Focus on Gaming Advertising Summit. While reading it I was reminded of Guilded Lily’s post that she wrote back in March that summed up her own thoughts about advertising and what advertisements might look like in games that want to reach the female demographic.

One of my favorite parts about games, (or even in other genres, such as anime) is noticing the fake brands and stores—they enhance the atmosphere and provide little clues as to how the fictional world that I’m becoming immersed in is similar or different to our own. I don’t think that advertisements for Pot Belly’s or Sketchers would heighten the realism of a game; instead it’ll just remind me of my real life, which in turn would hamper the pleasure of escapism that comes with playing games.

Living in Chicago, the amount of advertising I take in during my morning commute is overwhelming. The first thing I see when I descend the staircase of the El are the vending machines that crowd around the turnstile. After I insert my fare card, I push the turnstile bars which are now clear: presently, there’s a slipped in ad for Geico. To find an empty place to wait for a train, I walk over numerous vinyl advertisement mats that now cover the concrete of the subway platform. The wall opposite from where I stand is also plastered in ads. After the train arrives and I step in, it’s impossible for me not to notice the ads that line the perimeter of the car. There are also ads placed in the areas where there are no windows. There are now commercials in the tunnels—what was once black spaces are now ads that work like flipbooks. After I reach my stop and navigate through another area of ad space, I climb the stairs and am greeted by billboards: typical billboards, billboards on the side of buildings, billboards that are stationed like stop signs. Buses, with their own set of ads pasted to them, pass by bus stops that encase ads instead of bus maps. This is just the first half hour being out of my apartment.

And what about sexist advertising? The ads that I encounter are for everything, but of course I notice the most objectifying: a naked woman sitting—she’s in the shape of a cognac bottle. An ad for lotion is centered on a pair of breasts. Another ad, this time for citrus vodka, features a woman being peeled like an orange. I’m not even going to write about the ads for make up, clothing and perfume. You know what I’m writing about: the idea that women are commodities, billboards in their own right. And that beauty and anything that is good and worthwhile is rich, white, blond, tan, thin, and straight. I’m oversaturated.

Yet as much as I don’t want advertising in games, I know all to well that it’s inevitable.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cover Girl

Recently, I was nagged by a co-worker to pick up Whiteout for the great story and lead female character. I'd heard a lot about it, so I decided to--finally--order it used and cheap off the internet. It arrived the other day. Excited, I tore open the box and set my eyes on this:

Visible breasts (separated and lifted!) underneath a parka? I know it's a parka, the comic takes place in Antarctica. I'd thought my co-worker told me she wasn't sexualized in the comic. (I do have to say, after flipping through the comic it appears as though she really isn't). And what the hell is wrong with her lips?

Thanks Frank Miller!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Weirdest RPG. Ever.

I've always wanted to play Baten Kaitos--probably since I finished the first Xenosaga. I received Baten for Christmas, but haven't gotten around to it until now.

I have to say, it's the strangest RPG I've ever played. It's not the characters or the so-so story. Rather, it's the atmosphere and the details, the different worlds that you travel to. (I don't want to ruin any surprises for anyone who hasn't played.) All I can say is: bizarre.

I'm really hooked. I wasn't sure how I'd like the card base battle system, but I love it. I actually look forward to dungeons because I never know which cards will come up.

So far there hasn't been any big problems in regards to gender. The main character is a whiney guy who ends up joining a young girl on her quest. I have my own role in the game as a spirit guide--something I really like. I don't have to identify closely with the main character, and I get the opportunity to choose my own name and gender. As far as I can tell, the story doesn't change depending on what gender you chose. (Gender parity? Score!)

There has been the requisite tassel-on-breasts-boss, and a brand new member in my group's party seems to be filling in the role of femme fatale, but on the whole I have to say that I've been pretty happy.

Monday, June 05, 2006


I don't know if I should admit it for reasons of sheer nerdity, but one thing I like to do after beating a video game is to visit its wikipedia page. Shions_Glasses and I finished Resident Evil 4 about a month ago, and when I browsed through RE 4's pages I came upon this:

Many feel the game may have even been less tense and frightening just because of how "in control" Leon feels in the game, lending the game more of a 'survival action', rather than 'survival horror', element.

I found RE 4 to be more intense than the other Resident Evil games, mainly because of the number of people that you have to plow your way through, but I found that I was creeped out more by the remake of the original Resident Evil. I'm thinking that I felt more secure during 4 because we could carry more items and had ammo and first aid sprays to spare.

What do you think? Did you feel more control while playing as Leon? Did you feel threatened when you played as different characters (such as Jill)? Or is Resident Evil 4 such a departure from the earlier games that it's hard to compare?

I have to admit though, either way, those Regenerators were really freaky.