Friday, March 23, 2007

The IRIS Network Launches!

Today marks the day of the official launch of The IRIS Network:

After yet another bout of the “where are all the women gamers?” on the internet
gaming communities, The IRIS Network (TIN) was finally born. Though there are
many individual women gamers who write about their experiences, and many sites
for women who game to connect and play with each other, none of these sites are
there for the express purpose of highlighting gamers (both in the industry and
outside of it) and bringing women’s perspectives into the mainstream. Though it
may be a lofty goal, that’s exactly what we here at The IRIS Network aim to do.


Join or browse the forums, check out the directory of women game bloggers and take a peek at TIN's forthcoming online zine Cerise.

And a note to all the women gamer bloggers out there: feel free to adjust, add info on, post up a logo for your page on the directory. I plan to email everyone personally, but it might take a few days for me to be able to do so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Now You Know (And Knowing is Half the Battle)

I'm shocked, so shocked, that Brian Crecente over at Kotaku found little evidence of women writing gamer blogs. It seems to me, as I compile links for Jade Reporting, that new gaming blogs by women are popping up every day. Why, here's a sample:

Acid for Blood
Aktrez
Amateurverbs
Amber Night
BM2 Love Angel
Dr. B's Blog
The Baroness
Dreamy Gamer
Electric Sista Hood
Feminist Gamers
Frag Dolls
Free Candy For Everyone
Game Girl Advance
GameGal.com
GamerFemme
GamingDivas
The Geek Side
Gender & Computing
The Girl Gamer
Girl Gamers (here and here)
Girl Power
Girls Who Like Girls Who Game!
The Guild of Gaming Women
Guilded Lilies
The Hathor Legacy
The Headpiece for the Staff of Ra
Hellbound Angels
Hellchick's Blog
The Heroine Next Door
Heroine Sheik
Home of the Fighting Fangirls
jill/text
Joanna's Academic Adventures
Killer Betties
Laurean's Blog
mer writes about rpgs
New Game Plus
Netwoman
Nintendo Gal
Official Shrub.com Blog
The Play Girlz Gaming Blog
Pulp Arcade
Sex & Games
Still Life With Soup Can
thinking with my fingers
Through the Eyes of a Journalist
Thumb Bandits
TriXie
Venturesome
West Karana
Who doesn't love roses
wickedqueen.net
Womengamers.com
Wonderland
WoW_Ladies

And I know this list isn't even close to being complete. (To any bloggers I've missed, let me know if you want me to add you.)

And make sure you check out tekanji's response to Kotaku over at her blog.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out The IRIS Network's directory of women gamers who blog--it aims to have in one place all of our blogs so that anyone looking for us can find us.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

GRAW!

I don't own a Xbox 360, but lucky I go to a college where the library owns one for me. Between classes on Friday I discovered a hidden gem: a shiny Xbox 360 that was connected to a big screen HDTV. I decided it was time to use my well spent tuition money and booted it up. They had a large selection of two games consisting of Table Tennis and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. I picked Ghost Recon so that I could discuss and examine the "myth" behind the game. I also wanted to look at a phenomenon that occurs regularly in video games: the creation of a well designed and fun game, that features content that boils down to propaganda. Games that sway minds to support the war, and love the patriarchy that exploits women, the poor and the underprivileged. A game that turns war into just a game, completely overlooking war's true nature. I know that as I play this game I'm taking in these messages, but I'm having a blast.

The myth behind the war game's text is that war is an acceptable option. War is clean, swift, and only eliminates those that wish to do harm to the innocent. Specifically, the United States fights wars in this way, and that it has the right to conduct war in any country that we see fit. We bring justice to the world. This has been a part of our culture for generations. The game puts forth this idea through normal game conventions: shoot the enemy, move to the next location and shoot more, reach end of the stage, watch the cut scene congratulating you. The game hooks us in by placing itself in realistic settings that remind us of current world issues, like the war in Iraq. War games have pushed to be more and more realistic; to represent real world conflicts. The game world, however, is a world without consequences. If a team member dies you can revive them with the Y button, and of course you can retry from the nearest save point if you happen to be killed. The enemies are reduced in this game as nothing more that red diamonds which indicate their location in the game screen, and when they die the diamonds turn white. In game play terms this is useful in that it keeps the game easily accessible, but in turn, it completely dehumanizes the NPCs. And speaking of white, the only choice for the main character is a white male, who leads a squad of culturally diverse troops through the battlefield. No big deal if your African American gunner gets killed--you can just revive them, but if the white commander gets shot, it's game over. The enemies are also non-white, and the action takes place in a Mexican-influenced third world country. This defines the myth that America can do what it wants in poor countries.

To get back to a previous point, even after knowing all of this I still have fun with it. Overall, it is a well designed video game, with pretty graphics, interesting situations, and good controls. But herein lies the rub. Too often people play these good games, and get caught up in the game play, not grasping what they are saying to them. It's perfect propaganda: the player gets to have a great time, while imperialism feeds them messages of war. Why would advertisers be making games, and why would the actual army make a game, if it's not a strong form of suggestion? It's the power of simulation. Being able to act out in a simulated environment and make mistakes, to explore and hop into the role of soldier, allows a person to understand what it is like. It fills them with the mentality needed to act in the situation. If you have played a shooter on X-Box Live it is clear to see this soldier mentality in action. It's creating people that will support war. If the design of the game is to further reinforce this fairly tale notion of war, then it only serves those that benefit from war. I think it to be possible to reflect on war in a way that would leave the player not siding with it. Or to at least start a debate. A perfect example would be Shadow of the Colossus, a fun game that examines themes of violence and the exploitation of nature. Playing GRAW and other games like it reminds me of imperative it is that we be aware of the messages within our media.