Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Response to Virtual Rape in Games

A couple of weeks back I came across a post from Bonnie over at Heroine Sheik. Bonnie’s great—she writes intriguing feminist articles about video games and is all about promoting acceptance and tolerance for all things sexy, wacky and weird. Yet I just couldn’t get on board with this post.

An excerpt:

It’s an interesting debate, especially since we don’t often run across games that let us rape (exceptions that come to mind include Sociolotron and Custer’s Revenge) and since we were just talking about virtual rape (raping another player, as opposed to a character). Still, drawing a link between game rape and real-life rape is like drawing a link between game violence and real-life violence, and we all know how we feel about that. Thumbs down.
I do understand where she’s coming from—we brandish swords, guns and fists, strategize war tatics and take down the bad guys in virtual worlds, yet these actions don’t translate to real and everyday life. We’re not going to beat up our boss or take out the President in the name of social justice. And I’m never going to say that the guy down the street playing H-games will someday rape. But there’s something about virtual rape that I don’t think can be shoved aside for the sake of fantasy. Virtual rape games are a symptom of our society, where women are systematically devalued and rape isn’t about sex but about power and privilege.

BetaCandy writes about some of the issues that come from rape in fictional settings in her post Inherent problems in writing rape storylines:

With rape, however, we don't have a cultural consensus that "forced sex" is always wrong. A lot of people don't fully comprehend what constitutes rape or consent. A lot of people still think it can't be rape if the rapist is known to the victim. A lot of people still think women can owe men sex, and men are entitled to take the sex they've earned if it's not forthcoming. And they apply this thinking in their daily lives. To women they know. To victims when they serve on juries (or as judges). To themselves, when they internalize the blame for violations others visited upon them.

To just say that virtual rape in hentai games is sexual fantasy in pixilated form is to ignore a whole heap of troublesome and problematic issues. Rape in H-games is not real rape, but it is representative of our misogynistic culture that hurts real live women everyday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Giant Play

Throughout my game culture class I wanted to focus on different ways I could prove that video games were an art form. It was the underlying theme behind all of my work. For my the other part in my final paper, I wanted to look at the choices made within Shadow of the Colossus. I only focused on two terms from class, but i want to look further into this game.

The Use of Ludus and Paida Play (in Shadow of the Colossus)

The narration of Shadow of the Colossus is told not only through traditional cut scenes, but through elements of game play as well. Video games have a unique ability to place the audience in the role of the "actor". Within Shadow of the Colossus, the player participates with the unfolding of the narrative. In order to successfully convey the story and themes of the narration, the game considers the different ways that people play video games. Shadow of the Colossus so fully incorporates the main theme of "respect for nature" that regardless of the person in control of the game, the story is revealed. Bernard Perron defines the difference between "player" and "gamer" in his article From Gamers to Players and Gameplayers. Players participate in Ludus play, or rule bound linear play, while gamers participate in paidia play or free play.

Anyone can be a gamer or a player at anytime while playing a game. To compensate for this, Shadow of the Colossus integrates elements of both within its main theme. The world of Shadow of the Colossus is vast and regardless of how much time a person spends outside of the main quest, the design of the world reflects the main theme. There are many distinctive areas to explore that are heavily detailed and full of rewards. An example are the white tailed lizards and fruit that increase both grip and health gauges respectively. The player's bond with the horse, Agro, can also grow by riding, petting, and playing with her. This environment is ideal for paidia/sandbox play. A player can explore nature on their own and discover its beauty, rewards, and friendships. In this way, it is possible for a person to learn of nature's value through simulation.

Ludus play of the game yields a slightly different result. As you actively kill the massive Colossi with only a sword and bow, the fragility of nature becomes apparent. It shows how the simulated world that you fell in love with in paidia play, can be easily torn apart by your actions. The main game endows respect by displaying the results of nature’s destruction. It warns of the dangers of destroying nature for one’s own purposes by showcasing the pain felt by the wanderer, Agro, and the world itself. The game therefore, uses both play styles as different chapters of the narrative. The narrative requires both ludus and paidia play to be fully realized, which is uncommon in videos games, but the ultimate message of the game is obtainable through either.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Portable Playing

I’m once again addicted to my DS, though for awhile it was collecting an admirable amount of dust. Over the winter, I had bought a copy of Contact, but became frustrated with the game after infiltrating the military complex and put it down. (Can I just complain about my HP dropping when fighting weaker enemies? How the heck can this game just not let you build up?) When I came down with a bad case of cabin fever, I started playing some long neglected Animal Crossing: Wild World, but stopped after the Acorn Festival. (I think some unconscious goal was realized.)

So my DS sat, ignored, until one fateful day I went to Gamestop and grabbed a used copy of Phoenix Wright: Justice for All. And then a week later, on an auspicious and bright day, I was given the gift of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan.

I know I don’t need to go into great detail with both these games, because I the general consensus is that they’re both awesome. I don’t mind that Phoenix Wright is text-heavy, and though at times I don’t quite follow the logic as the case--some stuff seems to come out of left field--I enjoy the mystery, leg work and trials. Much better than Law & Order.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand the music selection of Elite Beat Agents, yet I still wanted to play it. Therefore, for the longest time I pined after Ouendan, not being able to justify the price of importing it. (I saw copies of it in Japan when I was there last summer, but wasn’t able to find any good deals.) I don’t know if I’m driving my roommates crazy, but I’m addicted. It’s hilarious, catchy, and original.

I still have plans for my DS after I finish off these two. A copy of Pokemon Diamond or Pearl will be mine, not to mention that I have my eye on Hotel Dusk and Lunar Knights.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Metal Heart

I would like to admitt something to the internet: I love Metal Gear. I've recently accepted my feelings towards it after a long period of denial. It's not perfect, but who is right? Like the Metal Gears themselves, the series has its share of weak points, or as Otacon puts it, "character flaws." Yet I stil find great value and artistry within it as a whole. This love was reaffirmed by my Game Culture class. For my final assignment, I looked at James Gee's concept of cultural models within Metal Gear Solid 3. Gee's book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy was the primary text for my class and was very insightful. One part that really stuck out to me was his Cultural Models, otherwise known as the ideas that a game operates around. It is what the game presents as normal or right and its message and concept of the world. This struck a cord with me because I feel that he described what this blog examines, along with much of the feminist writings on pop culture. What do games tell us? Is a game producing the model that women are mere sexual objects (DOA), or is it telling us how gender does not effect ability, skill, or heroism (Metriod Prime)?

Since I have not played through the Metal Gear series in a while, I wanted to replay them and fully look at what these games are telling us. I feel that it provides a far more productive message than what most triple A titles being produced at this time offer, but we'll see. Here is the section of my final paper dealing with MGS3. The orginal plan for the assignment was to post it on Wikipedia, but that proved too difficult, so I figure this blog was just as good. ;)

Cultural Models (in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

James Paul Gee’s concept of cultural models (the different hypothesises that humans form on what is normal or typical) can be examined within Metal Gear Solid 3. The game presents with its gameplay and narration cultural models of war that is unique when compared to most video games. Snake Eater provides motivation for the player to strive for peace within a seemingly violent game. The main element of gameplay is stealth, or what can be seen as the avoidance of conflict. The main goal of the game is to proceed from one area to the next without getting caught. You do not have to kill any of the guards in order to “win.” The game only provides for you a non-lethal tranquilizer gun, and Close Quarters Combat abilities (CQC). You have to seek out the lethal weapons yourself. Also, every enemy can be defeated by non-lethal means, and when CQC is deployed, it is just as simple to incapacitate the enemy, as it is to kill them. So essentially it is your choice to kill or not. A cultural model that violence is never a necessity is presented by giving the player the autonomy over the level of violence within their actions. The model states that violence is an option that people actively choose.

The game goes further to actually reward the player for not taking the most violent option. If bosses are defeated with the tranquilizer gun, the player unlocks special camouflage items that can not be acquired anywhere else in the game. There are also more consequences when a dead guard is discovered compared to when a sleeping guard is discovered. Defeating the bosses without lethal weapons is no easy task, and if guards are incapacitated rather than killed, they will become an obstacle again as soon as they wake up. Therefore, using non-lethal methods adds more difficulty. This presents the cultural model that violence is not the easier option, but peace will garner greater rewards.

The strongest example of the game’s peaceful intentions is the finally battle with The Boss. She is the only person the player is required to kill. The game forces you to press the button that causes Snake to shoot her. There is no other option that will finish the game. Afterwards, the story clearly maps out the effects of her death on Snake and his world. The consequences of the violence are fully explored thereby presenting the cultural model that violence will bring pain, and has an extensive impact on people. Therefore the player may look back on the different acts of violence they might have been committing throughout the game, and see them in a new light.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reminder for Upcoming Carnivals

The 14th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans will be hosted by Heroine Content on May 30th. The deadline for submissions is May 27th! Please submit via email to skyekilaen[at]gmail[dot]com. They are looking for posts, web comics, and art with a feminist perspective on science fiction and fantasy. This can include TV, Movies, Books, Comics, Games, etc. For more information, see the Guidelines.

Make sure to check out the new People of Colour SF Carnival. The first edition is scheduled for June 15th. See their site for more details.

Friday, May 18, 2007

50 Things I Love About Video Games

I'm swiping this from kalinara:

It's been argued before and it'll undoubtedly be argued again, that girls don't read superhero comics. [...] I don't think it should surprise anyone that I disagree with this wholeheartedly. Instead of going on a long, angry rant explaining why, I figured I'd explain what I, a girl and a feminist, personally love about superhero comics.
Her list is wonderful. If you also love comics, you should read the whole list.

In all corners of geek culture, there's a lot of animosity towards women. It can get difficult at times to remember why I'm fighting so hard--I mean, if so much pisses me off about video games and video game culture, isn't it a bit masochistic to be going off about it all the time? When I read kalinara's list, I instantly knew that I had to do one for myself, so that I can reclaim some of my love for gaming. Without further ado, 50 things that I love about video games:

1. Puzzles that hurt my brain
2. Nostalgia
3. Soap operas in outer space
4. Beating stuff up
5. Magic & melee
6. Farming sims for the city girl
7. Playing Wii Sports with the parents
8. Making Miis that resemble pets
9. Brother/sister rivalry
10. Significant other rivalry
11. Raising Pokemon
12. Combos
13. Zombie dogs scare the crap out of me
14. Kirby is damn cute
15. Character customization
16. Old gaming consoles aka I still love the Sega CD
17. Dungeon crawling with a friend
18. Entertainment during unemployment
19. Staying up until 3 am just to beat Baten Kaitos, only to have to work at 8 the next day
20. Sneaking in some DS during work (bathroom stalls: ftw)
21. Voice acting: good and awful
22. Rhythm games and J-Pop
23. Epic boss bottles
24. Falling asleep while leveling
25. Androgynous men
26. Strong women
27. Cyborgs and robots
28. Partaking in a feedback loop
29. Sad endings
30. Cell-shaded graphics
31. Sprites
32. Mario mushrooms
33. Sega vs Nintendo vs Microsoft vs Sony
34. Being a doctor, lawyer, mercenary
35. Item management
36. Seeking out every single piece of hidden treasure
37. Bonding with a frienemy after beating a game together
38. Jade
39. The original versions of Lunar and Lunar 2
40. Pikmin
41. Swords
42. Umbrellas as weapons
43. Dynasty/Samurai Warriors will always be the same
44. Leon styled after a French underwear model
45. Thumb cramp
46. Plot twists
47. Tales of, Dragon Quest, Xeno
48. “Don't get cocky, cause it's gonna get rocky”
49. Hold on, just one more level…
50. Saving the world

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Crap. Now how am I going to get my Mystery of the Week?

It's true. They canned Veronica Mars.

My introduction to Veronica Mars was in December. Freshly graduated, depressed and dog sitting, I popped in the first DVD from the first season and was hooked. Sure, the show is far from perfect, but I have a soft spot for detective stories and plucky female leads. Heck, it was good enough for me to start watching it every Tuesday night, taking away from valuable gaming/internet/anime time. This third season has been pretty disappointing, but I had a lot of hope that it was going to get better again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

From the Blog Feed

Video games
Streets of Rage Review My brother and I became friends when we first played this game.
Critiquing video games: let's not get ahead of ourselves I'd say some game story lines are pretty damned developed. And games that have under developed stories still have much to offer in terms of criticism.
Joseph Saulter: 'Why should I have to be a white man?'
Saulter says the industry is like a "horse with blinders" on when it comes to issues of diversity. It's not that they are outright ignoring minorities, it's just that the focus is so straight ahead and narrow, companies don't take the time to reach out.

On being an ally
Allies have a very different place in anti-oppression work than members of the
non-privileged group.

Last Refuges of Scoundrels

Health Care
Why We Don't Have National Health Insurance Having insurance would help solve some of my big problems right now.

$21.07, Speckled Akara Yum!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Silent Hill: Simulation of Cruelty - Part 3: The Final Act: Gamplay as Pure, Primal and Divine

Previously: Part 1, Part 2

As anyone who has played through a Silent Hill game will tell you, the endings aren't the most satisfying. They all basically say, "The game is over." The inclusion of multiple endings and the joke alien endings further confirm that the ending cinema is just presenting a new status quo, and that this new status quo is not very important to the over all message of the game. The game's narrative qualities should not be judged based on the ending alone. The (rotten) meat of the game is gameplay, and the story surrounding that gameplay. Heather's search for identity in Silent Hill 3, Henry's struggle for freedom in Silent Hill 4, and James' need for love in Silent Hill 2 all are active while the player is active. When the game is over and the final boss is killed, the game can no longer express anything to the player. Although the action leads to an eventual end, the journey is what is important in discerning theme and meaning. The literature of the game should be taken more as a drama and not like a novel.

The player benefits in playing a game with a heightened sense of immersion, arguably greater than theater can accomplish. The player gets to partake in a simulation of cruelty. With the tools given by the developers, a person is able to experience the emotions of the character first hand. Heather's fear, anger, and disgust of who she is can be translated directly to the player through the gameplay. The game is crafted in a manner so the actions and elements within it will replicate the pain of the character. On top of this, Silent Hill destroys the psychology of emotion, and takes it to the pure, primal, and divine.

The structure of the game forces a player to act within their primal nature. The key objective of Silent Hill is survival. The player is constantly put in a position of fight or flight. The limited health and accuracy of the control makes staying to fight a difficult option. Fleeing is also hampered by tight hallways, fast enemies, and a difficult control scheme. The objects you gain while playing are crucial to your survival. There is no collection of coins or rings for bonus points like in other games.
The actions themselves are also of a more primal nature for most of the game is spent using simple melee weapons, like a rusty pipe. Bullets are rare, and are not necessary in defeating the monsters. The action of physically beating something to death with a simple tool conjures images and feelings of base instincts—it is also undoubtedly you that is doing the killing., it is your force, your muscle. This deepens the immersion for the player, for they can not distance themselves from the violence with a gun. If a gun is used, however, a physical element is still placed in. Once an enemy reaches low health, it falls to the ground and cries out and convulses in death throes. In order to finish it off, the player must crush it with their foot. This violence is more intense than in most games. It is clear that you are killing something that is living, something that bleeds, and will remain after it is dead. The monsters are not mere targets to get points, and defeating them is not a way to show off how skilled a player you are. They are undefined living creatures that you have to kill to survive. Accentuating the violence draws your attention to it. You cannot overlook the bleeding stump with legs on it, or a nurse with no face as it writhes on the floor. This is exactly the type of image and act that Artaud calls for: a pure act of violence that forces you to focus on the thought behind it.

The breakdown of psychology furthers the player’s ascension. What you are killing is never explained. The horrific surrounding are never defined either. Attempts are made through the game, but are always ambiguous. At one point, Heather is horrified to find out that the things she sees as monsters might actually be people. The hell worlds that the characters fall in and out of are never defined as either a real space or something their minds create. The games are abstract, and they induce fear. This abstraction releases the player from culture and brings them into a space within themselves. They have to define for themselves the pulsing and glowing red hallway, or a table with bloody sheets that runs like a dog. That definition will be based in an emotional response, rather than what is in their day to day lives. The player's mind is therefore beyond the physical world, and through this they can reach the divine.

The Silent Hill series has borrowed many conventions of survival horror games that were established by Resident Evil. However, the ultimate goals behind the two are completely different. Resident Evil takes conventions from action and horror movies. Silent Hill's horrors hold more meaning than quick fun shocks and gross outs. There is substance in its images and these are connected to either the character's struggle or the overall themes of the game. For instance, the overarching story of Silent Hill always holds a religious element to it. Whether you are fighting a cult, being chosen to give birth to God, or tying to stop the 21 Sacraments, Silent Hill has forced players to explore that of which is not of our world. It surrounds the gamer with violence: from puzzles that give a description of a killer eating a face so that you can figure the code of the number pad in order to open a door, to carrying items that are as gruesome, like a plastic bag you filled with blood from the cut throat of a hanging corpse. In this world of violence a person is forced to leave their everyday lives, and in their work to survive, they are raised to a pure primal state like the one Artaud describes. Perhaps when they leave the space of the game, the player will have a greater understanding of the meaning of violence, so that they will never side with it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Silent Hill: Simulation of Cruelty – Part 2: A Link to the Divine

Previously: Silent Hill: Simulation of Cruelty – Part 1: An Introduction to Theatre of Cruelty

Can a game capture the primal force that Artaud speaks of? Artaud was very specific in the fact that only theater could achieve this. It might not be possible, but compared to theater, it can be said that video games are the closest medium for this to be achieved in, and the Silent Hill games are the closest representation of that possibility. The main connection between the two is Artaud's concept of gesture. Games are the only other art form, that when played, will never be the same twice because no matter how many times you play through a game, the moment to moment actions are based on human reaction and thought. It can be as simple as the way in which the main character walks down a hallway. In a movie or novel, the main character will always walk down the hall in the same way, but this rigidity does not exist in games. There is the chance for creation based on the individual player. The power of gesture was very important to Artaud. The fluidity of theater can capture life. Video games can capture that fluidity, and take it further.

In Theater of Cruelty, the actor takes the role of a shaman for the audience. The actor is the audience's link to the divine. In video games you are the actor, because the game will not move forward unless the player takes action. Video games therefore place the user in a distinctive position: they are both part of the story and the audience. It is their action that will make the game unique through every movement, giving a more natural flow to the art, pulling it closer to the divine. The question becomes: is the player the shaman or the avatar? I don't feel that the player has enough freedom to remove themselves from the place of audience. There are some games that give the player freedom that make him or her the storyteller, but in Silent Hill the actions that you can partake in are limited and specific. You can only use predetermined objects, follow the story in a set course of events, and although the camera is adjustable, you can only see what is within its range of movements. Therefore, the creators crafted a specific experience that a player can have--which forces the player to act in the way they want--but the player is still given enough freedom so that actions can be slightly different every time they are performed. In this sense the avatar is the shaman to the player. The lack of freedom to zoom the camera up to a bird's eye view, or pick up any object onscreen limits the responsibility of the player to tell the relatively linear story. The choice of this story element was already selected for the player. Such as when an obstacle arises, like having to beat screaming, bleeding carousel horses until they die, the player will interpret this as an event in the character's (in this case, Heather, from Silent Hill 3) journey. In this way the user is just unveiling the story. The game is therefore created to have an effect on the player, not the other way around. This ultimately places the player in a position to be freed from their everyday life so that they can rise to a higher plain.

Next: Taking it a step further: immersion and cruelty.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Silent Hill: Simulation of Cruelty - Part 1: An Introduction to Theatre of Cruelty

Horror games have been a top selling genre of video games for over a decade. They have taught us the value of conserving ammo in a zombie outbreak, and to always leave room in your inventory for the unexpected health item or bloody rusty key. One survival horror game series, however, has tried to teach us more. The Silent Hill series has consistently pushed its players beyond normal shock and excitement. The series uses horror as a tool for an expression of an idea, instead of just thrilling its audience. In this sense, Silent Hill moves into the realm of art. Art feeds from artistic ideas of the past, and video games are no different. The Silent Hill games are an extension of the concepts found in Antonin Artaud's Theater of Cruelty, for the ultimate goal of the games is to lift the player out of reality to a place of primal forces.

Artaud developed his Theater of Cruelty in the 1930's in response to art and the declining soul of humanity. He believed that art had lost its purpose in society—that it should not be a part of any high culture, but rather used as a means for "the world of the gods" to enter in us. Totemism inspired him to look at art as a way to release forces that hasten communication with the divine. In ancient cultures, performances done by shaman were used to entrance the viewer and take them to a higher plane. He felt that the loss of these rituals in society caused great pain and destruction. To Artaud, theater could save humanity because it is "capable of recovering within ourselves those energies which ultimately create order and increase the value of life." Theater is not confined to any one language because it is based on live actions, or as he puts it, "gesture." The gesture of theater can "reverb" in a person, which allows him or her to take the attitudes behind the gesture within themselves. Each performance is unique, which allows it to recreate the natural rhythms of life, in any circumstance.

Theater of Cruelty was created so that the brutality of the world could be shown to us, so that we can see that the sky can fall. He felt that violent images gave a person the sense of the supernatural which would therefore raise us out of our culture. Take, for example, walking on the street with a group of people, and then suddenly witnessing a child getting hit by a bus. In the initial moment everyone in the group would be lifted out of their culture and everyday life, and taken to a primal place. The violent images in Theatre of Cruelty focus on the violent thought behind the act. To emphasize this: the thought and not the act will show violence's true nature, making it impossible for the audience to embrace violence or war. The thought behind the violence will be seen as useless and can therefore redirect humanity to peace.

Next: How the Silent Hill series fits in with all of this.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Invitation Only

Ever since its launch on the web, Iris Gaming Network and its in-house magazine Cerise have been charged as being separatist spaces for women gamers. What Iris actually aims for is an inclusive space. However, I want to take this opportunity to discuss some of the theory behind separatism and some of the benefits that can come from it.

To take it right from Wikipedia:
Separatism in a feminist context “suggests that the political disparities between men and women cannot be readily resolved, and encourages women to direct their energies toward other women rather than men."
Meaning that trying to solve the issues between men and women that are caused by the patriarchy is futile. Women building a support group for other women is time better spent.

Karen Mudd, writing for Off Our Backs describes separatism in the eyes of Marilyn Frye as
“various sorts or modes from men and from institutions, relationships, roles and
activities which are maledefined, male-dominated and operating for the benefit
of males and the maintenance of male privilege -- this separation [is] being
initiated or maintained, at will, by women.”

Because of patriarchy, everything in our culture privileges certain traits, that of white, straight, able, upper class men. If you do not possess these norms, you are excluded or suffer in some sort of way. Creating one’s own group effectively changes the norms and privileges of the culture that you create.

Mudd also nods to Bette Tallen, a feminist political scientist, who defines the differences between
“segregation and separatism-- the former being imposed by the dominant class,
the latter being self-imposed.” Mud goes on to say, that Tallen believed,
as a supporter of separatism, that “integration and assimilation are

Tallen views separatism as an active choice that fully rejects dominate social structures.

In gaming culture I’ve learned that I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. Rather, if I want to be seen or respected as a gamer and as a woman, I get in trouble, as in getting harassed. Yet, if I keep quiet, I get to internalize and ingest stacks of sexism (with heaping sides of racism and homophobia.)

However, if you split off into your own separate and safe space, the dominant group is still incensed. What’s going on here?

I see separatism as something that spits in the eye of patriarchy. There’s safety and revolution in numbers. When a group of people split off, they’re essentially saying that they’re rejecting the way things are. They want to create their own place with their own rules, because way things are isn’t working. Within this group, members are able to organize, solve issues, and work towards solidarity. They are powerful rather than powerless. Ideally, after some time, the group might decide to mingle with the dominate culture again, or they may not.

I realize that what I just wrote is all hypothetical. A separatist group can be successful or fail, like any other project. Also, while I do see the value in separatism, I think it has its limits. I want to take part in dominate culture. I want to be recognized, I want to have a say. I believe, essentially, that over time and with a lot of work, that it can change. That’s why I love the idea and work of Iris. Groups that focus on inclusiveness, like Iris, provide a safe space while working towards evolving dominant culture.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Requisite Backlash

Yesterday Kotaku linked to Cerise, and predictably, hostility in the comments section ensued. Check out these related and brilliant blog posts that discuss gaming communities and women:

Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities
On women-oriented gaming communities
Kotaku Commenters Prove the Necessity of a Women's Gaming Magazine

There are many issues I’d like to address that I found while wading through the comments. Some would be separatism vs. integration, using the word misogyny instead of sexism, internalized sexism, and the idea that feminist gamers are sexist i.e. anti-male and anti-female.

However, what I want to focus on today is the idea that women gamers shouldn’t have their own outlet (or magazine such as Cerise) because their numbers don’t equal that of men who game. The actual demographics of people of video games can reveal a lot about the current climate of the video game industry and culture. So who has the controller? Brace yourself for some stats.

Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins wrote in their essay “Chess for Girls? Feminism and Computer Games” that in 1999, around 35 million homes in the United States owned one video game console, which is about 30-40% of American homes. In addition to this, 10-20% of homes rented consoles or shared with their neighbors. According to the Entertainment Software Association’s 2006 Sales, Demographic and Usage Data, 69% of American heads of households play computer or video games, the average game player’s age is 33, and 38% of percent of gamers are women. In fact, gamers consist more of women that are 18 years or older (30%) than that of boys who are 17 years or younger (23%), and according to Nielsen, women make up 64% of online gamers.

When we think of the typical gamer--and this includes the commenters over at Kotaku--a white, pimpled, horny teen boy is usually called to mind, yet the stats indicate that the gaming community is more diverse. The stats regarding women gamers, especially those that reveal that there are more adult women gamers than of teenage boys, challenges our stereotypical image of a gamer.

I’m sharing these stats because I want to reiterate that there are more female gamers out there than is usually acknowledged. However, even if we don’t outnumber men, it doesn’t mean our viewpoints are less valid. We’re a demographic and that’s enough. Besides, our ranks are growing. There’s a group of us that think the culture of our hobby could be better, and we aim to make our voices heard.

More reasons for a magazine for gaming women
Zach proves why nobody doesn't like Molten Boron

Monday, May 07, 2007

Depression and Art

I’ve been enjoying Planet Karen for quite awhile now and this comic was no exception:

In fact, this comic really affected me, for a lot of reasons.

I felt prompted to say something, so I clicked over to the boards and wrote

Today's comic is heart wrenchingly beautiful. I'm going through something
similar right now. Depression is simply awful.

And Betty hit it all right on the head:

I'm really impressed that you could use that to make a comic, Karen. When I'm
like that it's usually a battle to brush my teeth. I really appreciate that you
don't flinch back from talking about mental health. I think it's a bit of a
taboo, which doesn't really help you when you're already feeling like you're
alone and isolated.
Depression is hard to discuss, and is even more difficult to capture in art. There are not enough heartfelt attempts out there, and god knows I can’t write about it. Depression is even more difficult to respond to. I was taken aback by some of the other comments in the forum that “there’s nothing beautiful about depression” (I understand the sentiment, but who was saying that it is?) and that all that depressed folks need to do is to add some omega-3 to their diets. As though, for many of us, we haven’t tried everything imaginable: drastic diet changes, yoga, St. John’s Wort, anti-depressants, therapy. I’m not saying that any of those options aren’t helpful--they are. It’s just that treating depression is a process; there’s no quick fix available. Suffering from it is hard enough, but it’s exacerbated because depression is taboo, and too often those who haven’t or aren’t dealing with it make flippant (though well meaning) comments that add insult to injury.

We need more people to unflinchingly address this issue. We need people like Karen.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Check Out Cerise #1

I've always wanted there to be a feminist gaming zine and now there is one. The first issue of Cerise is up today. The editors have done a terrific job putting it together, so make sure you take some time to check it out.

I'm also pleased to say that an article of mine is published in this issue--it appears alongside some other great pieces that look at how gender and games intersect.