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Elsa's blog

The invisibility of the older woman...
2:09 PM on 12.19.2013
Feminist Frequency and Relevance...
10:49 AM on 08.21.2013
Killing Death
10:32 AM on 08.12.2013
No means no... but sometimes it has to be said out loud.
1:22 PM on 06.25.2013
It's all about who you're sleeping with...
2:22 PM on 06.18.2013
More questions than answers...
12:08 PM on 06.12.2013

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Community Discussion: Blog by Elsa | Elsa's ProfileDestructoid
Elsa's Profile - Destructoid


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I'm 51 years old, I'm female, I'm happily married, I'm retired from the work force... and I spend way too much time gaming. I enjoy long walks on the beach, with a gun, sometimes with my husband - shooting n00bs.
I not only like to shoot people, I also enjoy cooking and crafting. Mostly I make my own armor in games like Skyrim and cook my own potions after a busy day of hacking and slashing my way through various critters, guards and bandits in most any WRPG game.

If you're into a threesome or foursome with a mature couple, then come join us - only be sure to bring a med kit. We're old, sometimes we fall down and can't get back up without some help!

PSN: Elsa
XBL: Elssa62
Playstation Gamer Advisory Panel Member (GAP)

Currently Playing:
Dragon's Dogma
Dark Souls/Demon Souls
Borderlands 2
Black Ops 2
Battlefield 3
... and occasionally Warhawk, Starhawk, or Killzone 3!

Fable: Anniversary... when I see it on sale.
(I don't currently have gold and only use my Xbox for the occasional older WRPG single player game)

iOS (iPad and iPod Touch)
mostly casual word games... I do love my word games!
My current addiction is Words with Monsters

Recent Favorites:
MAG (over 2000 hours!)
Dragon's Dogma
Portal 1&2
Sacred 2
Demon Souls/Dark Souls
Bioshock series
Elder Scrolls Series (Oblivion and Skyrim)
Fallout series
Dragon Age series
Resistance series
Killzone Series
Left 4 Dead 2
Mass Effect Series

Some blogs I wrote that I like:
Me and My Digital Dick
Fun Facts about Females
Casting Call: Chester the Skeleton
Help, Help! I'm being repressed
Girls with Guns
Guess the Gender
A Girl's Guide to FPS Gaming
Me and My Chainmail Bikini...
Adopt a Troll!
Fanboy Wars - the game!
Feminist Frequency and Relevance
Invisibility of the older woman

Promoted C-Blogs:
Undies and a Knife
He dumped me! That Bastard!
Love/Hate: Being a Girl Gamer
The Future: The Year is 2029
My Expertise: Leader of Men
The Great Escape: From Physical Pain
More than Just Noise: Boom Headshot!
2010 Sucked: Game Addiction Issues
Technical Difficulties: He teabagged me!

Email: exrecruiter.at.msn.com


Player Profile
Xbox LIVE:Elssa62
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Elsa's sites
Following (80)  

I'm currently 51 and frankly, when I hit 50... shit happened.  I stopped dying my hair only to find out that I no longer had dark brown hair, but instead when the sun hits my locks, you could be blinded from the silver reflection!   Weight started clinging on and not disappear with the normal diet and exercise.  Wrinkles... OMG... Shar Pei City (wear your sun block kids!!)  Stuff sags... I can understand the allure of face lifts now.  Hot flashes, deteriorating eyesight, some varicose veins, sore back, sore everything...  and hands that feel arthritic, cramped and painful after long gaming sessions.

Still, it's not all bad news.  There's the contentment that comes from having lived a bit of life and a certain acceptance of life, death and people that outweighs the emotional angst of the earlier years.  While it takes some adjustment that people now tend to look "through you" and see you more as background, rather than as the vibrant, more noticeable woman of your youth, there is also a certain freedom in that anonymity.  I can wear what I want and not have to worry about being age-appropriate.  I can be that "odd old lady wearing leggings" instead of "that young woman who doesn't look good in leggings".  With my newfound invisibility I can go out without make-up on, I can wear my slippers to Walmart... in fact I could probably wear leather leggings and a rhinestone bustier to Walmart and I'd still be mostly invisible.. because gray hair is like Harry Potter's invisibility cloak and while people might look, it's not at the person... but rather simply at what they're wearing.  When was the last time you really noticed an older person... really looked into their eyes, noticed their facial structure, hair cut, body shape... the same things you would notice and look at in a younger person?

Oddly, it's in the world of video games that I find myself no longer invisible.  It bothers me that in the constant controversy over the lack of female protagonists in video games, games with gender swappable or customizable protagonists seem to be dismissed out of hand and regarded as irrelevant.  The entire concept of the customizable protagonists is actually one of the most unique aspects to the medium of gaming.    Instead of pushing for more female protagonists or better male protagonists or ugly female protagonists or unconventional male protagonists, why aren't gamers pushing for more customizable protagonists?   Mass Effect is now a last generation game that managed quite easily to tell a wonderful story from both a male and female perspective.    In the campaign of Call of Duty, would it make a huge amount of difference if I played as an old white women with a gun instead of the usual 30-something white guy with a gun? Would it honestly make any difference if I was Black or Asian? Bayonetta is well known as a sexy, female protagonist, but honestly would it make any difference if she was a skinny, sexually aware male that got partially naked and posed when he battled bad guys? If I want to break the immersion of Assassin's Creed 3 and have Connor as Connie, would it really have made any difference to the plot at all?  Why can't Lara Croft be Lorne?  I haven't played the game yet, but in the recent iteration, even with the "almost rape" scene... is there really any reason she couldn't be a young male?  Why can't the choice of who the protagonist is be placed more often in the hands of gamers?

In particular I find the dismissal of "gender swappable protagonists" by feminists to be particularly reprehensible.  Video games are the only media that skipped right past feminist-based "women's studies" all the way to the more currently relevant "gender studies".  A large segment of gaming has had non-gendered protagonists (games like Zork where your gender was never specified) all the way to the customizable protagonist where you can be a burly halbert wielding woman or a slender, long haired effeminate male mage in a dress casting buffing spells from a safe distance.  Gaming is the only media to offer choice, not just in terms of gender... but also the gender role.  Rather than dismissing this aspect of gaming as irrelevant, we should be celebrating gaming as being far ahead of it's time in allowing such incredible flexibility regarding gender roles.  Games like Ultima, Phantasy Star, RuneQuest and others allowed for independent, powerful female characters long before Xena or Buffy became feminist icons.  Even today, video games continue to expand on gender roles far more than most other forms of media.

Now I realize that the technology isn't quite there yet to allow us the option of gender-swappable protagonists in all games.  It still costs a fair bit of money to integrate the option of a customizable character and developers may still be resistant to this concept because it does have an impact on the story...  but one of the primary differences between interactive media like video games and movies or books is that gamers CAN have an impact on the story, and in my belief, they should.  Video games are our stories, and don't have to be the developer's story.  Developers (and gamers) need to let go of the mindset that games should tell stories like books or movies, they're not.  Why would we even want video games to simply emulate another form of existing media? Why wouldn't we want games to be truly something different and special?  The stories told in video games simply need to be more innovative and address the special needs of gaming.  Great stories can still be told, but maybe in gaming we need to tell those great stories about the secondary characters, rather than from the point of view of the protagonist.  Maybe developers have to trust that we can create our own great stories and give more control over to gamers.  Maybe all of us need to look at gaming differently.

I'm not advocating that all games need customizable protagonists, but what I am advocating is for gamers themselves to quit dismissing the concept of customizable characters as "irrelevant" in discussions regarding gaming protagonists and great gaming characters.  I'm sorry... but Elsa, my gray haired, older female protagonist who uses her daggers in Dragon's Dogma, and who has a young female Duchess fall in love with her (and move in to her house) and has an older, gray haired male mage companion who heals her during battles... this non-invisible, heroic old white-haired lady is far more interesting than any generic Booker or Connor or Cloud.  My gray haired older lady wandering the post-apocalyptic world of New Vegas with the lovelorn Boone and a dog as my only companions created a story based on friendship instead of romance... a story many devs might not think of telling.  In the world of video games, my gray hair and age doesn't hold me back... it makes me wise and battle hardened.  We live in a society where it's ok for men to become old.  Snake, Sam Fisher, Ezio, Max Payne... they all got older with a few gray hairs... but Lara Croft - she got younger.  In video games, I'm NOT always invisible and I also realize that for many other people... they too have the opportunity to suddenly be heroes or heroines and be visible in at least a virtual world.  We don't often see racially diverse protagonists, or fat protagonists or non-gender defined protagonists, or trans-protagonists, or mixed race protagonists or handicapped or scarred protagonists... but this IS possible in video games with protagonists we can create ourselves.

The stories to be told can be more personal and can actually make us think in different ways about reality.  My current reality is dealing with a situation where an elderly man is being physically, emotionally and financially abused by his elderly girlfriend, but almost ALL of the partner abuse information available is specific to women who are abused by men.  It's extremely frustrating to be dealing with a issue where a woman is physically stronger than her aged and ill boyfriend and is able to actually physically and emotionally abuse and control him.  I won't go into details, but this is an exhausting, emotional issue that has evolved into a medical and legal issue.  My point of this brief tale is that video games are the one unique medium where these individual stories can be told.  Abuse is abuse and yet our society almost always sees it as a gender issue of male violence against female victims.  The story is really the same, it's about control.  Physical abuse include hitting, slapping, throwing objects that injure, strangling, restraining, etc.  Emotional abuse includes using fear tactics of suicide or murder, of isolation from family and friends, of making people think it's their fault if they are hit or verbally abused.  Financial abuse includes living off of someone else's income while your own income is used only for yourself.  It includes taking money from them and buying things they don't want.  It includes using their credit cards or selling their stuff without their permission and it involves making them think it's their fault when there is no money.  The stories are the same... but the never-acknowledged reality is that women abuse men, men abuse their same-sex partners and lesbian couples can be quite capable of having an abusive relationship.  Video games have the ability to tell these stories with gender swappable characters, with minor script changes... because regardless of gender, or age or race... the stories are the same.  Maybe after playing such a game, we won't laugh when we see the oft-used movie trope of the wife taking the husband's paycheck and running down to Macy's to buy new clothes.  Maybe we'll be more inclined to look more closely at our gay friend who is involved in a relationship and never sees any of his old friends anymore... and seems fearful and has bruises that he says are from playing sports.  Maybe we'll even look differently at our own actions after playing such a game from varying viewpoints.

Video games have the potential to be more... because of gender swappable characters, not in spite of them.  They have the potential to make the invisible, more visible. While women are usually the victims of rape or abuse by men, they are not the only victims, but these other victims remain invisible. Race, gender, age, weight, sexual orientation... the customizable protagonist opens a world of opportunities for marginalized people to become heroes and for very different types of stories to be told and I think that both gamers and developers need to allow us, the gamers, to be able to tell those stories.  I want to be a gray haired older female protagonist wearing age-inappropriate sexy armour in my heroic stories, even if the reality is that I could probably barely lift a two handed hammer, and that chainmail bikini top couldn't really hold my saggy boobs... because video games don't have to tell stories based in reality, but instead can tell the incredibly unique stories of who we want to be and they can reflect different visions of how our culture and society could be more open.  Customizable protagonists or characters are not irrelevant to video game stories, plots or issues... and gamers themselves need to quit pretending that they are.  As I've said before, it would be wonderful to live in a world where "choice of gender does not affect gameplay".  Video games are so far ahead of the curve that it's just now that our popular culture is even considering the concept that gender can in fact be a "choice".  The random sex we are born with shouldn't determine our gender nor our pre-determined roles in society.   Again, not all games need to have customizable protagonists or characters... but maybe more should, and maybe we gamers need to quit dismissing this wonderfully unique aspect of video games and instead celebrate it.
Photo Photo Photo

So, Anita Sarkeesian has completed her "Damsel in Distress" trilogy.  In the first video, she introduced the trope and gave some historical background to it.  She spoke of how the male rescuer was the subject and the woman was object and that this was a form of objectification of women, where woman was reduced to a prize, treasure or goal - essentially a damsel-ball fought over by men, where the female is presented as fundamentally weak, reduced to a state of victim.

In the second video, she divided the trope down into various sub-categories like the "women in refrigerators" (essentially your wife is murdered and you have to rescue your child or her soul) and the "euthanized damsel" (where the damsel must be killed).  She further related the euthanized damsel, where the woman is often transformed, cursed, badly injured and begs for you to kill her, to domestic violence. Specifically that when men kill women, these abusive men often state that their female targets deserved it, wanted it, or were asking for it.  I find this  allusion to be rather forced, because up until the moment the male hero is asked to kill the woman, he is not the one to have inflicted the violence on her that results in her request to die - this is done by the "bad guy".  

To conclude her "Damsel in Distress" trilogy of videos, Ms. Sarkeesian presented some examples of the "dude in distress", which she dismissed as irrelevant because it's not as commonly used, and because the occasional helpless male character does not perpetuate any form of stereotype about men being weak and in need of rescue.  We need to think beyond the cliche altogether and that humorous or satiric views of this old trope were a sexist parody, rather than a parody of the sexism.  She then presented her own game concept that would be a "true subversion of the trope".  The captured damsel gets tired of being imprisoned, she frees herself from her cell, acquires a more practical outfit, some weapons, and she escapes the castle.  After her escape, she levels up her skills (with an emphasis on stealth) and saves the Kingdom. 

he problem with this game concept is:

Dark Souls:  Your female character starts out locked in a dungeon... though the key is also in there with you (thank goodness).  You of course find a variety of low level weapons or armor as you make your escape from the dungeon area.

Kingdoms of Amalur:  Your female character starts the game dead... in an underground dungeon that is under attack.  You come back from the dead and must escape the dungeon and as you do so, you find new equipment, armor and learn about your skills.  In trying to find out who killed you, you find out that you are the "fateless one",  the only woman capable of saving the world from a terrible evil. 

Oblivion: You, as a female, begin the game in a dungeon, and when King Jean Luc Picard needs to escape the castle through a secret door in your cell, you are given the opportunity to escape the dungeon.  You acquire weapons and armor as you escape.  Soon you find you are the only one capable of saving the kingdom from Evil.

Fallout 3: Your female vault dweller get to spend a bit of time growing up and experiencing "the vault" before the evil paranoid Overseer sends his forces after you ... and once again, you must escape the vault to begin the main part of the game where you go out into the world in a search for your father, and along the way make decisions that influence the world order.

Baldur's Gate 2: Your female avatar begins the game in a cage being held prisoner in Irenicus' dungeon.  You free yourself and proceed to free other prisoners from their cages too.  You make your escape from the dungeon with your newly formed party of male and female former prisoners.  Yes, you will get better armor and weapons and eventually save the world.

Skyrim: A dragon attack on the prison allows your female prisoner the opportunity to escape... and yes, you acquire weapons, armor, skills... in order to save the Kingdom.
(and these are just the games I've personally played and happen to remember off the top of my head!)

Being a woman I've often played game genres where I can choose to play as my own gender.  This game that Ms. Sarkeesian has unfortunately suggested is a plot trope that has been used over and over and over again in most WRPG games where at some point in the game (often the beginning or sometimes during the game if you commit a crime) you will be imprisoned, you will not have any of your "stuff" and you will have to escape and acquire or re-acquire your armor and weapons.  You then level up and eventually save the Kingdom.  This plot trope is as old in gaming as the "damsel in distress" trope.  Ms. Sarkeesian has merely suggested replacing one trope with another trope.  The unfortunate choice of worn out plot trope she has suggested  is the exact game that most gamers who choose to play as female characters have already been playing since WRPG games were invented.

... so, a plea to developers, please don't make her game.  I truly am tired of starting games as a captured woman who has to escape while acquiring better amour and weapons so that I can have adventures that make me stronger so that I can save the Kingdom.  Can't I start the game as an orphan who's village has been destroyed, and in my quest to discover the vile evil-doer that destroyed my village I discover I"m the gifted offspring of nobles, and the only one with a special power that allows me to save the Kingdom?  Wait... yeah, that one might not be such a good idea either.   :)

I'm not sure if Ms. Sarkeesian is unfamiliar with gaming as a whole, or if she is just unfamiliar with WRPG games in specific... but if her main interest is female protagonists I'm rather aghast that she seems so unfamiliar with one of the few genres of gaming where there is almost always the option to play as a female (fighter games being one of the other options).  I'm also a bit upset that her game plot suggestion is the very same plot most female gamers are already playing. What she seems to prove more than anything else with this game suggestion is that character gender really doesn't matter because her suggested plot is a trope that has been used in games with gender swappable protagonists for a long time now.  Possibly she thought that by emphasizing the "stealth" option that she was getting away from her own perception that violence is a more male attribute.  The problem is that with most WRPG games, male OR female characters can usually choose a rogue/stealth class, a mage/healer class or a tank/warrior class.   The stealth and mage classes are less violent options than the more direct warrior class, and again it's rare to see classes restricted by gender (though some early games did do this and the female character was almost always a stealth or mage class).  In Dragon's Dogma, the WRPG game I'm currently playing, my own class is a more assertive class where I can wield my knives and get in very close for the kill.  My main pawn (an NPC character we create) is a male mage - who only uses support magic and can only heal, buff or de-buff but has almost no attack abilities.  Gender roles are quite flexible in games... if one chooses to look for the many games that allow for this, instead of the many games that support more sexist narrative.

With each successive video, Anita Sarkeesian seems to lose relevance.  She doesn't seem to understand gaming as an industry as was illustrated after the Xbox E3 presentation when she tweeted about the lack of female protagonist  and then of course spoke about the backlash and how "this is what it’s like to be a female video game critic on twitter".  No, this is what it's like to be so narrowly focused on feminism, that you don't understand the dramatic importance of what Microsoft announced at E3.   The Xbox One E3 conference presented gamers with a console that was higher priced than expected, had restrictive DRM that required an internet connection and did away with retail games to go almost entirely digital.  An always-on Kinect was no longer a peripheral, but part of the system and then of course there was the issue of the perceived "rape joke"... yet her concern was the lack of female protagonists shown?   What she did was the equivalent of seeing a news bite about a bombing at a military base and initial reports of 20 men being killed and her asking if any women were injured.  Yes, it might be a valid question, but in the context of the greater tragedy, it seems rather thoughtless and unconsidered.

She presented the "damsel in distress" trope as a negative in an academic, pedagogic sense, but seems only able to tangentially connect the trope to real world behavior, statistics, studies or issues and doesn't seem able to adequately express the negativity of the trope in a way that makes it truly relevant - essentially she is facing the same issue of those that feel the violence in video games make people more violent.  There is simply no conclusive evidence either way that video game violence affects real life behavior, and likewise there is no proof that sexism in games makes people more sexist.   Her "subversion of the trope" and game suggestion is unfortunately a trope that is just as tired and worn out as the trope it is replacing, and particularly for female gamers that already play as female characters in video games, her suggestion is one of the few plot mechanics that we've become rather tired of playing.

What bothers me the most though is that she has approached the entire trope from a negative viewpoint and seems unable to see the positive aspects of this trope.  From a feminist perspective, the trope of rescuing the "damsel in distress" can also be viewed in the same way as the current world wide "Ring the Bell" program is viewed.  The program seeks to engage men in an effort stop violence against women.  In it's simplest terms, the program asks men not to ignore a damsel in distress, or to assume that she will escape on her own, but rather than men should (in the words of Ban Kee-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations)

"Break the Silence.  When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act."

Now the recommendation isn't that men seek out the abuser and kill him in a massive boss battle, rather that they simply try to intercede.  If they hear a woman screaming for help next door, that maybe they shouldn't simply close their windows and turn up the TV... but rather they should go next door and "ring the bell".  They needn't do anything more than ask the time, but the interruption and knowledge that others are watching may be enough to temporarily stop the violence and even allow the woman to escape.   Unlike video games, the "hero" may not have to go through many battles and tribulations to help the damsel, but rather it could be as simple as what an ordinary man with a rather questionable past in Cleveland did.  When he heard a woman screaming for help, he didn't turn away, but investigated. He then helped smash in the door so that she and her child could escape.   The woman turned out to be  Amanda Berry, a woman who had been kidnapped 10 years ago.  Essentially, the Ring the Bell or One Million Men, One Million Promises campaign is not all that dissimilar to the basic lesson of the "damsel in distress" trope in video games -  a hero is the one who doesn't hurt women and doesn't turn away from a woman's cries for help.... and that the bad men who do hurt women should see justice through our legal system.

While Sarkeesian is right that this trope may promote an image that women are disempowered and unable to help themselves, the reality is that the Ring the Bell Program has been extremely successful in India and has since spread to other Countries.  Console video games have always had a primarily male audience (though this is starting to change) and a message aimed at men is exactly what many Violence against Women programs are now using as an effective tool.  These programs have a simple message - if a damsel is in distress - help her!  Violence against women is wrong and we are all responsible for ending it.  The trope additionally reinforces that bad people are the one's who kidnap or do harm to the damsel, the good people are the one's doing the rescuing or helping.  I don't necessarily see this as entirely bad, and the fact is that many feminist organizations do now support programs with a similar message that seek to engage men as partners in stopping violence against women through education and action.

 "The focus of bystander intervention programs is to provide the majority of men who are uncomfortable with these men's behavior with the permission and skills to confront them.   Bystander interventions move beyond empathy and individual change to make men responsible for changing the larger environment of how men relate to each other and to women.   This can change the peer culture that fosters and tolerates men's violence." 


Now of course, this positive feminist spin on the trope isn't any more "right" than Ms. Sarkeesian's view.  They are simply different perspectives, which brings me to the question, "is Feminist Frequency and the Tropes vs Women in Gaming relevant?"  Perhaps surprisingly, my answer is yes.  Ms. Sarkeesian seems to lack a knowledge of the broader spectrum of games and the gaming industry, and her form of feminism is even debatable within today's much more diverse forms of feminism, however, gaming is massive and it's nearly impossible for anyone to be familiar with all of gaming, and feminism is constantly changing with so many varying philosophies, that it would be very difficult to represent them all (particularly as there are so many opposing philosophies).   What she has succeeded in doing is creating intelligent conversation and debate in the gamer community and industry by picking examples from gaming that represent a fairly "feminism 101" academic liberal feminism based on patriarchal theory, rather than some of the more diverse forms of feminism.  The very fact that her views are quite narrow and one-sided have been a catalyst for debate and discussion, and with her Degree in Communications,  she may even be aware that bias and opinion evokes controversy more so than a dry analysis filled with facts and statistics that are more difficult to debate than opinion.  I just hope that developers are listening to all the voices out there and are realizing that no one perspective is right or wrong, rather that gaming simply needs more variety and should be more inclusive.  I also hope that the mainstream press starts to see these other voices.  Unfortunately, the mainstream press has not focused at all on what Ms. Sarkeesian has to say regarding video games, but instead is entirely focused on the harassment that she highlights with her many blogs that cherry pick the vile, sexist comments, while she never addresses and actively hides the more intelligent, well informed, reasonable comments.  Unfortunately her mainstream fame is based more on her status as a victim rather than the validity of her work, and the mainstream press uses this to perpetuate an image that games and gaming are not welcoming to all women, which is simply untrue. 

The next topic that Ms. Sarkeesian is to tackle in her Tropes Vs Women in Gaming series is the "fighting f*cktoy" - which should be interesting because of her previously expressed dislike for sex positive feminism, her dislike of Bayonetta (who some feminists see as a positive figure) and specifically her dislike of the "slutwalk" concept.    We'll probably have to wait several months... but once again, I'm sure her views will be a catalyst for interesting conversation!  I have to say on a personal note that I always considered myself a feminist before Ms. Sarkeesian gained fame and with her came the "all women are victims" and "gaming is sexist" messages.  This upset me greatly and was contrary to my own beliefs and experiences, but it did encourage me to look at feminism and what it has become since my own youth many years ago.  The diversity of philosophies is confusing and maddening, but it's also heartening for me to see things like intersectional feminism, the rise of "Gender Studies" rather than "Women's Studies", gay marriage being legalized, and more recently a third gender being officially recognized in Countries such as Germany.  I hope that eventually society may look back at gaming not as the sexist oppression of women, but rather as being ahead of it's time by having gender swappable characters, by having simple stories that aren't inherently male or female, by even having a "gender slider" in games like Saint's Row.  Since the earliest games we've all seen that message... the one that reads:
"your choice of gender will not affect gameplay".  

Wouldn't it indeed be a wonderful world if every child was born with that message.  Maybe gaming truly is just ahead of it's time and possibly this is the better social lesson to be learned from video games... because sometimes a story, is just a story.

(and as reference for anyone interested... this is an earlier blog regarding my hopes for her Damsel in Distress series before it premiered: Damsel in Distress.... )
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10:32 AM on 08.12.2013

We're currently going through a family crisis.  My father-in-law is 80 and has had a brain hemorrhage.  My husband immediately flew out to be with his father and after 10 days, he's finally back home now. It's been several weeks of tiny steps forward, small slides backward... but the one constant companion on this journey is Death.  Whether it's a day from now, a week from now, or many years off... the Specter of Death has made it's presence known.  Whether my father-in-law lives or dies, it's possibly going to be a heartbreakingly long road with many hills and valleys.  In video games, it's rare that we get to see this long road.  Death in video games is usually fast.  There are deaths in games that affect us... where we mourn the loss of a character we came to like, but rarely do they end up in a hospital where we sit by their bedside or get constant calls updating us as to their condition.  We don't put our virtual lives on hold to attend to their condition, their finances, their situation.  We don't get to see them as weak or broken people... so much less than they once were, with only the vague possibilities that they could recover and again be that strong companion traveling the open road with us, that they might end up with life altering disabilities, that we might have to make a life or death decision, or that they could simply pass away suddenly one night after lingering from their injuries or illness for a time.  Games like Mass Effect touched on these issues when Kaiden was in the hospital recovering from his injuries, and with the terminal illness of Thane Krios... but we weren't asked if we wanted to go into debt and pay $1000 credits to take unpaid time off from saving the world and for travel expenses to be with them during this time of crisis.  We didn't have to do our daily battles with constant phone calls regarding updates of their condition, perpetually reminding us of the life and death struggle that we have no control over.  We didn't have to see the constant stress on their immediate loved ones or family as the patient went through these high and low points, while waiting out some form of resolution, with a constantly changing prognosis.

Some indie games like   That Dragon: Cancer are now starting to deal more specifically with these issues, but in all reality, I don't think I want mainstream games to do so.  Mainstream gaming for me is is an escape.  TV is filled with slow, painful deaths, it's filled with women's issues like rape, abuse and their gruesome murder.  Most of the cop, forensic, detective, hospital, drama shows - they slap us in the face with variations of reality.  Racism, feminism, poverty, LBGT issues, death, illness, addiction, depression... these issues often creep up on us in TV dramas with no "trigger warning" that we'll be seeing a hazy mirror reflection of a painful reality in our own current lives.  In mainstream gaming we can generally evade this unpredictability.

There has been a lot of criticism of mainstream gaming as being bland, that the plots are simplistic and they don't deal with various important very real life issues.  The current negativity often makes me feel like a bad gamer for even liking mainstream games.  What is a "mainstream" game though?  Generally it's a product with a large budget, financed by a large publisher, made to appeal to as large a demographic as possible.  They're designed as a product, not a social commentary, and they're not usually designed to make us think too much, so instead they tend to rely on well known, predictable story tropes with the emphasis usually being more on gameplay.  Yes, the protagonists are "vanilla" because they are meant to appeal to the largest possible demographic, which for console gaming is still straight, white men, who apparently don't have issues or "isms" that might remind us of real world issues we face.   Developers are gradually realizing that even straight white men get tired of playing as straight, white men... so we are gradually seeing more varied protagonists being used, but even then, they tend to be pretty bland, forgettable characters so that the broad spectrum of gamers is better able to identify with them (Connor of AC3 was a Native American... but substituting a straight, white male would have made almost no difference in the game).  The main characteristic of video game characters in most AAA games is that they are stereotyped fantasy, and really, there's nothing wrong with this. Their blandness is escapism.  One of the most unique aspects of gaming is that it's much more about the gamer than the protagonist, otherwise gaming would be no different than a book or movie.  Moreso than any other media, we are the heroes of the stories, and the stories are usually placed well out of our current reality and we are stopping nuclear wars, saving the world, or simply rescuing some distant damsel in distress in such a classic trope that it bears little resemblance to real life.

I'm currently playing Dragon's Dogma, which at first glance seems a generic fantasy laden, Skyrim-esque game where you slay big critters and level up, while of course ridding the world of a great evil.  The protagonist is so bland that they can be male or female and it makes no difference.  Like any game though, there are depths if you care to see them.  You are introduced to Death by it's sudden appearance.  There is little warning and suddenly Death is just "there".  It's just like real life, appearing while you're doing other things, like slaying that huge pesky dragon or a fire breathing pack of hellhounds (yeah, I do this all the time in real life!) Suddenly the game becomes chaotic and priorities change.  That dragon that a moment ago was the most important thing, is now a footnote and something to simply be avoided while you face the bigger enemy of Death... though that job of killing that dragon is still there, complicating things! The job of looking after your pawns is also still there, so while you're battling Death and a Dragon, you are also trying to protect your party members and keep them out of harm's way and attend to their needs.  Death is massively huge, floating through the air, and it is truly terrifying as it seeks you out with it's lantern or suddenly disappears then reappears behind you.  When you first meet death it's a memorable and terrifying experience.

Death's most potent weapon is it's ability to cast sleep... and while you're in that vulnerable state, it can strike with it's scythe, which can instantly kill you or your party members.  You can run away, and even complete the game while running from Death every time it comes calling....but Death will keep appearing in your life for so long as you continue to remain in Bitterblack Isle.  You can stay and fight death, but as my pawns are overly-fond of saying "death can not be slain in one go".  My pawns are right, death isn't like in most video games... one single battle with a winner and a loser.  No, Death is instead a series of battles that randomly occur to interrupt your daily digital life. The specter of Death appearing at any nearly any moment is constantly there.  I've finally killed Death... but Death has respawned and returned once more.  Death is like that.  You can win the battles, and even eventually win the war... but Death is always there, somewhere, just patiently waiting to make it's appearance once more.  However, each time I face Death I learn more about it, and I fear it less.  Each encounter teaches me better how to deal with it's appearance, that it can be successfully fought and battles can be won... but that it's a very long war and Death is a persistent and unpredictable foe.

The blandness and lack of character development, of story, of real life issues in mainstream gaming allows us either blissful escape or it allows us to see what we want to see.  If we view games seeking to find sexism, or racism or ageism, or homophobia...we'll find those things.   We can also simply seek the beauty and uniqueness in in the escape that gaming can provide.  Even when playing Dragon's Dogma and battling Death, I didn't see the allusions to my real life situation until later, after the game was turned off and I was thinking back on it through the lens of my current reality.

While some may think that they are clever for seeing and pointing out the sexism or racism or other isms in mainstream gaming, the reality is that sometimes a game is just a game and they are seeing things they want to see that are a reflection of their own interests, circumstances or personal realities.... just as I saw Death as more than simply being a boss battle and saw allusions to my current life.  It's an interesting perspective I'm sure, but the reality is that it's not a defining perspective. Mainstream games are like clouds.  You can lie on your back and observe them and there is really nothing there... but your own mind will often create shapes and visions out of the very nebulous shapes of those clouds to reflect your own reality.

Generic characters, created to reflect my own reality of my husband and I.

We can protest that mainstream games are the death of gaming.  They have no depth, no real characters, no real plot.  We can try to kill them by citing all the obvious tropes and lack of real world issues and lack of representation.  However the reality is that, as most gamers already know, these games exist for a reason.  Gaming is one of the purest forms of escapism because of it's interactive nature and it's focus on gameplay over everything else.  When the actual interactivity of Mario jumping, or shooting at an opposing player occupies our mind; when the fantastical saving the world story or perfect, innocuous characters in games are so far removed from out daily lives that they provide us with a total escape.  Many of the more recent best selling video games include Call of Duty, Halo, Assassin's Creed, Madden, Mario.  These are all games where the mechanics of gameplay far overshadow any social messages, where the characters are bland, where the plots are forgettable or even non-existent, where the gamer can seek a blissful escape from reality.  Other media like books, movies, TV shows have to reflect reality because they are passive rather than interactive.  The most unique quality to games is the interactive nature of gameplay.  Remove the gameplay and yes, you have to substitute plot and character development in order to have a viable product, but games... the wonder of games is how they can totally remove you from current reality through the simple process of hitting buttons and spending large amounts of time trying to simply "win".  Our mind is totally occupied by preparation, strategies, timing, reactions.  


To a large degree we see what we want to see in games.  Better stories, more developed characters... this removes the nebulous clouds, replacing them with sky writing... telling us exactly what we are supposed to see.  It removes the generic escapism inherent to so many larger mainstream games.  Mainstream games aren't the "Death" of gaming... they're the lifeblood of gaming and prioritize the interactive nature of the gameplay over everything else.  You can try to kill Death... but like Dragon's Dogma and like real life, it will always be there, because escapism is part of life, something that needs to be there.  On behalf of my fellow sheeple that love the generic, trope-filled, mindless plots... that love that male and female characters are so bland they can usually be gender swapped, that love the unreality of gaming - don't hate us!  There are lots of games out there... but there's a reason that these generic, escapist games are so popular.  We're just more accepting that you can't ever truly kill Death, because much as Death might be seen as evil, there's a beauty there too.  We need to have escapism - where we can see what we need to see... or not.

... and now I'm off to go kill the two firedrakes in the Everfall for a Bitterblack Isle quest I'm doing.  I've lost this battle several times and it would make a boring movie, but it's an incredibly exciting battle and it's in an area where Death doesn't come calling.  I think my lady Archer might have to switch to the Assassin class and try poison to weaken the dragons... and maybe I'll have to bring some mages with ice powers in addition to my party member who looks just like my husband who is a healer class. I'll have to go through my inventory to find some fire resistant rings and armor and carry some strength-enhancing items... and crap... it's a phone call... hopefully letting me know how my father in law's brain shunt surgery went today.  Real life sucks.
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This started as a response to Glowbear's excellent blog recapping some recent events at E3, but it grew far too long, and I've never been concise... so I'll put my huge ramble here in my own blog, but please read her blog FIRST (and comment on her blog!).

I've personally never had any issues either at any conventions or gaming events... but then again, I'm a 51 year old woman. (and I also don't mind enthusiastic hugs from Dtoid people that I'm meeting for the first time... so don't anybody worry about sexual harassment if you want to hug me at PAX this year!... and likewise, please don't call the cops on me if I give you a hug!).

This type of harassment isn't "common" at American or Canadian conventions, but yes, it does occur -at any large gathering of men and women, particularly at events that are part social, part business.  

There is another side to this issue and one that feminist seem to refuse to address.  Times are changing.... but exactly how DOES a man or woman signal their interest in wanting sex or sexual interest.  Contrary to common thought, there are women that actually do like men.  They want to date them, have drinks with them, be touched by them, and in some cases have sex with them.  Dressing provocatively is no longer a signal, waving to a strange man across a room is no longer a signal.  What exactly is the signal.  Is it now up to women to directly approach men and touch them first?  Is a touch on the arm from a woman even still a signal of sexual interest?  If a woman is drunk (and this is in reference to several cases in Canada) and does express interest through touching and even getting naked with the man... does her alcohol content negate all of those signals (and for men who aren't aware...yes, yes it probably does... get her number, back off, leave and call her the next day).

Much of feminism has come to the point where it's almost assumed that women have no interest in having sex with men.  The current message is that in social situations it's simply inappropriate for men to show sexual interest in a woman... and that's simply not realistic.  If the rules have changed then men have to be aware that the rules have changed, and more importantly... they have to be told what the new rules are (because men are stupid).  Men are aware of the new rules in the workplace... but conventions and events are often a mix of both work and social.

Is it not up to women to inform men of these new rules? (who else is going to do this).  After every convention there is talk of these sexual assaults and approaches ...and in almost every case the women feels "powerless" to do anything when the man brushes their boob or touches their shoulders or caresses their arm, or says they like their hair... or whatever awful approach the man has used to try and elicit interest from the woman (big huge hint to the guys... learn patience, ask her politely if she'd like to go for coffee sometime and give her your number).

I'm sorry to harp back to my youth... but there used to be women's self defense classes.  We became responsible for our own safety and instead of feeling "powerless" we felt empowered.  It's not "victim blaming" to say that a woman's who's shoulders are being rubbed by a stranger should say something and back away instead of being paralyzed by fear.  The current women's movement has become so focused on blaming men that they have made women into perpetual victims with no agency and we have become the very "objects acted upon" that radical feminists keep harping about... in large part because we no longer even see ourselves as subjects capable of action.

For women:

1.  Look in the mirror and practice saying very loudly "that's inappropriate" or simply "no". 

2. If any incident occurs, once you've said your "that's inappropriate", report the incident either to convention staff or to the harasser's employers.  At the very least they'll likely end up enrolled in a corporate sexual harassment seminar where they might learn something (and at best, like the security guard, they may end up fired). This applies to both unwanted advances as well as to inappropriate comments.  If someone asks a woman "do you actually play games?" - report it!  Talk to their employer.

3.  If you do want sex or sexual attention, it's not appropriate at any sort of business function, whatsoever, period - for men or women.  Women need to be told this, just as much as men need to be told this.  If the function itself is NOT directly business related, then women are going to have to do what men have always done... approach the man, make conversation, touch him, make intentions clear... and suffer rejection if it happens.  The rules have changed.  Women can't expect men to approach them sexually if we are going to call this harassment.  If we expect men to change their behavior, then we have to change our own behavior.  It's unrealistic to expect that men and women don't want to have sex with each other and current feminism NEEDS to recognize this and accommodate it in some way, rather than continually blaming men and victimizing ourselves.  "Equality" used to mean that men could approach women OR women could approach men in a sexual manner, but this apparently isn't working any more.  If the rules have changed, then we all need to know the new rules.  I remember the "no means no" campaign to stop date rape... but we as women need to incorporate this into our daily lives.  We need to say "No"  I was not talking to you, go away.  "No" don't ask me if I'm a gamer, I'm at a gaming convention you idiot.  "No" I'm not scared to speak up, because I'm not a victim, I'm a person.  We need to be empowered to do this in both business situations and social situations.

4.  Before women write a blog about that terrible incident at E3 or PAX where they were harassed, ask what is the purpose in writing your blog?  Is it to gain sympathy as yet another victim of male objectification and the patriarchy that oppresses women so that women can collectively get outraged and angered about how men act? ... and then do nothing but complain about the misogyny and sexism of the entire industry based on the isolated actions of a few jerks?
Are you offering anything, anything at all to the conversation aside from being a powerless victim of unwanted male attention? The "dongle incident" could have been entirely different if she had approached the incident from a viewpoint of true equality.  The issue was that private conversations that are overheard at work events can sometimes evoke discomfort on the part of unintentional eavesdroppers.  The males talking among themselves made a dongle joke... but men OR women at a work event should be aware that private discussions at a public venue should not include sexual jokes or comments of any nature because they can be overheard (so yeah, women making a comment about the buff water boy.... you too need to be aware that a male co-worker overhearing this conversation could be made to feel uncomfortable).  In regard to the security guard incident, was the woman celebrating the fact that this man approached her through a misunderstanding, acted inappropriately and was then fired because of his actions... or was the bias that we are helpless as women and this is yet another example of men being sexist and we are powerless to stop it.  When women write about these incidents, we have to offer more than "this happened", it's evidence that the entire industry is sexist against women.

My views are likely not popular, but again, I'll reiterate that I"m 51 years old and grew up in a feminist era of "I CAN".  It saddens me to see the current feminist rhetoric of "I CAN'T" - because I'm a victim of the male patriarchy, of sexism, of intersectionality, of misogyny.  Sheryl Sandberg recently wrote a book called "Lean In" that advocates women empower themselves to achieve business success... and she has met with criticism from feminists who accuse her of being a white, rich female and therefore has too much privilege to be a feminist... because women are victims in current feminist rhetoric and Sandberg isn't a victim.  The thing is, she doesn't have to speak for all women... she is speaking for herself and what she achieved and encouraging women to simply be more assertive in pursuing business success.  She doesn't have to speak for feminists that want the right to be stay at home mom's and advocate for better maternity leave rights, for part-time work with benefits.  She doesn't have to advocate for feminists who are prostitutes and want legalized prostitution so that they are given better protections and respect.  She doesn't have to advocate for black, single working moms who experience an entirely different form of oppression and discrimination than rich white women. She is simply offering her own advice, based on her own experiences, for some women that might benefit from this.  NO woman can speak to the broad philosophies of feminism out there.

This isn't a feminism that I personally support... but the fact is that feminism has more than one face
(and bare breasted picture was fixed for Phil who pointed out that "real" boobies might not be acceptable... though personally I don't get the big deal... but then again, I have boobies - they're not the big mystery that they apparently are to men... though yeah, we have to think about the children!!!).  :)

Frankly, feminism has become too sexist.  The current rhetoric of feminism is no different than before feminism came along and men told women we were too stupid to vote, our place was in the kitchen, and not to dress like whores.  Now it's some feminists themselves who tell us that our place is in the workforce, we have to vote for (or support) parties or people that advocate for women's rights, and that we shouldn't dress like whores.  I thought equality was about choice... about not being told what to think or do.... by anyone, men OR women.  I thought it was about being treated as an individual, not as a gender.

I CAN.  I want positive change for women in gaming.  We need to quit blaming men and the patriarchy, quit being victims and and look at the "real" issues.  We need to recognize that many of these issues are not feminist issues... they are gaming issues (voice chat harassment, lack of diversity in protagonists, lack of originality in story telling, etc, etc... these are not just feminist issues and making them into feminist issues derails the conversation from finding real solutions.).    We need to recognize that female does NOT equal feminist and that there are many varieties of feminism.  Some women like wearing chainmail bikinis in the occasional game and celebrating their female sexuality while prancing through the countryside battling pixelated, imaginary creatures... it can feel empowering in the fantasy setting of a game.  The focus should be on attire options... not eradicating attire some sex-negative feminists find "objectifying".  We need to redefine how men AND women should act at gaming events or conventions.... rather than simply write off an entire industry as sexist because of the actions of a few idiots.  We need to focus on positive change, not negative blame or victimization.

I am woman. Hear me roar.... but more than that... I am a gamer.  I want to see gaming get better for everybody.  I certainly don't have all the answers, I barely know the questions, but I do know that when a woman is paralyzed by fear because a man is rubbing her shoulders at a public event... there's something very wrong. Cultural change is the responsibility of men AND women. I want to feel empowered as a PERSON, not disempowered by men... and feminist rhetoric.

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Possible spoilers for the Mass Effect trilogy ahead... proceed at your own risk!

I've mentioned it before, but I seem to have the worst luck when it comes to video game romances.  I dumped Anomen the wimp in Baldur's Gate 2. In Dragon Age: Origins, Alistair dumped me after becoming King.  In Dragon Age 2, Anders the psychotic possessed Mage wanted me bad... but I didn't want a psychotic, schizophrenic boyfriend, and instead decided I wanted Fenris, the skinny little emo Elf boy.  Fenris liked me... but apparently not in that special getting-naked kinda way, and he just wanted to be friends.  I finished both Dragon Age games to the tune of the Rolling Stones song "satisfaction" as in "I can't get no".  In Dragon's Dogma I ended up in a lesbian relationship with a pre-pubescent Duchess, and in games like Fable and Skyrim, I just grabbed any character who wasn't totally visually repugnant (which was a quest in itself) as my spouse.  While virtual romance may have eluded me, at least I wasn't lonely and I got to know many of these characters well enough that their disinterest in sleeping with me was a little annoying (especially given that I was a chosen one and about to save their damn world!).

All of that has now changed and I have had my satisfyingly glorious virtual romance!  One word... Garrus.  While he kind of has an insectile, mandible thing going on in the looks department, he also has that glorious voice!  His mixture of confidence and diffidence gave him such an endearing quality... and that voice! (Yeah... sorry... I know I said that twice!).  I played through the entire Mass Effect trilogy... and it now ranks among my favorite games... incredibly awesome (and very, very, very similar to my favorite TV Series ever - Babylon 5, where chaos vs order was also a primary theme and where there was lots of "gray" - where choices, characters, races... none were specifically good or bad, black or white... just gray.  In fact the similarities between Babylon 5 and Mass Effect were so plentiful and obvious that I'm sure others have probably written blogs on this topic before... so I won't bore you, but if you like Mass Effect and haven't seen Babylon 5 - go watch the first 3 seasons of it!!)

I worked really, really hard to ensure my "effective military strength" was well over 7000 before I did the final leg of the game to ensure I had optimum choices for a good ending... but ironically I was paying so much attention to the conversation choices or waiting on a paragon/renegade interrupt that I missed the designated locations for the choices and expected a definitive conversational option... so I wandered straight ahead to the blue light expecting a console where I could make my choice, only to find that I apparently had chosen "synthesis"!  Oh no!... all that hard work and I never got to choose to destroy the reapers??? Dammit!  I died, but the ending was wonderful.  EDI and Joker, tenderly holding each other close... and Garrus, my beloved, looking suitably heart broken as he added my name to the memorial for those lost (though Tali was looking a little bit too prepared to comfort him over his loss... bitch!).  I was rather hoping for a final scene of Garrus and I sitting on a beach together sipping pina coladas... so yeah, I re-played the last section again and chose to destroy the reapers... but no EDI!  Garrus and I weren't sitting on a beach either... and it well... I think I accidentally chose the right ending for me - synthesis was more emotionally satisfying.  I may have selflessly died, but everything else just ended up so much better and even the reapers were still there to help with re-building.  I love how even my "accidental ending" worked out best for me with this game.

I'm rather glad that I waited for the trilogy to come out and was able to enjoy a seamless play through of all three games at once.  The continuity was wonderful and I found that I liked them all equally.  The first game was like a wonderful movie with a great plot.  The second game was like a great TV series with a bunch of superb episodes tied up with a fantastic two hour series finale that pulled it all together.  The third game will always hold a place in my heart for a stupid reason... I finally got to have my silver hair!  I don't know why, but since my own hair has gone quite gray, I've taken to putting silver hair on all my female characters and I really like the look and for some reason the character feels more like "me".  After hearing all the rumours of the bad ending, I had some trepidation going into the third game, but the "extended cut" ending possibly made things more clear because I had absolutely no issues with the ending I got (particularly the "synthesis" ending).

Note my glorious silver hair!

I also enjoyed the Femshep options within the series.  She could be more feminine and choose a more nurturing, kindly role more consistent with traditional female qualities, but alternatively she could be more executive and badass in making decisions for the greater good that disregarded more individual emotions.  I haven't played the game as a male, but if the conversational options are the same, then it once again goes to my point about how non-gendered video gaming is and we have the freedom to not have to conform to any gendered stereotypes.  In some ways the paragon/renegade dichotomy is loosely reflective of traditional gender roles where women tend towards conversation, people-pleasing and "kinder, gentler" non-violent problem resolutions, and males tend towards more facts, quicker decision making that is more oriented towards the end goal, and more use of violent resolutions.  A quick search showed that interestingly, most people chose the paragon route, yet only 18% chose Femshep... so there were a lot of males that chose a role more traditionally "feminine" in play style.

I think it's rather sad that feminists got all riled up by the Femshep blonde hair issue,  but seemed to have mostly overlooked the fact that in the game itself, gender was rather fluid and multiple representations of feminist thought were also present in the game.

While it seems that many feminists took issue with female looking Asari, and saw this as yet another example of "sexism in video games" , it was overlooked that the Asari also be seen to be representative of sex-positive feminism  The Asari were sexually liberated and yet still powerful, while remaining distinctly female.  The "Consort" was even a powerful and respected individual who essentially worked in the sex industry and these sex positive feminists tend toward believing that "real" feminists can actually work in tge sex industry.  Rather than viewing the Asari as sexist because they pander to men with their mix of innocence and sexuality, one could actually view them as being celebratory of everything that is distinctly female and even somewhat representational of several lines of feminist philosophy.  The Asari being an all-female matriarchal race that can procreate with other species (regardless of gender), while retaining their own DNA structure might be said to be somewhat representational of the Separatist/Lesbian Separatist Feminist movements, which sometimes advocates that women should form a separate matriarchal societal structure away from men. Additionally Lipstick Feminism  (which rationalizes self-objectification as social power over men) was touched on by the fact that yes, they were all attractive. Intersectionality was even broached by the fact that not all Asari are considered equal, but that there is discrimination against those who breed with other Asari.  Overall, the Asari race were fairly interesting in their representation of women and represented several viewpoints about sexuality, power and matriarchy.

The Krogan's too might at first glance seem to represent traditional values of the aggressive male provider and the protected female childbearer and be the antithesis of modern radical feminism (particularly as the veiling is reminiscent of the burqa, which covers a woman from head to toe in many Islamic Countries)... however the Krogans align with the current "mommy wars" where women that choose to opt out of a career and stay at home to raise children seem to be wanting to find a feminist identity and have their cultural equality recognized.  This form of feminism is sometimes aligned with New Feminism where women are equal to, but very different from men.  The female Krogan was rescued, protected and escorted because of her elevated and revered status as "childbearer" (and the male Krogans were quite disposable), but when push came to shove, the female Krogan was also able to defend herself.  While reverence for the female childbearer can quickly slide into oppression in some cultures, there is a renewed western interest in finding  alternate feminist philosophies that support women as childbearer and in supporting issues such as maternity leave.

The Human race in the game was actually fairly representative of the current human race in the western world... where women can be engineers or ship captains... where women are treated the same as men, and given the same respect, but where women apparently have still not broken through the glass ceiling to the higher echelons of power such as the Earth representative to the Council or Shepard's Commanding Officer.  Very little of the human condition was actually shown in the game except that there was a broader acceptance of homosexuality than probably exists in some parts of the current western world (with the exception of Canada... where we don't care who you marry, as long as you both like hockey!).

There was also the Hunar... a completely non-sexualized, non-gendered race... though I don't know that this actually represents any feminist philosophy! LOL!

I've not personally gotten into bed with any specific feminist philosophy... which brings me full cycle and back to the game Mass Effect and the TV series Babylon 5.  I like gray.  I like looking at various viewpoints and exploring them all.   For me, video games represent a freeing of gender... where a gamer can play as their own gender or a different gender,  but can also choose a more aggressive "male" play style... or they can choose a more traditionally regarded "female" role of being a caretaker, concerned with the emotional well being of those around them.  I could choose to use guns or could choose powers.  I could choose to negotiate, or could often choose a more violent resolution.  I could have chosen to continue my romance with Kaiden... but instead I chose Garrus!  I loved the game Mass Effect, it made me think - not just about the choices I made in the game, but also about parallels to real life and a greater acceptance of different philosophies and ideas.  Sometimes there is no black and white... kill the bad guys or control the bad guys... sometimes I guess there is "synthesis" and the creation of something new... and I explored many new ideas in thinking about this game... but mostly I finally got the new experience of a satisfying virtual romance, so the game will always hold a special place in my heart for that alone.   :)
(and if you managed to actually make it through this huge ramble of a dissociative mess of a blog... then you too hold a special place in my heart!)
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12:08 PM on 06.12.2013

As with many console launches in the past, this year I've come away with more questions than answers.  I'm usually a Sony fangirl, but for the next generation of game consoles, I'm still undecided between the Xbox One and the PS4 (PC gaming isn't a realistic option in our two gamer set up, and Nintendo doesn't offer the games I personally prefer to play).

In many ways, both systems are pretty similar.
Both consoles offer:

*  500GB HDD (the PS4 HDD is swappable, the XB1 HDD can only be upgraded with MS proprietary HDD's - however, the XB1 can use USB drives for additional storage of games.  Sony has not confirmed USB drive compatibility and neither has confirmed if games can be played directly from USB detachable drives.  With Sony, games currently can't be stored anywhere but on the console HDD and can't be transferred to a detachable drive).
*  Game DVR (recording gameplay) - Sony via Ustream, and Microsoft via Twitch
*  BluRay/DVD players
*  Netflix and various TV apps
*  Cloud storage and cloud services such as gamesave backup, cloud storage of digital games deleted from the HDD, automatic updates, etc.
*  motion control games (though Kinect is integrated into the system and the PSEye will be sold separately)
*  second screen gaming via smartphones/tablets
*  HDMI output only (no output options for older TV units on either console)
*  Party chat... both systems will have party chat, though this is likely restricted to those paying the monthly fee of PSPlus or Gold (and hopefully Sony has resolved the voicechat issues that plagued the PS3 system!)

In other ways, both consoles differ...

PS3 will be $399.00 and the Xbox One will be $499.00 at launch

"Always Online": 
The Xbox One requires an internet connection at least once every 24 hours to function.  The PS3 can work offline, but the reality is that most games have an online component that may require online connectivity and new games often require a current OS update or even a patch in order to function properly.  While the system doesn't require a check in once every 24 hours, the reality for me is that this is a fairly negligible requirement because it's rare for me to be without access to an internet connection and much of my gaming is online anyway.  This is a personal decision though, and obviously doesn't speak to those that might have less reliable internet access.

Gold, silver and PSPlus: 
With both consoles, it's pay if you want to play online.  Microsoft has not yet clarified if Silver accounts will still exist for offline single player games, but the required "internet check in" could well simply be the same as accessing your XBL friend's list or buying content from the store... both work just fine without paying a monthly Gold fee.  Single player, offline games (an endangered species) may be playable on both systems without the need for a monthly fee, and on the PS4, apps such as netflix will continue to be available without a monthly fee (access to most apps is pay walled behind Gold on the Xbox).  Microsoft and Sony have both confirmed that multiple user ID's can work from a console that has Gold or PSPlus... but neither have clarified how online access works with multiple consoles.  Essentially, do my husband and I both have to pay a monthly fee to play online games together... and if so, will either MS or Sony offer a family deal of some sort on the cost.

Sharing games:
The Xbox One has the following options:  You can lend a digital game once to anyone who has been on your friend's list for 30 days. Sony has not confirmed any information regarding the sharing of digital games.  I like the concept of being able to trade or loan my digital games and the idea of trading my game code with a friend who lives thousands of miles away for their game code... and each of us getting a free new game to play (either a loan or a permanent trade) - it's a win for me.  Currently a digital game can be shared on two activated PS3 consoles, but again this has not been confirmed for the PS4.  Microsoft has mentioned something about "family" access to purchased games... and from what I've read, Microsoft is saying that you can have a "family" of 10 people (who don't actually need to be related) who can share your purchased digital games, with the caveat that only one person can be playing that game at a time.  Still.. this "10 person family" could mean a lot of game lending and lots of free games! (Provided I can find some friends who share my gaming tastes and want to be in my family and have me as part of theirs!).  Sony hasn't clarified any game sharing strategies aside from the usual retail disc - hand it to a friend - which isn't viable for me because none of my local friends play video games.   So far, both are saying that they allow sharing of digital and retail games between various accounts on the SAME console (for achievement/trophies, gamesaves, etc), but I'm personally much more interested in how games will work in a multi-console family environment.  Currently on the PS3 I can buy a digital game and activate it on both my husband's console and my console, under the 2 PS3 restriction, but we can both play the game concurrently from our own consoles.  Neither Sony nor Microsoft has clarified if this type of concurrent family sharing will be possible on their next generation consoles, and frankly it reduced the cost of a full price, new release game to half price if my husband and I both want to play the game online together (which is the only reason I bought Borderlands in it's digital format).  So many questions... so much clarification that still needs to come out.

Used games: 
Both Sony and Microsoft have confirmed that there will be no fees for trading in a used game, but both have left this up to the publisher who could merely modify their online pass format to require an access code for each time the game is installed.  I see the used game issue as being pretty much the same for both Microsoft and Sony, excepting that Microsoft allows for full install of retail games to the HDD so the game has to be deactivated, when the retail copy is sold or traded.  Sony doesn't have the full HDD installation and their form of DRM is that the disc has to be in the tray to verify game ownership.  Again, to me, this is pretty much a draw.  The MS system is a little more complex, but the full digital install also allows for things like the "family sharing between 10 friends" thing and digital loans, whereas Sony's system for retail games is more reliant on trading the game in, or physically getting it to a friend.  Overall, for me personally, and not having many local gaming friends, the digital deactivation seems a small price to pay for the convenience of trading/sharing digital games with far away friends.  However, what hasn't been said is how much control publishers will have over this digital trading policy... there is no mention if publishers can require a fee to be paid, even if Microsoft doesn't.  Once again, I'm left with more questions than answers.

I've always been a bit of a Sony fangirl, but overall I'm still waiting to make a decision regarding my next gen console.  My husband will soon be retired and gaming will be a big part of our lives.  He tried retirement last year and we had many happy afternoons and evening playing MAG online together.  He got bored and decided to return to the workforce for a few more years to further build up our retirement finances and because he found a job he really loves.  Most days. I now play my single player games and most evenings we still play MAG together.  My decision on next gen gaming will depend on what offers the best value for us... a two gamer household where I am a heavy gamer that plays a variety of games and my husband pretty much only plays online shooter games but likes to play them together (though I'm hoping I can convince him to try more single player games once he retires!).  Apparently some type of monthly fee will have to be paid if we want to play online together... but it's a matter of seeing which console will offer the best value in terms of monthly fees, and also in terms of the ability to share games.  I'm simply unwilling to totally write off the Xbox One at this point and instead I'll play wait and see to find out more information about what Sony and MS will offer.  Much of the information out there is confusing, and this is just a quick blog to put my confusion and thoughts to paper.  Hopefully, over the coming months we'll find out more information in order to make an educated decision about which console is best for each individual... because really, that's what gaming is all about... personal comfort with your console of choice and getting back to simply playing games and having fun!
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