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Elsa's blog
destructoid  Moderator

11:25 AM on 10.01.2015

50 Shades of Gaming

Sooo... it's been a long time since I've blogged, but I've been involved in a time consuming legal case that goes before the courts again in December and have also had several surgeries this year because my "in situ" cancer decided to become "invasive" cancer. Still, the cancer thing is under control, not terminal, and the surgeries simply mean more time to play video games while I'm recovering, and also more time to read. For the past few years, I've still being reading Destructoid, but have also been reading a lot of feminist blogs and articles.

I hope to maintain this blog as an ongoing examination of my own ever-changing thoughts on feminism, specifically as it related to gaming. I expect that nobody will agree with everything I've written here, but I do hope that anyone who does read this (all two of you) will take the time to further investigate feminism before reiterating much of the rhetoric out there. When you see an article about a study - read the actual study. When you disagree with a point someone makes, investigate - do further reading (and from various views, not from any one specific site or source). Again, this blog is mostly written for myself... to try to keep track of my changing views on feminism.

As Anita Sarkeesian is so fond of saying: " remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects" and if this is true, then we have a corresponding responsibility to simultaneously enjoy the benefits and positives of feminism, while still being critical of it's more problematic or pernicious aspects.

To start, quite some time ago Anita Sarkeesian wrote a piece for the New York Times entitled "It's Game Over for Gamers "where she stated " As others have recently suggested, the term “gamer” is no longer useful as an identity because games are for everyone." Apparently the word "gamer" was dead (or should die a painful death) according to several editorials on high profile gaming websites. Many mainstream articles on gaming portrayed games and gamers as misogynistic men who hate women based on interviews with Ms. Sarkeesian and other feminists. Even now, a year later, there are still articles stating "we're all gamers- embrace it".

In 2014, the word "feminist" made the Time Magazine list of words to ban... and at one point was winning with a resounding 45% of the vote before Time Magazine gave in to pressures to removed the word. There have been copious articles over the years suggesting that maybe "feminism" needs a new word or better public relations and one has only to google "feminism PR problem" to see copious articles on this topic in the last few years as the word "feminism" has increasingly become associated with many different opposing issues and philosophies.

Personally, I've come to the conclusion that the words "gamer" and "feminist" have many of the same issues.

1. "gamer" is no longer useful as an identity because games are for everyone. However, the exact same can, and should, be said about the word "feminist".

"Everyone is a gamer now", or more specifically (according to the ESA's 2014 report) 59% of Americans play video games, and about half of those gamers are women.

By that same token, "everyone is a feminist now". According to a fairly large 2014 Ipsos poll of 15 countries, 57% of women and 48% of men self-identify as "feminist" when it is defined as "someone who advocates and supports equal opportunities for women". When the self identification of "feminist" is removed, 87% of all respondents of both genders agree that women should be treated equally to men. Additionally "A majority (55%) of women in 15 developed countries agree they have full equality with men in their country and the freedom to reach their full dreams and aspirations." This is similar to many other surveys, including a large Huffpost/YouGov survey done in the US, and in a more recent Buzzfeed survey, 99% of respondents agreed that men and women should be equal, but again, a majority (67%) reject the identification of "feminist" and apparently 56% of respondents believe that the gender equality movement needs a new name. Other surveys (linked below) show that a vast majority support equality between men and women, but both men and women are rejecting self-identification as a "feminist" . While some smaller surveys of younger students show increased identification with the word "feminist", almost all larger surveys done on feminism show a trend that a vast majority of people support gender equality, but most don't want to call themselves a "feminist".

(though of course it should be noted that ALL surveys are somewhat suspect and a lot depends on the specific questions asked, so feel free to google the actual surveys for better information).

Essentially, most people (men and women in almost equal numbers) are feminists who believe in gender equality, but many also don't want to use the word "feminist" which is increasingly being associated with feminists who believe all women are oppressed by men within a patriarchy, rather than the dictionary definition of men and women being treated as equals. There is an ideological difference in the two definitions of feminism, where one treats women as an oppressed class of people under a system of power that privileges men, and the original definition treats all people as individuals and advocates for equality in our legal, cultural and economic frameworks. Many of the those in last years #womenagainstfeminism weren't actually against the concept of equality feminism, rather they were against the concept of being treated as an oppressed class of victims. Additionally, with the increasing visibility of those that don't conform to a gender binary (or those that are recognized in some countries as a "third gender) - it seems increasingly difficult to treat men and women as binary classes which forms the basis of patriarchal feminism, however feminist ideology continues to evolve and change and increasingly relies not on a model of men dominating women, but rather a newer class of cis-gendered heterosexual males dominating all other classes who become the victims within more recent forms of hierarchical intersecting levels of victims within this patriarchy. Many current feminists have swung so far to the left, that they have come full circle to the right and now are advocates against pornography, against violence, for censorship and for a division of men and women based on gender (safe spaces for women only, laws and policies specifically aimed at affirmative action in hiring of women, etc). There is no longer any pretense of treating men and women the same, but rather some Feminists state that women require special privileges and treatment to compensate for patriarchal power held by men. The varying ideologies and constant changes to the meanings of the word "feminism" seems to be a deterrent to the average person identifying with the term - beyond the simple definition of equal treatment and opportunity for all individuals.

Most people (men and women) play video games... on their iPhone, tablet, console, PC... whether it's Solitaire, Candy Crush or Call of Duty - and while there are no stats, it seems that few want to be associated with the basement dwelling, violent, misogynistic male geek title of "gamer" that many mainstream news articles speak about.

The words "feminist" and "gamer" seem to have PR issues and there is a lot of confusion as to the meaning of those words. While most people are now feminists who believe all people are equals, and most people are gamers who play some form of games... apparently few want to publicly identify as either a "gamer" or a "feminist" because of the various meanings, negativity and lack of clarity often associated with these words.

2. Neither gaming nor feminism are inclusive... both are exceptionally divisive within their own communities.

Many have argued that gamers aren't inclusive, and in particular Ms. Sarkeesian and others have noted that "hard core gamers" have attacked some interactive experiences as not being real games or have attacked "casual gamers" (largely comprised of women) as not being real gamers. These are not new issues. Anyone familiar with gaming will remember the controversy over whether "Linger in Shadows" was a game, and this continues with the arguments over whether many of the newer "interactive novels" or "walking simulators" are games. There are the very old issues of whether those who played Solitaire or Farmville on their computers could be considered "gamers" (and this demographic is largely female) or even whether gamers that only play the annual iterations of Call of Duty or Madden should be considered gamers. There have been issues of racism, sexism and homophobia discussed within gaming long before the current public trend of doing so, but these issues were previously specific to particular games and not applied to games or gaming as a whole. There has been discussion, dissension and exclusion in gaming and gaming communities, since the popularization of that Internet thing and the ability for people to express their thoughts and opinions.

This same exclusionary toxicity easily applies to feminism. There are many "hard core feminists" who have attacked Beyonce as not being a real feminist (or in the words of Annie Lenox "feminism lite", and in the words of Bell Hooks, part of Beyonce is an anti-feminist and a "terrorist"). More recently there is the "feminist or not a feminist?" ongoing arguments relating to the Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift/Miley Cyrus trifecta. Those that hold different views on feminism are often labeled as "anti-feminist" or misogynist as is the case with Christina Hoff Sommers and Laura Kipnis. There are SWERFS and TERFS (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists or Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists)" and like gaming, there are race issues in feminism with many feminists of color who claim that feminism only advocates for white women (#solidarityisforwhitewomen, womanism and the current issues surrounding "white feminism" and "colonial feminism"). Many feminists have been vocal in their beliefs that men can't be feminists, but can only be "feminist allies", and men are often excluded from feminist spaces/communities unless they act in a prescribed manner. In my recent forays into feminist spaces, I've seen many men outright banned, not for harassment, but over varying ideologies within feminism. One man was banned for advocating that gender isn't completely a social construct and that there are some biological/neurological differences between males and females (an ideology supported by some feminists who feel that drug testing on men may not ensure drug safety for women because of different biology). Even women are excluded from feminism with prominent feminists stating you can't be a feminist and vote Republican, or you can't be a feminist and be anti-abortion (despite the fact that surveys consistently show that support for or against abortion is not based on gender, and you certainly can't be a feminist and support any aspect of gamergate (In a recent discussion on a feminist article I stated that I support the aspect of gamergate that wants sex positive feminist views given more consideration within gaming journalism and I was outright accused of being a man pretending to be a woman! LOL!)

Like the gaming world, feminism is not at all "inclusive" but is instead of a world of varying and opposing ideas, often with public condemnation, silencing and banning of those who hold alternate views. There are many varying ideologies and philosophies in feminism. I won't bother linking articles, anyone familiar with the feminist blogosphere is well aware of the issues, heated wars and divisions within feminism where the credibility of many self-proclaimed feminists is constantly questioned by other self proclaim feminists and where the "feminist" credibility of anyone who lays claim to the word (like Beyonce ) is met with a barrage of articles that support or deny their entitlement to call themselves a "feminist.

Essentially, exclusion and dissension seems an obvious problem with both the words "gamer" and "feminist" and their accompanying communities. The communities on gaming sites tend to be male, but female voices are becoming more common and more visible. The communities on feminist sites are very female and while some sites allow for male voices, other sites seem to delete and silence many of the comments made by men. Gaming sites have always actively sought female representation on their staff (I've been a moderator on various gaming sites for since 2006), but feminist sites do not seem to seek male representation among their staff. In the game of exclusion, feminist sites stereotype and malign and silence men far more than gaming sites stereotype, silence or malign women.

3. Misogyny and Misandry (the name of my new band!)

A small vocal segment of gamers are misogynists and truly seem to hate women. A small vocal segment of feminists are misandrists who truly seem to hate men. One only has to look at Twitter to find examples of gamer misogyny, and one has only to read many feminist writers to find misandry. Misogyny and misandry are opposing, but small and vocal components of both "gamers" and "feminists"... but the reality is that most gamers are not misogynists and most feminists are not misandrists.

4.Fiction vs Real Life...

Feminists and Feminist groups have deemed the book/movie "50 Shades of Grey" to be a misogynistic, pornographic, exploitative glamorization of domestic abuse. Still, the book's popularity is consistent with the the popularity of reading "bodice ripper" romances and even today, the romance novel industry is still the most profitable genre of books sold (surpassing one billion in sales). This has been the case for many years now, with the primary creators and consumers being overwhelmingly female. Like many women, I've read romance novels and used to consume them quite regularly. They are fun, escapist, sexy light reading and are predictable where different sub-series actually have to conform to specific tropes, because tropes can be profitable, and are sometimes exactly what the consumer wants and expects (not unlike many video games) The romance novel industry is not unlike gaming... it generally caters to a gendered consumer using well known escapist, fictional tropes.

The popularity of media such as "50 Shades of Grey", "Twilight", "Game of Thrones" or the CSI/Law and Order weekly woman in peril with female consumers and the opposing feminist critiques against the fiction inherent in these works is the same argument that is happening within video games. Does fiction affect reality? Should these shows, books or movies be banned or changed because they portray violence against women or show women as sexual objects of heterosexual male desire and have an impact on real world actions?

Gamers have been here before. To date, no studies have consistently shown any correlation between violence in video games and violence in real life. The other reality that is difficult to correlate, is the basic fact that violent crime rates have been dropping quite dramatically, concurrent with the rise of violent media. Other large sociological studies also surprisingly show that increased pornography consumption (countries that have relaxed laws on pornography) either corresponds to a decrease in sexual crimes or has no impact. Again, as with all studies, there are difficulties in determining whether there is a causative effect or whether other factors such as increased incarceration rates are causative, but the overall trends in violent crime (including sex crimes) indicate that we (in the western world anyway) have never lived in safer times. (Though it should also be noted that after many laws were changed to redefine rape from a forcible act to an act performed without active consent, the rates of rape have increased, but conviction rates remain relatively low due to difficulties inherent in proving that no consent was given, particularly given the caveat that actions do not denote consent). Feminism is still divided on this issue as is pointed out in the recent Cyber Violence against Women and Girls report created for the UN by Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and many others. Within the report (pg 8) the report states that "studies show that after viewing pornography men are more likely to: report decreased empathy for rape victims; have increasingly aggressive behavioral tendencies; report believing that a woman who dresses provocatively deserves to be raped; report anger at women who flirt but then refuse to have sex; report decreased sexual interest in their girlfriends or wives; report increased interest in coercing partners into unwanted sex acts" and yet further in the report (pg 46) they suggest "Feminist Principles of the Internet" as a holistic framework that should be adopted. The Feminist Principles specifically include under item 14 " We reject simple causal linkages made between consumption of pornographic content and violence against women." Feminism itself continues to be very divided regarding the topic of whether pornography has any impact on violence against women.

Reading Links: - yeah, this culture war has been going on for MANY years now.

I don't personally believe that violent video games create violent people, nor do I believe that sexist video games create sexist people. Once again, I have to go to my rat story. I've killed thousands of rats in the video games (the ubiquitous killing of rats with my rusty sword in most every WRPG game). Several years ago one of my cats caught a rat and mangled it's back legs but didn't kill it... and the "kind" thing to do was put the poor rat out of it's misery. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do and no video game "rat killing sim" helped me in this real world situation.

Fiction, be it books, movies, TV or video games should be a realm where fantasies are free to exist. While there will always be a reflection in a mirror of our ever changing cultural norms, freedom of the imagination should be allowed free rein. In gaming, while the expensive AAA games are products created for mass appeal and profitability, there are hundreds of thousands of smaller games available for almost every niche demographic. Mods and development tools allow for user creativity. Changes to an ever evolving consumer demographic create gradual changes in the products, including the larger AAA game market. To stifle creativity through public shaming, educational "re-training", adherence to western feminist philosophical values, restrictive ratings or even new laws to protect women against any form of sexualization in media is to create propaganda, not art. While public pressure might initially be to remove women as a sexual object for male characters to "acquire" in video games... it might not be long before games created by women, for women are also publicly shamed for having a selection of male romance objects from which a woman can choose (Otome games and games such as Everlove are gaining traction with female consumers). Books, movies and video games created by female content creators could just as easily become a target, and artists such as Anna Anthropy, whose games often explore BDSM and lesbian themes could eventually be deemed as having "violence against women" content.

As a final thought on the issue of fiction and it's possible effects on real life, one of the aspects of this discussion missing in current culture is the effect of fiction on women. Almost all criticism of fiction has been regarding it's effect on men and how they might view women, but there is much less discussion on the effects of fiction on women - the views of ourselves, other women and of men. Entire industries are based on the power of female sexuality for female consumers (beauty magazines, fashion, romance novels/movies) or alternatively many cultures or religions attempt to cover up and ban our sexuality entirely (some Muslim Countries, ultra Orthodox Jewish groups, etc). Women have long dealt with the madonna/whore complex, and current feminism exacerbates this issue by regulating what women should or should not wear - in real life and the digital world. They do this based on the concept that what we wear influences male attitudes toward women, but negate our own concept of choice. Current feminist gaming rhetoric does not want choice for women, but instead entirely focuses on how attire choices might affect men. Simply put, it seems much safer for sex-negative feminists to attack heterosexual male interest in females, rather than examine women's complicity in creating the concept of women as object. Feminist Frequency's entire video series views women from a male perspective, as an object, and rarely views game content from a female perspective. In effect, they actually perpetuate a male gaze, based on a stereotype of cis-heterosexual men, rather than from a female viewpoint, and the effects of the female characters on women. I, personally, find it empowering that within a game world I am treated the same whether I am wearing heavy armour or a chainmail bikini.

I have no conclusions on this section yet, I still have muddled thoughts but am opposed to conservative feminist views that women should be covered up and non-sexual. I also think that if we are trying to usurp stereotypes of women as caregivers, emotional, not career-driven, etc.... then we also have to be careful that we are not continuing to stereotype men as workaholics, uncaring, violent and as potential rapists and murderers.

7. Harassment.

Much has been said and written about the harassment endured by feminists who have negatively critiqued the gaming industry. It is notable that feminists who have supported the gaming industry have not been harassed by gamers, so I do think it fair to say that possibly much of the harassment is not specifically gender based, but rather is based on perceived attacks on the industry, particularly when the mainstream media has run with adversarial headlines such as:

Anita Sarkeesian on GamerGate: 'We Have a Problem and We're Going to Fix This' (Rolling Stone)

No More Helpless Damsels, One Gamer's War on Sexism (Wired)

Taking on Games that Demean Women (Boston Globe)

Gamergate is Loud, Dangerous and a Last Grasp at Cultural Dominace by Angry White Men (The Guardian)

Woman vs Internet: How Anita Sarkeesian beat trolls (GamesIndustry International)

Communities defend their own... and while gamers may sometimes seem extreme in defense of their hobby in the face of those who denigrate gaming and gamers as juvenile, violent and misogynist... it's not a lot different than how feminists defend their ideology in the face of MRA's (Men's Rights Activists) who often denigrate feminists as misandrist heterophobes (and in fact much of the harassment that went both ways in #gamergate seemed to be by MRA's and feminists... some of which were gamers, and many of which were not).

Harassment is not just aimed AT feminists, it is also perpetuated BY feminists as has been seen with the mob-like mentality with Dr. Tim Hunt and Dr. Matt Taylor where the feminist culture police and their outraged media headlines ruined careers out of any proportion to the "crimes" that may have been committed. Feminism's own "toxic twitter wars" continue to this day and has gotten worse over time. Internet harassment is a legitimate issue, and the various studies do indicate that the form of harassment females endure from men tends more toward sexualized or gendered language and threats, however this is not an issue specific to gaming.

The form of the harassment is different for women, however the effects on people's lives, both male and female - is something that changing laws and changing technology will have to address. There are currently several lawsuits that will further explore the ramifications of Internet harassment and gradual changes are being made on social platforms to address this issue, but the difficulty lies in mob based harassment, where the masses of people on the Internet become visible when someone does something that a large number of people don't agree with - whether it's hunting and killing a lion... or advocating a gender divisive "war" on gamers and games to change the media. Treating harassment entirely as a feminist issue will never solve harassment because the problem is much larger than this and needs to be treated holistically as a problem affecting "people" . Everyone should be entitled to protections offered by laws, new technologies, responsible journalism and policy changes.... without calls for censorship, otherwise we become no different than dictatorships that silence all forms of dissent or freedom of expression. By treating Internet harassment as a feminist issue only affecting women, we limit the ability solve the greater issue of people harassing people. As Anita Sarkeesian once said in her "what I couldn't say" speech, she desired the ability to freely say "fuck you" to her harassers and critics. Essentially, this is exactly what her harassers and critics are saying to her, though often in more callous terms. What we need is the ability to balance people's freedom of speech with technological abilities to filter this freedom when it becomes overwhelming, and laws for when "fuck you" turns into an actual legitimate threat. The the recent discussion of the UN Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls, Ms. Sarkeesian speaks at approximately 1:30:00 and actually classifies the day to day grind of "you suck", "you're a liar" and "hate" videos as harassment, which becomes very dangerous because essentially it classes large scale disagreement with statements from public figures as being something that needs to be prevented and puts herself in the same class as people such as Donald Trump, who have also suffered from copious "you suck" articles, tweets and videos. It establishes that large scale disagreement should not be tolerated and should be viewed as harassment, particularly when she adds that women should be able to participate on the Internet "without fear of intimidation" which again is phrase very open to interpretation

Again, to quote from the UN Broadband commission report: "Free speech requires constant vigilance – by everyone who uses the Internet." and interestingly I think that Zoe Quinn is more on the right track with creating personal tools for people to better maintain their own privacy/blocking options, and in advocating for better privacy options on the internet (rather than the reliance on the use of "real names"). Ms. Sarkeesian seems somewhat blinded by her gamergate experience and her focus on cultural change (particularly given her previously expressed anti-violence and anti-pornography stances) seemed somewhat irrelevant and simplistic to the overall discussion. Various cartoons have boiled her contributions down to the "there are people on the Internet who disagree with women, they shouldn't be allowed to do that" meme.... and very unfortunately, this meme expresses most of what Ms. Sarkeesian said.

Free speech does require vigilance... to ensure that free speech remains an integral part of the Internet. Censorship, moderation or silencing have never been effective catalysts of cultural change, but rather are the tools of dictatorships.

8. We've been here before.

In both gaming and feminism we've done this already. Feminism had the "feminist sex wars" of the early 70's that pitted anti-pornography feminists against "sex positive" feminists. Nobody won and that war continues (which seems a viable reason why Feminist Frequency has yet to do their "Fighting F*cktoy" video). Gamers, we had Jack Thompson advocating that violent video games directly caused violent actions in the real world... and it continues with new claims that games not only cause violence, but also sexism and violence specifically against women. These cyclical arguments have been going on in both feminism and media for a long, long time now. Concurrent with the old arguments as to whether our media impacts on society, are the left vs right arguments which are reaching a fever pitch with elections upcoming in both Canada and the U.S. In many cases, the left and right seem to come full circle so that it becomes difficult to tell the difference. Again, we've been here before and we'll be here again because anti-sex, anti-violence advocates believe in a zero sum game. They have always believed that sex and violence in our media harms our society and needs to be regulated in some manner (pressure on artists to conform via public shaming, news articles, cancellation of talks/performances, moderation, and even an AO rating for "Hatred" which turned out to be a far less violent game than others with lesser ratings). On the other side are advocates for absolute freedom of legal expression and that artists should be free to produce whatever work they want to produce and that the consumer should determine it's value via the capitalist marketplace without regulatory interference or public shaming. This isn't a gaming issue and gaming was simply one of the more recent battlegrounds for a war that is extending into comics, TV, movies, books (the Hugo awards fiasco), comedy, politics, journalism and pretty much all forms of media. Past battlegrounds included Elvis and rock music, cartoon violence, rap music... again, we've been here before, and we'll likely be here again because a desire to censor seems part of the human condition, despite the fact that censorship pressures often get turned around to eventually harm the very people advocating for them.

9. Financial Feminism.

Games are primarily a consumer product. In particular, AAA games are created to make a profit in order to ensure employee wages are paid, that shareholders continue to financially support the company. Feminism too is quickly becoming a financial product. Many feminists make their living by being feminists - producing feminist media (articles, web series, games, movies, comics, etc), doing consulting work, acquiring funds to produce their feminist media from donations, governments or private sector companies that want to be seen as progressive. Many feminist organizations are essentially advocacy groups to ensure their own continued employment. The push for money to be spent on getting women into STEM generally benefits white, educated females already in STEM and does little to address the wider problem of work/life balance for men and women. There are no funds to get more men into daycare/early childhood education jobs, there are no funds put toward PSA's to encourage women to give men custody of children in breakups or to encourage men to be stay at home parents (which would largely solve the gender pay gap). Instead, women still want the right to be primary care givers as well as have successful careers - a right even men don't have. Women's groups would rather advocate for daycare to have their children raised by the state rather than advocate that one person in the relationship take time off from their career to raise children (and a stay at home parent is still entitled to 50% of all assets earned during the relationship, plus support, so they do in effect "earn" an income). This goes to a deep societal bias by women that men can't raise children and that men are still the primary providers in relationships. It's also very notable in all the rhetoric about the "gender wage gap" that little is mentioned of the "racial wage gap". Current statistics indicate that white men AND white women earn more than Black or Latino men or women. Again, we have to examine all the information available because statistics, studies and quotes are often biased and skewed towards the benefiting the messenger.

In gaming though, there are Indie game developers who create games because they have a passion for gaming, their are bloggers who write for free, there are streamers and critics and artists who create media with no financial benefit because they love gaming. In feminism, there are also those who blog or produce media simply because they have a passion for their feminist ideals. However, just as most passionate gamers would love to be paid to be gamers, most feminists would love to be paid to be feminists.

It's important though that we note the difference. When there is a financial incentive in either gaming or feminism, it will naturally affect the product and there will be a resulting bias/effect towards ensuring continued profitability. In gaming, this tends toward creating games for the largest consumer base that buys the product, and in feminism this tends towards creating a "victim" scenario that has proven to be profitable. As consumers, it's important that we examine the message, the messenger and their motivations.

Concluding Thoughts... sort of.

The fact is that most people in North America are gamers who play some form of video game, whether it's on facebook, their mobile phone, a PC or a console. Most people in North America are also feminists who believe that men and women are equals. The rest of it... it's all semantics, philosophies, politics. I do hope that eventually the tide will change and gaming will be celebrated for what it is... a diverse world where women can explore being men, where men can explore being women, where there are female warriors and male "cooking mama's". Unlike other media, gender truly is flexible in gaming and gaming's history shows a slow but steady track in reflecting cultural changes, often well ahead of other media.

There really isn't "50 shades of gaming"... what there is instead is "50 shades of feminism". Most of the "misogyny" in video games is simply a reflection of the larger issues within feminism. Feminism is confusing, not just to gamers, but also to feminists themselves. The word "misogyny" is used so often now, that it has lost all meaning for me - increasingly it seems used to simply deter any form of valid criticism - the bulletproof vest of feminism, which infantilizes women as children who require special treatment and can't have their feelings hurt with any reasonable discussion or disagreement with aspects of their philosophies. The increased rhetoric of "if you're not supporting us, you're against us" is also problematic for me and frankly seems childish and ignoring life's "gray" where there are many shades to any issue. For all the issues that feminists have with video games... most of those same arguments hold true for issues within feminism itself.

I do have to thank Feminist Frequency for bringing feminism into gaming... otherwise I would never have noticed how much feminism has changed over the years. I was born in the early 1960's and my earliest memories of feminism were positive messages about empowerment and being equal to men. I was raised to believe I was a feminist who could achieve anything I wanted to achieve and my gender would not limit me. Apparently I missed a meeting and feminism has changed to the point that there seems to be no cohesive message to feminism anymore, and the messages are confusing. In particular, I find feminist Frequency's anti-male feminism somewhat crystallized my distaste for current feminist thought. When a shapeless, personality-less, neutral object is held up as a "positive female character" I have to say that I really don't want this form of feminism and where there is a continual stereotyping of men as violent sexual abusers of women I'm out. Feminism has also become commercial... with various companies, individuals and groups promoting various feminist causes/ideologies in order to sell a product (or themselves as is the case with many feminist writers/content producers). I think, for the time being, I will call myself an Intersectionalist who advocates for Intersectionalism. I do believe that individuals (rather than classes of people) face more discrimination based on their intersecting oppressions. I've said it many times, and I'll say it again, as an educated, middle class, cis-gendered heterosexual, white woman, I have more opportunities in life and face less oppression than many men. I view myself and others as individuals and not as specific "classes" of people with interchangeable experiences based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identification, education, class, weight, disability, addiction, mental disorder, ETC.

Mostly, do NOT TELL ME that I am "oppressed". I really fucking hate that phrase. Eleanore Roosevelt once said "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent" I refuse to give my consent.

I'm gonna post this shit now... and as noted, this is mostly for me and I will hopefully continue to make changes as my own views change (and it's probably a total mess.. but let me know if a link doesn't work or something doesn't make sense)

(Oh, and a quick "about me". Many of you here know me, but for those that don't I've been an avid gamer since Zork. I am currently a console gamer with a PS3 and Xbox 360 (and will be acquiring a PS4 in a few months). I have platinum trophies in MAG, Far Cry 3, Dragon's Dogma, Skyrim and I'm pretty close in Destiny. I've been active in online gaming communities since around 2005. I've attended PAX and gaming events. My primary genres are FPS and WRPG games and I always use a mic (and talk too much) in online games. I'm 53 years old, had a career in the Construction industy and then in Human Resources and am currently retired. I've always gamed a lot, but now that I'm retired I game too much... several hours a day at least. I love gaming and hope to eventually see gaming journalists become better educated regarding the various feminist ideologies/philosophies and start advocating for gaming as a positive force for women.)


11:08 AM on 10.01.2015

I play Destiny online Fenriff! I'm on the PS3 though...


9:22 AM on 06.11.2014

So, you want to be my friend...

So... if you met me at a party would you walk up and hand me a picture of lesbian porn? I don't really care if you're female, or if you're gay, but you might want to introduce yourself first and say "hi", before giving me the lesbian porn pictures. You might want to see if we even speak the same language before deciding that you want to be my friend. I'm not even sure what "tu vue de littel devien" means and google translate apparently doesn't know either! I learned what "guapa" means... apparently it's "beautiful" in Spanish according to the Internet. It's nice to get a message that just says "beautiful"... but are you referring to me?... or the manner in which I just killed you with that totally awesome headshot??

Life used to be so simple. I was allowed to have 100 friends and no one else could send me a friend invite once I had those 100 friends. You had to write a note asking me to dump one of my friends so that I could add you as a friend or so that you could even send me a friend invite - and when asking me to dump one of my very good buddies or carefully selected friends, you might want to make a better argument than "dump one of your loser buddies so you can add me" - especially when I have no idea who you actually are (and by adding you, don't you automatically become one of my "loser buddies"?) The thing is... I didn't get flooded with buddy invites because people essentially got a "your call cannot be completed as dialed" message when they random dialed my number and went into telemarketing 101 mode to spam people with buddy invites. Unfortunately, since the expansion to 2000 friends on our buddy lists, I get lots of buddy invites, and I have no idea who these people are! I kind of wish we could turn off buddy invites, and have the option to send buddy invites only, rather than receive them. I think if people had to actually introduce themselves first and had to ask for a buddy invite, then I wouldn't constantly have unanswered mail in my PSN inbox. Since the expansion to 2000 friends, I can count approximately 192 invites that I've received, on top of the 100 friends I currently have. My app shows 81 current friend requests, so I guess that's 81 of that 192 people still hanging in there awaiting a response... which is likely never forthcoming because I really hate rejecting people when I have no idea who they are.

So what's the etiquette for sending buddy invites?

1. You have space on the buddy invite to type a short note. Say where you know the me from... was it a game where you met me? did you like my blog?, do we have a mutual friend? Did I accidentally teamkill you and you thought it was nice that I apologized? Do I know you from Destructoid by another name??

2. Don't send porn... wait until I get to know you better first. Interestingly, most of the porn or pics I currently have are from female gamers.... though I have to wonder a bit if there is a new trend in males pretending to be lesbians in order to harass females without the specter of misogynistic male harassment of women being added to their resume. Who knows, maybe they truly are lesbians looking to get it on with a heterosexual, happily married, 52 year old woman... but honestly, they can do better! For that guy, the one who sent his dickpics... do know that I printed them off, had tea with my friends, and we all pointed and laughed. Thanks for a good giggle!

Yup... actual lesbian porn pic and I had to bandage out the naughty word for the minors!

3. "Language" - yeah, it's noted on my profile as English. I probably don't understand Spanish or German or French or that language you made up with your best friend in Kindergarten. It's nice that you still want to be my friend, but chances are that the best you're going to get is that little jump and dance I did to express my thanks when you revived me when I died in that game. It's just going to be too difficult to be friends if we don't speak the same language... at all.

I hope this doesn't say anything nasty!

4. Don't confuse me with someone else. I recently got a lot of "please give me hack!" (well, actually this person apparently needs a "how to spell" hack because it was "plisssssgivemehac") and a "men you are a big hacker ilove you". I don't hack... I'm a 52 year old gray haired lady who doesn't give a shit if I win or lose a game and I detest hackers. Maybe you think I'm THISElsa? No, I'm not. I'm also not "Elsa" from the movie Frozen... I haven't even seen the movie yet. I tried to watch it, and I understand it's really good... but frankly, I fell asleep and it didn't grab my attention, so until it shows up on TV while I'm playing a word game on my iPod, I'll likely never see it and you can quit referencing how much you liked the movie in your buddy invite... cause I'm not that Elsa.

5. Don't send me pictures of yourself until I know you. I won't post them, because most of them are of very nice 12-14 year old boys who just want to say hi and will I be their friend. Where are their parents? Why aren't their parents telling them not to send random pictures of themselves to strangers on the Internet? I could be a hairy 35 year old male pedophile! What if I responded and asked where they lived or what school they go to... with that picture of them, I'm all set for a snatch and grab. Yes, most people they'll meet on the Internet are very nice 52 year old, happily married ladies who won't publicly post their pictures or kidnapped them as slave labour... but there are bad people out there too.... and those are the one's who will seem really nice and ask lots of questions and want to be your friend. Honestly, if you're under 16, DON'T SEND STRANGERS YOUR PICTURE. I would assume that the PS4 also prevents minors from using the "real name" option.

6. Speaking of that "real name" option - no, you will never likely get to know my real name. First of all, I actually prefer to be called "Elsa". Much of my social life is now gaming related and I'm actually more comfortable with my PSN name than I am with my real name (which is similar, but not the same). Secondly, I honestly think that the use of real names in gaming is eventually going to lead to a law suit. With someone's real name and city, it's not all that hard to get their address, their phone number, their work location... it's really just asking for trouble and a knock at the door from that psychotic person you teabagged.

Do I want this person turning up at my front door?... or calling my husband?

7. Don't tell me your deepest, darkest secrets. "I'm at the point where I feel threatened when..." also, don't leave me hanging if you ARE going to spill your guts. I really can't help but try to fill in the blanks... you feel threatened when... what, when your mom makes you give her sponge baths?, when that creepy teacher wants to meet you in the back of the comic book shop for extra math tutoring?, or do you feel threatened when I yelled at you then teamkilled you because you were being a dick?... if so, sorry about that... sort of. I don't want to harm your delicate psyche or anything... but you do know where that mute button is - right? I still recall the PSN note conversation with that young boy who was devastated by a female gamer who dumped him from her buddy list and wouldn't respond to his notes... I recall I used the word "stalking" a lot and hopefully he finally did talk to his mom about why women will pretend to be your friend and like you... only to dump you, yank out your heart, crush it on the ground then walk away and ignore you.

8. I'll at least read most any buddy invite that has a message "hi I'm asshatcommenter [or insert Dtoid name] from Destructoid! I like to play Defiance, COD, and Warhawk so if you play any of those games, add me". I'll respond and likely add you. Of course, several months later I'll be looking at your name and likely wondering who the hell you are, but at least I'll know there had to be a reason I accepted your buddy invite, and who knows... maybe we'll be in a Dtoid FNF game at some point!

2000 friends! I often used to wish that there was more room on my buddy list for fun people I met in online games but didn't know if I would play online with them regularly or not, so didn't add them. However, now that the expanded buddy list is here, I don't know what to do with it. I'm sure that Sony will eventually get their ass in gear and provide us with folders, sorting/search options and the ability to prioritize our friends (like we do in real life)... but until then, I guess I'll keep getting random buddy invites and unfortunately I'll tend to regard most of them as unsolicited spam - though at least you're not trying to sell me weight loss pills, viagra... or telling me I won the Burmundi lottery (though I could also do without the "if you send this to only 50 more people, Sony will give you money... fact is, no... Sony won't).

I was rather hoping that Sony might announce something at E3 to resolve this issue... but I guess I'm going to have to either continue to ignore the spam friend invites or accept them all and hope I get to 2000 and give up any hope of finding my actual friends in that list. So is it just me or is everyone having this issue? Are you getting daily friend invites from random people and wondering who the hell they are? How are you dealing with it... are you callously rejecting them all, letting them sit there as a huge pile of ignored/unanswered invites or are you accepting them all (and if so, how are you dealing with the massive friends list??)   read

12:18 PM on 05.08.2014

10 reasons why Elsa is always right...

1. If you're a male, you're wrong. One thing I've learned from gaming media in recent years is that being a woman makes me always right. Apparently I lack "privilege" even though I'm a middle class white woman with a nice house, a loving husband and a great career in the Human Resources field (which I have since retired from). By virtue of my gender alone, I am always going to be more right than any poor unemployed male with social etiquette problems playing too many video games in his mama's basement. When males play video games it's to maintain the sexist stereotype of the privileged male gamer, but when I play those same video games I am fighting for the rights of all women on the planet to be treated as equals in male dominated spaces and I must be a brave feminist to be swimming in this patriarchal sea of rape threats, misogyny, and silencing. Even my EPIC comments are right because a woman said them. If a man says the same thing... he's wrong. Thank you Anita for making me always right. I used to be just a gamer and people could tell me I was wrong, but now if they disagree with me it's obviously because they're just misogynistic assholes trying to silence me.

2. I'm also always right because I'm old. I'm 52 years old and have played video games since they were invented. Yup, I played PONG, and Zork, and Asteroids when they were brand new... so I can counter anything thing you say about video games with my age because I was playing video games before you were out of your stinky diapers. I'm actually just "middle aged" but in the gaming world I can be that wizened Elder who has seen it all, done it all and therefore must have the wisdom and life experience to be right... and if you try to tell me that I'm wrong, well obviously it's ageism... and you're just an asshole who doesn't respect their elders... now get off my lawn!.

3. I have no children - so I'm always right. We've always had pets and at one time we had 3 dogs and 5 cats. Most lived long and happy lives before leaving us and we are currently down to two male cats. They're all fixed, so no one runs out and gets pregnant, none of them dyes their hair purple... the only tattoos they have are the ID tattoos I picked out for them... and I'm always right. You don't want to go outside because it's pissing rain. Cat puts nose through open door, then turns around and goes back to bed. Told you so! Unfortunately I recently said to my 17 year old kitty that she looked ill and it seemed like the same kidney disease that took several of our other kitties in their old age. We went to the vet and damn... sometimes always being right sucks! We lost her last week and I still miss her. :(

4. I have a pre-cancerous condition that requires surgery every year or two to keep it in check, and I'm due for another surgery, which means GAMING TIME! ... and I'm also in the throes of menopause. I get hot flashes that come and go at inconvenient times like when shopping at Walmart or they wake me up most mornings at around 3am. I haven't had 7 hours sleep in a row in several weeks now. Does this count as a handicap? If so, I can add handicapped to my non-privilegisms of being female and being old... and if you try to tell me that hot flashes and menopause don't count as a handicap then my hormonal imbalances will overcome me, I'll turn green, rip my shirt off and stuff your head up your asshole and make you a new enemy type that I can slaughter with my big sword in the WRPG games I love playing so much.... we shall call you a "Butthead"... and needless to say, headshots won't count so I'll have to aim lower... for maximum damage! Essentially, you will agree that I'm right or suffer the consequences... and menopause makes me much nastier than PMS ever did! However, I always try to look on the bright side ...

5. I love statistics. I love using statistics and studies to support my "always being right" stance, and I hate it when people incorrectly use statistics against me. Yes, women do make up almost 50% of gamers when we start counting Facebook games, social games, iOS games and Wii/DS games.... but dammit, I'm still a precious minority on the Xbox and Playstation platforms... the ones that count! It's with Xbox/Playstation games where I am a minority that we need more female protagonists, more games about pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, more women with hairy legs and other feminist issues! Games shouldn't be made for or marketed only to men... because STATISTICALLY almost 50% of gamers are women... and we don't really need to examine those statistics too closely! Hell, look at those social games where women are a majority... there's tons of great female protagonists and hairy legs and other femaleness representing our gender... isn't there?

6. I game way too much! I'm retired from the workforce and it's not at all unusual for me to start playing a game at 10am only to finish gaming around 10pm. Yes, I take a break and cook dinner or do laundry or do other of those mindless chores that must be done... but the game is still on and running and waiting for me while the water comes to a boil. In the last month or two I've played and finished Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider, South Park the Stick of Truth, Dead Island Riptide and I'm almost finished The Witcher 2 (with a little Warhawk thrown in to get my multiplayer fix). If I've played the game, I'll have an opinion on it... and of course my opinion is always right! :(
(like I don't get why the "almost rape scene" in Tomb Raider was a big deal in gaming press... but I didn't see much press or requests for Trigger Warnings on the actual aftermath of seeing a traumatized Keith as a rape victim of Buck in Far Cry 3. As I keep saying, gaming may have simply skipped past feminism and is showing that gender doesn't matter... violence is violence.)

7. I was a nerd before being a nerd was cool (hey, being a nerd is cool again isnt' it?). I was one of the first of my friends to own a home PC (a Tandy!), I played video games before there was video in the video games... and I love sci fi. I've always read Sci Fi/Fantasy books (Heinlein, Anthony, Donaldson, Asimov, Pournelle, etc) and I've always watched Sci Fi TV shows (Star Treks, Battlestar Gallacticas, Buck Rogers, Space above and beyond, Quantum Leap, Torchwood, etc.). Because I am always right, the best Sci Fi TV series were Stargate, Firefly and Babylon 5 (and as a side point of interest, all three series also had incredibly wonderful female characters). There's no sense arguing with me... I'm old, female, menopausal and retired and I can write 5000 word comments to intimidate you into agreeing with me! :)

8. I've been made a moderator on every site I've been active on. This could be because I'm always right... or it could be simply my addictive personality that ensures I'm usually incredibly active on any web site I take a liking to! I actually feel kinda bad about being a current moderator on Destructoid because for the past 7 months or so I've been sidetracked by a legal matter that has become incredibly expensive, emotional and time consuming. Still, it's now mostly in the hands of our lawyer so I'll be able to spend a little more time here. Even when I'm busy with other stuff, I always read most of the c-blogs and do try to ensure I'm doing some of my "moderator" duties. Oh, and I've never been paid to be a moderator on any site, though I've moderated a Sony site,, and other big names (and this is why I fear MMO's... the addiction!).

9. I like to write... mostly about how right I am. Recently I've been writing a lot of boring legal letters and drafts, but I'm getting the itch to get blogging on Dtoid again. A lot of my recent stuff has had a perspective on feminism... something that has affected my life as a gamer and something I feel strongly about.... and am of course always right about. Still, I know it's a contentious and somewhat boring topic, so I hope to get my mind out of the feminist stream and get back to being just a plain ole gamer with an opinion on everything... which I am right about and you are of course wrong if you disagree with me.

10. I'm always right.... until I"m wrong. If you take the time to speak TO me, rather than AT me... then people will often find that I can change my views, adjust my perspective, or at the very least make the concession that there can be alternate and valid points of view. Being "always right" does not mean stubbornly sticking to one viewpoint, it means admitting when I'm wrong and changing my views. I don't see being "always right" as a negative, I see it as a positive in that a person who is always right has the confidence in their views to express them loudly and clearly even if they are not the most popular views... and if that draws intelligent conversation that enlightens, then it's a good thing, particularly if the two views can reach an acceptable compromise - because life is about accepting compromise and there is no right or wrong, only differing perspectives based in personal truths.
Well... except for Anita Sarkeesian who's simply wrong because she doesn't speak from her own personal truth but tries to present her view as the only socially acceptable view, so even if she is right, she'd still be wrong. Being right or wrong is not black and white... it has to be gray (so yeah, she's not completely wrong... just on that evil side of the black and white siding scale LOL!).

Bonus facts:

* I've been happily married to the same wonderful guy for over 23 years now and my husband and I each have our own consoles and often play together in online games - not always on the same team
* I'm double jointed in my hands (I can bend the first joint in my fingers)
* I tried to put a black temporary rinse in my gray hair last year to get "Sephiroth" dark gray hair just before PAX and ended up with a green tint - ugh... no more hair experimentation!
* All my pets have been named after cars
* I have a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and considered going to Law School
* Blogging and gaming are my primary forms of social interaction now that I've quit the workforce... and I don't mind
* Mood swings.... if you don't like me today, check back tomorrow. :)   read

2:09 PM on 12.19.2013

The invisibility of the older woman...

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 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.


10:49 AM on 08.21.2013

Feminist Frequency and Relevance...

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 betteramourandweapons so that I can have adventures that make me stronger so that I can save the Kingdom. Can't I start the game as anorphanwho'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 its 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 abouta bombing at a military base andinitialreports 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 totangentiallyconnect 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 inClevelanddid. 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 fordebate anddiscussion, 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.... )   read

10:32 AM on 08.12.2013

Killing Death

We're currently going through a family crisis. My father-in-law is 80 and has had a brainhemorrhage. 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... theSpecterof 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: Cancerare 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 littleresemblanceto 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. Thespecterof 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.   read

1:22 PM on 06.25.2013

No means no... but sometimes it has to be said out loud.

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.


2:22 PM on 06.18.2013

It's all about who you're sleeping with...


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,schizophrenicboyfriend, 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 endearingquality... 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 muchattention 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 holdingeach 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 sometrepidation 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!)   read

12:08 PM on 06.12.2013

More questions than answers...

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, orphysicallygetting 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!   read

6:50 PM on 06.04.2013

Fun Facts about Females

Meet Jane. She owns a smartphone or tablet. The install base on Android and iOS devices alone is larger than all the current gen consoles combined. According to Flurry (an app analytics company) there are also about 26 million unique users who play games approximately 25 minutes per day on their smart device. 53% of these smartphone gamers are women.

As of last year, half (51%) of U.S. smartphone owners were women, and half of smartphone owners have used voice commands. Jane likes her smartphone!

According to a 2010 report for Popcap, Jane is among the 55% of women who play social games on their PC or smartphones. The most popular games at the time were Bejeweled Blitz, Farmville and Mafia Wars.

While Jane is a majority in the smartphone/social gaming world, she is still a minority in the console world. According to a 2010 report for Nintendo by M2 Research, female gamers made up 26% of PS3/Xbox/Wii gamers, and 80% of that 26% were Wii gamers (with 11% on the Xbox and 9% on the PS3... but this is 11% and 9% of only that original 26%). Even if these figures have changed over the years, women still make up only a small fraction of Xbox/PS3 gamers. Also of note is that women make up the majority of Facebook (57%) and Twitter users ((59%), which is confirmed by various other studies that generally put the gender split at close to even for those social media networks. Additional data shows that while 80% of female console owners may be using a Wii... they also make up almost 49% of the Wii's total user base in the U.S.

Jane is part of the 61% of Nielsen TV viewers who checked her email while watching TV, and she does this more often than Joe.

Devs are making games for Jane. A survey of devs attending GDC this year showed that 58.39% of them are making their next game for a smartphone/tablet - not the PS4, WiiU or the Xbox One. In fact, the next Halo game will be a Windows 8 game... not just on PC, but also for tablets and smartphones. Most gamers are quite familiar with the various stories of developers who are now focusing on mobile gaming... Electronic Arts, Square Enix, Epic Games, Capcom, Sega... they all make smartphone games. As gamers, we've all seen the stories of devs like Nihilistic Software (creator of games like Playstation Move Heroes, Black Ops Declassified and Resistance: Burning Skies) or Incognito (Warhawk/Starhawk) who no longer make console games and have moved over to making portable smartphone games. With the addition of the female demographic, smartphone and portable gaming is growing, while console gaming has seen very little growth in recent years. The financial risks on smaller portable games is also an attraction for developers in this current world where expensive console games often don't meet financial expectations.

Jane is among the 54% of Skype users that are female.

Jane like Sci Fi and Fantasy. The highest rated cable TV show among females is "The Walking Dead". Women make up 57% of Star Trek fans. Even "Game of Thrones", a fantasy epic that is filled with nearly-naked women and strong, manly men draws in 42% of it's viewer base from women.

Jane also don't mind shows about nearly naked beautiful women... the highest rated network TV show among women is... America's Next Top Model.

Jane likes sports. She's still a minority, but 37% of Nascar's fanbase is female. 43% to 50% of the NFL's fanbase is... yeah, I too was surprised... female. The sport that really draws in the female viewership though is Figure Skating at 70% female viewership.

Putting it all together:

What these random "fun facts about females" illustrate is that women are not a demographic that abhors violence. We apparently like violent sports and violent TV shows just fine. We also don't mind nearly naked women in our entertainment if the viewing statistics for America's Next Top Model and shows like "Game of Thrones" are to be believed. The "male dominated" realm of video games are only dominated by males in the sub-category of console gaming... women are the slight majority in most measurements of social, mobile and smartphone gaming. Women don't have an issue with tech and they own smartphones in equal or greater numbers to men. All in all, women aren't really all that much different from men in terms of things we like.

The other fact is that women ARE changing gaming. It's not the Anita Sarkeesians or the individual voices motivating this change... it's that very large, nebulous, demographic that, when combined with a male demographic, can create a powerhouse. Women already like smartphones and social gaming. They like the motion controls of the Wii. They like Skype, Facebook, Twitter and the ability to use social networking while watching TV. They'll use voice commands. They even like sports. Yup, you guessed it! The Xbox One might just as well be called the XXBox One because it's design is no longer XY (male) centric. Smartglass, Kinect, multitasking, social network integration all seem integral to the new XXbox design and whether Microsoft knows it or not, they've designed a gaming system that might make console gamers out of some of those social gaming, facebooking, skyping, TV watching, Twittering women. Microsoft may or may not market to women directly (as Nintendo very successfully did with the Wii), but the fact is that they have positioned themselves well to do so.

Now before the manly men who play Call of Duty get their boxers in a twist, the reality is that Microsoft offers these as "extras". You'll still pay your monthly fee to access almost all services, you'll still get your Halo's and Call of Duties and other manly games... but if you game on the new XXbox One, you may also find more and more female voices in your games. You may find your wife, your girlfriend or your sister wanting to use the XXbox. It might be a woman sitting next to you enjoying the new Steven Spielberg Halo TV series. Increasingly we're already seeing Fable and other series being co-opted by Kinect integration, and this was always going to continue because the only way to increase the current demographic is to attract more "casual" gamers, male AND female. Increasingly we've been seeing console games adopt social gaming financial models such as microtransactions and "free to play" that turns out to not be quite so "free". This is simply a reality and those models will sit alongside the "season passes" and DLC driven console models. Video gaming is changing and will continue to change as it has since it's inception... but the current changes? Well, to some degree these changes could well be driven by women, females, girls... those oppressed poor creatures in the manly man's world of video games. When men weren't looking, we may have stealthily crept in... and taken over the man cave! (and it really needs to be re-decorated... maybe new curtains and a pretty fern in the corner?)

Now obviously not all women are "Jane". Jane is a generality, an amalgamation of various statistics done at various points in time that merely give a vague indication of what Jane likes. I'm sure that there really is no XXbox conspiracy... but I just found it rather interesting that many of the studies and stats I've noticed over the years seem to mesh together in the recent Xbox One design. Women are all different, just like men are all different, and me, I'm an "Elsa"... and I'll be buying a PS4. :)   read

12:18 PM on 04.23.2013

The sound of many hands fapping...

... is now silenced. Apparently the fap button has been replaced by a generic "like" button and previous fap records have all disappeared. I find I rather miss seeing the fap numbers on some of my previous blogs as the faps often outnumbered the comments.

The urban dictionary defines "fap" as: The onomatopoeic representation of masturbation. Often used to suggest that something is attractive. I have to say that I've always felt a little nebulous on the "fap" button... but I don't know that I like the new "like" button. A "like" button just seems so... common. Fap was original, it was interesting... it was somewhat sexist in that the word "fap" is apparently much more related to the sound of a male masturbating than a female... but certainly the word could apply to both I guess. Words are what you make of them... and certainly with a new word like this, women could "own" the word and make it theirs too. It was immature, it was stupid... but it was Dtoid - and Destructoid is place where any gamer is generally welcomed with open arms - regardless of their gender, race, sexuality... or even the big one - their console of choice!

I get that with all the "sexism in video games" stuff going on right now, that Dtoid may be wanting to change their image a bit. I was pretty happy to see fewer boobs on the front page and more corgis. I guess the combination of the unofficial "also cocks" slogan combined with the "fap" upvoting does create a bit of a boys locker room feel... but I always personally just made myself at home and added "or boobs!" to the "also cocks"... and the fapping was just... well, as noted, I was a bit conflicted about it, but I miss it now that it's gone.

"like". It's just so damn generic! The little thumbs up sign may be a universal upvoting symbol, but when combined with "like" it just makes me feel like I'm on facebook... and I'm NOT a fan of Facebook. Next thing you know we'll be having a "poke" option... though frankly, at this point, that would make me smile, because well... yeah, we all have dirty minds.

I'm not sure why the "fap" button is gone... but I must say I don't like the "like" button. We need something else. Why not a "love" button, or a "recommend" button... or even "upvote" or "kisses" or ... I dunno... what would you like to see... or do you like "like"?

EDIT: Oh wait... what about a "Hugs" button?? I'd love to see that my blog got 6 hugs! I'd love to hug a blog that I "liked"... in fact sometimes you hug something you don't even like, but respect... like that chatty, nosy Great-Aunt that comes for a visit and you sort of feel you have to hug her... which is sort of like those really well written blogs that you don't particularly agree with, but do think they deserve an upvote.
Hugs... I want a hugs button! :)


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