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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: exrecruiter.at.msn.com


Player Profile
Xbox LIVE:Elssa62
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5:16 PM on 03.06.2013

I know that Anita Sarkeesian's "Damsel in Distress" initial video of her examination of Tropes vs Women in Video games is due to drop tomorrow, so I wanted to get some of my thoughts out previous to viewing her video. I sincerely hope that she examines the actual trope itself, and not just her usual feminist 101 views of "this trope exists and it's bad", because the issue isn't really whether this trope exists in games, it's the trope itself.

First of all, this trope has been with us a long time. Our fairly tales told to young children often include a damsel in distress needing rescuing by the brave knight. It's a common theme in women's romance novels, many chick flicks, most every episode of CSI or Criminal Minds, and yes... video games. This trope is prevalent and can be found in most every aspect of both men's and women's entertainment. In women's entertainment (romance novels, chick flicks) the "distress" is often financial distress or the emotional distress of being alone (because often the message in women's romance novels is that true love makes life magically wonderful... and if he's secretly wealthy, well, as Marilyn Monroe once said "a man being rich is like a girl being pretty. You wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?") In entertainment with a larger male demographic, the point of view is more often that of the rescuing knight - the trials and tribulations he endures to rescue the damsel. The fact that this trope exists in video games is absolutely no surprise, given it's popularity in most other entertainment media. The fact that the story is most often told from the point of view of the knight doing the rescuing is also expected, given the historical demographics that it's primarily men who buy and play video games. Essentially, the fact that video games use the trope of the "damsel in distress" is absolutely no surprise given it's popularity in most of our other media - hence, the reason it's a "trope" or commonly used story mechanic.

Why am I always rescuing this dude?

Is the trope sexist?
Certainly it's sexist. It's equally as sexist as the strong male who is always rescuing the damsel in distress. It often portrays the female as disempowered, without the aid of the empowered male. What is often overlooked though, is that video games have a long history of "dudes in distress". Most every war game has the empowered male player rescuing a disempowered male operative taken prisoner and tortured by the Russian/Middle East bad guys, or rescuing a captured buddy. Video games (in particular the WRPG genre) also have a long history of allowing gender choice for the player... so in many games the female player character rescues other damsels, dudes and even small children from the cave or cellar where they are being held by evil mages, goblins or kobolds, or the ubiquitous "thieves". Increasingly we're seeing the damsels rescuing the dude (Nathan Drake has been rescued by both Zoe and Elena), or in other games the distressed damsel turns out to have rescued herself (in The Secret of Monkey Island, Guybrush arrives only to find that the distressed damsel has already foiled her captor!) Video games also have many many female protagonists that simply don't need rescuing (Lara Croft, Samus Aran, Jade, Chell), which is actually somewhat surprising given the male demographics of video games. All in all, yes, the "damsel in distress" trope is sexist, but only when one focuses specifically on that trope and ignores all the variations of the trope that exist. When one starts to look at the copious examples of the variations, it becomes a lot less sexist in that the discriminatory aspect of the female needing rescuing is offset by the males needing rescuing as well. Is it sexist for a male to rescue another male, or for a female to rescue a male or another female? Is it sexist when the male tries to rescue the female only to find she doesn't need rescuing?

Why all the rescuing?
Well, the fact is that video games aren't always about the story or plot, they're more often about the gameplay. From Donkey Kong to today's games like Dark Souls (which I'm currently playing!)... plot in video games is often a very secondary facet and the use of tropes or well used plots can help to merely provide a loose basis for the actual game play. Rescuing a female loved one (sister or love interest) is no more common in video games than the tropes of "it's war!... you're a good guy (the bad guys are Russians, Middle-Eastern or Aliens)" or "you have been given a special power to save or destroy the Kingdom, world, universe, or whatever", or the wonderful "find the lost remnant/covenant/object that can destroy the world, before the bad guys do". Rescuing Princess Peach is merely the excuse Mario needs to keep going.. and going.. and going through all the various levels. The Zelda games seem much more about Link's journey rather than any actual rescuing. In Two Worlds 2, I often forgot that I was apparently a man trying to rescue my captured sister... because really, there were so many side quests and other things to do.
As video game plots get more complex, I think we start to see more variations. For example in Resistance Fall of Man, Rachel Parker is initially "rescued" by Nathan Hale in that he opened a door for her allowing her to escape, but she later becomes a key figure in the game - directing the actions of Nathan Hale by feeding him information, being suspicious of whether he is infected or not... and eventually she ends up rescuing the male Cartwright when he becomes injured on one of the final missions. She's not a "damsel in distress" and yet, yes.. a male does initially "rescue" her. More complex plots generally give us more complex characters... and rescuing takes on new meanings with games such as The Walking Dead.

Does rescuing need to go away?
Personally, I don't think so. Feminists seem to have no issue with advocating for government or social programs such as women's shelters, or special women's programs to aid, support and "rescue" women in distress, so it's apparently fine for society to "rescue" damsels in distress... it's apparently only wrong when a man does it. I think if a man sees a woman being slapped, or abused or yelled at... he SHOULD rescue her. He should step in, say something, prevent the abuse, even at the possible risk of his own life (in fact in my home town a man recently stepped in when another man was arguing vehemently with his girlfriend in a parking lot, and he was hit, fell to the pavement and later died). What this trope needs is simply two things.. more women being the rescuers... because we too should be stepping in if we see anyone (male or female) being victimized... and additionally, I think that we women need to look a little more closely and critically at our own media. Most of the "damsel in distress" trope in video games tends to be saving a woman from physical harm. In women's media like romance novels or movies (Twilight, almost every romantic comedy), distress is more often the message is that we are "incomplete" without a man, or that a man will financially rescue us and make life better. Falling in love with the right man will apparently rescue us from emotional incompleteness, and we will additionally be "beautiful" because of course beauty is in the eye of the man who loves you. The reality is that love is wonderful... but we should be "complete" people without our loved ones, and our beauty should not be dependent on a man's view.

In video games, the damsel in distress is indeed one of many well worn tropes. Overall (and particularly in comparison to other media), I think it's essentially harmless and not even overly sexist as presented in video games. Video games are a unique media where viewpoint is not static and there is a sense of immersion not often found in other more passive forms of media. We women that play these games are the protagonist... whether the protagonist is presented as male or female. Yes, I have rescued a lot of damsels, but I've also a rescued a lot of dudes in distress as well. Many of our games even allow for the main character to be male or female and while there are often inconsistencies where I can tell the game was primarily written from a male perspective (like getting to make out with the Duchess in Dragon's Dogma after rescuing her), most of the game is rather genderless.... in some ways it's true equality. We can play as powerful, aggressive female warriors... men can play as weaker, stealthier and sneaky protagonists. We can choose to talk our way out of situations with high charm stats... or to simply bang someone over the head. With advancements to technology we are even increasingly seeing unique plot scenarios that only occur based on the gender of the character you choose to play.

The "damsel in distress" is a complex trope, it can be good, it can be bad.. it could certainly be less gendered (more dudes in distress!) It's generally much more complex than the simplicity often shown in video games. I do hope that Ms. Sarkeesian treats this topic with more depth than merely pointing out that this trope exists and that it's "bad". I realize that there are more far reaching aspects to this trope and hope to have more to think about on this topic.

.... but while I await her video, let me get back to reading this month's Harlequin romance:

Photo Photo Photo

12:09 PM on 02.14.2013

Last year for Valentine's Day my husband got me a funny little book called "Porn for Women" and included really nice pictures of guys saying things like "God, that's SO interesting... tell me more" or "Oh look! The NFL playoffs are today. I bet we'll have no trouble finding parking at the crafts fair". It was cute and I thought it would be fun to adapt it for gaming so I created these pics last year, but then I never posted a blog because frankly... it's entirely sexist! This year, I just don't care about the sexist thing... so for the two other people out there that might find these funny, here ya go!

Have fun this Valentine's Day! For myself and my husband, it will be love and bullets as we will likely load up a shooter game and go kill some bad guys. Having a gaming spouse is awesome... but it's also a lot like assembling Ikea Furniture together... you have to have a pretty strong relationship to make it work. There can be arguments regarding picking out the right furniture, because tastes can vary... and then there is the aspect of working together which more often results in that lovely bookcase ending up looking like a coffin that you wish you could bury your loved one in without anyone being the wiser!
So if you're in a game and you hear "sorry I ran you in the jeep over honey!" or "Dammit sweetie, why can't you fucking carry a med kit!"... then say hi to us! :)

I'm not a competitive person. I tend to prefer multiplayer shooter games that are based on team tactics and allow for helping out team members with the ability to play medic or engineer or other non-shooty aspects to the game. I love discussing team tactics and working together to achieve a common goal... and in the rare case when that actually happens, games are magic for me. They fill my heart, not just with a love of the game, but with a sense of real affectionate for the random players I might be in the squad with.

My lack of a truly aggressive competitive spirit seems to be fairly common among my gender. There have been several recent studies that seem to point to a possibility that the salary gap between men and women may, in part, be due to women not wanting to apply for positions that are very competitive. The first study showed that men are much more likely to apply for positions where salary was based on personal performance, and women tended to strongly prefer positions that had low competitive levels - where the salary was a flat fee (independent of performance) or where the performance was based on how the team did, rather than the individual.
The second study was even more controlled and eradicated issues that might actually arise in the workplace (women were equally skilled, there was no chance of discrimination and the time limit would create no conflicts with home life), yet 75% of the male participants in the study opted for a competitive tournament setting with the chance to make more money, whereas only 35% of the women chose this option.

Now these are just preliminary studies and don't represent all men or all women. Obviously there are strongly competitive women in the workplace, and non-competitive men. The main thing I took away from these studies was a side thought on whether video games could actually help non-competitive people become more comfortable in competitive situations? Looking back on my own experience with competitive multi-player games, I do think that video games can be helpful in better understanding many of the variances in a competitive environment. Gender, age, race, sexuality, appearance... these factors play almost no role in video game competition, so we are all free to better examine the actual nature of competition and how it might apply to real life.

Understanding the Game:
Playing a variety of competitive video games has shown me that it's not entirely about skill, sometimes it's about looking at things like the points structure. In a game like MAG, people can often achieve better personal scores by playing the role of medic - gaining massive points for healing and reviving. They can use a well situated vehicle's turret as an armoured gun to more easily acquire kills, and if they equip a repair gun, they can get additional repair points for repairing their own vehicle. In games like Modern Warfare 3, spamming the recon drone and marking enemies can help to bring up a personal score if one's killing skill isn't high. In a game like Warhawk, sneaking around and continually hiding out and taking zones can make someone an MVP.
A game may seem to be about killing the opponents and achieving team objectives, but a closer look at a game and it's structure can reveal ways to "win" and achieve high personal scores that are a little bit outside of the main game's structure. The same can hold true of the workforce. When competing, it's important to understand the structure of the competition. It may not be about achieving the best sales record - it might be about the ability to bring in new clients, grow existing clients, client satisfaction, and retaining clients. In some workplaces, personal popularity and networking is more of a factor than performance, in other workplaces, promotions may be entirely based on statistics like the number of calls handled in a phone support situation, so brevity and volume might even be more important than client satisfaction. It's all about understanding how the game works.

Understanding Your Own Skills:
One thing I've learned from video games is that I don't always know my own skills. I always thought I was a bad sniper, but by actually giving it a go, I've found out I'm a awesome sniper! I can easily rack up the most kills in a game by sniping, but again, it goes to understanding the game and by not taking objectives or reviving other players, my overall points will often be low. I can however, apply this new-found skill to an assault rifle with a 4X scope and a silencer... and be in the action accruing points while still getting those long range kills I seem to be good at. Gaming has taught me that I should try things I don't think I'm good at, and additionally to look at new ways to use those skills. In the workforce, I think we too often focus in on something we "think" we're good at, but don't try other aspects of the job we dislike or where we think we will do poorly. Every game and every job is different. Sniping in one game is very different from sniping in another game... and sales in one job might be very different from sales in another job. Being competitive often means trying out all aspects of your job and often finding you may be good at something you didn't previously like, or felt you weren't good at! It can mean adjusting how you use your skills in order to be more competitive.

Understanding the Competition:
Those of us that play competitive video games have, at one point, found ourselves being red-lined, pwned, or totally destroyed. Those are the games where we can barely spawn without encountering an undignified death. In the workforce, we may well be the "new kid" and everyone around us looks skilled and quite ready to teabag our lifeless resumes or corpsehump our performance statistics. Video gaming has taught me that there is value in seeing an arrogant and overpowered enemy. Often it's not all that difficult to sneak around behind enemy lines, take the objective and win the game. In other circumstances, it's possible to find a safe spot where you can snipe all those arrogant red dots rushing out into the open and at least achieve the highest score on my team.
In the workforce, whether you're a web page designer, an accountant, an artist or a CEO - look at your competition. What are their weaknesses? What can you do better or different to win against established forces? Looking at the competition and adapting becomes second nature in video games. Seeing their weaknesses and using them to your own advantage is part of healthy competition - in a game, or in the workplace.

Understanding Your Own Team:
Sometimes you get on a team where everyone wants to snipe and nobody is going for the objective, where people are rushing headlong into an obvious enemy area, or where people are just... well... dickheads. Sometimes when you look around at your own team, you realize that you're on a team of losers. In a video game you can try to take charge and see if you can bring some order and strategy to the idiotic chaos, you can cut your losses, forget about your team winning and just go for personal points, or you can just quit the game and find another game with a better team. In the workforce it's important to look around and see if you're on a team of winners, or a team of losers. If you're stuck with the losers, you might try and make them into winners... or you can just forget about them and look after yourself. You can also try to get on that team of winners you see over in the corner. Regardless of your decision, it's important to take an objective look at your team - be it your work unit, branch, or even the personal relationships you've formed in the workplace. It's also important to realize, that just like a video game, your team might change over time. Some clans in certain games become the "winners", but changes over time might see new clans arise and older one's start to disintegrate. Being competitive means having an honest look at your own team, and often making some hard decisions.

Fair Play and Morals:
It doesn't take too long when playing competitive video games before you will encounter those that glitch, cheat, or have no sense of fair play. You may also on a rare occasion encounter the opposite... someone in the group who says, "we've won the game, it's over, pull back a bit... everyone switch to pistols!" - I love that guy! Mostly though, you'll find those glitchers, cheaters and asshats. When people on your own team are using a glitch you are presented with the moral question of use it, or not. Report them, or not. The more I play competitive games, the more I start to realize that the use of some glitches or cheats is not entirely a black and white issue... there is a lot of grey where certain glitches are used by everyone to the benefit of the game. In many situations, what one person might call "cheating" another person might simply say that it's not outside of the rules of the game (flag tossing in Warhawk was often used to pad points before a patch was brought in to disallow it).
These same situations often arise in the workplace, especially if you're competitive and take better notice of this phenomenon. It's interesting but I remember one example of a company that found that some of their sales people had teamed up in order to win a quarterly prize offered to the employee with the highest sales. They would use one employees number when entering sales and then split the prize. Corporate decided to look the other way because what was happening was that employees were teaming up, working with each other, looking for potential partners... and overall sales were dramatically increasing because, through teamwork, employees with normally low sales when teamed with other employees actually had a chance at winning... so everyone's sales were up. Even employee morale was increased because more employees had a chance of winning and people were getting along better so as not to offend a potential future partner in this "scam".
In various work situations - as an employer or an employee, we are often conflicted regarding whether to cheat, or how to deal with others who cheat. We also have to go back to the rules of the game to even determine IF there is cheating. These are all situations faced when playing most competitive multiplayer video games and individuals can learn from how they handle these situations and possibly apply what they've learned to workplace situations.

TLDR: Overall, would playing competitive video games help non-competitive people become better at competition? My own feelings are that it might help them to better understand competition, it might give them more faith in their abilities, it might help people become more familiar with how to handle certain competitive situations... so yes, I do think that playing competitive video games can have some real world positive value. Video games are also one of the few venues where men and women can compete directly against each other - very much like the workforce.

From a personal viewpoint, I do think that playing competitive online games has made me much more comfortable competing against men. It's also brought me a certain level of confidence and a better understanding of competition. It's "toughened" me up a bit more where I am more willing to take risks for greater rewards, and where I'm also more willing to compete based on my personal performance and not always based on cooperative game play.

So if your young daughter starts to take Mario Kart a little too seriously... knocking others off the track, wanting to "win" at the cost of others - this may not be something to discourage. Finding her competitive spirit may not seem very gentle or ladylike... but it may better prepare her to break through the glass ceiling in the competitive real world of the workforce.

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12:30 PM on 11.15.2012

So I finally (after trying out a LOT of demos) found a Kinect game I actually like. Someone on another blog indicated that the game Rhythm Party was similar to the old Eyetoy Groove game... so I looked up the demo and gave it a try! I loved the game, and yes, it's very similar to Groove. This is a simple game of hitting certain marks in time with the music... using your own moves. I really dislike the current trend of "copy the professional dancer so we all dance the same" thing. I don't want to dance exactly like the geeky dancer doing those "I'm a trendy kid" moves... I just want to dance any way I want and get some exercise. The only real drawback to this game is that unlike Groove, it doesn't allow for any customization (creating your own routines), and it doesn't show a camera image of me... no, it shows part of a blurry camera image of me... with no hair. I don't understand why Kinect games just don't show a simple camera image, but instead I'm usually missing body parts, or more commonly, my hair! I don't even have short hair, it's shoulder length, but I guess now I know what I'll kind of look like if I go bald. Maybe Kinect just doesn't like gray hair - age discrimination! Still, Rhythm Party is exactly what I wanted... let's buy the thing!

Surprise!... it's 800 Microsoft "points". Last time I bought a game on XBL it was a "games on demand" and I paid the exact price with my credit card. This was the first time I have been faced with the "points" thing. Ok, I guess I need to buy 800 points.... no, I can only buy 500 points or 1000 points. Ah! Ok, well I can probably buy some DLC with the left over 200 points. Wrong again, DLC for the game (extra song tracks) is 240 points! At this point, I'm almost ripping my hair out to match the Kinect version of reality. so I decide to see if I can buy the code for the game, or a points card from an online source - maybe EBGames or Amazon.ca. No again. Americans can apparently buy 400 or 800 point cards, but not Canadians. Well dammit! If they just told me the game was 1000 points or $14.50 I would probably have just bought the game and figured it was an ok deal at that price - but now I'm just pissed. They want me to pay extra for the game and then have these absolutely useless points sitting on my account. To make matters worst, it seems that the US price of 1000 points is $12.50... so Canadians (even though our dollar is near par) are getting ripped off. Sony has offered Canadian/American dollars on par for many years now - with the exact same price on games in both stores. I also understand that Americans can purchase in increments of 400 or 800 points... which doesn't seem to be an option available to Canadians either online or through purchased points cards. I already have a Hate/Hate relationship with my Xbox because of the requirement for Gold to even use the web browser, never mind any game I might buy for $60.00 that I won't be able to play because most of the games I buy are for the online multiplayer component.... and now I've encountered "microsoft points" - UGH!

Yup... you're fucked!

The Xbox with Kinect was a gift from my husband. He bought it for me during the big PSN hacking outage because he knew how much I missed online play. It came with a one month trial of Gold and I have to admit that I really enjoyed the online play of the Xbox, but I have a moral issue with paying an additional fee to play the game I just paid for. I can pay $59.00 per year so that I can use the web browser on my Xbox, or Netflix or play the games I bought... or I can get all those services for free on my PS3 and pay $49.00 per year for PSPlus and get a ton of free games. There just doesn't seem to be a lot of comparison regarding which choice offers better value, so yeah, my Xbox has been Gold-less and accumulating dust aside from the few times I play an older WRPG on it.

Still... I do need the exercise, so I'll buy the 1000 points and just convince myself that I'm buying this game for $14.50. I already checked and apparently my left over 200 points won't even buy me a goddamn virtual puppy for my avatar - they're 240 points! I'm gonna try really, really hard not to get frustrated over the point manipulation thing of so many games being 800 points, but not being able to just buy 800 points.

It's not just my Xbox that I'm pissed off at. I'm looking at my PS3 and feeling my hair fall out over the continuing frustration of third party games simply not working on the system. I've been playing MAG as my go-to shooter game for well over two years now and was looking forward to Black Ops 2 as a new shooter game. I held off on pre-ordering the game because so many shooter games have launch issues. Some eventually get fixed (Battlefield 3) and some never do get fixed (Ghost Recon). Additionally, the PS3 has issues with sustaining the needed player base on shooter games to be able to play them well past launch, so I figured Black Ops 2 might just have the volume for me to be able to just jump in any time and play a game. On launch day, I hit up the PS3 section of the official Black Ops 2 forums and found pages and pages and pages of complaints about two issues - PS3 freezing in multiplayer and server issues. The new developer thread on the "servers unavailable" issue is now at 225 pages and growing fast (in addition to copious complaints not on the official thread tracking the issue). The PS3 freezing thread is also gaining quite the following. The worst thing is that many of the PS3 freezes happen when people finally manage to get into a game, so when they do re-boot their PS3 units and re-load the game they are insulted with a warning that they are on probation for quitting games! The devs did seem to take notice of all the complaints, and they do seem to now be tracking these issues and working on them, but until a patch resolves this issue, I'll hold off on buying the game. I really don't want to be stuck in the Skyrim situation of owning a game that just barely works on the system. I did manage to platinum Skyrim but had to disable all auto-saves and use manual saves... which constantly reminded me I was playing a game and I was not at all immersed in the world. I held on to the game for the advertised DLC... and like others with the PS3 version, I'm still waiting.

I don't understand how Activision can produce previous Call of Duty games that eventually worked fine on the PS3, and then fuck up the current game so badly. They're using the same old tired game engine they've been using since Modern Warfare, so it seems they should have been able to manage the basics of people getting into the game and playing the game. Some third party PS3 games do work fine... I had absolutely no issues with Capcom's Dragon's Dogma and it seems almost entirely random as to which games will have PS3 issues and which won't .... but I guess if it's a huge AAA game with millions of dollars invested into it (like COD or Skyrim), the chances of it not working on the PS3 seem to increase. :(

Anyway, I guess I'll de-stress by getting some exercise with Kinect Rhythm Party and by trying out some of the PSPlus games I've acquired. I tried out Just Cause 2, and it's a goofy fun game if I ignore the quests and just explore the island while blowing shit up and playing with the cars, boats and helicopters! There are also a bunch of other games (Warhammer, Payday, RE5) that I haven't even tried yet.

Ah well... at least I feel a little better after venting about my recent gaming frustrations! :)

... and hell, maybe I'll just load up Modern Warfare 3 and see if people are still playing.
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First off, for those that don't know - I am an old, white female. My gender has occasionally been questioned, but I can describe menstrual cramps in detail, and I can also now give a crash course in early menopause... and the threats of those are usually enough to confirm my gender. I'm also an old white woman who plays FPS games online, with a mic. Yes, I've encountered harassment, and on occasion I've also been guilty of dishing it out. Well, apparently Microsoft plans on perma-banning Halo 4 players for sexist comments, and all I can think is "which stupid cunts at Microsoft decided this was a good idea?".

Now when I say the word "cunts", I don't mean it to refer specifically to women... the same as all those British players who game online tend to use it to refer to a moron - male or female. It's just a swear word simply intended to denote feelings of vehemence towards.... well... someone - usually the player that just teamkilled you or teabagged you. I've noticed that American players seem to use the word "bitch" in the same way. At first I often thought the "bitch" comments were directed towards me - often the only female in the game. It took me awhile to realize that it's used more often towards other men. These words are still exceedingly sexist because their primary purpose is to apply female characteristics to other men in an derogatory way - but this use of "sexist" language is most often used to harass other men, not women. So is it sexist language that will earn the ban? if men call each other sexist words will they be banned, or will it be actual sexist acts towards the opposite gender to undermine their gaming enjoyment that is a bannable offense. If it's sexist language, who determines which words are sexist? A friend of mine often affectionately refers to her friends as "you silly cunt"... would she be banned for the use of that word, even though her intent of the word is simply affection for a friend? Will intent be the overriding factor? I recently ran across an annoying MAG player who would meow every time I was in his squad... and when someone would finally ask why he was meowing, he would say "I smell pussy in this game, and girls shouldn't play my game". He used no swear words - but clearly and annoyingly harasses women whenever there is one in his squad (I finally blocked little pussy boy). So is it the use of words... or intent? If it's words, then where is the list of banned words and will their use evoke a ban for anyone - male or female? If it's intent, how do you prove intent or give proof of intent that the actions were sexist and intended to specifically harass women?

It's also only "sexist" language that will apparently earn this lifetime ban... so I guess if you want to use racist or homophobic language you'll be safe. I'm sometimes confused for a male in online play and have been called a " faggy, homo guy" or a "tranny" - will this continue to be acceptable, or will the perpetrators be subject to a ban - not because I'm actually a homosexual male, but because I am a heterosexual female who was harassed with sexist language that implied I was a gay male rather than a straight female, even if the intent was not to actually harass a female, but the end result was? (oh my, things do start to get confusing don't they?)

Does the term "sexist" work both ways? When being teabagged it's not at all uncommon for me to say "grow some balls before you teabag me, you dickless moron!" (well, either that or "what, no dinner and a movie first?"). So I'm guilty of using sexist insults towards a male - am I now subject to a ban because as a women I used a sexist insult to a man? I'm also a bad driver and have been known to laughingly say "ok, so I drive like a woman!" when I crash our team vehicle into an obstacle while trying to drive it to a bunker... should I be banned for using sexist language in reference to myself?

What about the more obscure harassment... most every female gamer has experienced that male who really, really, really wants on your buddy list and floods their inbox with pleas to be added. They claim they are not sexist and that the love women gamers... which in itself is sexist in that they differentiate "female" from "male". It's a subtle harassment, but it's still annoying. Would this sexist behavior be banned?

What about women who evoke harassment? Most of the nasty PSN notes I receive are because I said something derogatory to someone in the game... if the criteria for banning is the receipt of XBL messages such as those highlighted on sites such as "Fat, Ugly or Slutty", then what's to prevent some women from manipulating this response?

If the criteria is verbal, what's to prevent women from grouping up and lying about one of the group-member's ex-boyfriend? Claiming harassment in order to get the person permanently banned or at least temporarily banned while the complaints are investigated? If people don't think that women can be vicious... then apparently they've never been divorced.

The "sexist language" threat of a permanent ban has no balls when Microsoft and 343 don't spell out EXACTLY the actions or words that will get players banned for life. What they have done is either an empty threat, or worse, it will be a threat applied with bias - moderators will use their "personal judgment" regarding who gets banned for life and who doesn't.

Vicious harassment exists in gaming. It's not just sexist harassment aimed at deterring women from playing, it's also racist and homophobic harassment. There is harassment of younger players who's voices still reflect their youth. There is harassment of well... anybody and everybody. There are answers though and the answer is NOT some poorly thought out reactionary plan to specifically target sexual harassment of women in gaming. A more effective answer is to give players the agency to easily institute a voice ban. When a player is muted by two other players in a game, they go on auto-mute. They are simply and effectively informed that they have been muted. Anyone who wants to speak with this player must actually go to the trouble of un-muting them. If a player is auto-muted in say 5 games - then they are perma-muted. Again, anyone who wants to listen to this player or speak with this player would then have to go to the trouble of actually un-muting them in order to communicate with them. This is a clear and easy answer to harassment of all kinds, including that idiot that feels the need to blast rap music at very high volumes through their mic in every game (and if it's one of those "gangsta bitch" misogynistic rap songs - is that considered sexual harassment of women?). If the harassment is via messaging, then have an auto-ban on the player's ability to send messages after "X" number of complaints. If they want the ban lifted, they would have to exonerate themselves.

The thing is that there are answers. The answer though is not a narrow minded focus on sexism, while ignoring other forms of harassment. It's not perma-banning people from a game based on some nebulous criteria. Instead it's giving players the agency to better control who they play with. Microsoft already has a good start with their ability to use the party chat system. They even have gamer "zones" such as Recreation, Family, Pro and Underground. These zones don't actually seem to have any purpose or effect, so why don't games create their own Zones. In a game with the population base of something like Halo 4, it should be easily possible to at least divide players into "Family" and "Underground". Any one found to be swearing and abusing the "Family" rating could be automatically re-classified permanently into "Underground" if enough players mark this gamer via an in-game system.

Answers... yes, they are there. Perma-banning for sexism in Halo 4 - not an answer. Instead, I'm starting to feel used and dirty... that "banning sexism" is simply a marketing tool aimed at women to encourage them to play Halo 4, aimed at the press to generate publicity, and aimed at the Sarkeesianesque sympathizers who buy into the whole issue with their white knight dollars. The irony is that in banning players for making "sexist" comments against women - they themselves are acting in a sexist manner by treating males and females different. By singling out "sexism" instead of harassment, they are playing the big ole gender card and they are doing nothing more than exacerbating the existing male vs female negativity.

Halo 4.... look for ways to battle harassment, but please get off the sexism sympathy train. It's quickly running out of steam. and I'm getting damn tired of being used as fuel. The problem isn't sexism or harassment against women... it's just plain harassment against anyone!
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I can't help feeling a bit maternal about those on my buddy list.. I care about you! I also can't help but notice that some of you are playing Borderlands 2 - all the time, - probably too much. I wonder if you're practicing safe gaming.

It seems it's not uncommon for gamers to be hospitalized because of gaming marathons, or for people to actually die from gaming marathons... but there are reasons for gaming marathons - like Borderlands 2, or a double XP weekend, or Borderlands 2 DLC, or Dishonored,or Borderlands 2 (did I mention Borderlands 2?) - and gaming doesn't have to endanger your health with a few common sense tips.

1. The beer hat
Dehydration is a real thing. If you really can't take the time to drink a nice big glass of water while fast traveling in Borderlands, then get yourself a beer hat! You can drink and play at the same time. Drink water. Juice is full of sugar and will hype you up (and pack on the pounds) and colas, coffee and tea are diuretics that when consumed in large quantities will basically make you piss out much of the fluid you should be retaining. If you don't have the latest in beer hats, then make sure that you have a very large glass of water or a bike flask of water (which doesn't spill when you throw it on the couch next to you). Have a goal of finishing the entire amount within a 4 hour period.

2. Washroom breaks
One of the best things about drinking lots of water while you game is that it mostly forces you to get up and go to the bathroom at fairly regular periods. Unless you're seriously ill, don't do the Depends Adult Diaper thing - it's just really uncool, probably uncomfortable, and likely a bit smelly. On a washroom break, refocus your eyes, do a quick stretch - and park your Siren or Assassin near a safe place where you won't get killed by a Scrag!

3. Meal breaks
While eating Pizza pockets or drinking Ensure meal replacement milkshakes through your beer hat might seem like an attractive alternative to actually eating... don't do it! There are these things called "breakfast", "lunch" and "dinner" - if one of those mealtimes arrives, take 20 minutes to half an hour to actually leave the game and take a break. Make a meal, eat it... and don't look at your TV. Look out the window, read a book, check email on your phone - but do something where your eyes get a break by re-focusing at varying distances. Hell, watch your meal cook in the microwave if you have to, just make sure you look at something different for a short while and that you walk around a bit or stretch.

4. Sleep
Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. While you may think that you are super-human and can play for three days straight with no sleep, the reality is that your skills have likely decreased to those of a 9 year old girl... well, actually, it's probably a nine year old girl who is now carrying your ass in Borderlands and constantly rescuing you from Badass Blackhole Threshers. Don't let your game (and reputation) suffer because you're too stubborn to grab a much needed period of rest. When your eyes droop and you find yourself wiping drool from your mouth that you didn't know was there until the icky wetness ran down your chin and dribbled on your chest - take the time to put the controller down, exit the game, close your eyes - and sleep!

5. Shower
When you're battling Spitter Scrags and Chubby Varkids and you suddenly wonder what that odd odor is that you keep smelling, well, it's likely you. Getting those badass points or to that next level is no excuse for bad hygiene!

6. Appropriate clothing
Please wear appropriate clothing when you're gaming for long periods of time. Don't wear constrictive clothes (and yes, ladies, that means taking off the underwire push-up bra and putting on a supportive yoga top or sports bra... or going bra-less!). Joggers, pajamas, or naked - doesn't matter what you choose, just make sure you don't have anything cutting off circulation and strangling body parts while you're engrossed in your marathon. Myself... I'm a pajama person. No, I'm not talking Victoria's Secret sexy pajamas - I'm saying that yes, if you've played online with me, I was probably wearing floppy flannel pj bottoms with an elastic waist and a yoga top (for the boob support), with a hoodie or sweatshirt because I'm always cold. Now that you have that horrifying visual in your brain, it's time to look at what's on your feet (after a quick look at some "appropriate clothing"!).

... apparently naked gaming is a thing!

7. leg condoms!!
As a last note (and the most important note) - compression socks!! Compression socks aren't just for little old ladies with varicose veins anymore! There is a current trend for Olympic athletes and long distance runners to wear compression socks either during the event, or immediately after the event. Various studies have shown no drawbacks to the use of compression socks, and the positive benefits include reduced muscle fatigue, improved circulation and possibly better lactate clearance. Compression socks essentially work by adding compression or tightness at the ankle, which helps to prevent blood pooling, clotting, and it helps to improve circulation. More importantly compression socks feel great!! My doctor recommended compression socks for me on one of my earlier surgeries because I tend to be fairly sedentary during recovery and I'll be the first to say that they feel awesome! You can pick them up for around $10.00 to $20.00 at most any pharmacy and they are well worth every penny! I use them regularly for gaming because I'm often sitting in one position for extended periods of time. Yes, these leg condoms may initially feel odd, but you do get used to them, and they can be useful in helping to prevent blood clots or other circulatory problems for gamers who don't get up regularly and stretch!

Oh yeah... and as an extra bonus note - a door lock!
So, if you're going to be gaming naked, while wearing a beer hat and compression socks - you will want a lock on your door. It's not for you... it's for the sanity and safety of anyone who may inadvertently scar their mind by seeing you during your gaming marathon!

Safe gaming - it's really just common sense and leg condoms. In your eagerness to enjoy the pleasures of gaming, I just don't want to see any accidents happen - something that you often have to live with for a long, long time. Dehydration, blood clots and other health issues can generally be averted with a little common sense, so enjoy your gaming marathon, but game safely! Most of us already know this information... but how many of us practice it? I know I'm sometimes guilty of gaming for 4 hours or more without drinking, eating, stretching or looking after myself, so this blog is as much a reminder for myself as it is for anyone else reading it. Game safely!

... Oh... and when you're done with your gaming marathon and have killed Handsome Jack, take a day or two off and get off your butt and go outside.
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