I'm a lady geek who enjoys the finer things in life: Gaming, science fiction (and fantasy too...who can resist a unicorn?!), old movies, vintage (read: Goodwill) clothes, and writing.
I got my undergraduate degree in anthropology and applied archaeology in hopes of becoming Indiana Jones. I dropped out of my fancy graduate school when I realized that archaeologists don't really get to beat up Nazis. THANKS, COLLEGE.
I like cats, Diet Coke and rock music. I currently work for BioWare as a community representative on STAR WARS: The Old Republic. (Clearly my opinions here do NOT reflect those of my employers.) Mostly, I just try to be awesome, and play a lot of games.
A few days ago, the results of the 2011 Frag Doll Casting Call were announced. This year, two lucky young women were plucked out of the Frag Doll Cadettes Academy to join the ranks of paid corporate spokesmodels! Clearly, this would not have been newsworthy enough to drag me out of a sabbatical in the past. Hell, I don't WANT to write about the Frag Dolls--for the most part I just try to pretend that they don't exist, like the dreaded candiru or Tea Partiers. However, as time goes on and their influence and credibility spreads, it's obvious that ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away--in fact, not speaking out is only making it worse. And so, I bring you my resident Angry Female opinion on what is an increasingly alarming influence on how female gamers are perceived.
First off, what is the Frag Doll Cadettes Academy? In their words: "The Frag Doll Cadettes Academy is like an "internship" for female gamers who are interested in learning more about the video game industry and possibly going to some industry events."
Note that "internships" is in quotes because they're not actual internships. (Certainly no internship I've ever had has required me to list my height or hair color.) Basically, it's a street team for the Frag Dolls, which equals a lot of free promotion for Ubisoft. And if you're one of the lucky ladies chosen for the real team, you get...uhh...exposure? Validation for being a hot lady who plays games? A gig getting paid to be pretty and pose with a controller while a corporation signs your paychecks? So basically, an opportunity to shill for the company, but it's legitimized because hey, you did your "internship" first. Kind of like how beauty pageants prefer to be known as "scholarship competitions."
A lot of the debate surrounding these women centers on whether or not they are "real" gamers. Regardless of whatever the truth is (they play games and compete semi-professionally, which is good enough for me), this debate obscures the greater issue at hand. The problem is not that a team of attractive female gamers exists; the problem is that Ubisoft has led a frighteningly successful campaign to have this group of carefully-selected spokesmodels represent all female gamers to the outside world.
So THIS is why we're stuck with a bunch of pink peripherals.
But who says that they're representing women gamers as a group? Well, the Frag Dolls themselves, for one. From the Frag Dolls website, "The Frag Dolls are a team of professional female gamers recruited by Ubisoft to promote their video games and represent the presence of women in the game industry." I could care less about the first part; it's the second part that is dangerous. Think I'm overreacting? Every public appearance puts emphasis on the team's gender first, competitive gaming ability second. They're asked to speak at events and conventions on the subject of women in gaming; they've made appearances on mainstream TV networks. And they're not being invited to appear as representatives of Ubisoft, they're asked to speak because they are, by all appearances, the face of women in gaming--never mind that they're a corporate construct along the lines of Playboy Bunnies and the Spice Girls.
The cutesy pink website with its script font and stylized graphics broadcasts Ubisoft's message loud and clear: Women play games, and this is what they look like. (Hot and into the color pink, in case you were curious.) Is this an image that gamers of any gender are comfortable with? It would be one thing if this was simply a novelty; most teams to this effect in other industries certainly are. (Helloooo, Lingerie Football League!) But this has lasted for too many years in the relatively new field of competitive gaming to be written off as a successful novelty act. This has implications that are far more damaging and the stakes are too high to just laugh it off.
The women the Dolls supposedly speak for--that is to say, all women in gaming--never had any kind of meaningful impact on the selection of these representatives. Ubisoft picks its Dolls for certain marketable traits, and their perceived ability to move product; any speaking they do on behalf of women in gaming reflects the carefully-crafted image Ubisoft created to generate hype and further their corporate goals. As both a gamer and a woman I reject the idea that these women and this company speak for me in any capacity. However, since I lack Ubisoft's marketing budget or PR team, I will never get the opportunity to represent myself on Good Morning America or in Forbes Magazine as they have, and neither will any other regular Jane. But hey, at least Ubisoft is really making strides in advancing the female presence in the games industry, right?
Note: This is a response to the recent front page news article, "Pitchford: Feminist organizations welcome to attack Duke" by Jim Sterling. It is not an examination of his past pieces or stances; honestly, I really don't want to draw any more attention to them. No, for the sake of this post, I am going to take this recent front-page news post and judge it on its own merits (or lack thereof). And yes, I understand how silly it seems to write about this on the very site that employs Jim Sterling--but what better place to post it, really? Now, onward, and bring on the trolls!
Recently, a front-page news article caught my attention: "Pichford: Feminist organizations welcome to attack Duke." Oh man, Randy Pitchford making a statement telling feminist organizations to bring it on for the unapologetic over-the-top chauvinism of Duke Nukem Forever? Scandalous! Juicy! I had to read it!
Imagine my surprise and disappointment to find a very limited snippet of Pitchford's quote (from an interview with Eurogamer) in what appeared to be a platform piece for the articles' author, Jim Sterling, to spout his own views on feminism and misogyny.
Most of the time, this wouldn't phase me. I'm used to many different opinions on feminism, and even if I don't agree with them, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man. So the fact that Jim Sterling has his own ideas about feminism and misogyny is not surprising; what is surprising, however, is his manipulation of Pitchford's quote to further his own agenda.
Part of the issue is grabbing on to Eurogamer's misleading headline ("Duke: Pitchford welcomes feminist anger") and expanding on it. While the original Eurogamer article doesn't insert the author's own opinion much (except for that attention-grabbing title), Jim Sterling certainly does.
Jim Sterling's affection for hyperbole is part of what makes his posts so outrageous and enjoyable to read; however, in situations such as this it can be downright harmful. By downplaying the whole "Dickwolves" fiasco in his post as "some people throwing a hissy fit" (when Gabe himself even said messages to him were from "... people being very reasonable"), he already sets the stage to put a negative spin on Pitchford's interview.
When Pitchford makes statements such as "I'll tell you what, if some feminist organization that is doing a great job advocating women's rights worldwide, which I think is really important, can get some advantage by using Duke... go for it," it's not a challenge for feminist organizations to "attack" him or the game, which is what Sterling's article seems to be suggesting; rather, Pitchford seems like he actually wants feminist organizations to use the game if it can help further the cause of equal rights. To this end he talks about the subject of inequality for several paragraphs in the Eurogamer interview:
"... the fact is there are people in this world who get s*** on for no other reason than just their identity, the color of their skin, where they were born, their gender, and that's f***ing bullshit.
"Now, because of the unfairness in the world, sometimes people get... you know, organizations grow up and they become advocates for those issues, and there's some very legitimate and worthwhile organizations that are promoting everything from women's rights to gay rights to racial equality and religious tolerance, which are all really important things for our world.
"Now, sometimes, an organization that has an agenda and is interested in promoting that, especially when they're legitimate, worthwhile agendas, they need to find ways to get attention and to help people understand the problem."
Based on this interview, at least, Pitchford seems to understand that this game can be used in a way to promote equality and bring attention to serious issues, which is why he welcomes feminist organizations to take a look at it. It doesn't have an air of "haters gon hate" like Sterling claims--or perhaps he is just hearing what he wants to hear, to justify his own misguided stance on feminism?
Sterling is right in the sense that terms like "misogynistic" can be thrown about carelessly, which may desensitize people to actual misogyny (a "boy who cried wolf" scenario). Indeed, "an insidious exploitation of emotionally-charged labels" is a poisonous and unconstructive thing. So tell me, then, why is Sterling's article titled "Pitchford: Feminist organizations welcome to attack Duke," when Pitchford himself never actually said that? The term "attack" is used to discredit feminist organizations--look, they're SO MILITANT and ANGRY!!!--and is an example of the very "exploitation of emotionally-charged labels" that Sterling denounces later in his post.
But, who knows! Maybe slapping around emotionally-charged language to garner buzz for games is somehow different than using it to get page views. Nah, that's not "making a mockery of serious hate issues" at all.
Since my last post got frontpaged (see: Self-Congratulatory News, below), my blog has been looking mighty empty and neglected. THIS WILL NOT DO! Especially because I’ve been doing a lot of pretty amazing things recently.
Whoa, calm down. Maybe not THAT amazing.
OK, so I’m kinda bragging here but I’m just gonna be honest: The past month has been epic. Like, Lord of the Rings “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” kind of epic, not like when you go to the mall and you hear some androgynous teenager with stupid hair say “THIS WURTZEL’S PIZZA PRETZEL IS FUCKING EPIC.”
...I stand corrected.
I went to E3 and Video Games Live, attended a ton of parties, went to Disneyland for days with the insanely talented Danny Baranowsky, recorded some podcasts, and somehow managed to squeeze in a tiny bit of work along the way. I don’t know how much I slept, but since I’m part robot it’s more or less all good.
Mr. Destructoid, in the case of 23-year-old Beverly Reynolds, you…ARE THE FATHER!
E3 week in particular was incredible. Some of my favorite moments from the show:
• Catching a fast-moving Mr. Destructoid as I went to try out the Fable III demo
• Meeting up with fellow Destructoiders naia-the-gamer, tactix and walk_your_path • Seeing Chad in action at the Nintendo booth
• Trying out Super Meat Boy and getting tossed into a meat grinder over and over again
• Smooth-talking my way into the Bethesda appointment-only media previews (Fallout: New Vegas and Rage? YES PLEASE)
• Mafia II’ing it up with some Playboy Playmates
• Video Games Live with like 23908 amazing guest stars such as Greg Edmonson, Akira Yamamoto and Norihiko Hibino. EARGASM
There are about a billion other fantastic things that I saw at E3; however, I’m being completely honest when I say that my favorite part of going was due to the fact that I got to meet up with some of my favorite people. I’m not exaggerating when I say that out of all the people I’ve met since moving to LA a few months ago, the ones I’ve met because of Destructoid (whether directly or indirectly) are the best. I really mean it; I love you people!
But you know what absolutely made that trip the best? The fact that we ran into Chad. Yes, that’s right, I got to hug Chad Concelmo at Disneyland. Tinkerbell better retire, because shit does NOT get any more magical than that.
This photo has not been altered in any way. It’s just been enriched…with LOVE.
In less-sappy news, I’ll be a guest reviewer over on Stereotoid this week, so be sure to read my (probably completely inept and bumbling) review of one of Trevkor’s favorite albums. I’ll also pop in on Stereocast, so be sure to listen…IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU.
What’s that, you say? A guest spot on Stereocast isn’t enough Bev for you? Stop your weeping: You can hear the sultry sound of my voice on the regular by listening to LAPD (Los Angeles Podcast of Destructoid). It’s a weekly podcast that features myself, Alex Barbatsis, Cadtalfryn, and the inimitable Gobun discussing our crazy adventures as gamers in Los Angeles. (SPOILER ALERT: Said “crazy adventures” tend to involve long bouts of staying inside, punctuated by disproportionately brief periods of leaving the house.) We are 100% UNOFFICIAL (as in, not endorsed by Destructoid or Dtoid LA), so if you have complaints, be sure to deliver them directly to Gobun’s face…with your fist.
Look at this magnificent bastard.
Speaking of Gobun…his birthday is coming up. If you’re in the LA area on Saturday, July 10th, be sure to stop by KyleGamgee and MamaDonna’s place for his first-ever birthday party! And even if you can’t be there, you can participate in wishing him a happy birthday…just send me a DM if you’re interested.
I have three items in late-breaking self-congratulatory news:
1. In case you missed it, my post on Nintendo’s booth babes at E3 this year somehow wound up on the front page! Reactions were generally positive, though I did have one troll call me “average looking and homely” which brought a smile to my (average-looking, possibly homely) face. Honestly, dude, it can only be one or the other; pick one, then we’ll talk. But whatever—no troll can bring me down because I get a sweet Mr. Destructoid bobblehead out of the deal! Needless to say, I am SUPER EXCITED. I’m already clearing mantle space for him, where he will proudly be displayed alongside my Academy Awards and hunting trophies.
Actual jackalope photographed with actual best friend, circa 2001.
2. I was an extra on The Guild this season, and I’m happy to announce that new episodes are coming out July 13th. I’m not allowed to talk about anything that happened on set, but I’ll be writing a post after the season begins about some of the more awesome set experiences, as well as my recent time playing WoW. (Yeah, that description sounds fucking thrilling, doesn’t it? I promise, it won’t be as boring as what you’re reading now.)
3. As mentioned earlier, I got to spend a lot of time post-E3 with face-meltingly awesome indie games composer Danny Baranowsky. He’s done about twelve gazillion amazing games including Canabalt, Meat Boy (and the upcoming Super Meat Boy) and Steambirds. I’m planning on writing a post about him next week to satiate his mighty ego; before I do, though, I wanted to see if any of you had questions for him! If so, send ‘em to me in a comment or DM and I’ll make sure he answers them.
This is…the face of brilliance. Check out Danny’s website here, and download a free track from Canabalt here. (While you’re at it, buy some soundtracks, would ya?
Well, my WoW patch has finished installing, so I’d better get out of here. You kids keep it classy when I’m gone, and be nice to the babysitter, would you?
I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this: GAMES ARE NEVER GOING TO GAIN COMPLETE MAINSTREAM CREDIBILITY UNTIL THEY STOP MARKETING THEMSELVES LIKE ENERGY DRINKS. I hate when game content is probably perfectly legitimate (and maybe even awesome!) while its marketing message attempts to manufacture controversy.
The most alarming thing is that sexism and misogyny seem to be the most rampant themes in game marketing. This is disheartening for a few reasons. As a woman, any kind of advertising that perpetuates those themes (whether it’s for games, alcohol, laundry detergent, or whatever) makes me cringe because I feel like I’m not being taken seriously as a consumer and, ultimately, a person. As a gamer in general, this kind of advertising is offensive because it perpetuates negative stereotypes about the gaming community by making gamers look like a bunch of easily-manipulated sexist douchebags (and therefore the perfect demographic; we’re all so DUMB dontchaknow!).
I dunno about you guys, but you know what I think would help sell more games? MORE TITS.
I actually don’t know much about Blur, other than that people were giving out Blur beta codes like candy over Twitter for what seemed like a million years, annoyingly clogging my feed and blocking my tweets from Winston the cat and Kevin Jonas. However, I have taken notice of their advertising (how could I not? That shit’s plastered all over the web.) It seems like Blur is just another example of how an ostensibly perfectly fine game is attempting to make itself more interesting through sexist marketing.
Let me say that in all fairness, it’s not 100% sexist. A large chunk of their marketing strategy seems to be poking fun at the Nintendo racing games. That’s perfectly acceptable, though somewhat stupid; how many millions of people LOVE Nintendo racers? Even my mom has played Mario Kart and liked it; you’d think they wouldn’t want to turn off potential consumers—the people that keep them in business, right?!
OH WAIT. Not only are they willing to turn off the gazillions of Nintendo gamers out there, they’re willing to ignore a much larger demographic–roughly 50% of the world’s population, in fact.
That’s right, guys—Blur is only for males. Who else would want to “race like a big boy”? Certainly not women and girls—they’re prevented from racing like any sort of boy at all due to the unfortunate possession of a vagina. Hate to disappoint you, ladies, but this is BIG BOY racing, you just wouldn’t get it—go back to your Cutie Kart or whatever the fuck, and make me a sandwich while you’re at it.
Look at her playing dress-up. Oh, wait, she actually races cars? My bad.
Really, it’s brave of the makers of Blur to be willing to make a stand and put racing games back where they belong, in the greasy hands of “big boys” everywhere. Of course, since the game is rated E for Everyone 10+, hopefully your idea of a “big boy” is a snot-faced middle-schooler.
It’s just plain lazy marketing. The features of the game should be awesome enough to sell the game—is it really that difficult to make the game seem interesting without isolating a huge percentage of people who game? The worst part of all this is that racing games are some of the most approachable games for women; who doesn’t enjoy driving fast, after all? Too bad the marketers are too lazy to even attempt to market to females at all.
And don’t even get me started on some of the European marketing:
My favorite part is where he pushes them out of the way as though they’re actually just pieces of furniture. Never have I seen such literal objectification! Thanks to Blorp for the video (courtesy of Joystiq).
But I can rest easy knowing that these kinds of tactics are laughably unsuccessful when it comes to moving product. Other, similarly-marketed best-selling racing games like Forza 2 and Project Gotham Racing have sold less than 5.5 million copies (combined!). Good for them, those are some great sales! Erm, as long as you don’t compare them to Mario Kart Wii, which has sold 22.5 million copies. In fact, Nintendo racing games have a history of fantastically strong sales—Mario Kart Double Dash!!, Diddy Kong Racing and Mario Kart 64 all sold between 4.5 million and 9 million copies EACH—which is no surprise, because they’re AWESOMELY FUN. The added bonus is that their advertising is fun and cheeky, not completely sexist:
Notice how it can playfully poke fun at stereotypes and still be unoffensive. Also, I’m pretty sure my accent while speaking French is about the same as the “French” guy’s in this commercial. C’EST TERRIBLE!
The lesson that I’m taking away from all this is that since Blur isn’t interested in marketing to me, I guess I’m just not man enough to play it. Same goes for all you other gals out there. Oh, I’m sorry, ladies, were you looking forward to a well-crafted racing game? TOO BAD, BECAUSE THIS GAME DOESN’T WANT YOU. IT’S FOR REAL MEN (aged 10 and up) ONLY. Like driving fast? SORRY MISSY, MOVE OVER AND LET THE REAL MEN (aged 10 and up) DRIVE DEM CARS. God. Next you’ll be wanting to vote and work outside the home and shit.
But seriously, note to game marketers: PLEASE STOP DOING THIS. You look stupid and make gamers look stupid by association. WE DON’T LIKE (or serve) YOUR KIND HERE.
Because I am a cultured woman of the world and possess many leather-bound books, I am currently attempting to learn the fanciest of languages, French! I can’t say that I’m any good at it really, despite hours of practice and learning all the best swear words. I even got Rosetta Stone, and for anyone who’s ever seen a SkyMall catalog, you know THAT’S a BIG DEAL.
So yeah, I mean, I’m learning and stuff. But frankly it’s getting boring. My Rosetta Stone software is the best around, sure, but it’s a bit repetitive. I suppose it has to be—how else am I supposed to learn this fancy shit?—but when you have lesson after lesson full of the same old thing, it gets to be kinda boring, y’know?
Not pictured: Kids not running.
So I got the best idea ever: I love games and I’m trying to learn French, so why not find some FRENCH GAMES ONLINE?! Man, high-five self, good one! Let’s see what a Google search has got for me!
The first site that came up was this thing. OK, not that exciting-looking, but it’s got games, right? Games are fun!
I decided to try the word find. I think that really the words “word find” are all you need to know to understand how THAT went. I mean, look at this fucking shit:
OSTI DE CALIS YA RIEN QUI MARCHE TABARNAK WHY IS CHAUSSURE STILL IN THE LIST, I FOUND THAT MERDE ALREADY!!!!!!
Doing this word find is like playing Blue Screen of Death: The Game. (Actually, has anyone made a Blue Screen of Death game? I might pay cash money to play that.) Not to mention it kept having bugs that wouldn’t accept the words I’d find which was HELLA FRUSTRATING, though at least it gave me the opportunity to try out all the swear words I’ve recently learned.
I decided to move on to greener pastures and found a BBC site that looked fun. Oh, except for all the games were aimed at 8-year-olds. That made me feel worldly, let me tell you. I clicked around a bit and I can safely say that the games they offer are truly bizarre; I mean, I played one with a dog in space (??). Really, who sends a dog into space and then won’t let him come back to the shuttle unless he answers questions in French correctly?!
Needless to say I got bored, which is really sad, because that means that I have less of an attention span than an 8-year-old child.
For the last game I decided to try I just let Google surprise me. Aaaand...
So, back to Rosetta Stone for me. I mean putin de merde, how difficult is it to make a fun educational game online?! Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?! Next time I'll try that DS French game...surely that can't be so bad, right? Right?! If anyone's had an experience with it, let me know, because I don't really think I can handle any more shitty learning games. It would make me cry like this (including autotune):
If you really feel like punishing yourself, you can play the word find here (WARNING: Only attempt if you want your eyeballs to bleed out of your face), the BBC stuff here, or the "Kiddies Games" (which I haven't tried for obvious reasons) here.
So you probably noticed I haven’t posted lately. (Yeah right, like anyone but my mom notices. Fickle bitches.)
It’s not really for lack of wanting; I love this site, I love you people, I love games, I love waffles, I love writing. And yet every time I go to write a new blog post, I end up quitting within minutes like some kind of quitting quitter. Seriously guys, what is it? Why can’t I put my fingers to keys and write shit down?!
I do have some ideas why. First of all, I’m playing hardly any games. Seriously. For someone and who played a Mass Effect 2 marathon for 12 hours easy and whose Oblivion save file is over 150 HOURS OF HONEST-TO-GOD REAL-LIFE TIME, this is a major occurrence (or non-occurrence, as the case may be). Is it because I’ve suddenly gained a social life, or a fantastic new job? Let me tell you: HELL NO IT ISN’T. It’s really not by choice; I just haven’t been in a position to really game recently, and it’s tearing me apart inside. :’(
The only game I’ve really played recently is Beat Hazard. I’m not a PC gamer but the lure of being able to easily access my Mp3 library was too much awesome to pass up. And, I discovered that I straight-up suck at it. Like, really suck. Meanwhile, all of my other Destructoid buddies are friggin’ champs! Guncannon, for example, is like Rain Man or something (erm, not to imply that he’s a savant. OR IS HE?!) with scores in the millions. Me, on the other hand? I still play on Easy…aka PUSSY MODE.
This image will melt the eyes right out of your skull.
Playing a PC game for the first time in forever has brought back memories of the only PC game I ever truly loved: The Sims. I had so many downloaded objects for the original Sims (I never got into the later editions) that it took like an hour to load the game, and I spent hours making really elaborate houses and characters. And I’m not alone; I was talking to Kraid yesterday and he, too, had a Sims addiction. I’m sure lots of you have similar stories. I mean, what’s not to like?! You can build your own house and decorate and put your Sims in a tiny room with only an oven and and replace the door with a wall and watch them cry and try to make food and set themselves on fire and be unable to escape and burn to death! (OK, maybe the last part only applied to me.)
But yeah; I loved The Sims. I especially loved making characters (The Addams Family! Greek gods! The crew of the Enterprise!). The Sims Deluxe version even let you paste your own face onto a 3D head, looking actually kind of creepy and like this:
ARARAAAAAA!!111 But, if you would like to buy one, head to this etsy shop. :) :) :)
I remember making Sims of me and my best friend, Brynn, so we could be roommates and do cool best friend Sims stuff all the time. Of course, the creepy avatar version couldn’t do justice to her hawt beauty and awesomeness (she’s a fabulous tattoo artist by the way; if you’re ever in the Portland, OR area hit her up at www.ladylucktattoo.net </plug>), but let me tell you, that sure didn’t stop my avatar from GETTING IT ON WITH HER AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Seriously, I would try to get them to interact on a friendly level by watching TV or something, leave the computer to make a sandwich, and come back and there were little hearts everywhere and they would be cooing nonsense Sim-words back and forth. REAL CUTE. I could almost write it off as an amusing anecdote, but YOU try explaining to your real-life friends how your virtual selves can’t stop groping each other and let me know how that works out for you. And you wonder why I have no friends.
She's so prettyOGODWHATHAVEIDONE
Wait, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, I can’t write. So, help me, will you? Give me some inspiration. A game suggestion, an amazing image, an envelope full of well-concealed cash in my mailbox, whatever. Otherwise, I’ll have to start doing something else to get my attention fix, like post only adorable animal videos. DON'T MAKE ME BUST OUT THE ADORABLE ANIMAL VIDEOS. So help a sister out, would you?