I'm 50 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: PS3:
Black Ops 2
MAG (mostly Valor, though I have a Raven and SVER alt)
... and occasionally Warhawk, Starhawk, Resistance 2 co-op or Killzone 3!
(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!
Elder Scrolls Series (Oblivion and Skyrim)
Dragon Age series
Left 4 Dead 2
... 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 Apparently the fap button has been replaced by a generic "like" button and previous fap records have all disappeared.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! :)
Yup, the next Xbox might not be for you. The rumours of an "always on" internet connected next-generation Xbox aren't particularly new, though recent leaks and the distinct lack of any outright denial seem to further confirm these earlier rumours. Many gamers of course think back to the Great PSN outage of 2011, where the PSN online gaming system went down for 24 days and Playstation console owners were only able to play offline, single player games, and couldn't get their CoD fix. The fact is that no online service can guarantee connectivity in the face of determined hackers or even world events or natural disasters that can impact on connectivity. The other fact is that there are still areas of various Countries that simply don't have reliable Internet and even those with good Internet access often have bandwidth caps and throttling issues to deal with.
Still, that being said.. the question is "why?". Why would an always-on, Internet connected next generation Xbox make sense? It makes sense if it's not merely a gaming device, but instead offers additional services. The gossip is that the next Xbox isn't for gamers, it's a set top box, entertainment center for everyone... that might play games. So what will this super duper, set top box, entertainment cornucopia of online goodness get us?
Skype: VOIP phone services are gaining ground. Microsoft bought Skype for 8.5 billion bucks so it's a good bet that while you'll still be able to group up with other Xbox owners for a party chat, you'll also be able call your kid on his cell phone via your Xbox, or even call granny on her landline. Skype is also a messaging system, so you'll be able to nag your husband to pick up milk on his way home from work, without ever putting down your controller. You'll even be able to take a skype call in the middle of gaming without stopping the game (how convenient! NOT.) There are even Skype phones, and it's entirely possible for people to use Skype and to get rid of a landline based phone system and use VOIP instead. My own cable company has done this and my own home phone system is in fact VOIP... and there really isn't much difference from a landline in terms of quality. This unfortunately means having an "always on" Internet connection though (and no emergency 911 dialing) but for those that have already given up a land line and only use a cell phone (an increasing number of the population), this is a viable secondary option.
IPTV: It's been known for some time that Microsoft wants a piece of the IPTV action. More and more people are cutting the lines to their cable companies provision of Game of Thrones, and turning to Internet Protocol TV solutions. Netflix is approaching 30 million customers. Microsoft wants those customers. They've claimed that they want TV to be an interactive experience. When viewers see a news story, they'll be able to do an instant poll - like what Xbox owners experienced during the Presidential debates last year. There are a increasing number of TV based apps becoming available and additionally, and more importantly, the current Xbox is already distributed as a secondary set-top converter box for some Internet-protocol based TV providers such as Canada's Telus (a phone company that uses internet to provide integrated phone/TV/Internet services) and trial runs have been done with Comcast and Verizon in the U.S. The current gen Xbox was designed as a gaming console, but the fact is that it is already being used as a set top digital conversion box for TV services and this business is booming. With new technologies like Microsoft's "illumiRoom" where the TV screen can be projected around the room, or the "smartglass" technology that can allow for interactive TV polls and other forms of social interaction while watching TV... Microsoft is well poised to bring new experiences to TV and movies.
Yup...note that subscription to Gold in the fine print?
DVR and Interactive Program Guides: At work and forgot to set the hockey game to record? Do it on your smart phone and your TV show will record at home. Want to know what movies are playing on the 200 channels you get? Say "Xbox show movies" and your on screen TV guide changes to filter only movies. See an advertisement for a new show? Tell Xbox to find it and record it. No manual searching and inputting letters... just talk to your Xbox (and hope it understands you!) The reality is that the verbal Kinect input has better options as a user-interface than as a gaming input. Currently the actual recording is usually done on a separate central unit provided by the TV service, but there's no reason that the next Xbox can't actually BE this central set top unit instead of a secondary unit... and there is a strong likelihood that the next gen Xbox will be a DVR both for TV shows, and also for the ass-kicking you took in that last game of Battlefield. In the end, you won't be streaming media from your PC to your Xbox... you'll be streaming from your Xbox to your tablet or smart phone, or even your PC. Unfortunately, all of this wonderfully convenient tech has a price, and the price is that an Internet connection is required for most of this to work.
Cloud-based Services: One of the wonderful advantages of being a PS+ user is that my PS3 updates in the middle of the night. I turn it on to see that there has been a system update, or various game patches, or just cloud storage of my game saves. I have no doubt that Microsoft will also introduce this convenience... but the catch of course is that your system must always be connected to the Internet. In addition to updates and gamesave storage, cloud services are gaining popularity as repositories for our music, video, photo and data collections. With Internet connectivity, we can access our personal data from anywhere, on most any Internet device. With Microsoft's Skydrive cloud storage it's not at all unlikely that while playing the next Elder Scrolls game that doesn't require an Internet connection, we may well be listening to our personal music collection via Skydrive... which does need that streaming Internet connection (oh, and of course we'll be waiting on those Skype calls!). I don't doubt that at some point we'll be able to record directly to the cloud and then stream our DVR recording to our Xbox, to our Surface Tablet or to our Windows 8 phone.... all of which of course requires that ubiquitous Internet connection.
Apps and more Apps: With the creation of the Windows 8 app store, Microsoft needs more customers! As with most App stores, it's likely that Microsoft gets a percentage based cut of sales and in-app purchases (Apple takes 30%!). The ability to buy Fruit Ninja on your Windows 8 phone, and then download it and play it with Kinect on your home Xbox, while letting your kid play a different copy on your Surface tablet... Microsoft is happy. Soon you'll also be buying your music and movies (and maybe even some games!) though Microsoft store fronts... and faster than you can blink, Microsoft might actually be the next Apple (in their dreams anyway).
Pricing: The pricing on the unit will likely be CHEAP! It's not unlikely that the basic unit will continue to be free if you sign up with certain TV providers, and Xbox and these providers will essentially form a symbiotic relationship. Get a free Xbox for games if you sign up with Telus Optik TV... or if you already have an Xbox, signing up for Telus Optik gets you an extra digital converter for a TV in your home... with Kinect voice commands to change channels, volume, read out your Skype messages, or tell you that you look pretty today.
As a retail unit, there is also likely to be a cheap $99.00 or less version that essentially competes with Roku or other current IPTV solutions, but it will also play app based game and possibly blu-ray movies. Of course, in addition to the low, low price you'll also have to pay a monthly gold membership fee in order to access the content - and frankly this is where the money earning power is for Microsoft.
For a slightly higher price, you'll even be able to play full retail games and watch blu-ray movies on your Xbox! Wow... what a novel concept... playing games on your digital tuner/IPTV/Skype/Skydrive/Kinect/blu-ray wonder box! When you subscribe to a TV service you'll likely be able to upgrade to this unit for a few dollars more or be able to buy it at your local retail store as a different SKU/model. If you want to commit to a gold subscription from the birth through the terrible two's of your next child, you'll even get a pretty good deal on the price. In fact, buying the next Xbox without committing to a monthly subscription may not even be an option.
TL:DR messy Conclusion: This entire blog is pure speculation, but I think that the next generation Xbox may not be a gaming console at all. It may well be a set top, digital conversion box offering Skype, IPTV, app-based games and cloud based storage for photos, music and data. Rumours are that if you want to play retail games on the next generation Xbox, you'll have to actually upgrade to a higher SKU that allows for retail games to be played. Gaming is likely going to be an "extra" on the next Xbox. As an investor, I like this. Microsoft never has to produce one single game to actually make a massive profit. They can make money on subscription services, the app store, Skype or Skydrive add-on services, and licensing arrangements with TV service providers as a set top box. The money I have invested with Microsoft though my retirement savings will be well rewarded!
As a gamer - this frightens me. It's not the "always on" Internet connection that frightens me. Anyone who currently has an IPTV based provider like Telus is already reliant on an always-on Internet connection. Bandwidth caps already don't apply to TV services and likely won't apply to many of the other cloud based services they choose to offer as a provider. No, it's all the "junk". I don't want Skype calls interrupting my gaming, I don't want two TV shows recording in the background or to have to turn on my Xbox to see what's on TV (though of course, turning "on" the Xbox will be a thing of the past because it will be always on, and always connected to the internet... like most set-top boxes are). I don't want my music collection on Skydrive, or to play Angry Birds on my TV using Kinect. Mostly I don't want yet another monthly bill I have to pay and I just want to play my games.
Which is why I'll likely get a PS4... unless I eventually switch my TV provider to Telus and then.. yeah, dammit, I'm not gonna turn down that free Xbox - even if it's always on and always needs to be connected to the Internet to work, and needs a monthly fee like my hydro or TV or telephone or cell phone or crap! Reality is that much of our life is already reliant on an Internet connection, and monthly payments, whether we realize this or not.
Whether I buy a next gen Xbox for gaming or not... I'll be keeping an eye on my stocks as Microsoft possibly expands the Xbox into something everyone may want... even a gamer.
I got to level 157 or so in Defiance during the beta week... so apparently I liked the game. It releases today on my Birthday, April 2nd, and there's a pretty decent chance I'll be getting the game...because Birthday monies from my Mom for a game! Why this game? Well, the most common comment overheard was "it's like Borderlands on steroids", and I do enjoy Borderlands!
Trion Worlds is definitely trying something innovative with the game. Not the game itself, no, the tie in to the TV series. Events happening in the TV series will be reflected in the game, and what happens in the game will be part of the TV show's world. It's an interesting premise that adds a touch of interest to the game. All updates to the game will be free, and the cost of entry is the basic cost of the $60.00 game. It seems that there a structure in place that also might support microtransactions, but it also seems that it would be more for buying "extras" - things not needed for the game itself and more in the way of cosmetic upgrades with outfits or vehicles or random weapons. The game seems to have a fair bit of potential and I'm going to run over some of the high points and low points.
Character creation: The beta offered a choice of four characters - 2 female and 2 male. Once the gender and race was chosen, there were then 4 additional options that primarily provided a starting weapon and outfit related to class. For the female characters, the 4 options allowed for choice of clothing ranging from slightly slutty (the gunslinger/shotgunner) to not-at-all-slutty (the engineer), with a few choices in between. I went with the basic military option which was "pretty, but not slutty". The male characters don't get to be slutty... but instead it was just a choice of differing styles. You'll soon have access to various weapons and your initial choice doesn't limit you in any way - so go ahead and just pick which ever character option/clothing styles appeal the most. Race may play a point later in the game, but during the beta, it made absolutely no difference. The full game is also likely to offer additional options to what the beta showed.
Gameplay: This is a third person shooter. The guns feel pretty good and everyone should easily be able to find weapons they like. As you use a weapon or weapon class, you strengthen your abilities with it. The guns aren't realistic and like Borderlands, they often include elemental effects. You can trade or give away your guns to your friends... but beware that they are leveled. I gave my level 6 husband an awesome level 107 sniper rifle, that he unfortunately couldn't use. The shotguns have a range that is pretty close to the sniper rifles, though from a distance, the sniper rifle allows for more accurate headshots. There is a bit of sticky aim, but in a game like this, it's not so much about skill, as simply having fun. The controls are pretty standard with crouch, roll, fire, zoom... similar to most any shooter game. There is additionally the L2 use of a "special power". Unlike Borderlands, you can choose your special power, it's not tied to your class, and you can even change it later. There is invisibility, overcharge with extra weapon damage, blur, which is a speed boost, and decoy that sends out a decoy to attract enemy attention. Like Borderlands, there is then various smaller options you can choose to strengthen your main power. There is a cool down period, and the special powers don't really seem to have a huge impact, but they're fun to play with. There is some minor crafting in that guns can be broken down and you can re-use parts and mods to create your own unique guns. There are very rare ammo stations where you can refill your ammo, but mostly you get ammo by running over enemy drops when they die. They usually drop ammo, money and occasionally a fun new weapon.
Open World: The map shown during the beta is apparently only one small fraction of the full map available... and it was HUGE! It was mostly Southern California, with a mix of grasslands and dusty, dry areas. You gain a vehicle pretty early in the game and can easily call it by pushing up on your D-pad (and if you got stuck somewhere, you just hopped out and called your vehicle again). There is quite a variety of vehicles and they drive well, though they feel a little bit loose... but they have a speed burst option by pressing X, and there is a wonderful sensation of traveling far distances and being able to go off-road that is very freeing and unrestricted. The only negative is because the world is so large, there seems to be a little lag in terms of being "drawn in" and you'll often be hurtling down a road only to ram into an invisible object. After a second or two, another vehicle or roadblock will materialize as the object that blocked you, and these are usually instances where you can assist some AI in fending off an attack of some nature (bad guys or bugs usually). Within this open world, you see other gamers, and there are constant events going on. In addition to these "help the AI" instances, there are various side quests, there are races where you have to beat a certain time, there are other gamers doing their own main quest lines that you can often just hop into and assist them with. Mostly though... there are the Arkfalls!
Arkfalls: These events pop up randomly all over the map and are essentially mini-boss battles that tend to draw fairly large crowds. They are maked on your map with a rather large red symbol that is hard to miss. They are usually of the "destroy the crystal" or "defend the crystal" types and can involve masses of bugs, giant huge massive bugs, or various humanoid type bad guys - or all of the above. It's quite fun to pull up to an arkfall only to see people driving around the crystal in their vehicle running over the smaller enemy types, to see anywhere from 10 to 30 or more people all running around shooting the various spawning enemies. When you've done several successful arkfalls, there is apparently some form of ingame reward, though this wasn't enabled for the beta.
Campaign: You can progress through the campaign doing various missions and some seem to take place out in the open world, while others warp you to a separate place where you seem to be on your own. The campaign is interesting because you are told to go to an area and free hostages... only you'll sometimes get there and there are other people also doing this section of the campaign, so as long as you are in the area, they might in fact free all the hostages for you. It's a bit disconcerting to arrive and start a mission... only to find you've done it by doing nothing more than standing around. I'm not sure if I like this aspect, though the other campaign sections where you are on your own do make up for these.
Co-op: When grouped up, the group leader can easily launch the group into a co-op game. There is no lobby.. you just play and then are transported to the co-op area when there are enough players (the range for co-op seems to be a minimum of 4, but I'm not sure what the maximum is). The co-op portion is essentially various maps where the players work together to make their way from point A to point B... and point B has a big ass boss for everyone to try and take down. Your teammates can be revived by standing over them and pressing square, even if you don't have the BMG which is a health/reviving tool needed to do this in the main game.
Competitive: I only tried competitive once and it seems that you retain your game level... and I tried this early in the beta and got my ass handed to me by people that were obviously a much higher level than myself. In the beta there was an 8 vs 8 TDM and a 16 vs 16 capture and hold. There is also a competitive mode called "shadow war". It's a larger scale 50 vs 50 format and has changing objectives dependent on the number of people in the game. I didn't try this mode, but it seems that all the competitive modes are somewhat problematic. With clan support I can forsee that the competitive modes may very quickly outpace the average player and unless you are in a large clan with high ranked players, you're going to spend many of your competitive games getting run over by huge vehicles that you don't have access to, or getting hit by superior elemental weapons that again, you don't have access to. They need to balance the multiplayer in some manner, or it may quickly lose popularity and become dominated by a few clans. In multiplayer, apples should be fighting apples... not fighting an entire fruit bowl. I did the recent post-beta survey and it does seem that they realize that their might be an issue with this, so hopefully we'll see some patching down the road.
Overall, Defiance isn't a particularly good game. It has plenty of issues, however there is a certain addictive level in that there is always something to do and the world feels well populated with both real players and NPC's. It's not a unique game, but the basics are familiar and fairly well done. For the PS3 version I played on, there were grouping issues (sometimes difficult to group up, and it was almost always impossible to leave a group when I did get grouped up unless I quit and restarted the game. Additionally, group members showed as being in your group long after they had actually quit the game and entirely shut down their PS3 unit.). These issues need to be fixed and additionally the voice chat was almost entirely non-functional. It would work for a minute or two and then almost completely die. These two issues are close to game-breaking because while the game works as a single player game, it seems infinitely more enjoyable when grouped up with friends.
So if anyone buys the PS3 version of the game, let me know if they fixed the grouping and voice chat issues! Additionally, let me know if gaming sharing works with the PSN digital version of the game, as I was going to buy the digital copy and game share it with my husband! The game isn't "great", but it seems to have a lot of content and might be a good game for me to get my online/social fix... as a break from playing Dark Souls... where I've cleared the Catacombs but still can't bring down Sif! Damn dog... and I really don't even want to kill him because he's so noble and adorable. :(
... and now they've apparently got Demon Souls coming to PS+ as a free game... ugh! I'll definitely need an easier online social game for a break!
I never did play Demon Souls... even though I normally love WRPG styled games. I heard it was difficult, as in brutally difficult and when I want to have my ass kicked, I generally load up an online multiplayer FPS game like MAG, or Battlefield 3 or Black Ops 2. I usually play WRPG games for relaxation... to take in the environment and to feel pretty empowered and invincible as I hack n' slash my way through copious critters. I saw Dark Souls on sale over Christmas for only $9.99 and at that price I decided to give it a go.
Ouch! The game is indeed brutal. I'm also finding that it's very much a gamer's game. There isn't much plot, your character can be male or female (I'm playing as a female) and even the gameplay is fairly straight forward. However, the game very much reminds me a lot of older games. There is no map, so there is lots of memorizing of enemy spawns and routes to various save points (the campfires). Leave the save point, take out archer skeletons, take out 4 skeletons in the room, go straight and down the stairs, go up the ladder, run really fast through the area with the big ass dragon and into the stairway on the right, go down the stairs and down the ladder... and dammit! I'm back where I started. It's not just a matter of memorizing routes and where the enemies are, when you finally do find a big ass boss, there is a matter of then observing and memorizing how they do battle, because often this is the only way to beat them... learning their patterns through observation and death. This type of mental mapping exercise takes me back to games like Zork where I often had to make notes and little maps or where I was and how to get back to an earlier objective. I'm now 22 years older than when I first played Zork though, and unfortunately my magical mind mapping powers seem to be missing! I opened a new shortcut and was passing some iron bars when movement caught my eye.. and my immediate reaction was "kill it!". Well, it turned out to be that nice lady vendor who sold me poison arrows and now she doesn't like me. In fact, whenever I pass by, she calls me nasty names and she refuses to sell me anything, let alone those nice poison arrows. I did what any good gamer would do nowadays and hit the internet to see if there is any way to get her to like me again.
Well... apparently I need a whole shitload of souls to take to Oswald who will absolve me of my sin and let the nice raggedy sewer lady sell me my poison arrows again. Seemingly, the best way to get those souls is to farm the Darkroot Garden by using an apparently well known tactic of running past all the enemies in the area and drawing them to a ledge where most of them fall off to their deaths and give you a pretty good soul count each time. However, to use this farming tactic, I need to open a door that costs another 20,000 souls... so I can use an earlier farming tactic of letting the big ass dragon kill the skeletons on the bridge and getting their souls (though I'm still determined to kill that dragon at some point! I keep trying, but he heals himself and I can't get the hang of melee battle with him... the foot stomp is a one hit kill!)
So I farmed the big red ass dragon until I had my 20,000 souls... opened the door... and then farmed the crap out of Darkroot Garden to get enough souls to absolve my sin - all so I can get some poison arrows. Only a gamer would do this. The mindless repetition of grinding...all to get some shiny bauble (or poison flying bauble). Now I know that grinding and farming is often regarded as a poor game mechanic... a way of artificially extending gameplay or worst, almost a way to "cheat" to make the game easier... but there's also an addictive and soothing quality to it. I have to admit that I have a secret fondness for grinding. I often tend to over-level myself in RPG games in order to make the game a little easier - going back to that personal preference for single player games to provide me with relaxation. Farming is simply a variation on grinding... more often done to acquire a product or money rather than simply ranking up, but farming or grinding... the repetition alone I find to be very relaxing. I then went on to Blighttown... and promptly went back to farming Darkroot Garden again to get enough souls to buy the Poisonbite ring from Oswald. I seem to die pretty quickly from poison and I hate having to rush through areas rather than spending my time exploring every nook and cranny.
I find I'm really enjoying the game though I've been soloing it and I guess at some point I'll have to try the online (in order to get more sunlight medals and the upgraded lightning spell... cause that thing rocks!). I hate dealing with invaders though. The first time someone showed up in my game, I quickly went to the gestures screen to greet them with a bow and say "hi". He stabbed me mid-bow and killed me.... probably while thinking what a nOOb I was! LOL! I was initially quite angry... but then laughed when I realized the job of invaders is apparently to kill the invadee... and I made it really, really easy for him!
I don't know if I'm quite ready for Blighttown yet... I may go back and run through some earlier areas to make sure I didn't miss anything... and yes, to farm or grind. Sometimes I just want to relax and it's therapeutic to deal with the familiar. Sometimes funny incidents take place that make it all worthwhile. I love the slow, huge stone knights in Darkroot garden and until I got the hang of dodging and backstabbing them, they often killed me.. so I sometimes go back there to hone my skills. This huge stone knight in a lower part of the garden suddenly jumped backward to avoid my sword thrust... and he jumped right off a cliff, killing himself. I have to admit that I laughed my ass off!
I've taken a bit of a break from Dark Souls though, and have been trying out the Defiance beta. It's an FPS/MMO hybrid and plays somewhat like Borderlands... but the grinding! OMG, the grinding! I've become very addicted to this pretty average game in a very short period of time and find I can easily spend hours and hours just doing Arkfall events which are somewhat similar in their repetition patterns, but also relaxing because yeah... farming for dollars. At this point in the beta we don't even get much of a reward for the Arkfall events, but it's the grinding that I find addictive, and gauging by the number of other people chasing Arkfall events, I'm definitely not the only one that enjoys a little farming.
So yeah... just call me Farmer Elsa! (and provided they fix the voice chat in the PS3 version of Defiance, I'll probably pick it up... so if you feel like doing a little Arkfall farming, hit me up!)
I've been a gamer since I was a nameless, genderless, adventurer in games like Zork and Myst. I then moved on to the Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dales series of games and I always had the option to play as a female. I didn't even realize that being a woman who played video games was something unusual, because I always managed to find games that accommodated playing as a female or alternatively they were simplistic games where gender wasn't present (pacman was pretty genderless, aside from the name, until Ms. Pacman came along!) . These WRPG games all had wonderful male and female characters and even the occasional romantic interest for those choosing to play as female (though I still dislike Anomen... such a whiny, high maintenance boyfriend he was!). Eventually I moved onto console games when my husband bought me a Dreamcast one Christmas.
D2... I remember feeling sooo cold!
I could still continue to be Lara as I raided tombs and shimmied along ledges, I was a woman surviving a plane crash in a creepy arctic wasteland in D2, I could be a girl rescuing the President's daughter by hitting bad guys over the head with a giant tuna in Dynamite Cop, I was a female in Phantasy Star and other games like Carrier... but gradually an odd thing happened... and an odd appendage started to appear more often on my avatars... I was growing a digital dick. I was Claire or Jill in much of the Resident Evil games, but occasionally I morphed into a male character. In TimeStalkers I had to play much of the game as a spiky, blue-haired boy until I could switch out to one of the 3 playable female characters. In games like Shenmue, Blue Stinger, Shadowman and the early Tom Clancy games... well it was a full on twig and berries show.
When I moved on to the PSP and PS3, things actually got worst. Increasingly I found myself with stubbly facial growth and pant protrusions. I guess part of the issue is that my interest in various genres had grown and I also had the time to play more games... so increasingly my option to play as a female was more limited, because I was simply playing more games. It's actually somewhat astonishing, given the historical demographics of a very strongly male audience for video games that for so long in gaming, there has so often been the option to play as a female character. I'm not sure if this was a nod to the very small number of females who have always played video games, if this was simply an option that males seemed to like having, or if devs have generally just tried to keep games somewhat "genderless" in hopes of attracting broader audiences. Regardless of the reasons, it's still pretty awesome!
I could probably have continued to play as female if I had limited myself to various specific games or genres like WRPG's, but as I came to accept my digital dick, an interesting thing began to happen... regardless of the gender of the character, it was still "me". I was the one crawling through the grass with my sniper rifle following Captain Price in Modern Warfare, I was the one fighting off hordes of Chimera in Resistance... and it was "me" free running though cities, saving civilians and assassinating Templars in games like Assassin's Creed. When we speak of books or movies, we refer to the characters, but when we speak of video games, we are much more inclined to speak in the first person: "when I killed Visari" in Killzone 2, or "I was shocked to find out Atlas had betrayed me", in Bioshock. The first person perspective in current games is even more of an immersive factor in erasing the gender barriers between the games protagonist and the player. I AM Gordon Freeman... and "Gordon" has boobs.
More so than any other media, gaming has the capacity for men and women to be truly equal, however there is a small caveat in that many games tend to view the world through a male lens, and in particular the alpha male hero archetype. We are physically strong, courageous, independent, inclined towards violent resolution, protectors of the weak, attractive, and dominant. Now there's nothing wrong with men or women aspiring to most of those qualities (though in real life violent resolution isn't usually the best recourse!), but the view of most any story where there is a choice of male or female characters is still mostly told through a lens of what has historically been a male view. Many video game female characters are essentially men in a dress with boobs. It should be noted though, that being a real-life female, I often find to this be gender-freeing and it usurps me from the more typical female role often found in women's forms of entertainment. I don't really mind seeing the world through a male lens.
Do note however, that I said "many" games show us the world through a male lens, certainly not all. Interestingly, some video games also provide a uniquely female lens in unexpected ways. As a female, I have a reluctance to walk in the downtown core of most large cities at night. There is a small risk that I will be assaulted, or worst... raped. While men too should fear for their safety, I don't know that they can experience the same fear that a female does. In some ways, games like Dragon's Dogma can allow men to see the world through a female lens. When night falls in the game, it's black. If you have some lanterns, you might feel a bit safer... but not much. Male or female, most of us stick to the roads and very carefully walk along - fearing the night and what might lurk within. You will be assaulted, and on your first play through before you know where the enemies are... you will at some point come across a particularly large, nasty beast or larger horde of beasts... and they will kill you. It's not much... but this is somewhat of a female lens on the world than men can experience for themselves... in a video game. Another aspect of this female lens can be found in the Dragon Age games. Historically in our society, men make the sexual overtures and women can accept or decline. In Dragon Age, even if you are playing as a male, you have to wait for the female to signal their interest... but then you have the option to accept or decline. This is a subtle thing... but men have the option to accept or decline a sexual invitation.... from a woman. This aspect is more a recognition of how much our society has changed in recent years, but it's still a tiny insight into a traditional woman's perspective that men can experience. Video games reflect our changing culture in other ways too... just as women are stronger and more violent (a male lens)... men spend much of their in-game money to not just acquire a house... but many spend hours decorating it in order to make it feel more like their "home". They cook potions and food, they can use charm instead of violence to get information, they sort though chests and chests of clothing that serves various purposes and sometimes wearing a certain outfit just makes them feel good.
More than any other contemporary form of media, video games are wonderfully non-gendered. Whatever gender you currently are, in many video games you can sprout boobs or a digital dick and play as the opposite gender by choice. Even when there is no choice, the immersive and active (rather than passive) nature of video games allow us a unique lens on the world that combines the gender of our character with our own gender. I do hope that gaming progresses in it's character development to show more unique characters... so different from us, that we no longer see them from a first person perspective, but I also hope that gaming continues to provide us with the generic, gender-swappable, faceless characters that we can imprint our own experiences onto... because that's a very unique aspect to video games and something to be treasured and not disparaged.
.. and in the meantime, while I do wish that there were more options to play as a female character, particularly in online multiplayer FPS games... I've become a bit fond of my digital dick.
... and now to get back to getting my ass kicked in Call of Duty and Dark Souls... because regardless of my character's gender... it's still MY ass getting kicked. :(
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: