The look: Button mail has been a safe and classic choice for convention apparel for years, yet is always being updated with new buttons promoting new products. Its inexpensive, distinctive, and (slightly) protective.
The drawbacks: Some shy away from button mail, feeling its "too youthful". Others feel that button mail's innate decadence reeks of swag greed.
How to rock it: While you can count on many gamer appearing in current button mail, the use of vintage buttons is fresh and chic.
(photo by Drew "Prognar" Campbell Original image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/quakecon/3922704314/in/set-72157622040660734/)
The look: Its a safe bet that when hundreds of gamers descend upon Dallas, some one is going to use avante gaurde hairstyling to stand out from the crowd. Its also a safe bet that some one or another is going to find their look influenced by attempting to win a contest. This young lady pulls off both.
The drawbacks: Vaseline can be very hard to remove from the skin and hair. This look also loses its relevance if imitated by someone who didn't actually just win hardware by sticking their face in Vaseline.
How to rock it: I'm sorry, but theres no way you, personally, are going to stick your head in Vaseline and wind up doing anything that remotely resembles "rocking it." This look was one of the kind and of the moment- attempts to repeat will fall flat.
(photo by Matt "Dreggory" Bradshaw original image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/quakecon/3918186195/in/set-72157622040660734/)
The look: Character costumes are another time-honored choice. When the characters are classic, the costumes are classic. While coordinating outfits with friends can sometimes come off as cheesy, it's also kind of a status symbol. Having friends really helps distinguish you from the quintessential nerdy lonely guy in his mom's basement.
The drawbacks: A character costume ensemble is not an endeavor to be embarked upon lightly. A character should be well known, for full recognition effect, but there's always the risk with common characters that some one else will do it better than you. Attention to quality and detail is a must.
How to rock it: If you're thinking of going the character route, you must commit to it. Don't just throw something together. Its generally wise to choose a character with a similar look to your own, although lines of gender can sometimes successfully be blurred.
(photo by Matt "Dreggory" Bradshaw, original image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/quakecon/3918935262/in/set-72157622040660734/)
The look: A small child, particularly one clad in pink, is the perfect accessory for the hardcore swag seeker. A cuddly child perched on your shoulder is an excellent way to entice those onstage into throwing the loot in your direction, and also helps to extend your t-shirt grabbing range. Don't forget to accessorize your accessories of course- this one pairs blond curly hair and a pink hoodie with a Wolfenstein lanyard.
The drawbacks: Children do require feeding, bathroom breaks, and preferably, bathing. Also, if you do not already have your own, it can be difficult to procure one on short notice.
How to rock it: The child-on-the-shoulder look is perfect for those who actually look like they are capable of caring for a child. The key to pulling this one off is to keep the child looking happy and adorable. A "borrowed" and confused child crying for their mommy does not attract swag, but rather, ass beatings.
(photo by Matt "Dregory" Bradshaw. Original image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/quakecon/3918753628/sizes/z/in/set-72157622040660734/)
The look: Nothing says dark, edgy, and sexy like ninja style. But the ninja look is also quite versatile. Those with dramatic hair can pull off the bandanna-like face mask, while those who have lackluster hair or wish to not be identified can choose the full hood.
The drawbacks: Ninjas must suffer for their vanity. Its hot, obstructs the vision, and ninjas know not the taste of fresh air.
How to rock it: Almost everyone is better looking as a ninja than not. The key to success here is really covering as much of yourself as possible. If we can't see it, there's no WAY we're going to imagine something as bad as the truth.
(photo by Andrew "Jiggaman" Simons original image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/quakecon/3916255415/in/set-72157622040660734/)
The look: As many attendees are painfully aware, the ratio of male to female at gaming conventions can sometimes make it difficult to attract the attention of female attendees. But with a Bawls hat, it is equally easy to stay energized AND surround yourself with women.
The drawbacks: Wearing Bawls on your head can be somewhat inconvenient, as Bawls can, in some cases, be quite heavy. Those with Bawls on their heads are also often subject to a plethora of bawls jokes.
How to rock it: Keep your Bawls fully stocked- you can't really have too much Bawls. Also, it is worthy of note Blue Bawls were the preferred variety in a survey of at least four female Quakecon attendees. Bawls jokes can also work in your favor- be sure to practice a few at home that paint you in a favorable light.
(photo by Jim "Codema" Brown)
The look: A wig is a surefire way to stand out from the crowd, as as with small children, pink is the preferred color. Wigs can be a great look for ladies at cons- they allow a polished and distinctive look, with a smile that says "I can stay up later, and get up later, and still have better hair than you!"
The drawbacks: Sadly, this is a look best left to the ladies. The pink wig loses its effect on (most) men.
How to rock it: The wig is the female version of the ninja costume- easy, versatile, and great for almost anyone. Its also an act of feminine equality- ladies, you know the guys aren't brushing their hair, why should you have to conform to an unfair standard? Put on a brightly colored wig and wear it with pride, knowing that time not spent on hairstyling can be spent fragging.
Warning: this blog is rated pg13 on the grounds of containing one f-word spelled out, and an abbreviation for another f-word later.
Last night whilst hanging out on the Internet, I came across a Wordpress blog with an entry I just couldn't help responding to, even though I was Johnny-come-lately to it's comments. It was a rant on the offensiveness of Bayonetta, or perhaps more than that, the offensiveness of being told that Bayonetta is not offensive to women. I wound up writing a small novel in the comment, and when I was done I thought it summed up some opinions I have that get brought to the surface every so often. I decided to tweak it a little to make it a blog not entirely specific to the post it was inspired by, so without further pomp, here is the result, with no pictures, only words. Tons and tons of words.
I just couldn't resist chiming in on this one.. I like Bayonetta. I like the look of her, I like her over the top outfit, I like the over the top-ness of the game. Maybe if I thought the game sucked, I'd judge her more harshly, but as I played the game, even when she dropped cheesy sexy lines, I always felt like it was a little tongue-in-cheek, like she knows all about the wisecracks going to be made about her outfit and she's joking about it too. And she does look pretty busty in some of the promotional art and such, but in game she's kind of a tall thin small boobed woman. Which I must admit, appealed to the part of me that too clearly remembers my B's being constantly compared to my sister's D's in high school. I still think that a sexy female video game character without three miles of cleavage between her flotation devices represents an expanded ideal of beauty in video games.
I think the most offensive thing in female character design is when they are generic love interests or generic eye candy. I don't really have a problem with them being eye candy or love interests as long as they are not generic. Bayonetta is sexy, yeah, she's eye candy. But she's not interchangeable, and she's not a "pleaser" character. After having spent the game with her, my idea of the character was that she chose her look to suit her own personal tastes. Now of course all video game characters are dressed by whole studios full of people, but some female characters really give you the idea that they wore whatever someone told them would make them popular. Bayonetta's look is also not generic- there are several things done with the look that are not staples of the "How to make a Sexy Character" books. Like she's got glasses, but not a librarian look. And her hair is.. I don't even know what that is, but its not typical sex-kitten hair. And her face, in close up cut screens, has a sweet look to it instead of a hard look, which may be a small detail to some people but it struck me every time.
Now, I know that every little point I just made can have an argument made to disprove it, or a point made counter to it that will tell you that my way of seeing it is wrong, and offensive to women, or a dismissal that will tell you that my opinions are void because I am myself making female gamers look worse by holding the opinions I'm voicing. But my main opinion on the matter isn't about having iron clad and statistically provable facts or being able to make everyone agree with me.
I have seen all manner of things get written up in the Internet peanut gallery (or blogoshere, to use a fancy word) as being anti-feminist or a bad representation of women. Everything from video games that feature whole casts of coincidentally small waisted, big boobed women to Fat Princess for featuring a very overweight female. A lot of these write ups are well done. And a lot of them contain points that I agree with. The thing I disagree with is the underlying current that "this thing is a bad representation of women, and therefore reflects badly on all women." Let's break that statement down. "This thing is a bad representation of women"- in a piece based on opinion (and newsflash, EVERYONE'S opinions are skewed by their personal experiences and how they see themselves) this phrase often really translates to "this thing is not how I want to be viewed or represented." Second half of the phrase: "and therefore reflects badly on all women"... Why do we have to take it personally?
I suppose women feel that it reflects badly on them personally because they feel that non-females in the game industry/gaming culture view females within said group as all lumped in together. Do I want people to see me that way? No. I want them to see me as an individual. And I think it's hard to convince others to view members of a group on an individual basis, each by their own merits and faults when the group itself gives the appearance of NOT viewing themselves as individual, without being subject to or held responsible for the actions of all.
As far as the character being designed by a woman, I am not going to say that that certifies that no women will be offended by it. But I don't buy the idea that Bayonetta is an affront to all women. Because I could have designed that character. I've always had some goth leanings, and I've got sketchbooks full of more ridiculous costumes than hers. I understand that a big part of the "fuck you, Bayonetta" point is about the climate overall and that there aren't many examples of diversity in female characters on say, the dressed-like-a-tom-boy or modest and nerdy end of the spectrum. But I think that "liberation" is the presence of choices and options and multiple paths. So we shouldn't lump all sexily dressed characters in together without further consideration. You can't really say "I want liberation and representation without prejudice for this type of woman, but I do not want this other type to exist." Because forbidding representation of one type, even if its a type you despise, is not really what I'm theorizing you want. I think what you want is the representation of the type you identify with. Other people do not necessarily identify with the same type of character you do. Here I am, after all, telling you that I identify with Bayonetta. Now that's a WTF moment, now isn't it?
The one thing the game industry really needs to get about women, if they want to successfully market to that market share, is that WE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME. We each like things that some other women like and things that some men like and things that some men, and some women do not like. We don't all like the same things. You can't answer the "what do girls want?" question because we don't all want the same thing. But if other people are going to understand that and judge us as individuals and not generic members of a group, we are going to have to show some openness amongst ourselves. I'm not saying everybody's got to like Bayonetta. I'm just saying that we are not going to have freedom to be who we want to be (in game) if we try to crucify indiscriminately all things that are not what we want to be.
This is not a call to desist from bashing Bayonetta. (Okay, so it does hurt my feeling when you do, but that's a personal thing that I probably shouldn't admit too much to.) That's not the point I'm really picking to fight for. This is just a call to think about things from a different angle.
Probably alot of people are going to dislike everything I said, but I feel like I owe it to myself to stand up, and raise my hand and own up to my own opinion. I'm female, and I like Bayonetta. I could sit quietly and say nothing about it, but I would still like Bayonetta. I would still hold that opinion. But opinions don't count for much if you're not willing to be judged for them, so here's my opinion. Judge away.
I am not linking up the blog that this was originally a reply to. There are two reasons for that- One, in adjusting this for my blog I veered away from things said in her blog and towards general rants I have seen on others, in some instances. Two, her blog requires comment moderation, and so far she hasn't approved mine. I don't know that she won't approve it, but I don't know that she will. If her blog is, to her, not a place for debate but a platform for her own opinions to the point that she doesn't want my comment shown on her blog, then I don't feel right linking to her blog to bring her to a debate that she didn't consent to.
I played Bayonetta fairly intently; I did two reviews for it for different venues. If anyone wants to read them as a background to my thoughts on the character, they are here.
(PS one was edited not by me, and not edited in the way that I would've done it, but those are the breaks when you're writing for an entity other than yourself)
We've known for awhile that the Ultimate Answer is 42. (If you didn't know this, see me for a required reading list.) Throughout the years there have been many attempts to discover the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate Answer. But this morning, I believe, the Question jumped up and bit us in the ass.
It turns out, that according to The NPD Group's annual study of gaming habits, the Ultimate Question simply asks what the average age of PC gamers (in the US) is. To phrase that clearly, the study reports that the average age of PC gamers is 42. (I could link you to NPD's website, but the joystiq write up that brought it to my attention is more condensed, interesting, and the thing that got me thinking about it, so here's that... http://www.joystiq.com/2010/05/28/npd-console-and-pc-gaming-on-the-rise-portable-gaming-down/#comments )
If these numbers are accurate, it seems there may be some rethinking in order. Now, I know that all gamers are not 15 year old boys. I've even suspected at times that those we think of as "minorities" in the gaming world are not properly minorities, but rather people who don't get counted by the unscientific census that is the "obvious" visible presence of gaming- obvious demographics targeted by ads, prevalent cliches in movies and media, and the peanut gallery of commentary on the internet. The average age of gamers in general was 32, which was as expected to me. But PC gamers being ten years older than the average other gamer? That was one of those moments that sort of turns your view of the world around a bit.
Alright. So "average" does not mean "most PC gamers are 42. It means that the ages of all the gamers they sampled were added up and divided by the number of gamers sampled. But it still is a fairly significant number- that means that there was a serious horde of PC gamers older than 42. I suppose I've encountered this before. I personally know people who are 42, or around 42, or older than 42 who play. But I also encounter hordes and hordes of PC gamers who are younger than me. I suppose there were alot more players sitting in invisibility mode than I had estimated.
I think there is something about human nature that wants to believe that most of the people who like what we like are like ourselves. We want to think that while kids game, and Old Grandma Hardcore was an awesome blog, that gaming belongs to "our" generation. I am not specifying an age group here, because I think gamers of every age group have that subconscious desire to see themselves as "the demographic" that powers the industry. Turns out, a lot of us are not, as is often pointed out for some of us by ad campaigns that time and again are targeted at specifically NOT "us".
But still.. the idea of 42 being the average age of PC gamers makes me smile a bit. As a 25 year old who just gets more into gaming with age, I can now fancy myself "young for a gamer." And it gives me a little bit of concrete evidence to back up my hope that, contrary to what negative voices may say, I can still keep enjoying this and enjoying this for years to come and I probably will not, in fact, out grow it. The average age of gamers rising could mean that games are developed for a broader spectrum of interests and intellectual capacities, that there is actually a mature pool of players to form communities despite the often encountered tales of kids in MMOs, that gaming will remain relevant for the rest of my life.
Or it could be reflected in.. absolutely nothing. Because they didn't all just start gaming this year, just for this survey. They've been there, with out much notice being taken of them, for... God knows how long.
No, it isn't the trendy new online version of a chastity pledge.
And I know I promised to write about cock measuring next, but this is what I'm thinking about right now.
For the better part of 2009, I was feeling like maybe I had taken a wrong turn in life. The bar industry (working in it) was at least a bit of distraction from my largely inglorious modeling "career", and the modeling was largely something I had picked up because I'd be damned if I'd come all the way to Texas to work retail for less than Illinois minimum wage, which then proceeded to be a long series of indignities interrupted by the glorious high of wild successes just often enough to keep me coming back for more indignities. I spent a fair amount of time thinking that I'd developed the wrong skills, or pursued the wrong interests or thinking that the next person who told me I was pretty was going to get a kick in the balls and a speech about how useless a thing it was.
I think it was the second day of Quakecon that I decided that I really did want to work in the video games industry. Or in a different industry in a niche area pertaining to video games. The worst part of this revelation was that this wasn't the first time I'd decided what I should do with my life, and it came after graduating with a degree in Fashion Design that failed to produce a job; which happened after first being a journalism major and before that an English major; which happened after suddenly deciding in a moment of adrenaline that I wanted to be a journalistic photographer, which happened after devoting my whole high school career to weaseling out of taking math classes on the premise that I was going to art school anyway. Anyway, I wasn't really in a position to act much on the thought, so I didn't. Much.
I knew I didn't have the technical proficiency to do much of anything in game design, and with the loan still out for my first degree, I wouldn't be going back to school. So I took small actions towards applying the attributes I did have towards things related to gaming. I started writing articles for Charisma +2, and when I decided I wanted to write for Busy Gamer, those articles, and, I suspect, my willingness to exploit my looks convinced them to give me a shot. I also did some gaming related photo shoots. Yeah, I know, you're not impressed, and you think that anybody can act like they're into gaming for a photo shoot, and you probably think I'm making myself into some attention whore stereotype that's bad for all of us.. But part of the reason I like those shots, and am proud of them is that those were my concepts, that I came up with, and put together, and found photographers for who were nerds who thought it was as cool as I did. And having pictures that Busy Gamer could use was advantageous too.
Long story short- I had this idea in the back of my head, that somehow I could take talents that I had, and combine them with the dorky enthusiasm I have for video games and somehow turn that into a job. I didn't know how, or what it would lead to, but I had a vague belief that if I took small steps and tried to get noticed in a good way a little bit at a time, something would happen.
And then, something happened.
I won a contest- seriously, I think the only thing I have ever really won- and the prize was THAT job.
XFX makes graphics cards (both ATI and Nvidia) and other PC components. They're known for catering to gamers, and their double warranty, which means you can upgrade your rig and transfer the warranty along with the card to the next owner. Apparently, at the same time that I was reassessing my life, they were formulating a plan to find "XFX Girl 2.0".
I'm going to stop right there. The easy term for what my XFX job is is spokesmodel, but that's not really entirely correct and gives somewhat of an incorrect idea. Some of the duties include:
- Video blogging, or vlogging, if you will..
- Participating in gaming related websites, commenting on posts, ect.
- Event appearances from time to time
- Managing of social media- the XFX Girl facebook, Twitter, ect.
- And yes, there have been photo shoots.
The concept of XFX Girl is deeper than "let's sell product with sex" as well. Yes, there's meant to be some sexiness, and its meant to appeal to guys, but its also meant to be a positive showcase of a female gamer. During the contest we were encouraged to make lots of videos, and we were encouraged to interact with fans on the Facebook page, and we were encouraged to just present ourselves as who we are and how we'd like to be seen. The way i interpreted the line of thought, and the way I still think when I'm deciding how I'm going to present myself is sort of "This is a female gamer, and that's a pretty cool thing to be." I try not to send the message of "I'm sexy because that's the only way to present myself in the gaming community if I want to be accepted." I try to go more for "I'm a total badass and I do what I want, and that makes me sexy." I'm not saying that anyone perceives it that way. I'm just saying that that's what I'm telling myself when I'm on camera. :)
My sharing of this isn't meant as a shameless plug for XFX (although if that's a consequence of it I've got no problem with that) or as a "look at me, I'm so cool!" bragging opportunity. It's just one of those serendipitous things, where everything comes together for you so well, so unexpectedly. It's probably the most direct effect my gaming has ever had on my life, and I wanted to document that merging of gaming and life.
I think its also explains my current life on the internet. Like the title says, its in my contract that I can't be mean on the internet. Not in those words exactly- I think it actually says I won't make "discriminating, offensive, harmful, abusive, or harassing statements." And the money that I get from the contract essentially guarantees that I have the means and the time to hang around the internet talking and being opinionated about things much more than I would have been able to otherwise. :) Its like they've subsidized me being a dork!
At the moment, I've been taking the opportunity to try to document the different aspects of my life coming together with gaming. And weirdly, I've been doing pretty well in other faucets of my life now too. Its sort of like the whole XFX contest made me come out of the closet as a gamer- now I talk about it freely at my job, I have no problem putting it up on the Facebook whereas earlier I wouldn't have because I was trying to maintain some glamorous model illusion, now the photographers and other models I work with often know I'm a nerd, and I'm pretty sure all the cool kids from high school have heard about it now. And I've developed a nice following of other gamers and nerds at the bar, which has resulted in a few good friendships too, my modeling has taken a 180 all of the sudden and I'm getting gigs and now have people working with me who believe in me, finally! And I've had gaming related job offers/writing offers, ect- not all of which i could accept, but still, its nice when it pours.
I don't know what next year will hold, and of course there are no guarantees that I can keep up this momentum, but for now, I'm feeling like the world moves for me.. which is to say, pretty good. So here's my latest XFX Girl vlog if anyone's interested- a juxtaposition of being a nail-painting, interested-in-fashion, shopping girl with being such a dork that I don't mind if people think I'm talking to myself about MMOs.
I remember clearly the last few months of my gaming before I started playing World of Warcraft... In those days, the Playstation 2 was my partner in gaming, and the PC was mostly a place to look up guides and walkthroughs when I got stuck. This phase also coincided with the only time I've lived alone in my entire life, for about six months in a tiny apartment in a bunker-like building where anything that was repaired would be promptly vandalized the next day. I shut out the world and spent my time with SSX Tricky or Chrono Cross. Sometimes I would go to Big Lots and buy huge cheap packages of sour candy and instead of fixing myself dinner, I'd eat Sour Punch until my mouth bled and then fall asleep to the music of Chrono Cross with the sticky controller in my hand and Meeka the dachshund curled up on my belly, no doubt trying to build up the courage to snatch some of the candy. In short, I didn't give a shit.
I didn't give a shit if I was a slob or a loser, or if everyone else in my fashion design classes was out doing something, you know, cool. I didn't give a shit that Chrono Cross was a six year old Playstation 1 game, or about anyone else's thoughts on proper eating. I didn't care what anyone thought of what I did, or if no one even thought about what I did.
WoW came into my life as a sort of a consequence of the return of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry. I no longer lived alone, and all of the sudden had a functional social circle actually living near enough to hang out with. And that social circle became quickly consumed with WoW. My newly returned husband became Oldsalty the warrior, and I became Eveyn the holy pally. Salty's brother and his wife played (she was actually the one who started the craze), as did several other guys from their unit, one of whom became our roommate not long after.
Gaming was no longer the sad and pathetic yet enjoyable equivalent of drinking alone for me. There were always three computers on at our place, with me and Salty yelling things back and forth to G the mage in the next room. The Vent channel would be at least half-full of people we knew IRL. We couldn't go out to dinner with out getting into some big debate about gear or who to bring on the next raid. And before I really realized what was happening, our family guild turned out to be kind of good at BC raiding. (Perhaps military training translates to strong raid leadership?) Now we were conquesting things. It was a point of pride to beat a fight when we didn't have the raid comp for the generally accepted strat. We compared our progress to other tiny guilds like ourselves, and eventually had to start comparing ourselves to guilds a bit bigger than us. We never were top of the game, but we were good underdogs. We compared our DPS and our healing meters, we compared gear amongst ourselves, when bigger guilds tried to get us to merge, we kept coming to the conclusion that they would be gaining more than we would in the equation.
Eventually the heyday of Veritas Aequitas came to an end, as do all things. But not before WoW had taught me an awful lesson- "You're not having fun if no one can see you doing it." When VA fell apart, I joined a "real" raiding guild, because nothing else made sense to do. I couldn't go back to the PS2. It just seemed like a faint memory from the dark ages. Such a primitive concept.. playing a game in your living room without anyone KNOWING about it. What good was it to accomplish anything if your rivals and frenemies couldn't see you walking around with the evidence of it dripping off of you?
Playstation 3 at its advent I had passed over. I kind of wanted it, but tried to imagine myself sitting there playing single player games and I couldn't quite imagine spending hundreds of dollars to do it. (I hadn't quite wrapped my head around the concept of Playstation network yet.) I even worked at a video store where I got free game rentals, and I rarely brought a game home. I once tried to recall whatever it was that I had so loved about Playstation 2, only to find that in the time it had sat unused, the PS2 had gotten rather temperamental. I got bored of trying to get it to load a game, and went to play WoW.
I had, in short, become something very far from the core of who I had always been as a gamer. I had become a cock measurer.
And with that I shall pause my tale for the time being. But I don't want the suspense to cause any stress, which of course contributes to many health problems, so rest assured, I do get over my cock measuring phase and re-discover the innocent enjoyment of games. But how that came to be is a story for the next installment.
One of the many screenshots we even put up on Myspace...