Talking to Women about Videogames: Why am I doing this?

[Talking to Women about Videogames is a series where Jonathan Holmes talks to different people who are women about the biggest videogame news of the week for some reason. Get the album featuring celebrities from the world of game music here.]

From the very start, I thought that making a show called Talking to Women about Videogames was probably a bad idea, but I couldn’t help but give it a try. Ten episodes later, I am extremely grateful for both the women who were willing to be on the show and for the people who were willing to watch it on a fairly regular basis. If it weren’t for them, I would have never had the opportunity to interview the amazing woman in this video or have all the great times that this series has brought me, regardless of how scared I was that it would suck.

More than anything, that’s what I hope people take from this series. Getting out there and wearing your love of videogames on your sleeve can lead to good things, no matter how ridiculous, geeky, politically incorrect, wrong-headed, and/or strange you fear you may appear to others. Of course, there is a lot more I hope people take from the show, like the psychology of gamer culture, the inherent tension between the genders, the potential baggage we bring to the discussion of both of those things, and tons of other stuff. Oh, and I hope the show was funny, at least to somebody every once and a while.

For the most part, that’s all I really want to say about the show right now, especially seeing that we’re almost definitely doing a second season of the series. I hate to “explain the joke” and potentially ruin what’s to come. Still, I asked you to ask me questions about the show, and it would be pretty lame of me to not do my best to answer them all. 

So here we go! Let’s talk about Talking to Women about Videogames!

” ‘Reflecting gamer culture back to gamers’ sounds a lot like mocking gamers. I guess that’s what TtWaV is about. I’m not offended! Dude, don’t you play a character in your videos? You’re an exaggerated version of a overreactive gamer, right?” – Cordoroy Turtle

It was never my intention to mock gamers with TtWaV. That said, a lot of people have told me that’s what they’ve taken away from the show. If that’s all they get from the show, then that’s depressing, but if the “gamers” in question go on to take a look at why they were offended in the first place, then maybe that will lead to something good.

What insecurities are they bringing to the table? Why are they seeing something in the show that bothers them that others “gamers” don’t necessarily see? The answers to those questions may be pretty interesting.

One of the strengths of ambiguity is that the less you tell people, the more you leave open to interpretation. The more that’s left to interpretation, the more people have room to project themselves onto the show. I find that leaving room for people to project can lead to more revealing and thought-provoking things than I could ever come up with.

“Oh hey, what was the most fun about making your TtWaV videos?” – Tladyga

The most fun thing about making the show is creating something that makes the guests on the show and the viewers happy. Quite a few people have suggested that I change the tone of the show and ask women really difficult or obscure questions about gaming, or do something more like Keith Apicary or Tom Green where actively annoying people is part of the fun. I see what they’re saying, as that would likely bring in a lot more laughs and views, but I can’t see myself enjoying that process.

I don’t want to risk making the guests who were willing to be on the show look bad in any way or have a bad time at all. They were nice enough to help me with this weird, unknown video series, and I would not want to do any of them wrong. Thankfully, all of them have told me that they were happy with how their episodes came out and would be willing to come on the show again.

I think it’s hard for anyone else to look bad on the show compared to me.

And of course, it makes me feel great when people enjoy watching the show. I like that part a lot.

“My question for you was were there any ideas you had originally for the series that you took out? Are there any ideas you would like to add in for the next season?” – Vlad Zhao

There are a lot of ideas that didn’t get into the first season. There was an episode we shot comparing Bayonetta, Lara Croft, Juliette Starling from Lolipop Chainsaw, and Lieutenant Mira from Space Marine. It was one of my favorite episodes, as I barely said a word the whole time. In the end, the sound didn’t come out, and we never got to re-shoot it, so it was scrapped.

I also had originally planned to talk to a biologically male, gender female woman about the Magypsies from Mother 3, Birdo from Captain Rainbow, Ghirahim from Skyward Sword, and Poison from Street Fighter X Tekken. In the end, she wasn’t willing to do the show, so we did a teaser for that topic before the GTA V and ESRB episode. Thankfully, that turned out pretty good. 

I hope to come back to both of those ideas for Season 2. There are some female football players I really want to talk to about videogames. Maybe I’ll ask them about Lieutenant Mira.

“1) Where do you get your shirts for these vids? I am loving the Skyward Sword one! 2) Are you questioning women about videogames because you feel they offer a unique perspective on games as opposed to guys? I mean, it seems like the opinions you are getting are less because they are women and more because they are sane.” – ConspiracyGuy

All of the shirts I’ve worn on the show are from my own collection. The Skyward Sword shirt was given away at E3 09, before the game was even had a name. In the Skyrim episode, I wore a shirt that I won in a Mega Man boss design contest. Most of the others I picked up at events or bought from various vendors.

After the first episode, people seemed to think that I was making fun of people who like videogames. That made me want to start showing off my videogame T-shirt collection, to show that I am legitimately in love with videogames. It’s sort of like how the members of Spinal Tap legitimately love heavy metal, except their real names are not Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls. My real name is Jonathan Holmes.

As for why am I questioning women about videogames, there are more reasons for that than I could possibly list in this answer. I hope some of them make themselves clear on their own.

“Assuming this old lady is your final ‘woman’ to question, does that mean you were never able to find a transsexual? Do you think you’ll get one for next season? I’m not even talking about a drag queen either, just someone who went from a guy to a girl (or girl to guy even). I was really looking forward to that!” – Noir

I was never actually able to find a transsexual who was willing to be on the show. Actually, sometimes getting anyone to be on the show can be a struggle, transsexual or otherwise. We’ve had a lot of people refuse to be on at the last minute for no apparent reason. 

We will try again in Season 2!

“What is with the thumbnails you use for your videos? What is the intention behind them and how do they relate to your content?” – Taerdin

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by that. I guess it depends on the thumbnail? I can say that all of the thumbnails relate to the videos that they go with, at least in my mind.

Like with everything else related to the show, I know the thumbnails may rub people the wrong way, but I hope that being rubbed the wrong way may lead their thinking. Why would anyone get angry about a thumbnail on a YouTube video or website that is just one click away from being closed? Why do some people instinctively click on pictures of some giant boobs, but run and hide from pictures of other giant boobs? Why care about giant boobs at all?

I think this stuff is fun to think about.

“The fact is, I don’t really care that much about the opinions of people who don’t play videogames when it comes to discussing videogames, female or not. On the other hand, I am very much interested in the opinions of females who do play videogames.” – Pokata

This is bad news. The act of classifying people by whether they do or do not play videogames, then applying different levels of values to people and their opinions based on that classification, is a real problem in videogame culture. If we want to be treated with respect by society at large, it’s on us to lead by example, and to treat those who don’t understand with respect. If we want to keep from becoming an increasingly insular, psychologically inbred, shallow, judgmental, elitist, out-of-touch culture, we need to start valuing people who don’t fit our definition of “gamer.”

The fact is that everyone plays videogames these days, even if it’s just computer solitaire or Tetris. We have more commonalities than we do differences. The more we focus on our similarities and get to know each other, the better for all of us.

Regardless of how far apart I seem from the guests of Talking to Women about Videogames, by the end of the show, we usually find more than our fair share of common ground. That’s in part because, no matter how different they are from me, I won’t attack them, and no matter how much I talk, I always listen.

“Do you genuinely meet these women on the spot, and if so, do you get rejected a lot?”- KieranD 

One of the most commonly asked questions about TtWaV is “Is this scripted?” and “Is this random?” I’m really, really tempted to answer that one, but that would be poison for my ego. On one hand, if the show was fully scripted, that would mean that the guests and I are totally amazing actors and that we should be in the next Martin Scorsese movie, because we can convince you that we are real people having a conversation. On the other hand, if the show isn’t scripted, that means that we’re so incredibly good at talking that it seems like we must have painstakingly scripted our dialog, even though we totally didn’t.

In all honesty, I think the tension that comes from the viewer wondering “Is this fake?” is a big part of what makes the show fun to watch (assuming it’s fun to watch). I’d hate to ruin that by letting the cat out of the bag now.

“I’d really like to know how you feel about the segment beyond whether or not it was ‘good.’ You must have had some kind of goal when you decided to start making these videos. If so, what exactly is it? Has the first season gone in that direction?” – Reguba

I really didn’t have that much of a goal when I decided to make this series. I just thought that doing a show called Talking to Women about Videogames would be really fun. Then I hopped in my car, headed to my friend’s house, wrote the theme song for the show on the way over, and when I got there, we shot the first episode of the series.

If you plan too much or have a specific thing you want to do with a series like this, you’ll never be happy with it. That can be really bad at the beginning. As the show has gone on, I’ve found many, many things that I want it to try to say with it. I think I’ve figured out why I wanted to do the show in the first place and how to take this weird passion for making this show into some fun directions. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t want to keep doing it.

All in all, I think the first season went fairly well. I’d like it to be more unpredictable, entertaining, and interesting, but we’re hopefully getting there.

“At first the show seemed to be about how ridiculous and incestuous the majority of ‘gamers’ tend to react to things, but then you did the GTA episode that seemed to be making fun of how ridiculous non-‘gamers’ tend to overreact to things, and that left me wondering what the ‘mission’ of the show is or if there even is one… I guess. So… what is the show all about? In other words, what is your ethnicity, Jonathan Holmes? And what the fuck is up with Wavy Lays? Isn’t that what Ruffles are for?” – RchardNixon 

You just solved the riddle of my ethnicity. I am to ethnicities what Wavy Lays are to Ruffles.

As for your other question, one of the “missions” of the show is to draw parallels between people who may seem different on the surface but are pretty similar beneath the skin. Are people who overreact to M-rated games really all that different from people who overreact to their favorite game’s getting an 8/10?

In the end, if they come to connect with the people who they feel so threatened by, they won’t be so afraid and angry. Once the fear and anger subsides, they may be able to relate with the people who they were once threatened and repulsed by. Once we can relate to each other, the discussion can finally start being productive. That’s true no matter what your beliefs are or what group you believe that you’re in.

“1. Do you enjoy doing the show? 2. How do you choose which people to talk to? Do you have criteria or something, do you just pick someone at random, or do you just ask everyone until you get some fun answers?” – BenelliM4

I really enjoy doing the show! Since the show started, I’ve started getting less and less sleep (if you look at the circles under my eyes starting from episode 1 to episode 8, it’s clear that the show took a toll on me). My general health has declined, I’ve been incredibly stressed most of the time, and I constantly feel fuzzy and half drunk. I kept going because I love making the videos and writing the editorials. I can sleep next month.

As for choosing the people to talk to, other than the one episode that we planned to shoot with a transsexual woman, it’s random. Whoever we can get on the show is welcome to be on. That said, we don’t have a lot of time, so we really have to make every shoot count. It’s not like we could just shoot a bunch of stuff all day, and if it didn’t turn out, we could just start over the next day. My schedule doesn’t work like that. Not even close. So we try to be careful in how we shoot, even if we’re haphazard with who we shoot with.

So far, I think we’ve been really lucky. We’ve never missed a week, despite some technical issues and close calls. Hopefully, as we get better at doing the show, it will be more about skill and less about luck.

“I would like to know what direction you are planning to take with the second season. When the show first started, I wasn’t sure what direction you were heading, but later it became pretty clear you were trying to show how gamers make a fuss about silly things (or that’s what it seems to me, anyway), so I’m quite curious to know if you’re going to keep going or change tracks.” – Script-br

If things go well, the second season will be a lot stranger and more unpredictable. If we’ve got some sort of solid fan base that won’t abandon the show if we go for a different structure now and then, that means we can more safely try new things without fear of destroying the show’s chances of staying alive.

We’ve got a lot of ideas for how that might play out. We may run around the streets and ask as many women in one go as we can about something simple like “Are you going to buy a Wii U?” We may have a few episodes that feature past guests’ taking over as host, with them interviewing men about videogames. We may ask one of the many people who hate my guts and desperately want to replace me as host of the show to take over for a week or two.

I’d also like to work cats into the show in some way.

“I feel that in certain episodes of TtWaV, the video covers one particular topic and the write-up goes in a slightly different direction. I guess my question would have to be: Do you have an idea of what the write-up will be like while making the video, or is it a kind of stream of consciousness process?” – McNyers

It’s definitely more of a stream of consciousness approach. I consciously try not to duplicate the videos in the editorial because that would be redundant. Other than that, I just start writing and hope for the best. Same goes for the videos. Honestly, I don’t have the time or skill to go about it any other way. 

If there is one thing I feel I can do well, it’s take risks and fly without a net. The results aren’t always great, but I’m at least giving it my all while I still can. You can’t make weird internet videos and 18-paragraph write-ups on gamer culture when you’re dead.

“How did the opening song for the series come about? If any, were there other ideas that you considered for the series’ opening?” – Zantetzuken

I wrote the song in the car on the way to my friend’s house. Then I sang it into his iPhone, which has some Auto-Tune app. We did it a couple of ways and weren’t too satisfied with any of them, but we were running out of time and just went with the “best” one. Then we went into his bathroom and filmed that weird stop-motion intro sequence. None of it was thought through or even discussed at all. It just happened.

The whole thing could have fallen apart at any time. I am so pleasantly surprised that the show has survived this far.

“Does irony have its limits? Which?” – Lateralest

When someone uses the word “irony” out of context like that, I’m never sure what it means. Do you mean “irony” like “pretending to be mad when you’re happy to show how silly it is to be mad”?

If so, that definitely has its limits. I think when you start being mean and intentionally hurtful, you become less effective. That’s true of irony and most things. Criticism is great. Attacks are bad.

“Why try so hard to make videos?. Constructoid and Sundays with Sagat were awesome, TtWaV is awesome, but now two of them have gone by. I know you won’t get discouraged by maybe not having a second season but… given the case…. What I always find more appealing in your work is not so much the type of media it’s in but the content and the progressive approach to videogames as a medium and videogamers (or to be more politically correct, gaming Americans or people pasionate about videogames) as a community.” – Pyokoanalog

I don’t try that hard to make videos! I really wish that I could but I can’t, and I think it shows. Jim Sterling, Max and Tara of the Dtoid show, and the Burch family all work much harder than I do at making videos, and they have the success to show for it.

That said, I really enjoy making videos, and I put as much energy and thought into them as I can. I also really like teaming up with my friend Andy McCarthy on video production. More than any of that, though, I’ve got ideas that come to me, and I’d be unhappy if I didn’t at least try to put them out there. These ideas often lead to making videos.

I’m sure there will come a time when i have no more video ideas, but for now, I’ll keep trying to make them.

“Do you find it hard to keep a straight face doing these videos? The character you portray is very extreme; I imagine you can corpse quite easily when trying to be that in your face.” – Dunnance

It would probably be hard to keep a straight face if I was acting, but I’m not acting on TtWaV. Sometimes I lose my train of thought, which sucks, but that’s not because of a failed attempt at playing a part. That’s just me failing at talking.

The “character” I have on TtWaV is a side of me that’s always been there, turned up a notch, taking what I’ve internalized from being knee-deep in videogame culture for the past four years, and spewing it back out into the world. Those are thoughts and feelings that I have internalized and are now coming from out of my head through my mouth. Therefore, they are a real part of me.

Then again, maybe that’s what acting is all about? I don’t know. I don’t know much about it.

Anyway, to answer your question, I had a really hard time keeping a straight face in this episode, especially at the end. The guests on the show have caused me to laugh hysterically many times, which has been a real problem when it comes to staying on topic and keeping my train of thought going. So yeah, that part of doing the show can be hard, but it’s really fun.

“When making the videos and having the mic in hand, does anyone ever think you are from the news?” – Terry M Ladyga Jr.

I love how the microphone brings with it this ridiculous illusion of power. By throwing the thing around, the guy with the microphone will feel like he is in control, but without knowing it, he may be often left more vulnerable and exposed than the person he’s interviewing.

I’m getting really tired. I can tell by how bad my writing is getting and how little that answer had to do with anything. I can also tell because it is 4:30am and I have to get up and go to work in three hours.

To answer your question, no one has ever thought I was from the news. I hope that happens though!

“I don’t know if I can phrase this as a question, but maybe you can talk about the stereotype of someone being a ‘gamer girl’ and what goes along with that title and why it does/doesn’t matter?” – Chainsawface

I think it’s really sad that so many women in videogame culture feel the need to prove their worth by showing their “gamer cred.” It’s sad that we’ve created a culture like this, where people’s worth is measured by how much they know about the Donkey Kong series or their longest kill streak in Call of Duty, not by their ideas or actions.

I always figured that since most “gamers” have been discriminated against for their level of interest in videogames, they would know better than to do the same to others. It’s even more troubling that there are people who are willing to buy into this strange form of discrimination. Why would anyone, male or female, buy into the idea that “gamer cred” exists?

I’ve noticed a pattern among young men and women who are desperate to prove that they are “real gamers.” Nine times out of ten, they had older brothers or sisters who wouldn’t let them play videogames with them, that told them they weren’t old enough or cool enough to “game with the big kids.” I’ve seen it happen a lot. Maybe I should do some polling about the issue at PAX?

“How do you feel about the Fleming boss fight in Shadows of the Damned? I think I remember your saying you liked it, but for me, it really hurt a pretty great game by being unnecessarily hard. Agree or do you feel it was appropriate?” – Garethxxgod

I really like that boss fight, particularly for how it requires that you use all the skills you’ve learned throughout the game. Actually, I didn’t think it was hard enough! I had a lot tougher time against the bird boss who yells “Fuck!” all the time, and those parts in the game where your half-naked girlfriend instantly kills you.

“Will there ever be a full song for TtWaV?” – Sebproductions

We’re actually hoping to record a full version of the song, along with a few remixes from composers of videogame music and other things, by the middle of December. We’re also planning a really ridiculous music video. It may never happen. I have no idea.

And that’s all I feel like I can answer! I didn’t get to everybody, and I feel terrible about that. If you want, I will get to your question in the comments later today. Just let me know!

Thanks again for watching the show, everybody! It means the world to me that you were willing to take a chance with your time and energy on this thing. I’ll do my best to repay you for all your kind interest with better episodes and editorials in the future!

About The Author
Jonathan Holmes
Destructoid Contributor - Jonathan Holmes has been a media star since the Road Rules days, and spends his time covering oddities and indies for Destructoid, with over a decade of industry experience "Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1 "The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Just like in a Gameboy game... a nice tight little world... and all its inhabitants... made out of little building blocks... Why can't these little pixels be the building blocks for love..? For loss... for understanding"- James Kochalka, Reinventing Everything part 1 "I wonder if James Kolchalka has played Mother 3 yet?" Jonathan Holmes
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