Filed under Gaming

Video Game Dys4ia Helps Convey The Transition of One Person AND WHY AREN’T YOU PLAYING THIS??

So the Penny Arcade Report brought to my attention the Newgrounds video game Dys4ia by Anthropy. It’s a game she made to help convey her own personal feelings about her transitioning to female through hormone therapy. The game engages you by giving you only one chance in very difficult levels based off classic games such as Tetris to let you get just a glimmer of how Anthropy must have felt like.

She explains that the reason she wanted this story to be told in the form of a video game was so people could experience failure in a way that isn’t possible in other media. This game had me feeling so badly as I failed since I felt like I was becoming responsible for the depression, but then as the levels progressed and things started to change I felt like I was watching someone become the person they wanted to be right in front of my eyes. I recommend you play it if only to get to know one person’s experience.

“Feminists in Games” Workshop: Open Call

via an email from @satchamobob, reproduced in full, except where I hid the emails, please leave a comment if you want to get in touch with these folks:

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Open Call:

We are inviting submissions for participation in an inaugural “Feminists in Games” workshop to be held in Toronto, Ontario at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in collaboration with York University, Simon Fraser University and OCAD University from May 4-6, 2012. The structure of the workshop is two-fold:

1) For Participants

We invite young and up-and-coming scholars as well as established practitioners in the field (including researchers, educators and practicing or aspiring game designers) who are interested in presenting a short paper (maximum 3000 words) on questions related to, but not limited to the challenge of advancing gender equity in relation to the following areas:

  • game design and development;
  • game content;
  • socio-cultural constructions of “gameplayers”;
  • player communities and online play; and
  • the games industry

Applicants will have the opportunity to bring their work into conversation with established feminist scholars and activists during a two-day invitational workshop.

There is a limited amount of money allotted to assist participants with their travel costs. If you wish to apply for this funding please include a short statement (no more than 100 words) with your abstract describing your financial need.

2) For Observers

We invite members from the general public, the games industry and academia to attend keynotes and workshop roundtable sessions, and to lend their voices, perspectives and experiences to conversations and emerging initiatives that support feminist purposes and processes in games education, research, design and development.

Those interested in participating may send abstracts of no more than 1000 words, outlining their research question(s) and approach, to Jennifer Jenson (leave a comment to get her email) or Rachel Muehrer (leave a comment to get her email) by April 1, 2012. Those wishing to attend as ‘observers’ are invited to reply by April 1, 2012 with a short statement about how attending might be of benefit to you (250 words).

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Wish I could go!

The Fighting Game Community IS Sexist and Kotaku Tries to be Ironically Sexist (Just Comes Off as Sexist)

The last few days we got news stories that fuel people who think the video games community is for man-children with a “no girls allowed” policy.

We get an interview from Giant Bomb with professional players, the Tekken Team, in which Aris Bakhtanians said “This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20-years-old and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.”

What.

Continue reading

Bioware’s Jennifer Hepler and Gendered Insults

EDIT: Her name is Jennifer not Jessica and this is why I write posts in the evening and review them thirty million times before I publish.

So Jennifer Hepler is a writer at BioWare and said some things about games which I disagree with but we’re not going to go there. She suggested a “skip combat” button in games. Since the schtick here at TeamV isn’t about critiqueing games as games, but as part of a dialogue with society and a method by which we as humans learn about the world around us, I’m not going to discuss the part where I disagree with her.

I’m going to discuss the part where, out of all the writers who gather ire at BioWare, and of the types of comments they have flung at them, Jennifer Hepler gets bullshit thrown at her in a unique way, and I am disappointed that I haven’t seen major outlets commenting on this.

See, it’s not just that people disagree with Hepler. I mean, hell, I disagree with her. But it’s what people are calling her. “Fat bitch.” “Obese cunt.” These are insults flung exclusively at women, and they are all breeds of problematic. When Gaider came down on the “Straight Male Gamer” nobody called him a fat bitch. Because people insult men differently than we insult women. They insult men as human beings, getting on their case for what they have said and done specifically. But they insult women specifically as women, and see little else worth noting.

Why is the use of weight as an insult a problem for women? It’s a two-fold issue. One, it says that being overweight is the worst possible thing a human can be. I mean, hey, at least Hitler was skinny, amirite? Fatness is viewed as a character flaw, and that’s kind of stupid, considering how much human bodies really want to hang on to fat. And two, it says that a woman’s appearance is the primary source of her worth. She isn’t worthwhile for her brain, for what she can create, what she can do, whatever. There’s a sense that the things women do aren’t worthwhile unless the woman is also attractive. And when she’s unattractive, it doesn’t matter.

Son, this is objectification. This is reducing a human’s worth to a mound of flesh and judging their physical makeup instead of the things they produce.

I’m not saying I think Hepler is right in what she said (in fact, I think she’s quite wrong — games are games, and if you want to skip over combat it’s probably because that combat is a piece of shit at which point you have failed at doing the base thing of a game which is making it fun — whoops, sorry, done with my rant there). But if you’re going to bag on Hepler for what she said, bag on her for what she said. Say “That’s dumb, here’s why.” No need for attacks ad homenim.

Guess what, Internet? I agree with you that what she said was dumb and incorrect. But you know what? You are fucking pieces of shit for how you expressed your differing opinion. Is that an attack on your character? Sure, but you’ve shown yourselves to have terrible character, so that’s what I’m calling you out on.

Gaming culture, wise the fuck up, and do better. Gaming journalists, wise the fuck up and call this bullshit out for what it is. I’d love to not have to run this blog because I’m having too much fun not getting distracted by your stupid shit.

Gaming, Romance, and the Stupid Shit Other People Say

So let’s talk about stupid shit.

The reason I get tense around Valentine’s Day isn’t because of oh how sad it’s Singles Awareness Day, or how it’s just a corporate holiday constructed to sell Hallmark cards, blah blah blah. I mean, sure, those things bug me, but I’ve gotten past the point where I need to bitch about them. No, it’s crap like what you see above that makes me hate this holiday.

Gender roles suck. Gender roles build little boxes that people are “supposed” to fit into, and when a person doesn’t fit, they’re different. Sometimes they’re pushed down and mocked for not fitting into gender roles, and sometimes they’re put on a pedestal, and either one of these makes a person feel like they don’t fully belong.

I think it’s pretty obvious by now why this ad is going to raise the hackles of many women who see it. It assumes that women wouldn’t want to play Twisted Metal, that they would rather receive flowers than purchase a game. It assumes that there aren’t relationships where the woman is the hardcore gamer nerd and the man isn’t. In saying the problem comes down to “game or girlfriend” it assumes that the two are mutually exclusive, which is so untrue as to be painfully dated.

I mean, has GameStop not read a single study published in the last, sheesh, seven to ten years saying women make up a significant part of the gaming community? It’s like their advertising department thinks of Mad Men as a guidebook.

But it also limits guys. I know, right? Weird. But what if a guy wants to get flowers? What if a guy likes the wooing and the romantical stuff? Well no, dudebro, you can’t, because to like all that sissy lady shit, you’re going to have to hand over your Man Card. Right now, buddy, I don’t got all day.

There’s another, subtler problem nested in here, and it’s that the masculine is celebrated and the feminine is degraded. The traits normally attributed to men — competition, aggression, being a “self-made man” — are considered good and worthwhile traits for a person to have. Meanwhile, traits normally attributed to women — nurturing, care-giving, cooperation — are considered weak and lesser. So when ads are like “Dude, I get it, you want to pwn n00bs but you got this girlfriend and unlike you she’s got all these feelings, so go deal with that icky shit, and we gots this game for you when you’re done handling bidnizz” … well, you see where I’m going with this.

(Aside: But seriously folks, who still shops at GameStop? I mean, really, what draws them? The questionable business practices? The unhelpful staff? The tired, bland advertizing? The chaotically disorganized stores? The pawn shop is three blocks father away? What?)

Finally, I want to talk about heteronormativity. Like with the gender roles problem, this is another issue where casual and thoughtless use of language shows us what’s “normal” and what’s “abnormal.” Heteronormativity refers to how male/female relationships (specifically cisgendered male and cisgendered females) are treated as what’s normal, default, what “everybody” does, and everything else — M/M, F/F, M/MTF, etc… — is weird, and shouldn’t even really be considered relevant. After all, if nobody talks about these things, they’re obviously not “real” are they? So people who are not in M/F relationships and not seeking one don’t see much in the world which is really relevant to them, and they just kind of have to deal, and that’s kind of crap. It’s the above problems of gender roles, with an added layer of not even realizing other relationships exist.

It’s not just this one ad. If this ad existed as a lone example in a sea of ads which recognized that people are all different kinds, I really wouldn’t have a damn thing to talk about here. It’s not this ad. It’s ads like this, that there are so many, that they dominate the landscape. All we see is ads which reinforce damaging stereotypes for a cheap laugh. “Oh it’s so true! Men don’t have feelings! Women only want roses and shiny shit! All romantic relationships are men and women and nothing else!” And, like, you might think, well, that’s advertising. Surely people don’t think like that, right? To which I would reply, go to any site, ever, and read the comments. And you will see the truth.

So, yeah, I kind of hate Valentine’s Day. But mostly I just hate advertising.

Video Game Scholarships for Women

Via Gamasutra, Vancouver Film School is offering a “Women in Games” scholarship, and apparently has been for the past four years.

The scholarship is designed to encourage more women to enter the male-dominated video game industry. Males currently command around 89 percent of the video game workforce in the United States, according to the volunteer respondents from our own Salary Survey last year.

Previous recipients of the scholarship (valued at $49,250) include designers who’ve gone on to work at developers like Microsoft’s BigPark studio (Kinect Joy Ride) and Digido Interactive (MotionMaze). Graduates of the program have worked on titles such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dead Rising 2, Prototype 2, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

“Supporting the growth of women in games is something that I feel strongly about,” says Vancouver Film School’s Game Design head Dave Warfield. “It benefits the industry to gain new perspectives, creativity, and passion that is reflective of how gaming has changed and expanded in the past 5 years.”

More information is available at the VFS website.

Same-Sex Relationships in SWTOR?

Due to the design constraints of a fully voiced MMO of this scale and size, many choices had to be made as to the launch and post-launch feature set. Same gender romances with companion characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a post-launch feature.

I found out about this mainly because some nutjob right-wing conservative group was getting a case of the butthurt over this, and frankly, I’m not linking to them. I’ll instead link to the thread where I got the above quote from. I haven’t heard any official release information on this yet, but I hope it’s soon. Maybe not before fully-configurable UI (seriously why did they flip the chat and party and put the map in the lower right instead of the upper right just to be different from every other MMO I mean seriously) but soon, please.

A Gay History of Gaming, by IGN

So while IGN opens this by graciously admitting there might be some kernel of truth to the fact that anybody who isn’t a straight cis white dude has had some problematic representation in gaming, the rest of the article is… all right.

I dunno. It could be better. It points out how in Fallout 2 female player-characters can still approach female prostitutes. Awesome. What about male characters approaching male prostitutes? My research has not shown me any indication that prostitutes in this game are anything other than ladies. So, again, we hit that wall of F/F is okay but M/M is squicky and gross and of course men can’t be prostitutes I mean gosh.

Please someone correct me if I’m wrong. That would make me a happy bunny.

It also points out Birdo is listed as being a trans female in the Japanese instruction manual. But not in the American instruction manual. So… not much of a win there, I guess.

They also point out how in KOTOR Juhani is a lesbian, which is great, however, there’s no gay male counterpart, so it again smacks of F/F is okay M/M is squicky gross ew.

We’re all aware of the problem of F/F being okay and M/M being squickygross, right? Why that’s not okay? Why that’s almost a step backwards?

They bring up BioWare’s win of a response to Straight Male Gamer’s whinging about how they’re not being catered to, which I will link to again here, because holy fuck, WIN.

Anyway, while the coverage I think highlights things which aren’t really that awesome as being totes awesome, I do love the parting shot:

You may think, so what? Why should sex in videogames matter any more for gay people than straight? But this visibility actually is important, for the same reason as having believable and relatable female characters is important: because by catering exclusively to straight men, you’re excluding more than half the population, and limiting video games creatively and commercially to a restricted audience. …

It’s also worth remembering that young gay and lesbian people need characters that they can relate to just as much as straight teenagers – if not more so, as they’re more likely to face persecution in the real world.

So, yeah. I think we’re patting ourselves on the back more than we deserve here, but still, the spirit’s in the right place, I guess.

California to Pay ESA ~$1M (Thanks, Leland Yee!)

So look, my personal experience with Leland Yee aside (the guy is an excellent politician and a mediocre human being, and that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about him) this is seriously money my fucking state does not have. So thanks, Yee and Schwarzeneggar. Thanks, assholes. I wish I lived in Yee’s district so I could not-vote for him.

At least the ESA is doing the right thing. Via Joystiq:

“Senator Yee and Governor Schwarzenegger wasted more than $1 million in taxpayer funds at a time when Californians could ill afford it,” said Mike Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA. “However we feel strongly that some of these funds should be used to improve services for California’s youth.”

The ESA stated it would donate a portion of the proceeds from the reimbursement to “develop after-school educational programs for underserved communities in Oakland and Sacramento.”

I get so fucking surly about this issue, you have no idea. So I’m adding a gif to calm me down.

Blizzard says “Homosexual” and “Transexual” are No Longer Naughty Words

File Under: Really, Blizz? Really

really.

So Blizz has finally decided that “homosexual” and “transsexual” are no longer bad words and will be removed from the adult content filter in WoW. Which is awesome because “fag” has been totes okay this whole time. So I guess that tells you the politics of their language filter programmers. Or something.

Note this was only slated to be fixed (hasn’t been fixed yet, I believe — I don’t play WoW anymore) after it was brought up in the WoW forumses.

And to add this to the list of Shit I Did Not Know But GG Bliz, from Joystiq:

In 2006, a World of Warcraft player named Sara Andrews decided to start a guild that was LGBT-friendly and began publicly recruiting players. The guild was touted as a safe haven free of judgment and intolerance. Though many would assume the act innocuous, Blizzard’s initial reaction to Andrews was extremely hostile. Specifically, Blizzard said that “advertising sexual orientation is not appropriate for the high fantasy setting of the World of Warcraft.” Andrews was — inexplicably — in violation of the company’s harassment policy. Follow-up conversations with the company only confirmed the company’s stance: Recruit for a gay-friendly guild in chat, and your account will be banned.

[Official word from Blizz]

Topics related to sensitive real-world subjects — such as religious, sexual or political preference, for example — have had a tendency to result in communication between players that often breaks down into harassment.

So, if Blizz is trying to avoid harassment, why is “homosexual” banned, but “faggot” is just fine?

I can’t believe this was an issue in 2006, and I can’t believe this is still an issue in 2012.