Tag Archives: women in gaming

Back to the linkspam (16 January 2013)

  • Harassment in nerd spaces, and encouraging honesty: “I hope this story encourages more people to talk seriously about experiences they’ve had at conventions, at gaming meet-ups, at comic book stores, or any other male-dominated spaces that (however unintentionally) end up housing predators and “creepers” who make people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. People should feel like they can talk about their experiences without having to use jokey euphemisms (“creeper”) or make supposedly-satirical-but-sort-of-serious videos.”
  • On false dichotomies and diversity: “A person who calls for greater diversity is not necessarily advocating the implementation of a quota system — that’s a straw man fallacy. Similarly, having a diverse roster of speakers at a conference does not imply that those speakers were not chosen on merit. Diversity and a merit‐based selection process are not mutually exclusive. To state the contrary is a false dichotomy. And before assuming that a conference probably couldn’t find enough women because not enough women applied (blaming the victim), first find out whether or not the selection process actually included an open call for talks.”
  • Rocket rain: “The ques­tion for me is, what signi­fi­cance the inci­dents actually occur­ring have for various atten­dees: inci­dents like sexist modera­tion, the reduc­tion of women to head­less bodies, or the hacking of Asher Wolf’s blog. For the majo­rity (I would guess) such events are little things, if they are noti­ced at all. Even if you find them ugly, they don’t tar­nish the ent­ire event. They have the signi­fi­cance of a bro­ken plate in a com­mer­cial kit­chen: it hap­pens, but it’s not signi­fi­cant. It’s just a blip. For many other people, and I include mys­elf here, these events carry a dif­fe­rent weight. They are indi­vi­dual cases of cho­lera on a cruise ship, or dog poop on the hem of the wed­ding dress: the ugly blips makes the over­all situa­tion dan­ge­rous or intolerable.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Violent Images] Facebook’s Questionable Policy on Violent Content Toward Women: “After a Change.org petition collected over 200,000 signatures and the issue appeared in mainstream media outlets, some of the pages promoting the rape and assault of women were removed. Others were allowed to remain on the site if they were categorized as “humor” sites. Given the seemingly inconsistent application of the site’s own guidelines regarding violent and threatening images and speech, it’s hard not to wonder: What is Facebook’s actual policy regarding content that advocates rape and violence toward women – or does one exist?”
  • Silicon Valley Congresswoman talks the 2013 tech agenda: “‘The outcome of the SOPA fight last year is the Big Content people realize the days of getting their way completely is kind of at an end. It doesn’t mean they don’t deserve consideration — they do. It’s time to work with technology and instead of seeing it as a threat, seeing it as an opportunity to grow your market.'”
  • 10 Awesome Female Engineers from Science Fiction: “Everybody knows that the engineers are the ones who keep everything going in a science fiction story. They’re the ones who make the ship fly. They build the megastructures. They make the spinning things spin and the jumping things jump. And some of the coolest engineers and designers in science fiction just happen to be women.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Quick Hit: Sexism In Games Bingo

Tired of hearing the same arguments regarding sexism in games? Here’s a sexism in games bingo card by @fireholly99.

Trigger Warning: Includes mention of violence against women.

Additional Warning: This card has been copied verbatim and includes slurs and other derogatory language that we wouldn’t normally allow here because I felt it was more effective when allowed to parrot inappropriate comments than it would be if I reworded. This is not going to be extended to the comments, however, so please adhere to our comment policy there.

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But men are all super-buff, they’re sexually objectified too! But it’s not FOR women. If they can’t deal with it, they shouldn’t be here. She might play games, but she’s not a REAL gamer, she’s just attention whoring. Chainmail bikinis are unrealistic, but’s not realistic for a woman to be fighting anyway. YOU’RE the one who hates women – you’re saying they can’t be both sexy AND tough.

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But they call her a ‘bitch’ because they’re the bad guys. No-one gives a shit about this sexism stuff, I’m just here for the review scores. I am a feminist and love women because they are inherently too nurturing and responsible to play video games. The only reason a guy could have to care about sexism is so women will think he’s sensitive and want to fuck him. But we have equality, there are nonsexualised female characters, like… Samus except when she takes off her Suit…

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But there are sexualised male characters, like… uh, Marcus Fenix is sexy, right? I don’t know, I’m not a fag. Men want to WATCH desirable women and women want to BE desirable women, so no-one wants sexy male characters except gay guys. GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN AND MAKE ME A SANDWICH There are women who get their genitals ritually mutilated and you’re complaining about video game boobies? So you think all female characters should be ugly and dress in burqas.

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Girl who likes video games? You only have interests because you’re not thin enough to have a real boyfriend. Yeah, the story, dialogue and character design is all sexist, but everyone can enjoy the amazing gameplay. As a woman, it doesn’t bother me, so no-one else is allowed to be bothered. Why should I care about this so-called ‘unfair’ depiction of women when women have more rights than men nowadays and feminists are trying to destroy capitalism? But trash talk is normal on XBL. Women are just too sensitive to rape threats and feigned masturbation.

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How can it be sexist when women in REAL history were their husband’s property? How can it be sexist when women in REAL life are weaker and wear less clothing than men? If you didn’t want attention for being a girl you wouldn’t be using a female name in your tag or speak with a female voice. Everyone knows ‘sex sells’, and the developers are just making things they think will sell. But I’ve suffered oppression too, as a black/ poor/ gay/ nerdy/ girlfriendless MAN! What about my feelings? It’s just a game. No-one cares.

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Quick hit: Shepard ain’t white: Playing with race and gender in Mass Effect

I’m going to admit, I haven’t played Mass Effect 2, but I’ve definitely been hearing good things about playing the main character as a woman. There’s lots of good reasons your leading lady may be awesome, but I was particularly taken by this description of how privilege plays a role in making this fun and maybe a little subversive:

When Brown Lady Shepard is rude, or curt, or dismissive, the reactions she receives from others are not to her gender or her race, but to her words. Why? Because the character was written with the expectation that most people will play it as a white dude, a character for whom reactions based on gender or race are inconceivable. He’s “normal”, y’see. In real life, and in most media representation, we are culturally conditioned to respond differently to a big ol’ white dude with no manners than we do a woman of color doing the exact same thing. The white dude is just a jerk, but there’s often a built-in extra rage factor against the woman of color, for daring to be “uppity”, for failing to know her place. This distinction is often unconscious and unrecognized, but it’s there.

In Mass Effect, no matter what my Shepard says or does, not only is the dialogue the same as it would be for the cultural “default”, but the reaction from the other non-player characters is the same. (The only exception to this is the handful of times that Lady Shepard is called a “bitch” — I suppose Dude Shepard may get called a bitch too, but I doubt it. I find it fascinating that they would record specific name-calling dialogue in this way.) Brown Lady Shepard waves her intimidation up in a dude’s face and he backs the fuck down, just like he would if she were a hyper-privileged white guy. My Lady Shepard faces no additional pressure to prove herself because of her background; if she is dismissed, it’s on the basis of her assertions, and not because she’s a queer woman of color from a poor socioeconomic background — even though that’s exactly what she is.

Read the whole post at Two Whole Cakes. (Seriously, do. Otherwise you’re missing out on the tale of how default animations make Lady Shep in a dress either odd or awesome, or how getting drunk has an entirely different context. Contains spoilers, no doubt, but nothing too specific.)

BGG (Black Girl Gamer)–LFG, PST!

Cori Roberts is founder of Gameinatrix.com and remaining founding member of Gamer Girls Radio, and has been involved in gaming media for over 8 years. She’s currently obsessed with the MMO Fallen Earth and anything involving vampires in the world of Second Life.

This post was originally published at The Border House.

A well-dressed black woman holds a machine gun.

African American (black) woman from the recent Call of Duty commercial. One of the very few times a black woman has been used in the marketing of any game.

While several gamers are fighting for the right to game with all the controversy surrounding the community as of late, there are a few of us women gamers waging another kind of war in our own respective communities. It’s not just the standard girl gamer war, where there is incessant name calling, references to genitalia or even the normal male chauvinist crap. The battle is having to defend why we are even playing games, in the first place. Why would “we” be playing games, because black women don’t play games.

I’m one of these elusive, mythical, Black (African American for you new kiddies) women gamers who purportedly do not exist. While this particular battle is not a boss battle for me, it is an annoying and repetitive battle. It’s one I have to wage most every time I encounter a new “sistah” who can barely operate her iPhone, but thinks she is somehow more versed in games and who should be playing them, than I am. The first thing I’m asked is how I ended up even playing games, like it’s a disease I somehow contracted. Then I’m told how “different” and “odd” I am. My mother bought me my first console at age six and I never knew I was any different from other little girl. Never knew I was a geek, a nerd, or any other derivative until I was much older. However, after I realized I was one of these beings, referred to as a geek, I kept it secret and tried hard to suppress it. I can tell you I use to rent games at Block Buster and often lied about who they were for. Once out on my own, gaming became part my regular daily routine. Get up, school, work, come home, game. When I couldn’t afford to go clubbing, you’d find me on the floor of my furniture-less apartment, head propped up with pillows, faithful dog at my side, playing games. The only thing I bought other than games was clothes. Come on, I’m still a girl! It should suffice to say, I obviously don’t fit the mold of fat white guy, with glasses. I was a thin shapely black chick with glasses (used to wear glasses anyway), who spent her free time perusing not only Cosmo magazine, but strategy guides in now defunct Electronics Boutique. The guys began to love when I came into EB every Friday, because other guys followed me in and they stayed to chat when they realized I actually loved games just as much as they did. Me, wearing my designer perfume and clothes, could take a guy down in Tekken in 30 seconds flat. After getting over the shock of being beaten by me, I always had a new friend and finally there in EB I stopped feeling odd and out of place. I fit in somewhere. However the older I got, the more dissonance I noticed with other black women once I mentioned video games or anything geeky for that matter. All of those silent lunches finally lead to me speaking up and a mini-battle royale about the Lifetime Network and gaming where I schooled my “sistah” on the world of gaming and technology. I also shared with her that technology is an area where black women were being left in the dust. Most of us are still taught and truly believe as black women, it’s just our not our place to be “smart”. Before the eye rolling begins, this is not true of all women of color, but it’s true enough. So true that I still have yet to pick up an Essence, Ebony, or Jet magazine and see an entire tech section (not to pick on Essence, this is true of a lot of women’s magazines). Hip Hop mags like XXL do share some tech info with its readers, but tend to have more male readers than females. It’s also still true that most black women tend to steer clear of the whole technology thing and can barely use an iPhone, let alone know which cables go where on their Xbox. While we’re excelling in other areas, still some black women view the gaming industry as a childish and MALE one. As a result, our presence in the world of tech and gaming is lagging far behind the rest of the world.

As a Black woman (I prefer being called Black to African American, I didn’t move here from Africa and become American, I was born here), I find it disheartening that even so many of our notable Black public figures and role models don’t even acknowledge the gaming culture unless it’s the latest fad. For instance Oprah Winfrey has had a show or two about gaming addiction and how horrid gaming is, only to give away the Kinect on her show later. As a gamer I was not impressed or fooled. I once heard Tyra Banks say on her show something akin to she thought men were so childish playing games, and she hated when her man did it. Women don’t wanna play games, chile! These women are considered great role models and several young women look up to them. I wonder if they know the message they are sending to young black women. Yes you’re teaching them that beauty is subjective, but are teaching them that technology is for those other folk. This, in my opinion, will lead to a nation of beautiful black women who are technologically incompetent. They will know the best way to maintain their weave but not how to change out a faulty hard drive. Or even how to do something as simple as defrag a hard drive.

Take note, most of the women you’ll see fighting for a place in the gaming industry usually are not of ethnicity. I explained to my friend the facts and figures of the gaming industry, and how our lives as black women should not be all about being a nurse (this is a common thing in the black community, pushing daughters to be nurses or get into law, go after the money), but instead embracing a new culture, a culture that does in fact make a LOT of money, a culture that, though considered controversial at times, is indeed the future. A culture where most times, our differences are celebrated, not hated. Ok, perhaps I’m pushing the Utopia envelope here, but aside from a very few assholes, I’ve NEVER been called out for the color of my skin. Admittedly, I hail from several racial backgrounds, but I identify as being your average garden variety, Diva, black, woman. I pointed out to her that I’ve never been told I wasn’t dressed appropriately to game. That my manicure to was too old to game. That I wasn’t black enough to game. The only thing that has ever held me back is not having the SAME game as a gamer buddy.

Said friend turned her head to look out the window and quietly said to me, “I just don’t get it…you gamers…” But she did call a few months later sounding bubbly and told me she’d bought her first console. Yes it was a Wii, but she was planning on getting an Xbox, as well. She’d seen some “interesting’ things at Game Stop that she actually wanted to play. But I dare say if I hadn’t opened my mouth, if I hadn’t in essence said that gaming as entertainment is okay, she would never have played. Though I’ve managed to bring some of my friends to the dark side, I still have to deal with strangers form assumptions based on the fact that I’m a gamer. If I’m in Best Buy or any store’s PC section, I still get the tech behind the desk who feels the need to try to explain to me every detail of my video card and how it works, where to install it on my motherboard. I hate the condescension in their voice and this is after I’ve told them a million and one times that I’m a gamer. I have every console, (except the 3DS, but give me time) and even a gaming PC, that I built myself, from scratch, even after I tell them I run a gaming website and podcast and have for 8 years. They don’t hear me until I get a little belligerent and then they are shocked and awed. The next thing is to test me, because it’s just impossible to them that black woman as a gamer exists. I am always told that of course I must not be hard core, no woman is. I can tell you that I am indeed as hardcore as they come. And just because I may wear a weave, wig, extensions or like shoes, doesn’t detract from that. I’d like to tell my fellow “sistahs” that yes, you can be fabulous, and play games, and know how your iPhone works. I do not find it cute or charming when you have a beautiful piece of technology and you use it more as a status symbol and can’t even figure out how to make a simple call. You can be smart, and know how to fix your own PC, iPhone, or hook up your own HDTV and then feel extra proud to sit down and watch your Sex in the City re-runs, without having to call your man over to do it for you. I am hoping one day to be in the store and not have to tell another black woman to buy games for her daughter, not just her son, and not hear the mother say she won’t like it, when clearly the little girl is interested. I’d like to see more black women put their daughters in front of a computer and push them to learn more math, science and physics. But sadly I see this particular battle as a very long one. While I am graced to have a few black women who do share my passion for gaming, my white girlfriends (whom I love just as much) far outnumber the black ones. I do wish I had more black gaming girlfriends (and in the same city would be nice) so this black girl can stop constantly LFG.

Quick Hit: Dickwolves shirt removed from store

In our linkspam, you may have seen the post “Why I’m Not Speaking at PAX East 2011.” If you haven’t, here’s an excerpt:

A couple of months ago, I got asked to be on a panel at PAX East 2011. I’d attended the IGDA Leadership Forum in October and been kind of a bitch (aka myself) on Twitter throughout the conference, mocking the verbal fuck-ups of men speaking about an industry that’s supposedly trying to be less of a sausage fest. [...] This got the attention of someone who was (and maybe still is, for all I know) working with the PAX East team to put together some less sausage-fest-ish content for the convention, and I got offered a spot on a panel about women and video games in some way or another.

I said no, which given the circumstances probably doesn’t surprise you. Leaving aside the fact that I think it’s a little wrong-headed for people in the industry to get too tied into a fan convention in general, what I want to say is that as someone working in the game industry, I think the recent merchandising decisions of Penny Arcade have made PAX and PAX East into spaces that I don’t want my industry to align itself with, and I’m not going to give Penny Arcade content as long as they keep selling that merchandise.

Penny Arcade’s continued use of rape as a punch line on their merchandise, and their sale of that merchandise on their site and at their events, is poisoning video game culture and video game fan events. If their charity work and structuring their cons to be less creepy to women were in the name of positively changing the perception of video games and gamers, then I do not understand their decision to pander to a puerile, sexist portion of their fan base, especially when it is so starkly prohibiting the participation of the people whose lives are being used as a punch line. In short: Why have they stopped following Wheaton’s Law?

It seems that this post and other well-reasoned emails have made a real impression:

We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen. From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees. When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause. Now whether I think that’s a fair or warranted reaction doesn’t really matter. These were not rants on blogs but personal mails to me from people being very reasonable. It’s how they feel and according to them at least, removing the shirt would make them feel better about attending the show. For me that’s an easy fix to the problem. I really don’t want to have this fight and if not having it is as simple as not selling a shirt then I’ll do it.

They have also offered to refund anyone who bought tickets to PAX but still feels uncomfortable attending.

Despite talking about why the offending comic itself was effective for me (and this does not mean I think it should be effective for anyone else), I did think the t-shirts were an incredibly inappropriate and tacky response, and I’m glad I won’t be seeing them for sale.

Everyone gets a linkspam! (27th January, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Women in modern games: WoW Cataclysm has some pretty cool women in it. Let’s hope for a trend!

We’ve filled a lot of linkspams with discussion of negative reviews of World of Warcraft from the feminist perspective. While I still think “I KILL THINGS WITH MY LADYBITS” may be the best description of fantasy art I’ve ever read, it does get tiresome hearing again and again how dubious the gaming industry’s attitude towards women can be. (Not because that’s the wrong impression, but because it’s so bloody obvious at times that it hurts to be reminded.) So I was really happy to see Now that’s what I’m talking about: the women of Cataclysm (Alliance edition). It’s nice to see Blizzard improving upon their often problematic depictions of women. Here’s a teaser:

Fanny Thundermar

Fanny Thundermar

Fanny Thundermar from WoW: Cataclysm
(Yes, she’s toting an iron skillet. Do not mock the skillet. You will regret that decision almost immediately. Remember the lesson of Samwise Gamgee.)

I really hesitate to go too far into this, but, really, Fanny is a great example of turning something on its ear. In this case, the Princess, to be married, is kidnapped, and must be rescued by all the manly men! Surely, this will end in tears.

Except, not so much.

Fanny, you see, is not one to take being kidnapped lightly, and the ONLY thing that kept her from pounding every ogre head in sight into the ground was the rescuer. In essence, we get to rescue the ogres from HER.

Read more about Fanny and the other women of Cataclysm in the original post: Now that’s what I’m talking about: the women of Cataclysm (Alliance edition).

I’d only ever encountered one of these characters since I’m more of a Horde kinda girl (and not a frequent player at that), and now I’m kinda sad to know that I was missing out on a couple more interesting women. And I’m hoping there’s plenty of great characters in other games too.

Here’s the one that most recently struck me:

Yuriko from Puzzle Bots

Yuriko from Puzzle Bots

Yuriko from Puzzle Bots

I think Yuriko especially made an impression because I first heard about Puzzle Bots from Melissa’s negative review of the character profiles, and Digital Changeling’s concerns about the stereotyping. So yes, she starts as an incredibly problematic shy, smart Japanese girl stereotype (and one I’m especially inclined to dislike as it’s one people apply to me). What surprised me when I got to play Puzzle Bots myself is that even in a very short game, Yuriko actually grew considerably from her initial characterization. I can’t really give details without spoiling the (rather touching) end of the game, but I have to say that part of why I adored her so much was that she started as a problematic stereotype but was able to move past that and it’s most definitely implied that she’ll be growing even more. Despite the problematic stereotypes (nothing you don’t see watching movies already) I’d totally give this game to a younger girl as long as I was pretty sure she’d complete it to find out how much more awesome Yuriko can be.

So here’s your chance to warm my heart even more: what great characters have you seen in modern games? Let’s not let the industry rest on its laurels and concentrate on characters from games released in the past two years or so.