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Posts Tagged ‘gaming culture’

  1. The “Girlfriend Mode” Experience

    August 13, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    The hubbub this morning is over how Eurogamer basically broke that John Hemingway, lead developer for Borderlands 2, referred to their new mechromancer character as having a “girlfriend mode.” This colloquial reference (presumably a joke) is for the “Best Friends Forever” mode that the mechromancer has that allows people who are not “good at shooters” to play and still be entertained.

    “The design team was looking at the concept art and thought, you know what, this is actually the cutest character we’ve ever had. I want to make, for the lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree. This is, I love Borderlands and I want to share it with someone, but they suck at first-person shooters. Can we make a skill tree that actually allows them to understand the game and to play the game? That’s what our attempt with the Best Friends Forever skill tree is.”

    One of the first skills available in the BFF tree is called Close Enough. This means your bullets that hit walls or other objects, that is, miss their target, have a chance to ricochet off towards the enemy.

    “Can’t aim? That’s not a problem,” Hemingway said.

    It’s 2012 and gaming companies are still letting their lead developers go in front of journalists without an ounce of PR training to say stuff like this, let alone actually hiring people within the industry that aren’t designing games with this ridiculous “boys club” mentality behind the things they put so much work into. Hilarious to treat a mode to make the game wildly easier as a joke on women, right?

    This sort of stuff bothers me on a lot of levels because it still reflects how far down this idea of women being shitty at video games penetrates even if it isn’t glaringly on the surface. The nature of jokes, internal builds (see Dead Island’sfeminist whore” stuff. Warning: That is a Kotaku link.) and presumably what devs talk about in private still floats to the surface because companies don’t inherently see this as a problem and neither does the “community.” Girlfriend mode is going to stick because it’s always been there. It is in the sexist Jungian shared consciousness that gamer culture is built upon.

    If male gamers wanted to pay money to experience the real “Girlfriend Mode” they’d be in for a wild shock. It’d be a woman character that would be given a random level of ability and you’d have to attempt to quest and shoot bad guys while dodging epithets, jokes at your expense and commentary on your body, your skills and your gender as a whole. You’d be reduced to an attachment to whatever male protagonist is on the front of the box or featured in the story.  You wouldn’t have any independent desires, motivations or intrinsic characteristics outside of what hobbies your male paramour wheedled you into accepting. Getting top medals or ranks would earn you a “Good Enough!” achievement, or perhaps commentary about how you’re decent “for a woman.” Anything less than perfect would just get you laughed at and NPCs would pat you on the head to give you the beginning tutorials again. Your character’s life would close at the end of the game with you being married or pregnant.

    Coming as someone who would be termed a very “casual gamer” just on the dint that I’m a) female b) heavily play World of Warcraft, I find it really galling that all women are shrunk down to being brought into games as part of a (presumably heterosexual) relationship because being good at games is a male pursuit. I didn’t get into gaming because of a boyfriend. I wanted to play with my friends. My casual nature with gaming historically has almost nothing to do with the fact that I couldn’t “grasp” games but more to the fact that I never owned a console and couldn’t really afford to game most of my life.

    Men do not need a spouse or a partner to get them into gaming because it is already marketed at them. They also are given wide berth on how good their skills are because men are already seen as baseline “decent” at gaming due to the fact that it is their hobby. This kind of presumption has been pounded into stone and still is the foundation for a lot of shittiness that we see around gamer culture today. Women can never get into gaming, especially the shooter genre, on their own, never be good at it, because well, it’s not for them. We have to be lead into it with sugar cubes like some irascible horse that needs breaking in. Once we’re in, our natural inability to hold electronics or jump into pipes will hold us back and you’ll never be able to play with us without bringing deep shame on the house of Gaming.

    See how fucking ridiculous that shit is?

    We need to stop letting male gamers get away with this pervasive attitude that women don’t get gaming, aren’t interested in it and definitely aren’t GOOD at it despite the fact that the gaming industry has been telling us this for years. If I could even take this a step further, I’d say that we need to stop caring whether people are good at video games or not like it fucking matters. Because it doesn’t. Everyone should have the ability to be good or not and break down this uber-masculine need for levels of playing ability determine how much fun someone can have playing a video game. Being bad at a video game isn’t the end of the world, nerds, and it isn’t a solely feminine thing.

    Gearbox, like so many other gaming companies, needs to start making their games equitable to everyone, regardless of gender, and not just for the consumer, but for the people who work on the games as well. If I was a woman working for Gearbox, I’d be fucking flipping out if a lead developer made a joke like that in front of reporters. How do you feel good about yourself working on a project when someone that notable on your team says shit like that?

    Clean it up, dudes.

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  2. Maxim’s Gamer Girl Contest: Selling the Performances of Gamer Women

    April 11, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    Gaming culture! Gaming culture!

    You hotbed of commodity fetishization, hobby validation and entrenched sexism!

    Thy name is Maxim’s Gamer Girl contest.

    Now, I might get criticized for saying that Maxim of all things, that barely-tasteful lady mag, is a part of gamer culture, but it sure seems to be trying very hard to parcel out its particular brand of glossy lady-selling to the neckbeard set right now. Enter in a contest that combines a nerd’s love of hot nerdy women, competition and opinion validation and you have a perfect storm of exactly What’s Wrong With Gamers.

    I tried really hard to keep my nose out of this whole thing because frankly, I’ve been weathering a long period of anti-feminist criticism and I didn’t need to shit in the faces of people that I actually know online who have chosen to compete in this whole circus. But when I woke up and saw someone I know on Twitter talking about how feminists were lashing out at her on her Facebook page for participating, I knew I had to step in somewhere.  Maxim wants this. This is precisely what a magazine wants: drama, page views and discussion. They want people to have “favorite” women and to have competitors get into “cat fights” and nerds to bicker with each other over who is better or worth more votes. It’s a really sick sad affair all around. But going to a lady’s Facebook and harassing her over her participation in said contest? Low blows.

    The problem here is the contest itself. The whole idea of gamer girls (not women, mind you, never women) seems to still firmly be rooted in what male nerds believe they should be. They are usually a conventionally attractive woman, able-bodied, most often white, with the charm of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the gamer skills of your bros. But not TOO good, unless you like being beaten by a girl. (Ha-HA!) There have been groups of women who just want to game in peace and on their own terms, but there’s been quite a few women that are quite happy to buy into this and make it their lifestyle or profession. I ain’t mad at them. Getting ahead in a man’s world is what practical women do. It’s my job as the Dissenting Feminist to look at why we have to do these performances, full of lipstick and pink controllers, with allusions to Bastions of Nerd Culture  so that Nerd Men like us.

    It’s because Gamers are still thought of as men. Women gamers have to be sorted aside and indicated as such because women are not gamers by nature. Despite the rise of gaming across all ages in women, we’re still not a part of it. We’re sexy fixtures, novelties, and our status only lasts as long as we can keep fraggin’ and making pouty faces.

    Maxim knows that this is still what lurks in the hearts of gamer men and is preying on it. It’s also preying on a lot of our insecurities and internalized sexism as women too. I’ve seen more than a couple tweets decrying one competitor over another because X lady does things like give out special vote rewards, and this other Y lady doesn’t. The subtle implication here is that X is an attention whore and Y isn’t. It’s about continually policing and validating how women should be behaving in a large dog-and-pony show that’s already designed to make us feel bad about ourselves as gamers and women. Entries upon entries are full of drippy sex performances with peek-a-boo pictures and serious camera faces. It feels like a “meet a date” site with more Horde t-shirts. Vote on your favorite cut of ladymeat, gents, she might crawl out of the computer and gently caress your face while you tell her about your Call of Duty clan. Be passionate on the collectible women on this site and maybe she’ll give you a call on Skype.

    I’m angry that Maxim is dumping money into setting nerds against eachother and pushing the same agenda that it always has in its magazine – making money on the idea that women exist as caricatures for men to enjoy, whether it be the Hot Schoolgirl, or the sexy co-ed, or now the Game-Capable Sexpot. But shame on you if you feel like attacking the women involved for participating in this. If I had a face for competitions and it could possibly get me a bigger job or more money, I’d consider it too. We need to stop pretending that this is about “bad” gamer women or “good” ones. It’s about the whole notion of what gamer girls are and how we need to, as a community, stop selling it wholesale without any agency in our own images. We need to stop defining our womanhood by what men in the gaming sphere think. We need to stop letting dumb bro-mags run online contests under the guise of being our nerdly friend.

    Maxim is no one’s friend, least of all mine.

    Editor’s Note: I will not be linking said contest page because I legitimately don’t want to give them more traffic. You can search for it quite easily if you wish.