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Posts Tagged ‘sexism in 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. Johnny-Come-Lately: Famous Dudes and Sexism

    July 1, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    My silence screams ‘ha ha!’/And you call us wrong either way/It ‘just so happens’ to us everyday.  – Le Tigre

    Look, I’m sick of your shit. I don’t care if you’re famous and “erudite” arbitors of geek culture. I don’t care how many hits your articles or comics get, how many people know your name or laugh at your jokes. You have a big fucking problem right now and that problem is shitty behaviour. You’re all up in arms right now because someone called Felicia Day a “booth babe” but you conveniently forget that there are other, more famous Destructoid writers going around harassing women on Twitter and calling them “feminazi c*nts.”

    I see you, Wil Wheaton, who’s mad his friend got shit on and while I don’t want anyone to get harassed, much less Felicia Day, the idea that you’re just noticing and caring about gaming culture being shitty to women NOW? There’s been tons of other less-famous women who’ve been harassed before and no one gives a shit about them. Gaming and nerd culture turning on women didn’t start with Anita Sarkeesian (though that was horrible), and it definitely didn’t even start with the fucking Dickwolves debacle either. It’s always been there and the fact that nerd guys are shuffling uncomfortably and being angry about it now because it involves someone they care about finally makes me feel sick. Where were you guys when Penny Arcade was being shitty for the umpteenth time; what about what THOSE guys? They’ve been just as instrumental in being shitheads as a couple of Destructoid writers.

    If you really want nerd culture to change, you guys have to start being better people. You – the content creators, the talking heads and the guys who have thousands of followers on Twitter. Don’t sit around and huffily shake your fist at a culture you helped create by not giving a shit about this until now. Get rid of sexist language out of your peers, quash your fans going out and attacking objects of your criticism “for you” and definitely stop grandstanding and using  typically masculine arm-flailing when people say mean things about your women friends. Guess what, men have been saying mean things about any woman that dares to exist on the Internet and they aren’t all Felicia Day. There are a lot of non-successful, non-famous women that have to deal with this crap on the regular. Women you don’t have a close personal connection with need protection too.

    Protection from whom? Protection from Jim Sterling, Penny Arcade as much as a bunch of grognard nerd-types attacking via blog comments or @ replies. This is the shit palace you guys built by not smacking your bros for the awful things they say or joke about in a very real, public setting as much as not putting a muzzle on your fans. You’re mad about nerd culture attacking women? Why don’t you actually DO something about it? Women-bashing is everywhere, especially in nerd culture and none of you are doing a lick of work to help get rid of it. I’ve seen more responsible editorial staffs on blogs with a third of your budgets and twice as many women contributors. I’ve read tons of webcomics that don’t hinge on rape jokes or sexism to get their point across. I’ve seen tons of talking heads that don’t make shitty jokes with their male friends on Twitter.

    This shit doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen because men are threatened by a famous woman. It is because they’re allowed to be shitbags to women for whatever reason they choose. It is because they see us as outsiders, stealing their precious video games and rape jokes, they see us as less. That’s why the insults come out, that is why attack campaigns come out for their amusement, that’s why people are allowed to use anonymity to constantly shit on blogs like this one. It doesn’t help that a lot of them are famous, are well-known and possibly make video games.

    Sexism is coursing through your veins and now that you’ve all become “aware” of it in your precious nerd culture, take the power and privilege you have with all your fancy, angry words and put your vast empires where your mouth is. Realize how hard it is? Now you’ll realize what us nerd women have had to deal with for so long now. It’s not easy. And no one is going to pat you on the back for treating women with respect and watching what you say. This is baseline, basic human stuff here. Caring about others and how you present yourself professionally and publicly requires a much higher regard for your audience than talking amongst friends and you guys, those with so much much pull and reach need to fucking realize that for a second. You have the most responsibility to do the right thing and you need to not run around hoping people praise you for it. You should do it because it is the right thing to do.

    If you got huffy and defensive reading any of this, then you still have a long way to go. Maybe you’ll realize what you need to do now though.

     


  3. Why Females Are Oversexualized in Video Games, An Original Perspective From a Dude

    May 7, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    Okay ladies, let’s sit down and read what has to be the most facile, lazy and unexamined piece of thinking about a subject that faces us daily. I was literally jaw agape at how poorly this article was worked out and let’s face it, not surprised in the slightest. I love it when people who are not affected that much by sexism and haven’t even begun to unpack why that is try to poke at the subject of sexism in popular media. It’s like a jolly youth in summer, swinging off a rope into a lake full of contentious, murky depths and splashing around to his heart’s content without a care in the world. He has his fun then walks out and goes home to dry off.

    It must be a joy to be able to take a particularly thorny idea and not actually think about it real hard.

    It starts off with the notion that heterosexual men (you know, the only sexuality that exists, especially in the gaming world) are enchanted and besotted by women and all that fluffy stuff. They can’t help their natural urges and fixate on women in a sexual way. Just a function of instinct and genes! Men are nothing but their sexual desires! Aughh! Do you know what happens when you start off an article with such nonsense? I don’t feel compelled to read much farther. Not only does it center the world (and our popular media by default) in a hetero-normative fashion (gay men, anyone? NON-MALE SEXUALITY IN GENERAL?) but it presumes the fact that all our actions are largely the result of our inability to rise above base urges. Urges that we all have, right? Wrong. Not only are all humans different with their sexual desires but “urges” is a very soft way of saying “I want to not be held responsible or think about how I view people in a sexual manner.” This is a very easy road to go down and suddenly you’re well into the “I couldn’t help myself, she was wearing that article of clothing I like, and…” I’m pretty sure you all know where this is going. Sexuality and sexual proclivities are always, always the responsibility of the person, and men, you are not free from this. I know that society has trained you away from thinking you are responsible for yourselves, in favor of blaming women and your own shoddy caveman mechanics, but you are not. You are free to make choices and act in a responsible manner towards other people and yourself. Men are not obsessed with women. They want to believe that they are, because we’re this magical mysterious body of flesh that tempts them. It’s an unhinged notion that squarely puts the burden of keeping men sated, amused and “in check” on women, despite us never asking for it, wanting it or even being interested in you. It has been like this for centuries.

    Because of this, the author supposes, it’s the whole reason we’ve had power over you, ladies! It’s because we’re driven mad by your sexiness! Rarr!

    Excuse me?

    It’s our fault you’ve kept us chained down by power relationships, allowed years of religious doctrine and societal values keep us penned in? Because of our inherent sexiness? HA! It’s one of the greatest tricks of power, I’ve found, to blame it on the powerless, that it is needed to keep things in line. Men have dictated power over women because men have enjoyed it. This is the crux of it. Power is an intoxicating thing and it has been built so thoroughly into our culture that men do not even have to recognize that it is there. It wants to go unchallenged because that’s how it’s always been. Men have created laws and social structures because it’s good being on top. It isn’t because women are some superior gender (as the author claims) and men are protecting us from them, or keeping us safe. It’s that they cannot bear the idea of us being on equal footing. Men have put themselves in the power position because it’s what introduces the most control over their culture. Making a point that men have done this because of their desire for us misses the point entirely; power is far more seductive than any gender could be. Don’t mistake this. Accept your place in society, men, for what it is. It is that you are on top.

    But hey, you feminists have done some good stuff with this, right? Of course you have! We’re SO acutely aware of sexism in video games now. Yay! Sexism is totally unearthed! We can dust it off and put it in a museum now that we know what it is! Right? Right? 

    No. Sexism is still so embedded in our popular media that every time a new gaming title comes out, I scan the box art and relevant articles in the blog community to see what’s wrong with it, because I’m never surprised when it features women in the ass-and-titties pose. Face it, sexism and how we portray women is still largely unquestioned. I know this because every time it gets brought up, a huge fight in comments usually breaks out.

    It’s okay though, ladies, Gordon is here to explain WHY sexism occurs, too! Do go on, I’m all ears over here.

    First off, the point is reiterated that it’s not about power, it’s that men are sex-obsessed apes. Now, this is stuff I don’t understand. Why are men usually okay with society constantly painting them in a negative light? I think it is because they don’t want the responsibility of their choices. This is all well and good, but as someone who hasn’t been allowed choices or responsibility herself, this is gross. Why don’t men want to be seen as human beings?  It is because it makes it easier to not have to think about the shitty things they do. It exerts control over women and their sexuality, and it allows men an easy “out” for what they do. An alibi, if it were. Not criticizing this process is why we have a lot of problems in our culture. (But still, this is a function of power, make no mistake about that.)

    Secondly, he says that sexism occurs because it is what they think women want. Ha ha! Are you kidding me? Gamer culture is always sold as an entirely straight, white male product. It is always ever seen as a commodity for and by straight white dudes. Don’t even come around here with this “we make this because it is what we think women want.” Look, Gordon. I’m sure you meant well. But video games are not made with women in mind or as a consideration. They always made with what men want. Male characters are male power fantasies and women characters are there with an implicitly straight male audience in mind. (This is also known as “male gaze“.) Historically the only people considered to be nerds or geeks in general were men, they still are largely considered the demographic unless something is especially demarcated “for women.” That is how othered we are by media; that everything is not created for us unless it’s distinctly shoved in our faces as such, usually involving horses, or pink, or some other thing that a male-dominated gaming industry believes we want. It is not, however, a scantily clad demon hunter from Diablo III, as hard as you want to make that argument. Granted, do I enjoy seeing women in a sexual way? Yes. I’m a queer woman, but I don’t even come close to pretending that most of the sexualized images of women I see in video games are for me or things I really want. (First off, despite liking women sexually, I do however have a sense of critical awareness and taste, unlike the men you describe in your article.)

    Thirdly, apparently women are sexualized in video games or treated in a sexist way because –drumroll please– they need feminine traits to balance out all the masculine ones! That’s right, ladies, apparently fighting or wearing armor isn’t a womanly thing to do. Being sexual is! Femininity is sexiness, and shooting guns or serving in an army isn’t. Not to speak of that frequently we’ve not been allowed to because of men and their stupid rules, but because it’s just not what we do! So we need to sexify women characters in video games up because anything else isn’t THAT feminine and men need to believe we are still women (and therefore, still able to be lusted after) even with donning armor or using a weapon or doing anything other than pouting our lips or baking something.

    The article ends on the thoughtful “of course equality isn’t about just wearing …sensible cloths [sic] but also, like, freedom and respect and social status and stuff.” (I might have paraphrased that a touch.) But since Gordon considers himself a sex-obsessed ape male, he doesn’t know honestly if this means big tits and sexy video game characters fit in with this intense paradigm shift. If you couldn’t manage it by virtue of your brain, then why did you even bother tackling sexism? Oh right, I forgot, it is because men always have the need and the right to express their opinions about things they haven’t really felt the sting of or haven’t sat down and properly thought about.

    Sexism in video games is a problem, make no mistake about that. But it is due to the power that men have, or are believed to have in both the industry and the consumer market. It is a lily-white, blanketing idea that the only people buying video games are straight white men. It is who they are created for and they will cop the same problems we have with viewing women and creating women characters that are in every other creative industry. Until we rise up and recognize this across the board and do things to make the gaming world more comfortable for women to a) be employed b) participate in c) be catered to, then we will not see a death of sexism any time soon. If we don’t recognize why it happens, why it occurs and stop shitting up blog articles and comments and Reddit with this tripe about what uninformed men think about sexism, then it won’t be going away. Before you open your mouth to talk about things, men, why don’t you ask some women about sexism in video gaming?

    You might find the answers surprising.

    Hint: It definitely has something to do with not addressing us as “females.”

     


  4. 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.