All posts by Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!

A Rundown of What’s Going on with Penny Arcade Now

It hasn’t been that long since the last time Penny Arcade did something that cast the company in a negative light, but here we are again with another fiasco that’s been making its way around Twitter today.  I thought it would be helpful to do a quick rundown of the events from today to make everyone aware of the situation and help answer some questions about why you might want to rethink supporting Penny Arcade, PAX, or anything affiliated with that organization.

It all started today when this panel was posted from PAX Australia, titled “Why So Serious? Has the Industry Forgotten That Games Are Supposed to Be Fun?”.  The original screencap of the description is below.

Read below for full transcript.

 

“Why does the game industry garner such scrutiny from outside sources and within?  Every point aberration gets called into question, reviewers are constantly criticised and developers and publishers professionally and personally attacked.  Any titillation gets called out as sexist or misogynistic and involve any antagonist race other than Anglo-Saxons and you’re a racist.

It’s gone too far and when will it all end?  How can we get off the soapbox and work together to bring a new constructive age into fruition?”

There is so much wrong with this panel description that I don’t even know where to begin. The idea that games as a medium are exempt from criticism because they’re “supposed to be fun” is ridiculous and immature.  This complete and utter display of privilege and a total dismissal of the concerns by women and people of color is awful, but then conflating ‘a new constructive age’ with a time where we disregard the concerns of marginalized gamers is flat out embarassing.  Naturally, the internet responded.  As a result, the description was altered and the line about sexism and misogyny was removed. Continue reading

Open Thread!

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve done one of these, so let’s get together and chat a bit.  What’s going on in your world?  Or for some inspiration, answer this question:  If you could only bring one videogame with you to a desert island (and you had the required console, handheld device, or computer to play it) which would you bring?  Come on out, lurkers!  Introduce yourselves and stick around awhile.

Brought to you by this awesome piece of art by eleyonart on DeviantArt.

On the top it says "choose your character".  A male character is shown on the left, fully covered in silver plate armor.  A woman is shown on the right in a plate mail bikini and basically a tiny loincloth.  Below, a female gamer is shown at her computer with a thought bubble "Are you kidding me?"

 

So, Who’s Going to Buy the New Xbox One?

The hardware of the Xbox One is shown, disassembled to break it into its bits.  It's black.  It doesn't look at all distinguished from any other electronic equipment.

Basically the entire internet (or at least every person I follow on Twitter) was tuned in to Microsoft’s live Xbox reveal press conference in which precious few details were released about the new Xbox One.  Not to be confused with the Xbox 1.  Yeah.

Some things we know:

  • It’s not backwards compatible with the 360.  Boo.  Not unexpected, but it would have been nice.
  • If you want to play a secondhand Xbox One game, you’ll have to pay a fee.  Disappointed in this, because used games are a great way for low budget gamers to be able to enjoy great titles.
  • The controller got like “40 new design changes” which mostly means it’s a bit more refined and smoother in all the right places.
  • There’s going to be a Halo TV show.
  • The new Call of Duty: Ghosts promises to deliver us more emotion while we’re shooting other humans on the battlefield.  The technology looks pretty sweet, in case you need to see every single pore and hair on a man’s arm.  There was a pretty cute dog though, who already has his own Twitter account.
  • It has 8 times the graphic performance of the 360.
  • All downloaded and installed games will be synced to the cloud, so if you sign in on your friend’s Xbox One you can play any games that you own.
  • The Kinect technology is getting a full retooling, with a 1080p camera with a larger field of view, 60 fps video capture for Skyping with mom & dad, and you can walk up to it and say “Xbox On” and it will turn on for you.
  • You’ll be able to connect your cable box to the Xbox One and watch TV through the console instead.  You know, in case you want all your friends to know that you’re watching the “Dance Moms” marathon.
  • It’s going to be releasing later this year.

So there you have it.  More details should be released by E3 time, but if you want a pretty good rundown of information check out this article on Wired.  So, let’s discuss this piece of machinery. Impressed, underwhelmed, blown away?

Dragon’s Crown — Basically ‘Boobs & Butts: The Game’

Sometimes, you see an artistic interpretation of anatomy that just defies all expectations.  One that makes you wish that everyone else on the internet could experience it along with you.  Today that title is Dragon’s Crown, an upcoming 2D “multiplayer action beat ‘em up” game for Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita. I will try to find words while I write this post.

Let’s start out with the Sorceress character.  According to the game’s website, they are “bewitching women….weak of body” but have great knowledge.

The sorceress character is show.  She has a large witch hat, is wearing a black corset with basically her entire chest showing, has long red hair, and is wearing a long purple skirt with slits in it that show most of her legs.  The image to the right shows her chest and backside in the common Escher Girls pose.

Certainly not “weak of boob”.  A shot of the Sorceress in gameplay shows that she’s clothed just the same while actually being played in game, and watching the video on the website shows quite a bit of jiggle while she’s casting spells.  Umm…yeah.

A shot of the gameplay of Dragon's Crown.  Sorceress is wearing the same outfit from above.

And now, the Amazon.

The Amazon in Dragon's Crown.  She is shown with a large axe, henna tattooed legs, a tiny head, and an enormous body.  Her butt and boobs are giant compared to her waist (which sports chiseled abs).

Where do I even begin here? Those proportions!  I’m not sure how she manages to have such large boobs and a gigantic rear end without her waist being wide at all.  But even more  fascinating is how small her head is.  One of her boobs will quite literally cover her face and then some.  It’s amazing that Atlus attempted to make a strong muscular woman character who still remains completely sexualized with her Escher Girls pose, her complete lack of any armor, and her stereotypically feminine face and hair.

Dragon’s Crown will be out this summer, in case you actually want to give this company money.  I won’t hold it against you, but you better send me some ridiculous screenshots.

(h/t to Nush B on Twitter for the tip)

Edit: We need to add a link to this awesome set of revisions that turns the table around on the male characters of Dragon’s Crown.  Thanks to @gygaxis for the tip.

Lucidity: A game about sexual violence

Game Changer Chicago Design Lab seems like an interesting and worthy cause to stand behind here on The Border House.  This initiative, run by Patrick Jagoda (game studies teacher at University of Chicago) and University of Chicago doctor Melissa Gilliam, is a collaboration between faculty and university students at U of C and youth (mostly high school students from the south side of Chicago, a disadvantaged part of the city) to make digital stories and games about sexual and reproductive health.

Their latest game, Lucidity, has just been released and is available for play on the game’s website.  Jagoda reached out to us to give us the following description of the game: “We recently released an interactive story with mini-games called Lucidity that deals with sexual violence and other issues around sexuality. The piece was co-produced with youth and moves between videos, comics, text, audio, and flash games (a room escape, a point-and-click adventure, and a 3D maze). The game also directs players to resources such as rape crisis hotlines, sexual assault information, and STI FAQs.”  The organization is trying to get the game in as many 13-18 year-olds hands as possible.

The full trailer is above, and you can also visit the Lucidity site to play the game right now. Warning: the game may contain triggering language.

Last Day to Buy the Humble Double Fine Bundle

"The Humble Double Fine Bundle"

As of this writing, you all have 22 hours left to mosey on over here and pick yourself up at least 3 awesome games from indie developer Double Fine.  With no minimum dollar amount you can own Stacking, Psychonauts, and Costume Quest.  If you beat the average (currently $8.40) you will also get a snazzy copy of Brutal Legend too.  All of these games unlock on Steam (did you know we have a Steam group?) and if you’re feeling extra generous there are even more perks such as Kickstarter backer access to their upcoming adventure game Broken Age, and a t-shirt!

I’m sure most of you know about this already, but I just didn’t want anyone to miss out because they weren’t aware of the end of the bundle.

Open Thread: Neverwinter

My character in Neverwinter, a redhaired Halfling Devoted Cleric with a fauxhawk and full chainmail armor standing in front of some castles.

Cryptic Studios’ Neverwinter is a game that kind of snuck up on me.  I’m not a huge D&D aficionado and don’t follow or know the lore all that well, and I didn’t spend much time in Dungeons & Dragons Online.  But Neverwinter is actually a pretty solid free-to-play experience that I’ve been quite enjoying over the last week or so.

The Facts:

  • It’s technically in “Open Beta” but characters won’t be wiped and they’re accepting real money transactions so nothing will be deleted.  Basically it’s a way to have a “get out of jail free card” but essentially the game has launched.
  • Appears to be PC only.
  • More of an MMO than Dungeons & Dragons Online but instead feels more similar to a game like Diablo 3 than it does to a traditional MMO.
  • Plenty of things to do in this game!  Max level is 60, there is PvP, player made dungeons, questing, skirmishes (5 person adventures), tradeskills (including an offline version), gear treadmills, etc.
  • Speaking of player made dungeons, one of the neatest features of Neverwinter is the Foundry, where players can make awesome scripted dungeons for each other.  So far I’ve played a few and the writing and lore were surprisingly well-developed.  Seems like it will unlock a lot of creativity and replayability in the game.
  • There is a boob slider. =(  On the plus side, at level 15 on my Halfling Devoted Cleric, I haven’t been given a single piece of armor that shows any of my skin.  She is shown above in the top picture sporting her fauxhawk.
  • The game is free! There are some complaints about it being “pay to win” but that doesn’t really bother or affect me and my mostly solo playstyle.  I haven’t felt too compelled to pay yet, and I’m getting a ton of value out of this game for free.  Your mileage may vary here.

I have a 43 minute recording of myself playing and talking quite a bit about the game in case you want to check it out here.

Anyone else playing?  I’m curious to hear some thoughts from our readers.  Discuss below.

 

Sometimes I Feel Like I am a Fake Geek Girl

There is all this talk about the concept of the “fake geek girl” — essentially geek culture’s way of othering women by presuming they can’t possibly really be into geeky things for any reason aside from the attention.  It’s a ridiculous thought that people could create an identity for themselves simply to gain the attention of the opposite sex.  And while I don’t personally do anything just to attract wanted attention, sometimes I feel like I’m undeserving of calling myself a geek at all.

14265_523454681904_6856475_n

Me, dressed up as a Warcraft Night Elf for Halloween 2009

Here’s the part where I admit a bunch of things that risk making me seem “less cool” in the circles that I frequent.  I’ve only seen one of the Star Wars movies (the oldest one) and I don’t really like anything related to space.  I got bored halfway through watching Firefly.  I find superheroes to be boring and though I was forced to watch some of the movies I didn’t enjoy any of them (Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, etc). I’ve never liked comic books, and my few attempts to get into them ended up with me wasting money on things I barely touched.  I never finished A Song of Ice and Fire (I stopped after book 3).  I have only finished two Neil Gaiman books, Coraline & The Graveyard Book.  I’ve never read most of the sci-fi and fantasy classics (Lovecraft, Dune, 2001, Lord of the Rings). Most TV shows that ‘geeks’ are into are shows that I’ve never watched or haven’t been able to get into such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Supernatural, Arrested Development, Farscape, Battlestar GalacticaAlias, Fringe, etc. and I can’t seem to enjoy anime no matter how much I try.

In the videogame world, my experience is also pretty limited.  Growing up I only played console games, and typically it was games in the Mario, Donkey Kong Country, Zelda, or Sonic series’.  I didn’t get into PC games heavily until discovering EverQuest, which introduced me to the world of MMOs.  Since then I’ve played just about every MMO released since 1999, but still my PC and console gaming experience is severely limited.  I never finished Mass Effect, I never finished Dragon Age.  I didn’t play any of the Fallout games.  I’ve never played the first two Bioshock games.  I never finished Portal 1 and never played Portal 2.  I’ve never played a Half-Life or Halo game.  I never played Age of Empires, or Civilization.  My videogame knowledge is vast in that I read about these games and know about these games, but I’ve never found the time or desire to actually play them.  I’ve never done cosplay and have no interest in it.  I’ve only played D&D a couple times and the campaigns died after one or two sessions.  I have very little roleplaying skills, I can’t write fiction piece,

My experience in games has been pretty limited too.  Once I found MMOs, they stole the bulk of my attention from 1999 to 2009.  I dabbled a bit in games like Oblivion, Black & White, Warcraft III, and The Sims.  Mostly, though, I played EverQuest, EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft, and every other MMO.  I lead guilds, blogged about MMOs for many years, even traveled across the country to meet people I’d met in videogames.

I can’t help but feel like I’m faking it when I say I am a geek.  Though I’m obsessed with videogame culture, I make games for a living, I helped start this very website, I attend GDC every year, consider myself pretty knowledgeable about industry trends, love Game of Thrones and select other fantasy worlds, I’m learning to code….there are just so many people who are geekier than me and seem so accomplished in what they’ve read, watched, and played.  I could be unemployed for 10 years and I’d never catch up on all the fandom pieces that I have missed.  I am perpetually behind and feel inferior as a result.

I know that I’m not really faking anything as I’m pretty up front with the holes in my experience, but sometimes I feel that I shouldn’t even call myself a geek because I’m missing so much ‘critical geekdom’.   It feels like geek culture is a competitive and not-inclusive space with invisible hierarchies.  Does anyone else ever have this feeling?

The 2013 Game Developer Gender Wage Gap

I’m reading through the latest digital edition of Game Developer Magazine which contains their annual survey.  The salary numbers overall weren’t concerning to me, until I scrolled down and saw the differences between the male and female survey respondents.  The next time someone tells me that men and women get paid equally for their talents in the game industry, I wanted something to link to them.  This is just plain disgusting.

programmers

 

This isn’t so bad right?  Female programmers are currently making 4.5% more annually than male programmers.  However, considering they only make up 4% of the entire field of programmers in the game industry, companies are probably paying them more to retain them.  I’m glad to see the few lady programmers we have in games aren’t underpaid.

However, expect things to get more grim.

artists

 

Male artists make 29% more per year than female artists in the game industry.  Women represent 16% of the game industry’s artists, which is sadly a pretty decent number.

designers

 

Male game designers make 23.6% more annually than female game designers, and men comprise 89% of the game industry’s designers.

producers

 

The producer field doesn’t look so terrible.  It has the highest percentage of female representation at 23%.  Women still are underpaid compared to men though: 8.3% less.

audio

 

Audio development is completely dominated by men.  96% of audio developers are male, and they make a whopping 65% more than women.

QA

 

It’s starting to get a big redundant, but here you can see that men make 24.9% more than women per year in QA.

business

Finally, in business and legal we see that men make 31% more than women.  This is a broad field that includes Community Management, CEOs, HR, IT, and admin.  I suspect part of this discrepancy in wage is that HR, admin, and community management have a lot of female representation anecdotally while upper management is dominated by men at most game companies.

I’m sure there are more details that might make these numbers less damning.  For example, we all know that games have been long dominated by men and the industry is taking small steps to change that.  As a result, many of the women who answered the survey might be new to the game industry, might not be in as senior of roles as the men who responded.  However, I don’t think this changes the fact that we need to recruit and encourage more women at all levels of every organization — and we’re failing to do so.

Leadership: look at your organization.  Compare the salaries of the women to the men who work at your company, and align their salaries.  If all of your women are junior, evaluate them.  How long have they been junior?  Are they deserving of an increase in role, capabilities, and salary?  If you don’t have many women in various departments, recruit them.  Make an effort to keep your space positive and encouraging for women.  Consider that raising women up in your company means for more mentors in our industry for the young women who might be interested in working in games.  These numbers are disgusting and we see them year after year.  Who is out there working to change it?  Every studio should be proactive in solving this, because with numbers like these — why would women want to work in games?

These images are all from the April 2013 issue of Game Developer Magazine.