Category Archives: Web

Grand Theft Discourse: Comment Culture and Petty Hatred

GameSpot's logo; each letter of the word "GameSpot" is circumscribed by a circle with a red border, while the 'O" is surrounded by a starburst.

“Still harping on the same subject, you will exclaim—How can I avoid it, when most of the struggle of an eventful life has been occasioned by the oppressed state of my sex: we reason deeply, when we forcibly feel.

— Mary Wollstonecraft, emphasis mine.

When contemplating the locks behind which lay the internet id’s sewage, it always helps to remember what often causes them to swing open and let slip the furious, malodorous torrent of utterly degraded commentary: women who speak their minds.

Adding to the litany of women caught by the deluge of threats and bigotry, GameSpot editor and critic Carolyn Petit has been attacked by online commenters because she gave Grand Theft Auto V a near perfect review. A 9/10 was her verdict; however, some particularly and lamentably vocal fans wanted her to bless the game with a 10/10. Yes: for want of a lone point she has been called everything from a “bitch” to a “tranny” to “a shitty trap” to demanding that GameSpot “never, ever, let a woman review games like this!” to a “mentally ill freak”—the term “self-mutilating” came up far too many times to count.

Some of the more “reasonable” commentary bemoaned such extremes but, of course, sought to reassure us that not all gamers are like this and that, after all, these people are mere individuals (hovering somewhere between the ages of twelve and fifteen) who are solely responsible for their own vulgarity.

To this, I ask what I have always asked: How many individuals does it take before it becomes a social problem?

Time and again we see these cresting tidal waves of hateful spew, in which we can only see the screaming oblivion to which these people would consign democratic discourse. The comments Ms. Petit received display a singular lack of humanity that we must take upon ourselves to heal. To look at the hatred directed at women who speak their minds is to see the wracking death of discourse and, indeed, the source-code of patriarchy itself. Ms. Petit’s crime was to mention— offhandedly, no less, in an eight minute review that was mostly focused on non-political issues—the fact that GTA V relegates its women characters to outmoded and dehumanising archetypes. For this, she was put in the YouTube stocks.

For giving the game a 9/10 instead of a 10/10, it bears repeating. Continue reading

June is Worldwide Game Development Month

This June marks the second-annual Worldwide Game Development Month event. Much like the month-long novel-writing marathon NaNoWriMo, WoGaDeMo is an event that gives you a goal (make a game), a deadline (in 30 days), and a community to help you get there. If you’re looking for a game jam-like event that gives you a bit more time to explore ideas and revise, this event is for you. You can also check out the games from last year (including mine!) on the website.

Damsel In Distress: Part 2 is Online

The second installment of Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs Women in Video Games series is now online–again, after being briefly removed from YouTube thanks to some jerks flagging it. It’s the second video about the Damsel in Distress trope. Please be warned that the video contains some graphic depictions of violence against women, used as examples. Watch the video above or read the full transcript at the Feminist Frequency site.

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.

More Free Videos Available From the GDC Vault

Gamasutra announced today that all content from this year’s Game Developer Conference is now available on the GDC Vault. The vast majority of the videos are for subscribers only, but there are a number of talks available to stream for free that may be of interest to readers.

In addition to the #1ReasonToBe panel, there’s Jill Murray’s talk, Diverse Game Characters: Write Them Now!, filled with practical advice about writing characters who are different from you as well as insight into the process behind writing Aveline de Grandpre and creating her world. There is also Porpentine and Terry Cavanagh’s talk about their site Free Indie Games and the innovative, challenging games they curate for it. Another talk that may be of interest is from Jeffrey Lin of Riot Games, who spoke about The Science Behind Shaping Player Behavior in Online Games. There’s also Anna Kipnis’s talk on Molyjam.

There is a lot more from this year’s GDC at the Vault. Is there anything else you found interesting?

re/Action Launches

Last week, our own Mattie Brice launched re/Action, an online zine of critical games writing. The goal of the site is not only to become a safe space for diverse games criticism and storytelling from the margins, but to pay contributors for their work. Currently in “beta,” the site will be launching a crowdfunding campaign in the coming weeks in order to meet its goals. You can read what Mattie has to say about her goals with the zine here.

There is already some great work on the site, and between that and the impressive list of contributors, I’m extremely interested in seeing where this project goes. The team is also accepting pitches, so read the guidelines if you’re interested in contributing. Good luck to the re/Action team, and we’ll be sure to update readers when the crowdfunding campaign begins.

Kickstart This: GTFO: A Film About Women in Gaming

GTFO is a documentary project by Shannon Sun-Higginson that seeks to cover the experiences of women in game development, game journalism, and pro-gaming. There are a few things I like about this project. While the phrase “women in games” has come to mean a lot of things, the documentary is focusing on interviewing women about the sexism and harassment they face in and around the industry. Also, the film is being made by a self-proclaimed “outsider” to the game industry, which could lend it a fresh perspective. The fact that it is a documentary means it has the potential to reach a wider and different audience than, say, a panel at a convention, which will bring more awareness to the issue.

Sun-Higginson is asking for $20,000 to finish the film. It is more than halfway funded with ten days left. You can read more about the project in an interview with Sun-Higginson at GamesIndustry International.

GTFO: A Film About Women in Gaming — Kickstarter

Watch the First Tropes vs Women in Video Games Video

The first Tropes vs Women in Video Games video is here! It covers the history of the Damsel in Distress trope and the classic games that make use of the trope (over and over and over…). There is a transcript available at the Feminist Frequency blog. You can also see a staggering collection of examples of video game damsels at the Tropes vs Women tumblr.

Game of the Day: The Little Girl Nobody Liked by Deirdra Kiai

We have featured Deirdra’s games in the past, but I wanted to bring up one of her older games, a little flash story called The Little Girl Nobody Liked. An interactive children’s book, it uses very simple gameplay to explore issues of conformity and peer pressure. There are a number of different ways the story can go, some of them surprisingly dark, and for that reason it has stuck in my mind ever since I first played it years ago.

If you have made or played an IF or indie game you would like to see featured on The Border House, send it to us at editors (at) borderhouseblog (dot) com. You can see our past featured games at this tag.