Across the Divide: 3/7/2011

Brought to you by this adorable video of my 4 month old Boxer harassing our 8 year old Min Pin for a treat:

I play with you (WoW Official Forums): [Trigger Warning for ableism] “I work hard to be the best player I can be, it’s one of the few things I can be good at, even if I’m not good at it every day. I am not alone, I know many others who are crippled, sick, who escape into this game, every one of them I know work hard to play well, but sometimes they don’t, sometimes even the game isn’t a complete escape from the pain and debilitating illnesses we suffer with.” [Cuppycake note: This made me seriously cry.]

Crafting a UI for a Disabled Player (WoW Insider): “Hopefully we as a community can put together our collective knowledge and imagination to help those who can use it. These suggestions are just some of the ways WoW‘s interface, addons, and hardware peripherals can help out a gamer with visual impairments, limited mobility or other disabilities.”

Do you want to be my PlayDate? Undercover at GameCrush (Gaming Angels): “Yeah, they’re advertising as a gamer dating site. Which, if you haven’t caught on by now – GameCrush is not for dating. Yes, we’re called PlayDates, but you shouldn’t be expecting to take us out to dinner any time soon. And yet someone in charge of advertising has chosen to give people false hope. Does this hope actually do anything? It might get a few people to pull out their wallets, sure, but people who are looking for real human interaction aren’t going to settle for pay-for-play.”

Bayonetta and Peach Talk Women in Gaming (Destructoid): “Just like religion, politics, and race, talking about gender can really flip a switch in people. If people get the sense that you are on “the wrong side” of the argument, they will start to see you as “the enemy” and all potential discussion gets thrown out the window, replaced with spiteful intent and hateful name-calling. I’ve seen it happen all too many times before.”

Will Bulletstorm Murder Your Children? No. (Rock Paper Shotgun): “And there they have their story: Bulletstorm, and games like it, cause rape. Now they are “sexual scenes”. The mutation is complete. Based on the game’s featuring the words “topless” and “gangbang”. The quote comes from Carol Lieberman – “psychologist and book author” – whose claim that there’s an increase in rapes in the US is peculiar. While we in no way trivialise the severity of sexual crimes, this is purely about investigating the claims made and the related numbers, and they don’t hold up.”

Do Women Play More Games than Men? (VentureBeat): “More than half of all mobile and mobile social gamers — 53 percent, to be exact — are women, bucking the stereotype that gaming is typically a male-dominated form of entertainment, according to the report. Only 40 percent of “traditional” gamers are women, according to the report.”

Male and Female NPC Armour in Rift (Spinksville): “These characters are both Meridian Centurions guarding the main Defiant city in Rift. So the ranks and roles are equivalent. And yet the guy gets a full set of studded armour and the girl gets a skimpy bikini.”

Are Video Games Turning Liberals into Virtual Conservatives? (Kotaku): “For me this all boils down to one of the core properties of video games that draw so many people to them in the first place: They let you do things you otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t do. This works on a visceral level – I’d never kill a man, but I’ve killed millions of virtual men – or on a more social or political level. If we allowed our real-world morals and beliefs to guide our video game playing, that would make for some incredibly boring games.”

Have any interesting links that I missed?  Leave them in the comments!

About 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!
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20 Responses to Across the Divide: 3/7/2011

  1. Ohma says:

    Huh, the original article on Moral Combat is kind of an interesting read and something I’ve thought about a lot recently (the ways games can subtly reinforce a particular world view frequently unintentionally). For example, the Ace Combat games use money gained from kills as a way of allowing you to unlock and buy more/better aircraft. Now on the one hand the basic game mechanic is totally fine, it allows the player more options when playing the game but also keeps them from just choosing the super laser plane for every mission unless they’ve actually put in the effort to get it in the first place. However in most of the games it makes no sense for you to have to *buy* new planes, something I’ve always thought curious since many other games have a similar system but abstract the ‘money’ into say, influence, or fame. Now I’m probably in the minority when I question a mechanic that reinforces the idea that market economics are the norm, but it is still an example of how a game can, probably completely by accident, endorse a particular social or political philosophy.

    The other interesting thing to me about that article is how author’s descriptions of her experiences with games like The Sims, Civilization, and even watching 24 differ from mine. It’s interesting to note how different expectations shape our impressions of media as well as the actual content.

  2. Jayle Enn says:

    From the Male and Female NPC Armor in Rift article, “The actual player gear is fine…” is 100% bogus. The STARTING chest-slot plate armor for female PCs is a goddamn halter top, a good handspan of bare midriff, and then a fauld that could be mistaken for a steel miniskirt. My level 30 cleric just got rid of a pair of chain ‘greaves’ that were nothing more than a pair of brown leather-look panties with a faint pentagram on the front.

    I’ve been enjoying myself so far (though it’s anyone’s guess if it’ll keep me beyond the free month), but the worst part of the game is cringing as I open my paperdoll to see what sartorial horrors I’m inflicting in the name of bigger numbers.

    What really frustrates me is that it’s basically random. One piece of armor might be a stereotypical brass brassiere, and the next upgrade could be a full-length coat– or unfortunately vice-versa. Some of the models look really pretty, but others border on being un-skinned. It’s like constantly churning through heroic hand-me-downs.

    • Zaewen says:

      For anyone interested in looking at the armors in Rift (both NPC and player) here are links to posts where I’ve compiled most of the under lvl 40 armors (so I’m missing a few models, but you can still get a good sense of things).

      http://forums.riftgame.com/showthread.php?63048-Armor-Model-Pics-from-B6!
      http://forums.riftgame.com/showthread.php?48111-Armor-Model-Pics-from-B5!
      http://forums.riftgame.com/showthread.php?26500-Fashions-of-Telara-Pics-of-what-NPC-s-are-wearing

      You should be able to see the posts and all the links without an active Trion account.

      I truly like the game and hope that in the future they a) add in an appearance system asap so I can choose not to be half-naked just cause my upgrade is a bikini bottom and b) they put in a wider variety of armors that includes a LOT more covering and realistic options for females and revealing options for males (gotta balance it out :D ).

    • FarisScherwiz says:

      What they really need to do with this sort of thing is this: When you get an armour set, it should ask you if you want it to be the full armour or the sexy armour (and maybe an in-between if they want), for BOTH genders. Then everyone has the choice to be covered up or not and nobody feels forced into ridiculous stuff without wanting to. I’d have way less of a problem with the cheesecake armour if was a CHOICE (and heck, I’ll admit to liking some of it lol)

      And if this is just too much of a pain to implement, give everyone full armour. Why is this so hard devs!

    • FarisScherwiz says:

      What they really need to do with this sort of thing is this: When you get an armour set, it should ask you if you want it to be the full armour or the sexy armour (and maybe an in-between if they want), for BOTH genders. Then everyone has the choice to be covered up or not and nobody feels forced into ridiculous stuff without wanting to. I’d have way less of a problem with the cheesecake armour if was a CHOICE (and heck, I’ll admit to liking some of it lol)

      And if this is just too much of a pain to implement, give everyone full armour. Why is this so hard devs!

  3. franzferdinand2 says:

    It is sometimes odd to me the values that I’m okay with putting on hold in a video game versus the ones I’m not. I’m actually a pacifist, but I’m a-okay with putting that away so that I can mow down enemies (although I do prefer when the enemies are things like zombies or robots or demons, things that I don’t have to feel any guilt about). Yet while I’m willing embrace my inner psychopath sometimes, feminism is something that I can’t really get past. Hell, I couldn’t finish God of War because I honestly didn’t feel comfortable with the fetishistic masculine portrayal of the protagonist. That actually applies to pretty much any game where anger is the only emotion that a protagonist is allow to feel (besides, of course, whenever he totally satisfies random ladies ’cause he’s such a dude).

    • FarisScherwiz says:

      I have that weird disconnect too. I’d never kill anyone irl, but in video games it’s okay. Although, as games get more and more realistic, that is going to change for sure. If humans in games start leaving the uncanny valley and start losing obvious tells, I wouldn’t play violent games anymore full stop. If they start looking like real human beings, I’m out.

      I have trouble with those flat, hyper-masculine characters too. I managed to finish God of War 1 (there wasn’t a whole lot of characterization at all iirc) but I doubt I’ll ever finish the others. I think I’m less disturbed and more bored and annoyed with it at this point. I am so sick and tired of the same, flat stereotypes over and over and over. I’m really surprised that a lot of the typical white male demographic aren’t getting tired of them as well (or maybe they slowly are, I dunno).

      We need more Jane Jensens and maybe even experienced authors crossing over (like Harlan Ellison did). We need better writing gosh darn it!

      • Jamie says:

        Interestingly enough, I’m sort of getting tired with the whole focus of combat in a lot of games, though I do like play lots of FPSs (Call of Duty being my main guilty pleasure) but it’s more a matter of combat in games which don’t necessarily need it full stop.

        I enjoy Call of Duty and similar games because when I buy them I know what I’m in for and I know that’s what I want when I play the game: a sort of twitch-shooting gallery like experience with (fake) humans. So for the duration of the game I basically just end up sort of brain dead, not really engaging with the game past it’s most basic level (point and shoot, then point and shoot…again!)

        In other games though, such as RPGs or Adventure games, I’m much less forgiving. One of the things I loved about Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines was that it didn’t give you XP for killing enemies, only for completing quests, and these quests would actually be fairly varied, not always requiring you to kill someone to advance, sometimes asking you to sneak, or persuade someone. There was combat in the game, and the ending basically devolved into a fight fest, but up until that point I thought the balance was very good.

        So I think it’s possible that some people out there are looking for games that engage with their created world in a slightly less ‘one-note’ way, I know I am

        • franzferdinand2 says:

          I also really liked that system in Bloodlines. A lot of other games give you the option of sneaking past enemies, but generally the enemies are still there, just big bags of XP, and I’m too much of a completionist to not get that.

          I think this is partially why I like Graphic Adventures so much. I like the fact that you can get through Quest For Glory II without killing anyone. Well, except for the last guy. But he comes back. As a vampire who you have to kill. But at that point, he falls under the spectrum of undead, and I have no issues whatsoever with putting down zombies, vampires, or ghosts.

          This kind of thing has also popped up in tabletop adventures, although a lot of DMs don’t realize it. By 3.5 D&D rules (I don’t know about 4e) you actually get all the experience for defeating an encounter no matter how you go about it. Did you sneak past the orcs? Full XP. Did you bribe the orcs? Full XP. Did you use a wheelbarrow and a flaming cloak to make them think you were the Dread Pirate Robers? Full XP.

          • Rob says:

            I’ll just chime in as another person who loved VtMB, although I got a vague feeling from it that it was catering more toward male players than female ones. For example, I felt like female Shepard was meant to be in Mass Effect, whereas playing a female PC in Bloodlines I started feeling like I should’ve been playing a male.

            That’s a whole other discussion, however. I also loved Quest for Glory 2, but I must admit I never played it without killing anything. I always found bandits a bountiful source of income. :P (Actually no, it was one of the creatures, wasn’t it… maybe the scorpions(?) that consistently gave a lot of money, because you could sell their poison to the apothecary guy.) Plus, I was younger and didn’t conceive of the notion of beating the game without killing bad guys until I was older.

            Speaking of games that offer non-violent solutions, two that immediately spring to mind for me are Deus Ex and Iji. In Deus Ex you can often avoid combat by sneaking around it, and you’re provided nonlethal methods for neutralizing enemies, if necessary. Experience was a bit unbalanced for stealth players in the vanilla game, but there’s a great mod called “Shifter” that, among other things, rebalanced it to reward you equivalent levels of experience for sneaking around guys.

            As for Iji, it’s a free 2D platform shooter for the PC, with fairly simplistic graphics, but it did a couple of things that really struck a chord with me. First off, the main character is an unsexualized female character; something that I’m sure we all agree is sadly lacking in the majority of games. But the bigger thing (for me) was that it rewarded playing a pacifist. In a game where it seems COMPLETELY counter-intuitive to play a pacifist, it not only allows you to do so, but acknowledges it when you do. There’s a number of minor story touches such as enemies beginning to wonder just who is this crazy person that is managing to proceed without killing anyone, and some more major things like the enemies on level 3 coming to believe that you must be some kind of ultimate badass to get so far without resorting to violence. (Consequently they propose a ceasefire: allowing you to pass that level unscathed so long as you don’t do anything to them.)

            I probably shouldn’t sell it as a “pacifist’s game” as playing the pacifist route is off the beaten path, quite challenging, and could be frustrating if you’re not as patient as I am. Still, if I’ve piqued anyone’s curiosity, you can check out the trailer on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33mxD4FjD3w

            • KA101 says:

              I’m actually doing a playthrough of VtMB at the moment.

              I’ll just chime in as another person who loved VtMB, although I got a vague feeling from it that it was catering more toward male players than female ones.

              Not sure about female PCs v. male PCs (first time with the 7.2 patch, so redoing my original run to get reacquainted), but it’s a bit more than a “vague” feeling. In Downtown at the moment and so far the dress sense seems rather male-gazey. [That and the whole Heather-the-ghoul line; creepy at best.]

            • Rob says:

              Replying to myself as I can’t reply directly to you, KA101.

              In Downtown at the moment and so far the dress sense seems rather male-gazey. [That and the whole Heather-the-ghoul line; creepy at best.]

              Touché. My recollection is a bit hazy and though I remembered characters like Jeanette and Vivi, I’d completely forgotten about Heather. Or the way most, if not all, of the seduction targets are women. Or the dress sense, like you say. (Especially with the Malkavian female PC, which is just blatantly fan-service as far as I remember.)

              Because of my diplomatic nature I made the conscious decision to put the “vague” in there but upon reflection, as you point out, I go too far in understating the issue.

            • franzferdinand2 says:

              I never wanted to imply that Bloodlines doesn’t have severe issues. It’s more just that there were aspects of the systems it had that I liked, as well as some very well constructed moments (the haunted hotel, in particular).

              I also must admit that there might have been more killing in QFG than I remember, but I haven’t played it in quite a while. I also played thief, so that quest line in particular involved avoiding combat.

              Another game that I will always applaud is Shadow of the Colossus. While that game was pretty much nothing but hunting down and killing peaceful giants, it at least made sure that we knew that wasn’t a good thing.

            • Rob says:

              Hey, no worries franzferdinand2. My apologies for derailing the point about Bloodlines in the first place. Despite it’s flaws, I did still greatly enjoy other aspects of the game. :)

              And yeah, it’s certainly possible that there’s more killing in QFG than either of us remember (I guess technically you always do wipe out a whole troop of bandits at one point…), but you still did get me thinking about possible ways to play it through as more of a pacifist… most likely as a rogue-ishly charming thief who only uses violence as a last resort. It’s true: as a thief you do get around a couple of combat situations, and you can “earn” money in other ways. So kudos for piquing my curiosity. ;) (Thief was probably my least played… I always liked mage.)

              Speaking of QFG2, have you tried out the remake that AGD Interactive did? I started, but sadly got sidetracked by other things. One of these days I’ll get around to playing from 1 to 5 with the same character all the way through….

              http://www.agdinteractive.com/games/qfg2/

  4. FarisScherwiz says:

    Oh dear, I double-posted, my apologies!

    The WoW post made me tear up too. I’m sad that people get so self-absorbed in the game and then belittle everyone around them when they make the slightest mistake (or even big ones). :/

  5. Matthew says:

    No, I’m the opposite – I can’t even stand games with killing as their main method of progression anymore. I find it pretty morally reprehensible. I’m not able to separate my personal morality from virtual morality as easily as other people, though, but since games invite participation, it always makes me feel awful. I run a video game review site, and anytime a game makes me mow down hundreds of faceless drones, I instantly dislike it far more because of that. We have enough problem with guns that I think the fetishization of them (or even just the fact that developers are so braindead that they can’t think of inventive or fun ways to progress their narratives without relying on killing) is horrifying at best, and it’s what keeps me from loving video games on the whole more.

  6. Ultraviolet says:

    Cheesy armour – if they took it away in MMOs, i’d be kind of sad. Because tbh i have always enjoyed the challenge to find something tomboyish on the overall background of pure cheese. When it works out it’s satisfying – AND people notice you, reverse contrast :)

    And – as for women and full plate armour – cannot mention Dragon Age enough. Sentinel plate and tattoos on my warrior come out cheesy the opposite way = equivalent to a tuned chopper in front of the local queer joint IRL. Leliana, you so got lucky, and you know it ;)

    As for being conservative in video games and not irl – so untrue. I don’t see anything conservative about a gay vampire family in Sims. In games i dislike socon messages and tend to side with the opposite…erm… no matter what it is. Like Tyrannid. Think about it – you’ve always wanted a civilisation whose social cohesion agent is pure and overwhelming love for every single member of the collective :P The only thing associated with conservatives – maybe i’m guilty in loving guns & bladed weapons as such, and games, even the likes of Alliance of Valiant Arms, happen to be a bland replica of the actual weapon-fetishism situation going on IRL.

    • XIV says:

      Well it’s not as if it would all vanish off the face of the virtual world or something to never be seen again. But it does really say a lot that you have to search for non-revealing armor. Having to do that search can be plenty frustrating for others and it really shouldn’t have to be right? Especially when it almost never is for men. I also don’t really agree it’s tomboy-ish (though I’m confused about what tomboyish even means in this context) to want armor that covers you up entirely. To me it’s more about being defined as say, a warrior, instead of ‘Cheesecake with a Sword’.

      • Zaewen says:

        Yea, male characters have to search high and low to find anything that even remotely shows skin, and female characters have to scrounge for stuff that actually looks protective. Life, well MMO life, would be much better if there were equal amounts of covering armors for both, as well as equal amounts of beefcakey and cheesecakey armors.

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