Tag Archives: Kotaku

iBeg and the Challenges Facing Activist Games

Patricia Hernandez has an in-depth article on Kotaku today examining iBeg, a game that seeks to raise awareness about homelessness, and the broader challenges facing games for change in general. She begins by looking at iBeg‘s Kickstarter campaign and describing how there’s something about it that makes her uncomfortable:

The name alone is wince-inducing, yes—why can’t we let the whole “i__” die? But beyond this, I began thinking about other possible issues: does the game’s cute pixel art detract from the bleak reality of the issue? “There is a balance that we have to maintain between keeping the game engaging enough for players to want to keep playing it, but also introduce them to all of the negative things that homeless people have to go through,” Worboys explained. Then I began wondering: maybe such a concession was necessary, because it helped make the game more palatable for people who may not want to deal with the full weight of the issue. Games like to function as escapism and feel-goodery, after all.

Feel-goodery is often antithesis to spreading awareness. Actually understanding difficult, systemic issues like homelessness is not comfortable, and a game that seeks to have the player experience what it is like to be in such a situation simply cannot be “fun.”

Hernandez goes on to interview Ari Burak, co-president of Games For Change, as well as the supervisor of a homeless shelter, who speaks about how the Kickstarter money for something like iBeg would help if it went directly to a homeless shelter instead. She also examines some of the more practical considerations for these types of games, such as publisher hesitancy when it comes to backing games that are about a message.

The article is a thorough and thoughtful examination of an area of games that is often either dismissed or blown out of proportion. If you have time for one long read today, make it this one.

The Complicated Truth Behind Games That Want To Change The World — Patricia Hernandez, Kotaku

Former Stardock Employee Suing CEO for Sexual Harassment

Earlier today, Kate Cox at Kotaku broke the story of a former Stardock employee suing the company’s CEO, Brad Wardell, for sexual harassment. Last month, Stardock filed a lawsuit against the former employee, Alexandra Miseta, for allegedly deleting marketing materials before her departure, but Kotaku reports that this lawsuit may be in retaliation for the sexual harassment suit, which was filed back in December of 2010.

The court records obtained by Kotaku describe Wardell’s harassment of Miseta and other women at Stardock in the form of sexual emails, comments, and “jokes”, and touching Miseta’s hair. The post was later updated with a statement from Wardell (posted on a forum, as Wardell did not respond to Kotaku directly) where he admits to making jokes that upset Miseta and to responding “very, very harshly” when she later emailed him about it.

Stardock is the developer of Elemental: War of Magic, and Wardell himself wrote a tie-in book for the game.

PC Gaming Studio Said She Ruined Their Game, But Only After She Sued The Boss For Sexual Harassment [UPDATE] – Kotaku

A screenshot of the new Lara Croft, for once not bloodied.

Lara Croft Reboot Link Roundup

A screenshot of the new Lara Croft, for once not bloodied.

A screenshot of the new Lara Croft, for once not bloodied. She is a white woman with straight brown hair, pulled back. She frowns and looks serious, with her gaze slightly away from the camera.

Trigger warnings: discussions of rape.

I quickly wrote my post last week, Lara Croft Reboot: Vulnerability Galore!, in order to make a quick assessment of the new Tomb Raider trailer and now widely sited Kotaku E3 interview with the game’s executive producer Ron Rosenberg.  In the past week, bloggers have written many thoughtful and analytical responses to the trailer and interview.

On June 12, Kat Howard of Strange Ink wrote When you don’t get to hit the replay button, where she linked Rosenberg’s comments to the type of victim blaming that suggests rape victims don’t fight back enough:

But I have a huge problem with there being a game where, if your female character doesn’t fight back well enough, she gets punished by being raped. And my problem is because this hews too closely to the actual reactions rape survivors get.

Also from June 13, see So We Replaced Sexy Lara Croft with Victim Lara Croft by Kellie Foxx-Gonzalez on The Mary Sue.  Foxx-Gonzalez wants her feminist hero back:

Personally, the worst part about this reboot is that it is taking a traditionally feminist character (who has been embraced as a empowering fantasy in spite of the canonical hypersexualization of her character), one of the most beloved ass-kicking female protagonists in gaming, and warping her and her story to cater to a male-dominated gaming culture (and culture at large). Instead of offering women gamers a game in which we can relate to the protagonist, share her hopes and despairs, we’re left with the promise of  veritable torture porn. The promise of a new Tomb Raider held so much potential to add to a growing selection of awesome women protagonists, especially for women gamers. Ron Rosenburg, I would like my strong women protagonists back, and I would like them without having to experience the threat of rape and rape culture, even in a game. I’ve had enough of that in real life as it is.

You’ve probably heard by now that on June 13, the same day the Kotaku article was widely linked by other journalists, Crystal Dynamics retracted their interview with Kotaku.

retraction

We had a great E3 with Tomb Raider and received a fantastic public and press response, with the game picking up numerous game of the show awards based on the new direction taken with the franchise. Unfortunately we were not clear in a recent E3 press interview and things have been misunderstood. Before this gets out of hand, let me explain. In making this Tomb Raider origins story our aim was to take Lara Croft on an exploration of what makes her the character she embodies in late Tomb Raider games. One of the character defining moments for Lara in the game, which has incorrectly been referred to as an ‘attempted rape’ scene is the content we showed at this year’s E3 and which over a million people have now seen in our recent trailer entitled ‘Crossroads’.This is where Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time. In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind of categorically not a theme that we cover in this game."

 

Kotaku went on to provide the original interview, where Rosenberg does state that there is an attempted rape in the game.  Foxx-Gonzalez responds to the retraction:

To be clear: a member of the Crystal Dynamic team stated that scavengers “try to rape her” and in response to being asked to clarify that point, stated that “she’s either forced to fight back or die.” This hardly seems like a statement that was misunderstood and taken out of context. Furthermore, regardless of whether we are calling it an attempted rape, sexual assault, or a “threatening undertone,” in the aforementioned trailer, a man makes a movement toward Lara Croft’s hips in a way that simultaneously threatens her life and conveys sexual assault. Call it whatever you’d like, that is sexual violence.

On June 14, Alyssa Rosenberg (no relation to Ron, I presume) of Think Progress wrote, Lara Croft Will Be Threatened With Rape In the Next Tomb Raider–But Don’t Worry Guys, You Can Rescue Her.  Apparently, a number of blokes responded with glee at the speculation they might be able to watch Lara be raped.  Yesterday, Alyssa Rosenberg wrote them an open letter:

So, in all seriousness, why do you want to see Lara Croft get raped?

Do you think she has an obligation to be sexually available, if not to you in real life, to someone else in-game, and if she violates that obligation, that it should be enforced upon her? One of the hard, immutable truths of adulthood is that no one owes you, and there is no mechanism to guarantee that everyone gets some mysteriously-allotted fair share of happiness and sexual satisfaction. I get that there’s this fantasy of a time before feminism when women were more broadly sexually available to men, when some men think they would have experienced less of that pain of loneliness and that fear of rejection that is baked into modern life. But I’d bet if you think about it carefully, you’ll acknowledge to yourself that it’s not really true, that participation in that fantasy was limited to certain very powerful and wealthy men, that it probably wouldn’t have served you as well as you think it would, that then, as now, you would have been required to exercise persuasion and charm and negotiation to get what you wanted. This fantasy of yours, it’s a fantasy. And nothing, not pretending you’re owed something, not seeing a video game character get raped, is ever going to bring it back.

On June 15, Doone of T.R. Red Skies posted a lengthy article, The Story of a Woman: Lara Croft, in which he analyzes both the official screenshots of Tomb Raider, which predominately feature women experiencing violence, and Ron Rosenberg’s comments, line by line.  I recommend reading his whole post, but here is an excerpt from his concluding section:

So …Why?

It’s because we don’t question masculinity; we just reinvent, and redo, and rework women. We add qualities we value to women in order to make them “more real”.  And because we don’t question masculinity, we haven’t fully deconstructed the concept of hero in order to build it up to androgyny; to a set of human values and characteristics in which males and females are equals, are only humans. We’ve resorted to making Heroes and Others Who Can Do Cool Things if We Make Them More Like “Us”. I mean we’re not even supposed to identify with Lara according to Rosenberg, but to feel like her little chivalrous helper. Even the most hardcore holdouts among us shouldn’t fail to see this.

This is why on Lara’s road to heroism, that road will be defined by her capacity for carnage, just like most other male heroes. It will be defined by stoicism and vengeance streaks (angry ones). She will have to shed all those softer qualities and emotions that are clearly the source of her weakness; the reason she’s not a hero to begin with. And this will happen because we define heroic as masculine and violent, realistic. That’s why there’s a rape threat scene. That’s realism. That’s why there will be brutal punchings in the face for Lara; because it makes us chivalrous men cringe …that’s realism. That’s why we will feel like her “helper” because that’s realism. To be a real hero is to be strong and to be strong is to be violent. To be violent is to dominate  and to dominate is to be a real hero. Lara Croft’s Rites of Heroism will follow this tired trope in the image of men, not as the story of a triumphant woman. This is why I say we fall into this trap because we don’t examine the behavior and perceptions of ourselves. We instead choose to remake woman in our image. Lara’s story isn’t about a woman. It’s a man’s perception of the story of a woman wrought with some masculinity in order to create a heroine.

(By the way, if you like Doone’s post, and are irritated by the fellows who whine, “But men are unrealistically portrayed in videogames too!!!”, you might join in the discussion he’s started on his blog where he asks, What Would a Realistic Male Portrayal Be Like?)

For another in depth analysis, see Laurie Penny’s Lara Croft and rape stories: breaking down the bitch, published yesterday:

This isn’t a story that was dreamed up out of nowhere. It’s a response to a familiar industry dilemma (how to rescue an ailing franchise?) with an equally familiar solution (hurt a beloved character). So what does all this mean for the many prospective players who will already have played or watched Lara Croft do her deadly thing in tiny hotpants?

Well, for one thing, it makes her suddenly vulnerable. For all the players who ever stroked themselves into a frenzy over this unattainable pixellated fighting fuck-toy, it’s an opportunity to see sexual violence done to her. It makes her weak, explaining away a ritualised savagery that needed no explanation before; it makes her an object of pity as well as lust and envy, someone who needs your “protection”. Industry mandarins seem to have assumed that gamers, by which they mean male gamers, can only carry on loving cold, powerful, beautiful Lara Croft if someone “break[s] her down”.  And that is frankly offensive to men everywhere.

Finally, there is still an excellent conversation happening in the comments of The Border House post from last week.

Did I miss any links?  Let us know in the comments!

How Not to Write About a Transgendered Person

The following is a guest post from Anna Anthropy:

Anna Anthropy is a white transwoman, game designer, critic and sadist, a classic dyke in the “Elizabeth Bathory” mode. Did you know her first book is coming out in March? Now you do, and you’re so excited for it!

on february 15, kotaku ran a “feature” on dani bunten. i’m not linking it – you can find it pretty easily if you want – because it’s disrespectful in a way that, as a transgendered woman, makes me cringe. the article, written by luke plunkett, perpetuates a misinformed attitude about trans people that is downright dangerous in a culture in which we’re already as marginalized as we are.

specifically, the kotaku article is rooted in the idea that a transgendered woman lives a dual-gender identity, that she “was male” prior to her transition. the article opens with a photo of a trans game designer pre-transition, and goes on to refer to her by her given (birth) name and male pronouns. halfway through the article, it springs her gender identity upon the reader like a plot twist, finally showing us a picture of her post-transition and using her chosen name and pronouns. if a feature on me called me by my birth name and had a picture of me with a beard, i would shit myself and then the author.

as a transgendered woman, let me DISPEL SOME MYTHS.

transition is not some BEFORE / AFTER DIET PILL AD. a transgender woman isn’t a man before she A) chooses to identify as a woman or B) has her genitals operated on. and the latter is in fact irrelevant to the former: i identify as a woman, but i have no plans for surgery. when you are born into this society, you’re assigned a gender. i was assigned “male.” but though i spent many years struggling to fit myself into a male identity that doesn’t mean i consider myself to ever have been a boy or man. i had not yet come to terms with my identity as a woman.

identity is a complicated thing, one that every person, trans or otherwise, experiences differently, and i can’t claim to speak on the late dani bunten’s behalf. but i can speak as a trans woman who deals with transphobia on a daily basis, especially in spaces related to videogames. and i can tell you on authority: if someone identifies as a woman, you call her a woman. if she internalizes female pronouns, you use female pronouns to refer to her. if she tells you her name, you use that name and not one that was chosen without her consent. oh, she expressed regret once about leaping into surgery she might not have needed to get? doesn’t invalidate her identity.

transphobia is rampant in games culture: it’s dangerous to all transgendered people and all women. it’s dangerous to everyone who participates in this culture. i remember a tigsource thread on “girl game designers” where someone said: “if you go on a blind date with a female indie game designer, you have a 50% chance of ending with a dick in your a**” (i think the word the poster dared not type is supposed to be “ass.”) to perpetuate incorrect myths about trans people and our identities is grossly irresponsible for a site like kotaku.

i posted on twitter about the article this morning, angrily, because I WAS FUCKING ANGRY. stephen totilo, who currently runs kotaku, reacted defensively, calling the article an “earnest tribute” and that he thought the “word choice” was “valid.” he didn’t say this to me, of course. i don’t know whether he blocked me or was simply ignoring me, but he refused to engage me, tweeting his responses to my concerns at courtney stanton, who i think was retweeting my tweets so that he could see them. while i was writing this post he finally buckled under the pressure of piles of tweets from trans people and allies, and changed the pronouns in the article and announced plans to change the top photo, but that doesn’t address the fact that the article – whose title includes the words “transgender video gaming pioneer” – is more about the novelty of bunten’s transition (“the narrative,” as totilo put it) than her actual contributions to videogames.

so let me tell you about dani bunten and how much we all owe her. she was one of the earliest voices in games to recognize that videogames were becoming solitary experiences, and that they had tremendous potential as interpersonal, social experiences that they were failing to actualize. “no one ever said on their deathbed, ‘gee, i wish I had spent more time alone with my computer,’” is the quote most often attributed to her. her digital game design was strongly informed by that of board games, which has been really good at this interpersonal dynamic thing for quite a while – her best-known game, m.u.l.e., adapts a number of traditional board game ideas, like auctions, to videogame contexts. and if you can’t see how this is relevant to my work in 2012, you haven’t been reading my blog.

Three Things: Analogue, PAX East Meetup, Kotaku News

A screenshot from Analogue. A woman with black hair drawin in anime style is shown on the left and a dialogue box reads, *Hyun-ae: My name is *Hyun-ae. The star is, of course, silent; it just represents that I'm an AI.

Screenshot from Analogue: A Hate Story

Three things that may be of interest to Border House readers:

Firstly, Christine Love’s latest game, Analogue: A Hate Story is now available here! You may recall that her last game, don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story was nominated for two categories in TBH’s first year-end awards and won in both of them: Best Indie Game and Best LGBT Character (for Nolan). The game costs $15 and there is a free demo available. Check it out.

Secondly, if you are planning on attending PAX East or happen to be in the Boston area on April 6th, you may want to check out the LGBT meetup happening that night at Bocoup. Cassandra has the details and registration information here if you are interested.

And finally, a big congratulations to friend of the blog and frequent guest poster Kate Cox, who is a new full-time writer at Kotaku. Can’t wait to see what you and the other new contributors do to shake up the place.

Recommended Reading: Mattie’s at Kotaku Edition

A pink and yellow Tamagotchi keychain.

Readers, as part of an ongoing conversation with the editorship at Kotaku, author Mattie Brice has a guest post there today about why Kotaku is unwelcoming to marginalized gamers.

There is only a wrong way to go about this. So let’s just get to why I’m here:

Me too.

I’m part of the gaming community, but Kotaku doesn’t see me as a gamer. No, instead I’m a multi-racial transgender who-knows-sexual possibly-feminist woman gamer. A boogie monster. Someone who uses too many –isms and –ists in their daily tweets to actually enjoy anything. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone ask what it’s like to be me in this pocket of society.

You know that invisible ink in detective movies? If you could get an internet lighter, you’d find “This site is for heterosexual white American men gamers.” Kotaku will never include me until it’s figured out that “gamers” is skewed to one identity and asks me to deal with that. No. Me too.

Gamer culture isn’t Kotaku’s fault. That skewing Japan as a land of weirdoes is humorous. That gamers like to look at galleries made up of T&A shots of women in cosplay. So what if someone like me doesn’t fit in with typical gamers? The editors are just providing what gamers want, how is that a bad thing? Are you using that lighter?

It’s quite well done, be sure to check it out. Insert standard disclaimer about comments here, although I did find this comment to be hilarious:

This is just the pot calling the kettle black. Seriously, I incredibly doubt that the Border House has any articles that pander to “Heterosexual white gamers” and until they do, their point is moot.

what does that even mean

If you’re up for it, please consider leaving a message of support. Or enjoy these 100% unironically awesomesauce comments from embereye and Malice Blackhart.

Consider this thread a safe space for discussing Mattie’s piece.

The Border House Podcast – Episode 4: Diversity in a Strange Land

A cover of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Read it!

A cover of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Read it!

 

The new The Border House podcast is up! Rather timely indeed, as we talked about the recent inclusion of progressive material at Kotaku and used the opportunity to talk about the relationship between writer, community, and indenity. Discussion about “responsibility” is parsed through and would definitely reflect on recent events. For those who haven’t seen, I wrote an open letter to Kotaku here that provoked quite the response.

Here is the Judith Butler’s mention that popped up in our conversation:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Butler#Excitable_Speech:_A_Politics_of_the_Performative_.281997.29

A correction, I was trying to think of HULK GAME CRITIC and mistakenly attributed their criticism to Arkham City to FEMINIST HULK, though the latter is definitely worth following as well.

Remember that we are now on iTunes! And here is our RSS Feed Link: http://borderhouseblog.com/?feed=podcast

 

Opening & Closing Credits - Was that away message for me? by 8bit Betty

An Open Letter to Kotaku’s Joel Johnson

The article "The Equal Opportunity Perversion of Kotaku" with a picture of young men cosplaying.

The article "The Equal Opportunity Perversion of Kotaku" with a picture of young men cosplaying.

I just finished reading your article on Kotaku, “The Equal Opportunity Perversion of Kotaku,” a lengthier response than the one you gave me previously. In case you don’t recognize me, we had a conversation on Twitter about Dan Bruno’s recanting of his praise for the progressive development of the site. Your last paragraph originated from our discussion, and because you decided to take it to a public forum, I figured I would as well.

There is a reason I’m posting this at The Border House. A large part of our readership feels alienated by the content produced on Kotaku and deserves to have access to a dialogue with you that doesn’t require bearing the hostility your site is known for. To be fair, most gaming websites are hostile towards those who point out diversity related issues, and it’s easy to criticize you and Kotaku because you seem to know better. It’s a sucky position to be in, I empathize.

I remember the post that made me unsubscribe from Kotaku, before the good stuff started to roll in. Another gallery of naked women covered in video game accessories. It wasn’t because that post was SO offensive to me, but because I was TIRED of seeing articles like that over and over again. Seeing sexualized women isn’t bothersome to me unless I’m in a space that assumes I’m a heterosexual man, which is very, very often. Almost always when I check out my gaming sites.

What I am hopeful about is your willingness to discuss this issue. If there is something I’ve promised to my editors, it is a proactive outlook on solving the issues multiple identities have in the gaming community. However, I found both our conversation and your article little more than hand waving the issue, trying to be sympathetic while not actually committing to act upon the ideals you say to have.

Let me be clear, to both you and readers at The Border House: I don’t think censorship is a solution, I don’t think Kotaku has a civic responsibility if it doesn’t want one, and I’m completely fine with the expression of sexuality. What is problematic is the dissonance between what you describe as your ideals. The thing is, it’s actually NOT okay to have your cake and eat it too when it’s hypocritical to do as such. If you know that you’re adding to the misogyny and homophobia of a community that is extremely primed for it, how is that okay? You recognize that the columns about Japan rely on the “Asians are WEIRD” trope that is unhealthy, but you’re fine with it because it’s funny. The Male Gaze is mentioned and dismissed in the same breath, showing that you are aware it exists yet neglect to apply it to the kind of content Kotaku produces to explain why minority groups are turned off by the site. I don’t think you or any other writers are deliberately trying to offend anyone, but the intent to be generally open-minded to diversity doesn’t mean what actually happens is as well. How do you reconcile this? How do you tell people reading this at The Border House things are fine when you understand what’s going on is contradictory to what you know should be?

And what stung, both in our conversation and your article, was how you absolved yourself and Kotaku from doing anything by passing the buck to those who feel marginalized. Instead of aiming to produce a staff culture that shows their awareness and support for diversity issues through their content, you leave it up to those who feel unsatisfied to create that content for Kotaku. I don’t know how this is reasonable in any way. It sounds like Kotaku’s staff doesn’t want to do anything different, but still wish to come off as the good guys. That is having your cake and eating it, which is definitely not okay.

The problem is that Kotaku isn’t “equal opportunity” anything. You acknowledge that your staff tends to write towards one demographic and looks for content that falls into stereotypical expectations for what you’d find on a gaming. It’s the easiest thing to do, and doesn’t take nearly as much thinking as keeping in mind that there are more than the assumed immature young straight guy to pander for. That’s not equal opportunity. Equal opportunity would mean there is as much of a chance to produce content appealing for heterosexual men as it is for everyone else. And that’s not even recognizing the different expressions of sexuality for straight guys, just the mainstream one valorized by gaming sites such as Kotaku.

You misinterpreted me before; I don’t want to tag you with responsibility you didn’t agree to. However, it would show that you are a decent person when you are responsible for your own words and actions. If you “unabashedly” want to promote the voices and presence of minority identities in your community, then unabashedly do so. It’s fine if you don’t want to, but just say that.

I hope you can write back to me about this, and involve as many people as you can in this conversation. I would like to subscribe to Kotaku again, especially if more diversity-aware content becomes available. No ill will, just honesty with a wish for genuine, proactive change.

~Mattie

Recommended Reading: Sexism Bingo, EDs in geek culture, and more

Feminist Bingo. For full text, click through.

 

Geek Feminism has posted a Sexism in Games bingo card made by @fireholly99 that is a must read.  I will definitely be saving this one to whip out in the future!

[Trigger Warning: Disordered eating, bulemia]
In an amazing, thought-provoking and powerfully personal story, Jezebel republishes an article from Geek Feminism about geek women having eating disorders.  This woman deserves a lot of credit for sharing her story with us, and some support to know she’s not alone.

I’ve grown up through both geek and jock culture and they’re both the same. Dominated by men, a thin varnish over pervasive misogyny. The only difference is where the jocks know the girls have eating disorders, but don’t care; the geeks genuinely think that this part of the world cannot touch them.

 

So it’s okay to make fat jokes, cos everyone knows you don’t mean them, not when you’re fat and 2/3rds of the room is too. And it’s okay to mock girls who are “stupid” enough to want to starve or puke themselves pretty, because we all know that geeks are too smart to succumb to such base stuff as the desire for control and perfection.

 

Nicole Leffel guest authors for Kotaku about how developers should not be passing the buck to Japan in terms of misogyny in gaming.  As always, avoid the Kotaku comments like the plague.

Blame Japan. And, well, why not? It’s easier to imagine that vicious cultural problems are solely the product of some Over There place halfway around the world. Within the same minute Killian made another joke, this time dismissing the gratuitously sexualized camera angles used for female characters as a sign of improving technology. Again, the crowd laughed.

 

I hoped for the “But seriously…” moment that sometimes happens after someone makes a joke about an inflammatory topic, but it never came. There was no sobering transition to give the issue the weight it deserves. No examples were offered to show what’s being done to address the problem. The moderator pointed out that this isn’t just a problem in Japanese studios or with fighting games, citing StarCraft as another example of a game whose representation and community struggles with sexism. When nobody stepped up to challenge Killian’s comments further, it was on to the next question.

Again at Kotaku, Leigh Alexander pleads for some acknowledgement of simply being a games journalist and not always a “female games journalist”.   She then followed it up with a post on her own blog giving more insight.

And yet on a regular basis I hear–-even from you guys who write to me and describe yourselves as my “fans” (sidenote: be fans of the people I write about who actually make things instead of people who just talk about them)… I hear myself described as “one of the most prominent female gaming journalists”, or as a “feminist writer.” When you guys come up to me at events you want to tell me about things you’ve read or games you designed that I might be interested in because they deal with gender stuff.

 

Which, I mean, okay, is fine. Obviously I’m concerned about gender inequity and prejudice in the gaming space or I wouldn’t have spent words to get us here. I’ve written a lot about sex stuff, too. But again, you guys: I work all day every day and have done so for years. I write about business models, gaming and art culture, gamified apps (just in the past couple weeks!)-–and so many of you still think my gender is my most important adjective.

What else have you read that we should be talking about?

Recommended Reading: the Women of Gears 3, the Case for a FemShep Movie, Sexism in Arkham City

Anya, a white blond woman, wears heavy Cog armor and aims her chainsaw gun at an unseen enemy.

There have been a lot of good posts and discussions relevant to The Border House this week, but here are three that I read that all deal with female characters and how they are treated by the games they are in as well as the video game community.

First, over at Laser Orgy, Maddy Myers has a fantastic piece Gears of War 3‘s female characters and how their treatment reflects that of female gamers by the predominantly male video game community:

But those femme-presenting among us who do venture into hyper-masculine spheres get treated very similarly to the way Anya Stroud and Sam Byrne are treated in this game. We get reduced to being Women, or wombs, and shouldn’t we be off making babies or sandwiches or something, somewhere else, not here, because we’re muddying up this masculine game with our femininity. We get looks of surprise and alarm and shock – you play this? This game? We get half-propositioned, half-mocked in ways that are meant to be “jokes,” sort of, except it’s not really a joke at all, is it. We could try to downplay our femininity, or play along with misogynist jokes ‘til we half-believe them, in an effort to fit in – but that never really does the trick, because at the end of the day, you’re still The Other. Even if you don’t try to rock the boat, you’re already causing an upset just by being there. So you may as well rock harder.

Read it.

Our second piece for today is written by Daniel Orta at his blog, making the case for the Mass Effect movie to star the female version of Commander Shepard:

The world of science fiction films is crowded with the idea of the one male hero fighting adversity for the good of their respective “universe” so to say- everyone from Captain Malcolm Reynolds(Serenity, Firefly) to older classics like George Taylor (from Planet of the Apes). The male hero fighting for good in the face of so much adversity is a world to which comes natural to the science fiction genre in films. Let’s mix it up a bit and place a female Shepard into the role. After all, when you think of a female hero in science fiction, most minds turn immediately to Ellen Ripley of the Alien films. And that character is almost thirty years old at this point- have there been no other real sci-fi super heroines. Okay, maybe Buffy, but she was more fantasy character than sci-fi. Some of the Firefly characters were quite strong, but they weren’t the main character- only playing second fiddle to Nathan Fillion’s Malcolm Reynolds.

Alien was almost thirty years ago! Damn. We are long overdue for another great sci-fi heroine.

Lastly, Twitter exploded yesterday afternoon with discussion of sexism in the newly released Batman: Arkham City. [Trigger warning for the following two links; slurs for both, discussion of misogyny and rape in film for the first.] First is an analysis from Film Crit Hulk, appropriately titled “GODDAMMIT VIDEO GAMES“:

TO REITERATE: IN THE FIRST HOUR OF ARKHAM CITY WE HAVE A SCANTILLY CLAD HIGH-HEAL-NINJA-ING CATWOMAN GETTING BEATEN BY TWO-FACE AS HE CALLS HER A BITCH. WE HAVE A GROUP OF MUSCLE-BOUND HOODLUMS ALL STANDING AROUND EXCITED TO DUMP HER INTO A VAT OF ACID. BATMAN COMES TO THE RESCUE AS CATWOMAN ESCAPES. SHE FLIRTS WITH HIM MERCILESSLY AND MAKES NOT JUST DUMB, BUT NOT-FUN SEXY PUNS. BATMAN THEN GOES OUTSIDE AND YOU OVERHEAR A BUNCH OF GUYS TALKING ABOUT HOW CATWOMAN AND AGAIN THE WORD BITCH POPS IN. THEY ALL THINK SHE SWINGS BOTH WAYS (CAUSE THAT’S THE KIND OF THING ANY SEXY GIRL MUST BE UP FOR). AND THEN THEY’RE BASICALLY TALKING ABOUT THEIR MASTURBATORY FANTASIES OF HER… YOU KNOW, ABOUT THE SAME ONE THEY WERE CALLING A BITCH. BATMAN THEN GOES OVER TOWARD THE JOKER’S TOWER AND YOU HOPE ALL THIS SHIT IS OVER BUT THEN YOU OVERHEAR A BUNCH OF THUGS TALKING ABOUT HOW HARLEY QUINN IS A DUMB BITCH.

NOW THIS WAS WHERE HULK LEFT IT THE OTHER NIGHT AND TO BE SURE HULK WASN’T JUST REACTING OUT OF MOMENTARY THINGS HULK CAME BACK AND PLAYED A LOT MORE TO BE FAIR… IT DIDN’T GET ANY BETTER.

ACTUALLY IT GOT WORSE.

Hulk goes into detail about the difference between portraying misogyny in order to make some sort of comment on it and simply offering up misogyny for consumption without any context or commentary, which he argues is what is going on in Arkham City. Here’s more from Kirk Hamilton at Kotaku, but don’t read the comments unless you want to see just how nasty gamers can be over even a moderate statement like “hey, characters in this game use gendered slurs a ton, that’s kind of messed up!”