Tag Archives: news

News Roundup: Happy November!

TGIF, Border House folks! This is the second installment of our new feature where we summarize the week in gaming and link to our favorite articles of the week. Be sure to add your own news and links in the comments section too, especially as I probably missed a lot what with Sandy and all.  Okay, here we go:

This Week in Game News

The big releases this week were the two Assassin’s Creed titles, ACIII and Liberation…It was a great week for boobs in advertising, too; first of all Grand Theft Auto V was announced with this pretty bla bla advertisement poster that prompted many critics to wax nostalgic about when GTA was like, edgy; and a new French ad for the PS Vita equates its dual screens to a hot lady with four breasts. More on this later, guys, because we’re still trying to figure out where to start with this one….for game devs, Unity 4.0 is out in a free open beta…In better news, as we reported yesterday, two awesome women from 343 Industries announced that sexism on Halo 4 multiplayer would not be tolerated (Daily Dot)…also ICYMI from our news roundup yesterday, the developers of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare were caught with their sexism showing…and in best news, Red Thread Studios’ Ragnar Tørnquist announced a sequel to beloved game Dreamfall, entitled Dreamfall Chapters. You can check out Tørnquist’s other games in this Steam bundle for $24.99.

And although this isn’t video games per se I have to include it because it concerns us all: Star Wars Episode 7 is going to be a thing. Yes. George Lucas has sold LucasArts to Disney for $4.05 billion dollars, with the agreement that a seventh installment of the wildly successful science fiction franchise (presumably titled Star Wars VII: Really?) will be released in 2015. And the internet has responded (Buzzfeed).

Border House Editors’ Picks

 

Briefly: The News

A bunch of interesting things have happened today, so I thought I would throw together a brief post.

The Good:
New Dreamfall from Ragnar Tornquist’s new studio - more info at Kotaku and an interview at Rock Paper Shotgun.

Halo 4 Creators Introduce Lifetime Ban For Sexism - An awesome initiative, and we can all agree that Kiki Wolfkill is an awesome name.

The Bad:
Chivalry Dev said adding women to their game would be “degrading”, with bonus “missing the point”.

The Headdesk:
The Vita is like a lady with 4 boobs.

Anything else going on that we’re missing out on? Comment away!

Dragon Age 3 announcement

Logo for Dragon Age III Inquisition

The Dragon Age series has been discussed frequently on this site. Today marks an official announcement of the Dragon Age 3 on the BioWare blog. The series has an ever growing set of wonderfully rich characters and we look forward to the new characters in the 2013 game.

The following has been confirmed so far (by Mark Darrah from the blog post):

  • The next game will be called Dragon Age III: Inquisition.
  • We won’t be talking about the story of the game today. Though you can make some guesses from the title.
  • This game is being made by a lot of the same team that has been working on Dragon Age since Dragon Age: Origins.  It’s composed of both experienced BioWare veterans and talented new developers.
  • We are working on a new engine which we believe will allow us to deliver a more expansive world, better visuals, more reactivity to player choices, and more customization. At PAX East, we talked about armor and followers… Yeah, that kind of customization. We’ve started with Frostbite 2 from DICE as a foundation to accomplish this.

Border House people, are you looking forward to the game? What do you hope to see from this iteration in the series?

Mass Effect Goes Multiplayer

A team consisting of a Turian, a Krogan, and a Salarian fight against heavily armored Cerberus shock troops.

After months of rumors and speculation, BioWare has confirmed that, Mass Effect 3, the final part of their space opera action RPG trilogy, will feature a 4-player online co-op mode. BioWare introducing multiplayer at such a late stage in the series is an interesting move, especially in light of the fact that they have been criticized in the past for neglecting their current audience in their attempts to court a new one.

It’s nothing unique to them, but I’ve always found it a particularly interesting conflict with BioWare. Their titles have been regularly featured here on The Border House because of the way their narratives, character customization options, NPC interactions, and marketing choices pose and interact with various social justice issues. Due to statements and responses from some of their staff, like David Gaider, on representation and the presence of queer characters in their properties, BioWare also tends to be perceived as comparatively progressive amongst game developers.

However, in the last few of their releases, many marketing and design choices have been at odds with their progressive rep, due to their often overdone attempts to appeal to fans of twitch combat and intense FPS action over fans of deep RPG character building and involved storylines.* Fans of the former are stereotyped as the “typical” white, heterosexual male gamer only interested in sex and violence, while the latter’s interests are often feminized.

Online play has always been a tricky proposition for the marginalized. To move from the insulated safe space of single player or local multiplayer where, generally, you will only be in the company of those you’ve chosen to be with and into the wilds of random online match-ups can be downright terrifying for some. The tenor of communities that pop up around games with online play (mandatory or optional; competitive or cooperative) vary, but many involve players constantly being exposed to a barrage of verbal abuse including racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and other slurs.

The multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 is both co-op and optional, but also said to be beneficial to the single-player campaign if utilized. It remains to be seen whether there’s any legitimate shift in the audience for the game due to its addition and how the current audience will comport itself in a multiplayer setting. A (sometimes dubiously) progressive developer does not necessarily equal a progressive audience, as the perpetual arguments about the inclusion of same sex romance on the BioWare Social Network prove.

Personally, I plan to give it a go. I’ve played online games for long enough that I’m sure I won’t hear anything I haven’t before, and I might just hear something I like.

*This is in no way a value judgment on either mode of play. I happen to enjoy both immensely myself.

Beyond Good & Evil HD!

The fantastic news that Beyond Good and Evil will be released in HD (in 2011) hit the internets today.  Kirk Hamilton of Gamer Melodico got a bit of a hands-on at the Ubisoft’s Digital Day press event.  Being the excitable woman I am, I tweeted about my excitement, and my intention to buy.

Jade, the main character of Beyond Good & Evil, confronts a monster that towers above her.

My guess is that Ubi is trying to get the IP out there, and in the public’s mind, before they proceed to throw more resources at Beyond Good & Evil 2 (if you have followed the news on this title, there have been many rumors that it has been cancelled, but Ubi states that it is currently in development by a small team).

The original game had an ill-timed release and was a commercial failure, however it was adored by critics, and this is it’s second chance people!

 

Up until last year, Beyond Good & Evil was one of those games that I had always meant to play.  It has an awesome leading lady who always makes the “Top Ten Awesome Videogame Women” lists, who is a POC, who has a story that isn’t all about a dude, I had just never taken the time.  Eventually, through IRIS it was decided a bunch of us would play — and I could not believe I had spent so much of my life not having played that game.  It is really wonderful, and,  to be mushy, it is special.

Ubi must be tired of having people ask them about Beyond Good & Evil, and having people tell them that a sequel will make money.  Let’s show them that they have a hit on their hands!

 


Change to xbox live code of conduct

Members of the Xbox LIVE community received an open letter today. It read as follows:

A Letter from Marc Whitten: Update to Xbox LIVE Code of Conduct

Published March 5, 2010

Dear Xbox LIVE members,

Since the beginning, Microsoft has made an investment in the security and safety of Xbox LIVE and created tools and monitoring practices to ensure it is a fun and welcoming entertainment experience for people of all races, nationalities, religions and sexual orientations. And thanks to this investment and the enthusiasm of community members like you, we’re proud to be the strongest and most diverse online community of its kind at 23 million.

The Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct are designed to create a place where people can safely enjoy all of the ways to interact on our service, be it online multiplayer gaming, photo sharing, Netflix parties, or social games such as 1 vs 100, without fear of discrimination or harassment. As the service evolves and our customers provide us with feedback, these rules evolve to incorporate new features or changes in how people wish to interact.

With that in mind, I’d like to announce an update to the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct which will allow our members to more freely express their race, nationality, religion and sexual orientation in Gamertags and profiles. Under our previous policy, some of these expressions of self-identification were not allowed in Gamertags or profiles to prevent the use of these terms as insults or slurs. However we have since heard feedback from our customers that while the spirit of this approach was genuine, it inadvertently excluded a part of our Xbox LIVE community. This update also comes hand-in-hand with increased stringency and enforcement to prevent the misuse of these terms.

I truly believe that our diversity is what makes us strong: diversity in gaming and entertainment options, and diversity in the people that make up this amazing community. I look forward to seeing you on LIVE soon.

Jump in,

Marc Whitten
Gamertag – Notwen
www.twitter.com/notwen


This change comes after many customer protests to the Xbox LIVE policy. Back in February of 2009 there was a story of a user being banned for stating that she was a lesbian in her profile. While she  experienced harassment at the hands of other Xbox LIVE users, she was then punished for declaring her truth and her life to the world.  While this was not the first instance of a user being banned for self-identifying as LGBTQ, this instance was widely publicized.  GLAAD and other blogs quickly took note of this incident and made their outrage known.

It is wonderful to see the Xbox LIVE finally allow people to include their sexual orientation in their profiles. Acceptance and understanding  begins with awareness. It is wonderful to see sexual orientation handled as just another facet of a person. It should not be treated as a negative thing that needs to be hidden. It is just one descriptor of the individual, such as height or eye color. This should have been how it worked at the very beginning, but it is still good to see them acknowledge the problem and fix the policy. Admitting a mistake is not always easy.

The question now becomes, how will Xbox LIVE handle new harassment cases of self identified LGBTQ players? Perhaps this letter signals a turning point for Xbox LIVE. I am hopeful that this means they will not look look away from harassment of LGBTQ players and the use of homophobic and transphobic slurs. I look forward to seeing what this will mean for the community over time.

Dragon Age comic out in March, written by raging homophobe Orson Scott Card

Dragon Age comic book cover; shows three warriors, two men and one woman, standing dramatically on a precepice over an ocean with a castle in the far background.

Dragon Age comic book cover; shows three warriors, two men and one woman, standing dramatically on a precepice over an ocean with a castle in the far background.

Via Joystiq comes news that the first issue of the Dragon Age comic that was announced back in October will be out in March 2010. It is being produced by IDW Publishing and, unfortunately, still being written by Orson Scott Card.

For those who haven’t heard yet, Orson Scott Card not only holds radically anti-gay views, he is a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, and has advocated overthrowing any government that legalizes same-sex marriage. This is not a man with whom I and others simply have political disagreements with. This is a man who uses his fame and fortune to fight against the basic human rights of millions of people, based on an aspect of their identity that he doesn’t like.

The last time Orson Scott Card came up in gaming circles, it was around the summer XBLA title Shadow Complex. I’ll give an overview of the incident, since The Border House did not exist back then. OSC wrote the story and dialogue for Shadow Complex (ETA: A reader reminds me it was actually Peter David who wrote the actual story and dialogue, but it was based on a universe created by OSC, and:) his name was used heavily in order to promote the game (which is a Metroidvania-style side-scrolling shooter, with a story that revolves around a man saving his girlfriend from a liberal conspiracy). This caused ripples in the online gaming community, where many people pointed out OSC’s views and acts, some advocating boycotting the game. The arguments against boycotting mostly revolved around the question “Why take it out on an entire studio if one person involved says something homophobic?” First of all, due to the nature of privilege, pretty much all straight people are going to make SOME sort of homophobic statement at some point in their lives; it’s safe to say OSC’s behavior goes well beyond simply making ignorant statements. Secondly, this is not just some guy in the art department shooting his mouth off; the publisher and developer are using his name to promote and profit off the game.

Cover for the first Dragon Age novel, The Stolen Throne by David Gaider. In the foreground are two men, back to back, one with a sword the other with a bow. The faces of two women can be seen in the background.

Cover for the first Dragon Age novel, The Stolen Throne by David Gaider. In the foreground are two men, back to back, one with a sword the other with a bow. The faces of two women can be seen in the background.

The case is pretty much the same for the Dragon Age comic. The added irony here is that, despite valid criticisms, Dragon Age is one of, if not the, most progressive games out there in terms of sexual inclusivity. It has two bisexual characters, and allows for homosexual sex and relationships. There is an obvious conflict of interest here, especially in terms of the storytelling: will the backgrounds and personalities of the bisexual characters be rewritten or ignored? Will they be part of some inane and insulting “I had a same-sex relationship but I learned better!” plot? Or will they simply not exist at all?

In addition, why not have a BioWare internal writer write the comic, as they did for the prequel novel? This person would have a deeper knowledge of the Dragon Age lore and a better feel for the tone and atmosphere of the setting and characters than any outside writer possibly could, and also they aren’t Orson Scott Card.

My purpose in bringing all of this up again is that I think it is important to bring up Orson Scott Card’s hateful views and, more importantly, his hateful and dangerous activism whenever his name comes up, so that everyone knows about it, and people can decide for themselves whether it is worth it to support him in order to play a game or read a comic book.

More on Orson Scott Card:
Orson Scott Card, homophobic terrorist, against the orderly pursuit of happiness – Yonmei, Feminist SF blog
Orson Scott Card is a misogynistic homophobic wanker – Yonmei, Feminist SF blog
Orson Scott Card: Criminalize Homosexual Behavior – Austin Cline

Maddow on Virtual Astroturfing Via Facebook Games

On Friday’s show, Rachel Maddow did a segment on some shady anti-health care reform activism going on in some free-to-play Facebook games and other places on the web:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Transcript available here (of the full show: do a find for “Mafia Wars” and you’ll be at the right segment).

Choice quotes for you TL;DR’ers:

Advertisers will give you virtual money to spend in mafia wars or other games in exchange for stuff like trying their products or clicking through their endless intrusive surveys.

One blunt way to look at this is that gamers are being bribed with things that they want in the online world in order to provide stuff that‘s valuable in the real world to advertisers—or to people who want to stop health reform? Yes. The Web site Business Insider is now reporting that bribing people with virtual currency, like the fake gaming mafia money, it‘s being used by the health insurance industry as a way to generate letters of opposition to health reform.

Online ads promising free virtual currency, redirect gamers to a Web site called GetHealthReformRight.org. To get the mafia money, people fill out a survey that automatically sends an e-mail to their member of Congress, which reads in part, quote, “I‘m concerned a new government plan could cost me to lose the employer coverage I have today.”

Who‘s behind GetHealthReformRight.org? Well, it‘s a coalition of 10 insurance industry groups, including the Association of Health Insurance Advisers, America‘s Health Insurance Plans, American Benefits Council, BlueCross BlueShield Association—you get the idea.

This tactic just seems sort of laughably desperate to me, but then again Mafia Wars and other Facebook games have a ton of players. What do you all think?

Why The Border House has a need to exist

When we first launched The Border House just over a week ago, I posted to the wow_ladies LiveJournal community about its existence.  Being that the wow_ladies group is all female WoW gamers, some of whom identify as feminist –  I figured this blog would be a great fit for them.   One of the very first comments to the post was something along the lines of “Why does this even have to exist?  We might be females, but we’re gamers first and foremost.  Shouldn’t we be able to get our gaming news from any old regular gaming site?”

This post is why.  In the past week, just reading through Kotaku and Joystiq alone – I have seen massive amounts of sexism.  Let’s look at two posts from Kotaku, from just TODAY.

They reported that Melissa Joan Hart (of Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch fame) was seen at a Ubisoft event for the game Your Shape by Jenny McCarthy.  Why did they feel the need to post this?  To say:

Looks like Hart could use some Frag Doll fashion tips.

(Source)

Let’s see here.  So the sole purpose of posting this was just to comment on her fashion sense?  I mean, I may be wrong – but as far as I’ve seen the Frag Dolls always wear black t-shirts and jeans.   Is it because their bellies show that makes them dress better?   And since when did Kotaku become a fashion site?  Females can’t attend video game conferences without being ridiculed for what they wear?

The Frag Dolls in black t-shirts and jeans on the left, and Melissa Joan Hart on the right.

The Frag Dolls in black t-shirts and jeans on the left, and Melissa Joan Hart on the right.

Even worse, another post from today serves no purpose other than to compare the boobs and the butts of two characters from the recently released Bayonetta game.  Seriously?  This is gaming news?  Of course, the comment thread is to be avoided but contains such gems as “Bayonetta is very close to converting me from a boob man to an ass man” and “It doesn’t matter who is bigger or smaller, I think the most important part here is that we’re all winners.”

Comarison of Bayonetta and Jeanne's boobs and butts, courtesy of Kotaku

Comarison of Bayonetta and Jeanne's boobs and butts, courtesy of Kotaku

And we wonder why female characters in video games are so objectified and overly sexual.  It’s because gaming journalism like Kotaku continues to create press over it.  Of course they’re going to report on this, because the men who read Kotaku are just as tuned to objectify female characters in games as the developers who create the games.  Why should women gamers have to read this kind of crap just to find out about latest releases and news about their favorite games?  This isn’t even the first time this week that they have written an entire article about female rear ends.

I didn’t even go into the horrible way they referenced our very own Sera Brennan in this article.  ”Seraphina Brennan is in fact the transgendered identity of the writer and is the byline she now uses for all of her work. Our commentary on this excerpt has been changed to reflect this.”  Why they felt the need to point out that she is transgender as a sort of disclaimer for her opinion on female objectification in games was beyond me.  Not to mention how they referred to her name as being a “transgendered identity” and a “byline” rather than just her name.  Not to mention they had to change their commentary because of it.  Sigh.

Homophobia, sexism, racism, classism, objectification, prejudice, and discrimination occurs everywhere.  Even in video gaming news, which is why The Border House exists.  We want to make sure someone out there isn’t just commenting in approval, but is drawing attention to the negative effects this causes.

Readers, what do you think?

Man marries a Nintendo DS character

A Japanese man by the username of Sal9000 has more than a crush on the character Nene Anegasaki from the Nintendo DS game Love Plus.  He loves her so much, in fact, that he legally married her!

Japanese computer gamers are known for taking an obsessive approach to their hobby, and Love Plus is the latest game to develop a cult following.

Players are expected to spend hours with their virtual crushes – buying them flowers, taking them for dates and making future plans. The girls alter their behaviour and personality in reaction to how they are treated.

(Source)

While some articles state that the marriage occurred at a Tokyo Game Festival, a coworker and friend of mine who grew up in Japan has linked me to other articles that state the actual marriage occurred in Guam.  He informed me that Japan is actually very strict about marriage and strongly frowns upon any sort of outward PDA, gay or straight.

An image of Nene Anegasaki, a young Anime-styled character with a short sailor suit.

An image of Nene Anegasaki, a young Anime-styled character with a short sailor suit.