"Games are a special medium, completely separate from our wider culture"
July 9, 2013 10:40 AM   Subscribe

There's no sexism in gaming: "Furthermore, reasonable people would see that asking to put male soldiers in the Call of Duty series is simply not do-able. Since the age of the Amazon, women have waged wars, because they have a higher pain threshold than males and have more stamina in every area of war. Who would take a male Battlefield seriously? Including men would simply cloud the matter; when crawling through tunnels, as is often necessary in war, our eyes would fall on the male backside - from then on women would be irreparably compromised."
posted by Phire (148 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wonderfully executed.
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on July 9, 2013


I was going to say this was a modest proposal, but after seeing Lawrence Croft's outfit, I think immodest might be more appropriate. ;)

Well played by the author.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


An open letter to games media.
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't read any of the comments except for the one that says

Nathan • a day ago



Where can I buy the Lawrence Croft game, this is important

posted by rtha at 10:47 AM on July 9, 2013 [67 favorites]


I knew Cara Ellison was awesome from her work at RPS, but man, The New Statesman has been publishing good stuff lately.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:50 AM on July 9, 2013


Lawrence Croft is the greatest single-person shooter ever, so-to-speak.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:51 AM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Undoubtedly there is a mod, or one will be forthcoming.
posted by boo_radley at 10:52 AM on July 9, 2013


I think this article came from an episode of Sliders. You know the one.
posted by demiurge at 10:54 AM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


See also Doug Hofstadter's 1985 variant.
posted by zbsachs at 10:56 AM on July 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm not sure which butt I'd rather look at for 40 hours but you know what I'm willing to do the research necessary to find out.

* You can't just reskin Lara with Lawrence though. The mocap would have to be totally redone.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:59 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sexism in gaming is a serious problem and should be fixed. But I can't be the only person getting a wee bit tired of this kind of "satire", which is not particularly funny or inventive, it's just a straight inversion of the thing being satirized. It's trite and boring by now, and I have my doubts that it's convincing anyone.

(Again, nothing against the intention, just complaining about the execution.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:03 AM on July 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


seanmpuckett: "* You can't just reskin Lara with Lawrence though. The mocap would have to be totally redone."

Otherwise you end up with things like this. Yes, the female Champion of Kirkwall runs like that. And stands like that. And fidgets if you don't move for 10 seconds.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:05 AM on July 9, 2013 [34 favorites]


Lawrence Croft
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:06 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not redoing the micro could be a Hawkeye Initiative kind of thing though.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on July 9, 2013


You can't just reskin Lara with Lawrence though. The mocap would have to be totally redone.

Pfft, just get the files from Nolan North mocapping Nate Drake and slap a new skin on it.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2013


The source for "Lawrence Croft" (the artist calls him Nathan Thomas).
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Specialagentwebb, that's awesome. Thanks for posting it.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:17 AM on July 9, 2013


Otherwise you end up with things like this.

That is utterly hilarious; the immediate relaxation into a contrapposto stance on standing still is fascinating. It's interesting that we immediately read that as "feminine" although probably the most famous single example of the post is Michelangelo's David.
posted by yoink at 11:30 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


While I generally steer clear of Ferret Steinmetz on issues of gender, he has an interesting post on Lawrence on his blog.
… you show this to your average dudebro, and he barks a laugh. “That’s hysterical!” he says, and moves on. And for this to be a true equivalence, you’d have to engineer a culture where he laughs, and moves on, and then realizes that everyone else – in fact, the majority of people he knows – sees nothing at all wrong with this. When he laughs, his friends would have to give him that sideways stare that says, “What’s funny?”
posted by Mad_Carew at 11:34 AM on July 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


This is hilarious. Thanks.
posted by medusa at 11:34 AM on July 9, 2013


Uh...this is neither funny nor well-executed, the basic problem being that it is, in fact, men who have waged war throughout history. I mean, nice try with the reference to the mythical tribe of women warriors, but I fail to see what exactly is wrong with an accurate representation of either WWII armies or modern special forces - they were, and are, almost exclusively male.
posted by Dasein at 11:42 AM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Awesome, I totally fell for it for the first couple of sentences.
posted by windykites at 11:44 AM on July 9, 2013


Sexism in gaming is a serious problem and should be fixed. But I can't be the only person getting a wee bit tired of this kind of "satire", which is not particularly funny or inventive, it's just a straight inversion of the thing being satirized. It's trite and boring by now, and I have my doubts that it's convincing anyone.

Ah, but not all articles about sexism are meant to convince people to stop being sexist. Trying to convince someone to stop being sexist is like waging a land war in Asia. You certainly learn to pick your real battles; I doubt the author meant this to be a polemic. Yes, sexism in gaming is a serious problem, and yes, it "should be fixed." So who's meant to do the fixing?

To prevent outrage fatigue, it can be important for women to be able to break up their days of having to wade through rivers of putrid misogyny with a few quick hits and chuckles. The most important aspect of the piece is its constant pitch toward utter condescension and derision -- something not many men are terribly aware of in their daily lives, since the societal embrace of treating women like children who don't know their own feeble minds is so unavoidable and insidious. Satire is unlikely to make a difference in eliminating sexism, but making a difference is a fairly high standard to set for writing on the internet.

No matter how much I know it doesn't actually happen, it's nice to be able to imagine that someone, somewhere might read something like this and begin to wonder why it's immediately dismissed as completely ridiculous or even downright objectionable, since pieces of this nature from a male perspective are widely accepted at face value and published in droves.
posted by divined by radio at 11:46 AM on July 9, 2013 [47 favorites]


Women have always fought.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:46 AM on July 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


Uh...this is neither funny nor well-executed, the basic problem being that it is, in fact, men who have waged war throughout history. I mean, nice try with the reference to the mythical tribe of women warriors, but I fail to see what exactly is wrong with an accurate representation of either WWII armies or modern special forces - they were, and are, almost exclusively male.

This argument misses the point, much like the other arguments advanced in the piece. Such arguments are the targets of the piece's satire. "The overwhelming majority of soldiers throughout history have been men," even if true, doesn't disprove the existence of sexism in video games, nor does it prove that sexism's existence isn't a problem worth discussion.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:49 AM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Uh...this is neither funny nor well-executed, the basic problem being that it is, in fact, men who have waged war throughout history.

This is demonstrably and laughably false.
posted by KathrynT at 11:50 AM on July 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


I once tried FPP-ing this but it was deleted (which was almost certainly avoidable but for that I'd framed it badly.) Where are all the men bloggers? Unlike the usual advice, read the comments, where some of the best stuff comes up.
"We have our own spaces because women don’t take our book and sports fandoms seriously on the heavily trafficked sites like DW and LJ. [...] My friends are going to have a open space next month as a safe space to talk about Robert Heinlein, Macroeconomics, and our NBA fantasy league."

"Wow, this comment is so BITTER and ANGRY. [...] What the hell is this “safe space” thing? Are you accusing us of something?!?? I think you need to apologize."
posted by Zed at 11:51 AM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


If you, like me, have no idea what the "disembodied bloody crotch in Speedos" incident the author refers to is, have a look here.
posted by cuetip at 11:53 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, nice try with the reference to the mythical tribe of women warriors, but I fail to see what exactly is wrong with an accurate representation of either WWII armies or modern special forces - they were, and are, almost exclusively male.

Non-white soldiers were segregated from whites and almost entirely forbidden from front-line duty in WWII, do you believe that's because they are somehow deficient when compared to white soldiers?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dasein: "Uh...this is neither funny nor well-executed, the basic problem being that it is, in fact, men who have waged war throughout history. I mean, nice try with the reference to the mythical tribe of women warriors, but I fail to see what exactly is wrong with an accurate representation of either WWII armies or modern special forces - they were, and are, almost exclusively male."

The majority of the piece isn't concerned with this, which gives me the feeling that this is more a contrived proxy argument than something you're interested in debating.
posted by invitapriore at 11:57 AM on July 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


I completely sympathize and agree with the writer, though for me this piece was a little up and down. There were some VERY good bits though, like this:

A resin model of someone’s disembodied crotch isn’t hurting anyone. It’s simply something to put on one’s mantelpiece and enjoy.

And I really enjoyed ''masculist," great term.
posted by Mister_A at 12:10 PM on July 9, 2013


Dasein's point would only apply to games which depict actual past wars which had been overwhelmingly male, such as WWII. Anything outside of those constraints can be whatever you want.

Even then, there's no reason why, say, a game depicting the French Resistance would have to have a male lead.

This is to say nothing of how most games aren't realistic to begin with. If you have a game set in a myth-heavy version of Ancient Greece, what would be so wrong about even just the choice to have a female lead?
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:13 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The majority of the piece isn't concerned with this, which gives me the feeling that this is more a contrived proxy argument than something you're interested in debating

It was the OP's pullquote, so I'm not sure why you think it's beside the point to debate it.
posted by Dasein at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2013


It's not subtle satire, but it made me laugh, which puts it ahead of most Internet humor.

Arguing that it has an imaginary history misses the fact that it's obviously written in an alternate reality, because, in this reality, it could never be a "serious article." That's one of the jokes!
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:15 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you have a game set in a myth-heavy version of Ancient Greece, what would be so wrong about even just the choice to have a female lead?

Nothing. What would be so wrong about having a male lead?
posted by Dasein at 12:19 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was the OP's pullquote, so I'm not sure why you think it's beside the point to debate it.

Because it's a satirical piece about sexism in gaming, not Realism In Gaming.

I haven't played CoD, but I'd bet - since it's a video game, and not a historical analysis - that it's full of stuff that plays very fast and loose with reality. If you want to discuss that, there's probably a good post to be made about it. This post is not that.
posted by rtha at 12:19 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


the basic problem being that it is, in fact, men who have waged war throughout history. I mean, nice try with the reference to the mythical tribe of women warriors, but I fail to see what exactly is wrong with an accurate representation of either WWII armies or modern special forces - they were, and are, almost exclusively male.

First, you're talking about an article written in alternate time-line where women did the fighting, and second you're missing the larger point. It's the contrast between the "Men have fought wars, that's just how it's always been" appeal to supposedly objective reality with the "It's all just fantasy, can't you tell the difference between fantasy and reality." The whole thing is just showing how sloppy the arguments are.

Of course the things badly written and thought out, it's parroting of things that are badly written and thought out.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:21 PM on July 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Dasein: "Nothing. What would be so wrong about having a male lead?"

The choice to have a female lead clearly implies a male lead. Unless you assume the choice is between "woman lead" and, I don't know, "asexual lead". What a weird question.
posted by boo_radley at 12:26 PM on July 9, 2013


I fail to see what exactly is wrong with an accurate representation of either WWII armies or modern special forces - they were, and are, almost exclusively male.

A soldier is carrying a rocket launcher, a machine gun, a shotgun, a pistol, a sniper rifle, several first aid kits, a knife and a half-dozen boxes of ammo for each firearm? No problem!

Edges of the map are cordoned off by doorways with a single plank across them which you could very easily just crawl under or bust off in a real situation? Didn't even notice!

You get shot to pieces and have one health point left and you're bleeding everywhere and riddled with lead but you can still run at top speed and if you just take a second to wrap a bandage around your arm you're back in top form? Nothing wrong with that!

GORDON fucking FREEMAN is a theoretical physicist who never handled a weapon in his life until the hazard course at Black Mesa and then proceeds to singlehandedly defeat entire armies of highly-trained, well-equipped Combine soldiers? My disbelief, it is suspended!

Big Boss has a private army and a mech that can deploy nukes and the US military decides their best bet is to send in one guy with no guns? Why not?

The option of playing a woman in combat? Well now hold on a damn minute, pal
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:32 PM on July 9, 2013 [175 favorites]


Nothing is wrong about having male leads in a myth-heavy game version of Ancient Greece, except when myth-heavy and non-myth-heavy games simulating any given type of society from pre-historic to futuristic all* have male leads, and when women ask to see a bit more gender diversity in the leading roles of our pop culture, they're met with spittle-flecked vitriol about how medieval Europe was uniformly male and white and of course space operas have to be helmed by men and it's not like women can even lift a chainsaw machine gun so clearly they can't be the heroes of Gears of War.

It's not just the dearth of games with playable female characters that constitutes the sexism in gaming problem, here.

*I am aware that there are, indeed, great games with female leads. This is a generalization for the purposes of making a point. The fact that I even feel the need to write this disclaimer makes me a little sad.
posted by Phire at 12:33 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Phire: "it's not like women can even lift a chainsaw machine gun so clearly they can't be the heroes of Gears of War."

When Games Workshop is a model of progressiveness (What were they called? Battle sisters? Something like that) compared to your work, you might have something to think about.
posted by boo_radley at 12:35 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


rtha:

I haven't played CoD, but I'd bet... that it's full of stuff that plays very fast and loose with reality.
"

You're correct. Most soldiers who were killed in action could not respawn nearly so rapidly, nor were their shirts mended upon re-vivification.
posted by Mister_A at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


FAMOUS MONSTER: That's just because Gordon Freeman is really smart, and everyone knows that really-smart-yet-untrained people can pick up weapons and just use them with expert skill.

My personal pet peeve isn't the ability to carry ALL THE WEAPONS and ALL THE AMMO, but that you can pick up ammo and never have to spend all the damned time putting bullets into magazines - you always end up with full magazines. Every once in a while, for some reason, this is what tweaks my suspension of disbelief.

One thing I like about the "Black Mesa" rewrite of Half Life is that there are female scientists around the facility.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:40 PM on July 9, 2013


boo_radley: "Phire: "it's not like women can even lift a chainsaw machine gun so clearly they can't be the heroes of Gears of War."

When Games Workshop is a model of progressiveness (What were they called? Battle sisters? Something like that) compared to your work, you might have something to think about.
"

Sisters of Battle, or, more precisely, Adepta Sororitas.

You know, for someone that's never actually played anything WH40K related other than DoW 1, I am terrifyingly knowledgeable of the fluff.
posted by Samizdata at 12:41 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I fail to see what exactly is wrong with an accurate representation of either WWII armies or modern special forces

Guess what? By the numbers, your average WWII soldier wasn't an American male. If I had to hazard a guess, he was probably a Russian who was scrounging for a rifle in a mud-soaked shithole, but since the majority of games marketed as war games are sold in the US, the main character is often an American male.

The real question is why shooter games are so mired in a lack of inspiration that they require a supposedly accurate historical backdrop and main character. I have no problem with shooter games. I played the living hell out of them, but this idea that you're playing a recreation of a real soldier in a real war doing something realistic is the biggest load of horseshit perpetuated on the gaming public.

I mean, have you played any games based on the American War from the perspective of a Viet Cong soldier? Now that is a goddamn battle. But that would be offensive, right?

The real problem is that the narratives of the games we overwhelming buy are set up to confirm the narrative that as technology advances, video games are becoming more realistic and real war is becoming more video game-like. Maybe that's a bigger problem than sexism, but the idiocy of thinking you're playing an accurate man-kills-man simulator, and that this is Something Men Do and Women Aren't Soldiers and that being a soldier is synonymous with killing....
posted by mikeh at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's not just the dearth of games with playable female characters that constitutes the sexism in gaming problem, here.

Which is what I like about the article. It puts all the knee jerk defenses to people who are pointing out a variety of problems, puts them all together and shows just how inconsistent they are as a whole.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:43 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And when a developer does put together a game with a female lead, they're met with this garbage.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2013


The option of playing a woman in combat? Well now hold on a damn minute, pal

Yes, this. If realism is to be so highly valued in combat gaming that it's impossible to play as a woman, then you should get one gun and one shot at the game, and the minute you get killed or even badly wounded, the game ends and is never playable again.
posted by KathrynT at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Nothing. What would be so wrong about having a male lead?

Look, the problem isn't that a particular game has a male lead, the problem is that every fucking game has a male lead and it is incredibly remarkable when a game has a female lead. This is one of those structural issues where you can point at each individual tree and say "it's just a tree" and after 5000 individual trees completely miss that you're standing in a forest.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2013 [54 favorites]


Also, women did serve in various combat roles in WW2, and some of them were extremely badass.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


The real question is "What would be so wrong about having a female lead?" and the fact that suddenly a thousand objections appear. Historical accuracy may be a reason, but can it be the only reason in over 90% of games? Why is it the thing people complain about more loudly than the other glaring historical issues? Are you trying to say that gender is somehow... important?
posted by mikeh at 12:50 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


My personal pet peeve isn't the ability to carry ALL THE WEAPONS and ALL THE AMMO, but that you can pick up ammo and never have to spend all the damned time putting bullets into magazines

And I go the other direction. I don't want realism, just fun. Little, selective bits of realism can be annoying. How come my guy (or gal, as it were) can carry sixteen different firearms and still run and jump over the alien robots, yet I can't pick up that box of ammo because I'm "full"?
posted by cribcage at 12:57 PM on July 9, 2013


Gaming Business is sexist about money

To be honest, I'm really am for accurate depictions of women in games for those who want to play as one. I don't really want or need "eye candy" in my video games. As a male, when given the choice I choose a male character to play because it feels more natural, and as such, I think a woman should have the same opportunity, without the ridiculous and mandatory "bikini armor" choices usually present.

Unfortunately, I don't think video game publishers are in business to achieve gaming diversity or be progressive. If the day comes where honest representations of females can be demonstrated to make publishers money, then I'm damn sure they'll happen, and not a second before.

Is it sexist? Sure, but it's not an intentional choice by any organization to be sexist for the simple reason of being sexist. This doesn't mean that they're not complicit, but it's merely a reaction of what they believe their customers want. It's capitalism, pure and simple. It's ugly, bullshit, and stupid, but that's my basic opinion of the "money trumps all" attitude anyway.

I would also love to be able to wear a nice, light summer skirt right now (It's HOT in South Florida), but I don't think that's going to be happening either.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:02 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like options in games. This is more about suspension of disbelief than pure realism. Program in women soldiers, and if someone really wants to turn them off because it shatters their immersion they can do so. It's not like it will impact gameplay significantly.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep "realism" in video games is generally a silly idea, and a terrible reason to exclude female characters from lead roles. It's interesting how many female toons there are in MMOROGs that let you pick gender though - like WoW or EVE, for instance. I played a female character in WoW because I thought the male (forsaken) toon was doofy looking.
posted by Mister_A at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2013


Re: profit and female characters, that's a fun conversation in itself. When a game with a male lead tanks, it's about the marketing or the gameplay or the crappy online or the graphics or whatever. When a game with a female lead tanks, it's about the gender issues.

I don't often do an "obligatory xkcd," but when he's right, he's right.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:05 PM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, according to Wikipedia, 47% of the gamer population as of 2012 is women. So it's not like we're just not playing games and therefore have no market share.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:07 PM on July 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


Or to put it in context of recent events, the fact that Microsoft can do a massive media event at the biggest electronic entertainment show of the year, unveil what they are pitching as the "next generation" of game systems, and somehow fail to include any of the games with female protagonists that will be available for the platform, and throw in a light scripted rape-joke as the cherry on top.

I played a female character in WoW because I thought the male (forsaken) toon was doofy looking.

That, and the bride-of-frankenstein hair is one of the most awesome costume pieces of any MMO.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:09 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would also love to be able to wear a nice, light summer skirt right now (It's HOT in South Florida), but I don't think that's going to be happening either.

If that sarong, I don't wanna be right.
posted by murphy slaw at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


When a game with a male lead tanks, it's about the marketing or the gameplay or the crappy online or the graphics or whatever. When a game with a female lead tanks, it's about the gender issues.

Yeah. Nobody's holding up Lone Ranger as evidence that the American public just doesn't want to see a movie headlined by two men.
posted by KathrynT at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2013 [27 favorites]


Or by one man, and a leather knapsack full of a hippie's laundry.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Look, the problem isn't that a particular game has a male lead, the problem is that every fucking game has a male lead and it is incredibly remarkable when a game has a female lead.

Having more games with the option of a female lead would be great. How about a small step and not have the [woman, girlfriend, wife, daughter] [murder, kidnapping, rape] and [her rescue, retribution] be the entire motivation, usually done within the opening cut scene with no context whatsoever. For example, see everyfuckingactionadventuregameever.

Wouldn't it be nice to see more women as characters instead of mcguffins?

Sorry mario but our princess with her own agency who isn't a trophy to be battled over is in another castle.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:16 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I had to hazard a guess, he was probably a Russian who was scrounging for a rifle in a mud-soaked shithole

Nope. Chinese. People always forget about the Chinese in WWII.
posted by Justinian at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I really enjoyed ''masculist," great term.

Indeed.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2013


Made me think of a somewhat-related tumblr I find particularly amusing: I'm not a misandrist, but. Complete with "people who miss the point" tag.
posted by immlass at 1:19 PM on July 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


I would also love to be able to wear a nice, light summer skirt right now (It's HOT in South Florida), but I don't think that's going to be happening either.

If you're worried that you can't afford one, they're pretty cheap at Target.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:25 PM on July 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Princess Peach will be an optional PC in the winter Mario game.

And there's DA3 and Mirror's Edge 2 coming from EA, and Sony announced that they will distribute Supergiant's Transistor and Beyond: Two Souls. So clearly, someone is expecting to make a profit on gender-neutral or female-character games.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're worried that you can't afford one, they're pretty cheap at Target.

Yeah, but they're all in these "girly" patterns.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:30 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I'm not saying that we have anything close to parity, just that dire warnings that those games are the kiss of commercial death appear to be greatly exaggerated.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:31 PM on July 9, 2013


Is it sexist? Sure, but it's not an intentional choice by any organization to be sexist for the simple reason of being sexist. This doesn't mean that they're not complicit, but it's merely a reaction of what they believe their customers want. It's capitalism, pure and simple. It's ugly, bullshit, and stupid, but that's my basic opinion of the "money trumps all" attitude anyway.


That's actually the worst part of it; if it was sexism for the pure sake of sexism, at least it would be straightforward and honest. It's the insidiousness of it; the ability to say "Oh, we're not REALLY being sexist, little lady, it's what the people want!" THAT'S what needs to change; all the bs justification after the fact when people and companies and forums are called out on it.
posted by jennaratrix at 1:31 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but they're all in these "girly" patterns

You can prolly have someone on Etsy make you a couple with a john deere tractor print or something.
posted by elizardbits at 1:37 PM on July 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Is it sexist? Sure, but it's not an intentional choice by any organization to be sexist for the simple reason of being sexist. This doesn't mean that they're not complicit, but it's merely a reaction of what they believe their customers want.

So instead of being just sexist, they're incompetent and sexist? I can't think of any excuse for not addressing the wants of 46% of your existing customers, or trying to expand your business into untapped markets. That right there is Greedy Capitalism 101.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:39 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but they're all in these "girly" patterns

I gotcha covered
posted by en forme de poire at 1:39 PM on July 9, 2013


I would much prefer Active Sexists who twirl their mustaches and cackle every time they Perpetuate Misogyny to the reality in which sexism shaped by institutions which most people don't think about, and where the difficulty is telling people that despite how much easier it is to not think about a thing than it is to think about a thing, maybe they might want to consider thinking about that thing anyway?

I hear they're releasing that as an option after the Reality Beta Test ends, which I'm excited for because let's face it, as great as some parts of Reality are, other bits just quickly turn into a fucking slog.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:47 PM on July 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


Rory, sometimes I just want to get in a knock-down drag-out fight with the world until it puts on the fucking glasses!
posted by Mister_A at 1:53 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love Fucking Slog mode when everybody just plays with a crowbar, though.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:58 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


So instead of being just sexist, they're incompetent and sexist? I can't think of any excuse for not addressing the wants of 46% of your existing customers, or trying to expand your business into untapped markets. That right there is Greedy Capitalism 101.

I don't think they're not addressing the wants of 46% of their existing customers, as that 46% are existing customers of the current, sexist business model, so obviously they're providing them games that this percentage is coming back for.

However, I don't want to drawn into a Devil's Advocate argument here with sexism in games, my point was to state that it's not just games. Generally speaking, business doesn't care about your race, sex, sexual orientation, political standpoint, or whatever. They pander to whomever they can to make the most amount of money from, with the least amount of risk, effort and overhead.

With the exception of a standout game like Metroid, who "slipped" in a female protagonist, there is no way for a publisher to create and promote a big name game which depicts a strong, accurate, female lead to address the hypothetical wants of 46% and an create a new, hypothetical market without taking a very big financial gamble. I view this as the same reason Hollywood blockbusters are so heavily recycled.

Believe me, I think it would be incredibly awesome for my gaming sister and (hopefully gamer) daughter to be able to play as a female, and still get to wear honest-to-god, full plate mail, instead of armor dreamed up by a horny, over stimulated 14-year old boy.

And don't even get me started on the shocking treatment women get in Multi-Player, that's an evil all to its own.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:59 PM on July 9, 2013


there is no way for a publisher to create and promote a big name game which depicts a strong, accurate, female lead to address the hypothetical wants of 46% and an create a new, hypothetical market without taking a very big financial gamble.

Is there anything to back this up, though? What's to suggest that it would be a risk?
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 2:04 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The vast majority of game developers across the entire project-size spectrum are aware of this problem. Most of the ones I know - myself included - would like to change it. Most of the ones in big-budget multi-platform productions are not really in a position to change it. With minimal judgement, here are a few of the reasons why things are the way they are:

1) A significant portion of the development costs for big-budget games is rigging, motion capturing, and animating player-controlled characters or high-fidelity non-player characters who will be subject to player scrutiny. "Significant portion" as in ~25-30% of total dev costs (this is an informed guesstimate based on a few years spent working as art producer on a major title). This is also why a male character swap mod for Tomb Raider is highly unlikely without a significant budget. Unisex skeletons are fine for midground characters or background imposters, but don't hold up well under scrutiny, and you double that 30% of costs just to make gender-specific assets, nevermind the technical issues.

2) Speaking of technical issues: RAM. Xbox 360 has 512MB shared pool, PS3 has 256/256 GPU/System RAM. You cannot imagine how desperate the final content optimization passes get before you submit a console title to platform certification - the constant categorization and recategorization of which textures we can afford to drop down a mip level, which particle systems can have their lower level of detail version pushed out another hundred virtual meters. Insert a wall here so that the three rooms at the end of the hall can begin streaming in 40 virtual meters further along the critical path. Separate female skeletons and animation sets? That's more than audio's entire memory budget, right there, shouts your technical artist as he strangles you.

3) Risk-averse investors and the ROI conundrum - big-budget games are almost, not entirely but almost universally produced by studios owned by large publicly-traded corporations. Tens of millions of dollars are on the line, and if major returns aren't seen within the first month then you and every person you talk to on a daily basis for the past two years are getting shit-canned immediately after months of working 85-hour weeks (or, usually, more). What is the potential loss if your core demographic* decides a female protagonist isn't "for them"? What is your potential gain? Even if you, personally, have the nobility to take that gamble in the name of progress - what do your investors think of the risk? What do their accountants?

4) Marketing expenditure on AAA titles - of which visibility to non-enthusiasts is a direct function - outstrips indie titles by, rough guess, at least three orders of magnitude. Probably more. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2? ~$75M dev budget, $250M marketing budget.

In summary: the problem is recognized and taken seriously by damn near every last developer I know, but there are a lot of major issues hindering progress in the more publicly visible segment of the industry. One of the nicest things about the upcoming console generation is that while CPU/GPU increases aren't exactly a quantum leap over their predecessors, our memory budget on both XBox and Playstation has been increased by a factor of sixteen. Which, at least on the technical side, makes it harder to dismiss high-fidelity gender-specific skeletons out of hand.

*I believe the 46% women figure is out date - gamers as a whole are 51% female as of the most recent survey I've seen - even more for social/casual games. Gamers dropping $60 on day one of a big-budget action title's release, however, are far more likely to be male.
posted by Ryvar at 2:06 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Generally speaking, business doesn't care about your race, sex, sexual orientation, political standpoint, or whatever.

You may be understating the extent to which business is run by actual human beings with actual shitty sexist attitudes that influence the business decisions they make.

Believe me, I think it would be incredibly awesome for my gaming sister and (hopefully gamer) daughter to be able to play as a female, and still get to wear honest-to-god, full plate mail, instead of armor dreamed up by a horny, over stimulated 14-year old boy.

Well, Dark Souls did well enough that the sequel is apparently getting the AAA rollout treatment, so, y'know, such a game exists and has critical acclaim and proved financially viable and stuff.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:06 PM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


With the exception of a standout game like Metroid, who "slipped" in a female protagonist, there is no way for a publisher to create and promote a big name game which depicts a strong, accurate, female lead to address the hypothetical wants of 46% and an create a new, hypothetical market without taking a very big financial gamble. I view this as the same reason Hollywood blockbusters are so heavily recycled.

It's not a very big financial gamble if EA, Nintendo, and Sony are going public about doing it (allong with the entire MMO industry). Which again, isn't parity or equality, just pointing out that advocates of the status quo are greatly exaggerating the commercial and critical risks.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ryvar: Why then is Bioware able to make games with diverse casts where one can play as male or female characters?
posted by hydropsyche at 2:20 PM on July 9, 2013


hydropsyche:
1) Substantially reduced content fidelity, including heavy reuse of conversational animation loops and systemic facial animation via phoneme analysis (probably FaceFX, probably heavily customized).
2) RPG-centric design focus emphasizing player's projecting their own customized persona into the world/narrative.
posted by Ryvar at 2:24 PM on July 9, 2013


ie: skip to the 4 minute mark on this video.
posted by Ryvar at 2:31 PM on July 9, 2013


Ryvar, two points:

That video is from Mass Effect 1, which is now a nearly five year old game. Mass Effect 3 includes 3rd person multiplayer mode with male and female models, which is a pure action experience. It runs just fine on my creaky old PS3.

RPG-centric design focus emphasizing player's projecting their own customized persona into the world/narrative.

When you say "design focus", I hear the developers actually gave a shit.
posted by murphy slaw at 2:37 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess my standards are just too low for the things that the game industry cares about. I love their games, and the little glitch at 4 minutes in that video didn't ruin my gaming experience. I'd be unlikely to ever play another game where there weren't female characters that didn't suck.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:38 PM on July 9, 2013


Cara Ellison should probably have dedicated her talent to developing games rather than half-hearted rants about how the world ought to be. Write the game you want to play. Most game developers did exactly that in their teens.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:41 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you say "design focus", I hear the developers actually gave a shit.

Every game has design pillars, and protagonist customization is a common pillar for RPGs and very uncommon outside of them. Can you think of a game where you were able to customize your character's face but not play a female protagonist?
posted by Ryvar at 2:43 PM on July 9, 2013


My kneejerk would be that the suits who are the gatekeepers of Point 3 have gotten used to BioWare games selling a bunch of copies no matter what they do, so they get leeway. I'm sure a studio that didn't have a track record would have gotten one heck of a stinkeye when they submitted their proposal to record double the dialogue for their main character and model/animate Shepard twice.

For that matter, I'd be interested to know if there was any pressure to cut back on content that had to be redone for FemShep, or even to cut her entirely, after the player statistics for ME1 came back.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:43 PM on July 9, 2013


I'm very glad they didn't - Jennifer Hale has delivered many of the finest performances in the medium, and FemShep was easily amongst her best.
posted by Ryvar at 2:44 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cara Ellison should probably have dedicated her talent to developing games rather than half-hearted rants about how the world ought to be. Write the game you want to play.

And while you're at it, write the book you want to read, direct the movie you want to see, form a band so you can play the music you want to hear, and learn the art of fine cuisine so you can make all the food you want to eat.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 2:58 PM on July 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


"Cara Ellison should probably have dedicated her talent to developing games rather than half-hearted rants about how the world ought to be. Write the game you want to play. Most game developers did exactly that in their teens."

Aww, man, just imagine if she wrote a satirical article that touched upon this point, and then that article was linked to on MeFi!
posted by klangklangston at 2:59 PM on July 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Cara Ellison should probably have dedicated her talent to developing games rather than half-hearted rants about how the world ought to be.

You should probably have dedicated your talent to writing the videogame essay you'd like to read.

I should probably have dedicated my talent to writing the comment I'd like to read. Oh wait, I did.
posted by Zed at 3:00 PM on July 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


Aww, man, just imagine if she wrote a satirical article that touched upon this point, and then that article was linked to on MeFi!

That's the problem: Badly written satirical articles don't change the world. What changes the world is being and doing —not complaining. Negation is not counterculture.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:09 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, in fact, negation is protecting the status quo.
posted by Zed at 3:11 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cara Ellison should probably have dedicated her talent to developing games rather than half-hearted rants about how the world ought to be. Write the game you want to play. Most game developers did exactly that in their teens.

"Oh my stars, but she's wasting her talent
on a grievance that can't go away.
Oh, if only this girl had said nothing,
then I could have done good with my day."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:17 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Even then, there's no reason why, say, a game depicting the French Resistance would have to have a male lead.

Oh good god, if there were an open-world, GTA or Assassin's Creed, French Resistance game, I would play the fuck out of that game.

I'd be Lt. Barclay on the holodeck, wearing a beret and smoking Gauloises.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:17 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think in terms of genre expectations that having some degree of character customization appears to be the norm for Western RPGs, even at the cost of having a PC who doesn't do more than grunt in response to injury. Then again, my game of the week is an RPG/Tower Defense hybrid, in which, all the plot is delivered in the form of comic strips. (Sadly, in spite of the best efforts of voice talent, Bioware now occupies the same slot of high-production-value badness as Michael Bay and George Lucas films for me.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:18 PM on July 9, 2013


The "status quo" is that people make what they want to make and buy what they want to buy. I think we harm ourselves when we complain about the desire of others because we invest energy in something we have no control over.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:19 PM on July 9, 2013


I can also recommend the Fijian sulu as a skirt alternative for men.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:19 PM on July 9, 2013


Oh good god, if there were an open-world, GTA or Assassin's Creed, French Resistance game, I would play the fuck out of that game.

Celsius - I never played it, but Saboteur is the closest thing to that, to the best of my knowledge.

Then again, my game of the week is an RPG/Tower Defense hybrid, in which, all the plot is delivered in the form of comic strips.

Kingdom Rush: Frontiers is pure fucking win, and some of the best design balance work I have seen in any game, in any genre, Atari 2600 to present.
posted by Ryvar at 3:22 PM on July 9, 2013


Yeah just let culture metastasize in whatever fucked-up direction the market takes it, nothing to be done, writing and talking about it is a silly waste of time. Oh harmful? Sorry, writing and talking about problematic stuff is actively harmful you guys
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:24 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Celsius - I never played it, but Saboteur is the closest thing to that, to the best of my knowledge.

/sprains fingers opening tab for gamefly.com
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:25 PM on July 9, 2013


esprit de l'escalier, I think you are harming yourself by complaining about someone's decision to become a writer/journalist instead of a game developer, unless you somehow have more control over her talents and career aspirations than I would have guessed.
posted by jacalata at 3:27 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The "status quo" is that people make what they want to make and buy what they want to buy.

The whole point of the current wave of gender in gaming critiques is actually that people CAN'T buy what they want to buy, and in many cases are actively discouraged from making what they want to make, unless you're fine with creating an indie game (an exciting but limited scene).

The industry is justifying bad business decisions using outdated data on the gamer population and sexist preconceptions. It's no wonder AAA games are losing to casual, social, mobile, indie and family-friendly games. These tend to be redefined as "not games" in these types of discussions, again to justify the gamer bro status quo. Problem is, those "not games" are raking in the cash from all those ignored segments of the gaming population, while the big budget hardcore scene flails around bleeding money. So spare me the business rationality argument.
posted by Freyja at 3:27 PM on July 9, 2013 [37 favorites]


What changes the world is being and doing —not complaining. Negation is not counterculture.

Wow, thank you! So you're saying that all women need to do is shut up about sexism already and just recreate the entire world according to our personal whims? I don't think any of us had any idea it could be so simple. What's next -- whichever one of us winds up in charge of worker's rights will be able to issue a fiat to ensure women are paid equitably for our labor?
posted by divined by radio at 3:28 PM on July 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


There are hundreds of thousands of game developers many of whom make amazing games on their own. No one is "actively discouraging" women from making games. And if there really is a huge untapped market, then by all means: fill that hole.

I completely oppose the concept of "problematic desires". Desires are the axioms of our existence. Accepting our desires is equivalent to loving ourselves, and so imposing judgment on other people's desires is patronizing. Marginalizing others using language like "dudebro" is disgusting haughtiness.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:36 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Freyja: "The industry is justifying bad business decisions using outdated data on the gamer population and sexist preconceptions. It's no wonder AAA games are losing to casual, social, mobile, indie and family-friendly games. These tend to be redefined as "not games" in these types of discussions, again to justify the gamer bro status quo. Problem is, those "not games" are raking in the cash from all those ignored segments of the gaming population, while the big budget hardcore scene flails around bleeding money. So spare me the business rationality argument."

I know (from MFC) you and your output, and it makes this statement all the more powerful and compelling. Well said and thank you for putting up such a cogent argument.
posted by boo_radley at 3:40 PM on July 9, 2013


Marginalizing others using language like "dudebro" is disgusting haughtiness.

Yes, because the dudebro demographic has been so marginalized up to this point.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:40 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Marginalizing others using language like "dudebro" is disgusting haughtiness.

Yes, because the dudebro demographic has been so marginalized up to this point.


I think that it's possible to declare what what one wants without inventing pejoratives to disparage people who happen to want other things. It is easier to respect a person who stands up without pushing someone else down — no matter how hegemonic — in the process.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:45 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"That's the problem: Badly written satirical articles don't change the world. What changes the world is being and doing —not complaining. Negation is not counterculture."

1) Badly written is your assertion.
2) Satire can change the world. Often, the mechanism is by changing how people think about things and showing them that what is normal and assumed is, in fact, changeable and not necessary.
3) She is being and doing — she is being a writer and writing about sexism and video games.
4) This isn't negation, it's satire.
5) YOU ARE COMPLAINING NOW, CAP'N SANCTIMONY.
posted by klangklangston at 3:46 PM on July 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


"I think that it's possible to declare what what one wants without inventing pejoratives to disparage people who happen to want other things. It is easier to respect a person who stands up without pushing someone else down — no matter how hegemonic — in the process."

When you're done weeping for the dudebro, how about you go make a new game that sells well that's totally feminist so you can stop playing the wah-wah in the All Whiner Band?
posted by klangklangston at 3:47 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is easier to respect a person who stands up without pushing someone else down

Who gets to define what "pushing someone else down" is? Because in a ton of these discussions, mentioning that there is sexism in gaming (playing, design, marketing, reviewing) gets defined as being mean, being bitchy, being condescending, being misandrist, etc. ad nauseum.
posted by rtha at 3:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Desires are the axioms of our existence. Accepting our desires is equivalent to loving ourselves, and so imposing judgment on other people's desires is patronizing.

Both of these sentences are hash. I don't know what the first even means aside from "Our desires are sacrosanct," which is self-evidently false: What do we tell Hannibal Lecter?

That imposing judgment on others' desires is patronizing does not clearly result from the equivalence between loving ourselves and accepting our desires.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the point of something being hegemonic is that it's so pervasive and oppressive that you can't stand up for what you want without first needing to dismantle and push down the hegemony. I'm pretty okay with not always playing nice.
posted by Phire at 3:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


""That's the problem: Badly written satirical articles don't change the world. What changes the world is being and doing —not complaining. Negation is not counterculture.""

Oh, and point 6 — When you raise a point that was already addressed in the article, it is the epitome of churlishness to act as if writing the article that addressed your complaint was the problem, not your lack of engagement with the text.
posted by klangklangston at 3:49 PM on July 9, 2013


No one is "actively discouraging" women from making games.

That just made me spit out my coffee. There's a whole movement on twitter dedicated to exposing the issues women in the gaming industry face. Here's an article, including a tweet by a woman who was told that women are more trouble than their worth as employees. If that's not people actively discouraging women from making games, then I don't know what is.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:50 PM on July 9, 2013 [23 favorites]


"I think the point of something being hegemonic is that it's so pervasive and oppressive that you can't stand up for what you want without first needing to dismantle and push down the hegemony. I'm pretty okay with not always playing nice."

No, no, feminists need to be more ladylike and polite and make sure that every misogynist loses zero power and isn't mocked ever if feminism is going to succeed. Don't you get it? Men can just be, but women are pure and should exemplify our best impulses as humans!
posted by klangklangston at 3:52 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the point of something being hegemonic is that it's so pervasive and oppressive that you can't stand up for what you want without first needing to dismantle and push down the hegemony.

I just don't see this. You can make the game you want in your basement by yourself and you can share it with your friends. This is how many games are made. We're not talking about securing VC capital for manufacturing aerospace components. When it comes to video games, we all have "A Room of One's Own"!

The way I see it, this complaining replaces action. We have thousands of articles on sexism in gaming rather than thousands of games with female leads. Balzac famously said "words are actions in death".
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:52 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


When it comes to video games, we all have "A Room of One's Own"!

...

Balzac famously said "words are actions in death"

this better be some misguided attempt at performance art like that depression-voice guy
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:55 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I just don't see this. You can make the game you want in your basement by yourself and you can share it with your friends. This is how many games are made."

Wait, so women should only do tiny indie games and not expect to make money off of them? What's wrong with women wanting to put out the AAA blockbusters? Or is this some fantasy where GTAV is totally just some weekend craft project?

We're not talking about securing VC capital for manufacturing aerospace components. When it comes to video games, we all have "A Room of One's Own"!"

Bullshit. And when bullshit is self-serving justifications for the status quo, that's more harmful than any of this po-faced maundering about the rudeness of women when confronting the hegemony.

Why are you advancing odious bullshit? Is it because you don't know better or because you don't understand what people are saying?
posted by klangklangston at 3:57 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


"The way I see it, this complaining replaces action. We have thousands of articles on sexism in gaming rather than thousands of games with female leads. Balzac famously said "words are actions in death"."

The way you see it is wrong. Complaints often foment action. If people listened to you, we'd have no Patrick Henry, no Federalist Papers, no American Revolution. It's just a dumb, privileged argument that gets trotted out when people have their own oxes gored.
posted by klangklangston at 3:59 PM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'll never understand why people think their refusal to stop namecalling is going to do anything but encourage more namecalling.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:59 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is easier to respect a person who stands up without pushing someone else down

Who gets to define what "pushing someone else down" is? Because in a ton of these discussions, mentioning that there is sexism in gaming (playing, design, marketing, reviewing) gets defined as being mean, being bitchy, being condescending, being misandrist, etc. ad nauseum.


Do you really think there's a need to use disparaging language like "dudebro"? It seems to me to invoke a feeling that their desires are primitive and childish and not worthy of fulfillment. I think this kind of language comes across as insecure, as if the non-universality of our desires reduces their value.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:02 PM on July 9, 2013


The way I see it, this complaining replaces action. We have thousands of articles on sexism in gaming rather than thousands of games with female leads.

yes, the effort spent on writing a few paragraphs is identical to the effort spent in learning how to program and then creating a good, playable game by yourself
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:03 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


this thread reads like "No seriously, what about the menz?"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:04 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the record, I think esprit de l'escalier has attempted to make his point, everyone has registered disagreement, and now we could talk about something else.
posted by jacalata at 4:05 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


yes, the effort spent on writing a few paragraphs is identical to the effort spent in learning how to program and then creating a good, playable game by yourself

That's the problem: Someone has only enough energy to do the former, but wants someone else to spend the energy to do the latter.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:06 PM on July 9, 2013


Balzac famously said "words are actions in death"

He also said, "Little minds need to practise despotism to relieve their nerves, just as great souls thirst for equality in friendship to exercise their hearts."
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:06 PM on July 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


That's a wonderful quotation Celsius1414… Really beautiful.

For the record, I think esprit de l'escalier has attempted to make his point, everyone has registered disagreement, and now we could talk about something else.

Fine with me… I have some actions to do ;)

Have a nice evening everyone.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:07 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Freyja: "These tend to be redefined as "not games" in these types of discussions, again to justify the gamer bro status quo. Problem is, those "not games" are raking in the cash from all those ignored segments of the gaming population, while the big budget hardcore scene flails around bleeding money."

This is a really interesting point that I'd internalized without ever really thinking about it. I've half-heartedly picked up a bunch of the big name titles (Bioshock, Halo, even JRPGs like Kingdom Hearts, etc.) but nothing really caught my attention. The only desktop/console games I'd ever really finished were Portal and Plants vs. Zombies. But I do get really obsessed with iOS games and have sunk a ridiculous amount of time into playing them - 10+ hours per week at my peak. I always feel like I don't "get" to call myself a gamer because I don't go for the big names, but that really buys into the narrative that there are "real" games and "casual" games, and it's a distinction without a difference other than cultural prejudice. I've certainly learned a lot more about gaming genres by trying out different iOS games and have a much better sense of what I enjoy, which isn't something I would've really gotten if I'd just kept banging my head against the usual suspects.

(Aside, it occurs to me just now that my affinity for tower defense games partially explains why Company of Heroes is the only game that made its way into my peer group that I even marginally got into. Huh.)
posted by Phire at 4:22 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, looking over Ellison's blog, she's helped this gamer out by reviewing at least two upcoming games on my watch list, and introduced me to a couple of weird ones I might try just for fun. Heaven forbid she spend an afternoon of work writing about gender in games as well.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:33 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


i've said this before, but i'm right at the top 100 chime players in the world (if leaderboards are to be believed). ain't nothin' casual about that.

i reject the idea that just because something resembles the game play of old arcade and early console games it's somehow casual. the difference often seems to be whether or not there's a stereotype about women in the human resources department playing it (bejeweled and the like). there are conversations to be had about things like pay to play that are an issue in "casual" gaming, but a lot of it is a smokescreen to separate the halo madden gta players from the "not real gamers" (which is extra hilarious to me, because as a child of the 80s and a female gamer, i saw those guys show up on the scene and then turn around and ask me for my bonafides).
posted by nadawi at 4:37 PM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Phire yah, it's so maddening how widespread that perspective is, and how nonsensical.

The last game I worked on that got published made the charts for weeks, but regularly lost the top spot to Zumba Fitness. In meetings, they kept reporting our game as #1, arguing that Zumba didn't count as a game!

This is the sort of "data" the suits use to decide what game to spend on: bullshit numbers that purposefully exclude markets that don't fit a predetermined idea of who gamers are and what they want, in order to defend the current gaming culture tree fort. No girls allowed!
posted by Freyja at 4:47 PM on July 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


Oh, I rather liked this article!
posted by rebent at 6:54 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to point out that the myth about women having higher pain thresholds is being busted over and over. If we're going to fight ignorance, let's fight it all.
posted by varion at 7:17 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking as a male natural redhead - that article is not entirely accurate, either. The gender difference only applies to certain anesthetic types. Male and female redheads undergoing dental surgery are both likely to require larger dosages of novocaine (ie, my last required five shots).
posted by Ryvar at 7:38 PM on July 9, 2013


Cara Ellison should probably have dedicated her talent to developing games rather than half-hearted rants about how the world ought to be.

This sort of comment makes me both sad and angry. I mean, videogame developers like myself, read articles like this, and share them with their colleagues. It's entirely possible that I will have a conversation about it tomorrow with someone who may actually have the power to make that sort of decision. Writing this article could well be the best thing Cara Ellison could have done to further the process of change.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:24 PM on July 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


Debaser626: "I don't think they're not addressing the wants of 46% of their existing customers, as that 46% are existing customers of the current, sexist business model, so obviously they're providing them games that this percentage is coming back for."

This came up during a panel on feminism in gaming (PDF) at WisCon this year. As women gamers, we're faced with a nasty choice: either we can continue to buy games with messed up priorities and be seen as endorsing those priorities, or we can not buy them and therefore get written off as a potential market.
posted by jiawen at 10:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is stupid. Making pseudo satirical essays on sexism in war gaming is a waste of your time. The Ministry of Truth wants you to concentrate on whether we are at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Virtually speaking, that is. We are not really at war with anybody. It's all happening in, you know, cyberspace. The important thing is that you practice practice practice, until you are doubleplus not unrested, and are able to see exploding bodies in your dreams; or else you'll face the Ministry of Love and explain why not.

Don't worry about sexism. Winston has been ordered to excise that word from our vocabularies. It won't be here next year. Also, tits.
posted by mule98J at 1:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to point out that the myth about women having higher pain thresholds is being busted over and over.

Fact checking someone who deliberately uses bad arguments to show just how bad those arguments are is sort of missing the point. The original defenses of video games that she's referencing are full of counter-factual things that "everybody knows," so it's not unreasonable to assume that she included a few things SHE knew were wrong intentionally.

It's like stopping a joke to say "you know, strings can't really talk, nor do they go into bars and order drinks."
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:16 AM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is an infantry simulator game I like to play (ArmA) which has a new version coming out shortly. As part of the development process they have a public feedback tracker for issues people are finding in the alpha (and now beta) releases. They allow players to vote on these issues to help determine which should be fixed first.

The issue that has received the most total votes is: "No female soldiers models available". Disappointingly, this issue has also received the most down votes. If you can stand to read the comments, you'll see some of the same arguments that the article here satirizes.

About 2/3rds of the votes are in favor of fixing this issue, though, so I guess that's something?
posted by FishBike at 8:49 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


“Balzac famously said "words are actions in death"”

Speaking of Balzac, no male game characters seem to get crotch rot.

“but this idea that you're playing a recreation of a real soldier in a real war doing something realistic is the biggest load of horseshit perpetuated on the gaming public.”
Testicles do get in the way though. Also, no one packs baby gold bond… but I digress.

Women do get a tough break in U.S. made field dress. Next time you see a female servicemember take a look at how faded their uniforms are. Typically if they’ve been in the field the seam in the crotch is waaaay too chafing when they’re new. Plus, guys get away more with not wearing skivvies. What with the bras, panty lines, etc. So you have to run the pants through the dryer with poker chips or whatnot. Or get the ones with the offset seam which... again, digression.

Point being - no reality at all to those games.
But that can be a problem too.

I was playing a shooter game, zombies maybe, I forget, with my little cousin. You have a selection of people that I see is pretty typical – the brick, the stealth, the brain, etc. (t.v. tropes is probably all over it). I chose the chick. So my cousin flips out. Because I’m a big guy, why would I chose the chick?

Well, she’s smaller. Less of a target. I can see more of the environment around her. Etc. Purely practical. (Although I understand there’s a character picture or something that evens out the perceived mass in terms of how you get it, whatever, just made sense to me the way it looked). Pissed him off for some reason. Completely unreasonably.

Some people who go to Las Vegas, gamble, etc. Like to tell you how much they lost.
I think a lot of gaming is an expansion of this sort of masochism. Particularly with the interactive stuff. I can’t count how many times I saw the N-word, C-word, J-word, F-(homosexual)- word, etc. etc. Vast difference from reality. Not only radio talk, but almost any other team endeavor. Play a sport (soccer, rugby) you hear brief commands from captains, that’s it. For good, or serious teams at least. I've seen some serious games play and it seems the same.

But (as a purely casual gamer) a lot of it is more about talking about it than doing it. Less about the skill, I mean.

So a lot of what’s going on in gaming seems to be a pretext for the projection of aggression in the first place. So the formats seem to reflect that. Or enable the reflection of that. Which means excluding forms that don't help project that image.

I'm not sure how reciprocal that is in terms of sexism. Chicken/egg sorta thing seems.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:20 PM on July 10, 2013


Accepting our desires is equivalent to loving ourselves, and so imposing judgment on other people's desires is patronizing.
Other people don't know what's best for them or us. Their desires are wrong.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:45 PM on July 10, 2013


No, no, feminists need to be more ladylike and polite and make sure that every misogynist loses zero power and isn't mocked ever if feminism is going to succeed. Don't you get it? Men can just be, but women are pure and should exemplify our best impulses as humans!

Most shifts in power relations create 'unfairness', because you can't have unfairness without power and a new power relationship doesn't exist until it has been demonstrated.

The practical reality in this kind of sphere is that the unfairness created is almost imperceptibly miniscule, which is Cara's point here.

Mike Krahulik's recent faceplant is another example - he made an ignorant comment and got treated as though he was hateful. Arguably a little unfair, but that's life when you're the public face of a leading organisation in a field - the standards for you are higher.

Correctly, after a bunch of brouhaha, he sucked it up because that's the grown-up thing to do. The new power relationship was demonstrated, and the pendulum swings a little further in a good direction.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:03 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you really think there's a need to use disparaging language like "dudebro"? It seems to me to invoke a feeling that their desires are primitive and childish the apparent norm and not worthy of fulfillment fulfilled in most games. I think this kind of language comes across as insecure, as if the non-universality of our desires reduces their value.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:02 PM on July 9 [+] [!]


Little late to the game here, but marked this one up for you.
posted by mikeh at 8:30 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


i reject the idea that just because something resembles the game play of old arcade and early console games it's somehow casual. the difference often seems to be whether or not there's a stereotype about women in the human resources department playing it (bejeweled and the like).

My Mom, though a super intelligent lawyer and not an awesome HR person, is very much the puzzle type game player. She really likes them, and more power to her. The thing is, I am pretty confident there is no way in hell she is ever going to buy a $60 game for any platform. She can barely figure out the cable box, she isn't going to attempt to learn how to use a console or figure out updating video card drivers on her computer.

You could make a masterpiece of a big budget AAA game with an amazing diverse cast of playable characters or an iconic woman heroine to carry the franchise, but my Mom isn't going to buy it. Or, you could make the best Bejeweled type game of all time and if you ask for $60 and the best hardware my Mom isn't buying it.

So, I don't think she is casual in her gameplay habits, but maybe casual in that this isn't a hobby she is going to invest money in like she will for books and movies. I think the studios are chasing the willingness to pay, not the willingness to game. The thing is, with my Mom I think it is just not being tech savvy enough. Women closer to my age group have no problem investing in games. I do think the studios that figure out what those women want and deliver it are in for a big time payday. It's probably going to go to a company closer to an Apple than an EA. I think if I got Mom an iPad she would buy games for it, just not $60 games.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:45 PM on July 10, 2013


thats the problem though - the "casual" gaming market isn't just aged women - it's lots and lots of people who are playing them on expensive hardware - otherwise the puzzle games wouldn't be released on them. i'm a full on gamer who has spent a staggering amount on video games (plenty of $60 titles), but i still spend 90% of my time on "casual" games. which means when i discuss what i like amongst halo/CoD/madden players i'm often brushed off as someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.
posted by nadawi at 9:53 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


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