December 24, 2007

White gaming knight

Filed under:Online Communities, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 9:58 am

I’m at my parents’ house for the holidays, and actually have time to go online and catch up on the old blogs I used to read.

Jeff on Feminist Allies writes in What Men Can Do Wednesday: Avoid Being the Hero that the need to be rescued is a gendered act. (And illustrates his post with some lovely pictures of knights and LEGOS.)

We all need to be rescued, from time to time. That’s what friends, lovers and family are for, in part. Our social networks are also, to some degree, our rescuers, our safety nets. There’s no shame in wanting to help people, or needing some help, gender be damned. However, men are trained from boyhood that they not only need to tend to their own needs, but they must rescue those women who need saving.

The “white knight syndrome” is replayed in videogames, where I, the player, embody the white knight in so many of the games I love, Legend of Zelda, the most of last ten years of Final Fantasy games, even Paper Mario. Growing up, living in stories through gaming in a way I couldn’t through reading books or watching films that replayed the same white male heroic trope, no wonder I expected it when I went into videogame communities as a confused and depressed teenager. As I recently wrote about in Cerise, the guys there were more than willing to step up, in a very gendered and possessive way, and be my fucked-up hero. And I wanted it.

And what’s it do to my gender identity, my self esteem, my confidence in my agency, being the hero when I game, and then entering a community of folks who share my hobby and becoming the one that needs to be rescued?


August 7, 2007

Cerise August 2007

Filed under:News, Online Communities, Personal, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 3:56 pm

The August 2007 issue of Cerise Magazine is out. I think that the whole issue reeks of awesomeness. Check it out, yeah? And don’t forget to submit for the September issue by August 20.

I would have posted this sooner, but I was camping over the weekend at Lake Wenatchee with my mom and her sister. I remembered after I got there that I brought my laptop last year because a local sundries shop has wireless, but I still can’t get it in my head that I’ll find free wifi in rustic Eastern Washington.


June 19, 2007

We’re growing in numbers

Filed under:Gaming Women, News, Online Communities — Lake Desire @ 8:55 pm

Check this out: a new feminist gamer group blog called Girl in the Machine. From their mission statement:

We are gamers, students, artists.

We are two girls and a gay guy.

We can remember the Days of the Arcade, tell you the original game on which Super Mario Bros. 2 was based (Doki Doki Panic!), and forcibly borrow all of your fingers and toes and those of your immediate family and your dog to help us count our respective game collections.

We are feminists.

Welcome to Girl in the Machine.

I’m so happy there are most folks blogging on gender and gaming. I remember back in the day when the only sites I knew about (that weren’t afraid of the f-word) were and the feminist_gamers LJ community.


April 10, 2007

Cerise Magazine Submissions Reminder

Filed under:Gamer Culture, Gaming Women, Online Communities — Lake Desire @ 11:28 am

Cerise, the new magazine by and for gaming women, is still accepting submissions for our first issue. The deadline is April 15, 2007. What we’re looking for:

  • Reviews of games, systems and gaming supplements
  • In-depth critiques, essays and opinion pieces about gaming
  • Interviews with industry professionals
  • Modules and mini-adventures for tabletop games
  • Interior illustrations – women playing games, female RPG characters, etc. No fanart, please.
  • Short, one-page-or-smaller comics dealing in some (preferably humorous) way with gender and gaming

    A bit about Cerise’s philosophy:

    Although gender is the foremost focus of Cerise, we are dedicated to creating an inclusive space for individuals of all identities traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream, and for our allies who support our movement to increase our presence and representation in the game industry. We are a feminist publication and oppose all forms of oppression and the ways in which that oppression manifests itself in game communities in ways that hurt women, transgender individuals, queer-identified people, people of color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized individuals. We hope that our inclusive philosophy will propagate to help the game industry and culture at large become an environment welcoming to people of all identities.

    Visit our submissions guidelines and mission statement for more details. The theme for our first issue is Getting Women ‘Out There’ In Game Journalism.

  • Submissions by no means have to conform to the theme of each issue. Please consider submitting–this is a wonderful opportunity to get your name out there and be part of an exciting new project.


    March 27, 2007

    IRIS Network on Kotaku, sort of

    Filed under:News, Online Communities — Lake Desire @ 9:10 am

    The IRIS Network was mentioned by Brian Crecente. He linked Guilded Lily’s post promoting the site, and posted her logo, instead of linking to the IRIS Network directly or posting its logo. GL’s post is great, but she’ll probably be hit by any trolls that don’t make it all the way over to the IRIS Network.

    Crecente is giving himself more credit than I’m comfortable with:

    But despite the fact that I have a penis and write about gaming, something good came out of that post. In my caveman like attempts at prodding talented, strong-voiced women into writing more vocally about gaming I have stirred the ire of several feminist gaming writers who recently banded together to launch the IRIS Network a group, which will strive to bring women’s perspectives into the mainstream.

    Isn’t it interesting he interprets our criticism as us hating him because he’s got male bits? I don’t know any feminists or women-identified people who hate men, although we get pretty darn frustrated when they use their male privilege to be lazy and unaccountable.

    Let me say it straight up: tekanji has been working on this project for a year. Yes, Crecente was in part a catalyst for launching the site; she and Revena planned the launch now for the publicity.

    The comments on the Kotaku thread are really disappointing. Feminism isn’t about separation, and isn’t just for women. It is about ending all oppression of all people. Saying that “If you want to be treated equal then act equal and stop segregating yourselves” ignores the entire history of institutionalized oppression that still exists today and blames individuals who are systematically disadvantaged. The gaming community exists in that world.

    Kotaku commentor iwanttobeasleep makes a good point:

    In my experience, a lot of gaming circles are pretty good at segregating themselves. There is still a lot of misogyny in the video game industry, and among gamers, especially online. If these women want to talk about what video games mean to them as women, why dispute that? Would you prefer that they come to general gaming forums and argue about whether female protagonists are eye candy or empowering role models? I’m sure they’d rather have their own space and not have to put up with people telling them they’ve already got equality and should just STFU, just like you all would prefer your game reviews didn’t come with the feminist perspective.

    PS. Just because someone visits a site like that doesn’t mean they’re going to avoid interact with male gamers altogether. You can be integrated and still interact with a certain subgroup.


    March 25, 2007

    What Final Fantasy XI taught me about being a woman

    Hello Vana’diel, goodbye real life

    I don’t regret going through a MMORPG phase. It was a grand waste of my total playtime of 60 days of my life, but my life as Herbi the mithra shaped who I am today. I started playing Final Fantasy XI when I was 18. It was the spring or summer before I left for college, and my then-boyfriend got a copy of the game’s English beta version. We were both pretty obsessed with Square, so we were giddy to spend our summer in doors.

    I’d never played a MMORPG before, and I was frustrated with how long everything took and how set back I was if I decided I wanted to play a different race (I picked a hume female who looked like me–good thing I’m white or I would have been sorry out of luck) or even just change jobs. I hated being a warrior, but kept playing and didn’t want to throw out the time I put into her and start over. When beta ended and retail came out, I was excited to finally have my own account so I could play with my boyfriend. I created Herbi the mithra thief, and he was a little tarutaru named Tofutie. We joined the Midgardsormr server with our other friends from beta, many of whom I continued to play with until I finally quit for good at age 20.

    Sex kittens aren’t real live girls

    Mithras in FFXI are a race of cat women where males are apparently a rarity. It was a joke that mithras are always played by men, and we called them manthras. A guy cross-dressing for some risk-free thrill was fine, but it was like there wasn’t supposed to be a real, live female subject behind the sex object.

    People called me he sometimes, but not as often as I got called dude when I tried out World of Warcraft as a tauren and undead. (Can you imagine calling male characters “she” by default?) In our linkshells and parties, people often were surprised that I was the woman. Tofutie is one of those nice guys who goes above and beyond the rest by being a decent human being. He certainly was a lot more patient with other players than I was. He was a healer–a white mage and eventually red mage, and I switched was a paladin, the tanking class. I absolutely loved tanking, and miss it even now. “What! Tofutie is the dude?” our linkshell friends would say. “Girls don’t tank!”

    I liked surprising people. I wasn’t supposed to be an actual girl playing the sex kitten. I wasn’t supposed to be blunt and crude and sexy and after all that reveal that yes, I actually was a real live woman behind the computer. That was just weird. And yes, I did like attention, but who doesn’t like to be rewarded with /praise?

    Marriage is for heteros only

    We’d do some casual role-playing in FFXI, but Herbi and Tofutie couldn’t get married because they were both women. Even video games have institutionalized heterosexual privileges.

    Synth me a pie, bitch!

    A friend and I tried to start a linkshell called FemmeFatale for girl gamers. I macro’d an advertisement and dropped it regularly by the auction house. I got mixed praise and criticism. Guys begged to join (some pretended to be women). We did let male-identified people in, which was kind of problematic because it was like a little club of “alright” guys who thought they were super special for not being misogynists or something. (I actually learned the word misogynist from another mithra thief, Nekomasa, that I admired.)

    One time, a guy told me that there wasn’t a need for a linkshell for women, and that I should shut up and synth him a pie. I blacklisted him, but I was upset.

    The linkshell fell apart when the leader’s in-game boyfriend said he was going to move to live near her. He was 19, she was 13. I found out her phone number and got another player to call her parents and tell them. I still think we did the right thing: no way the power dynamics in that relationship were equal


    FFXI put me in situations where people used my gender against me. I used it to stay in a romantic relationship longer than I should have been, although Tofutie was a nice shield from being preyed oncourted by the creeps. And I never did reach endgame, I got too screwed over by other players. But I’d go back. I miss being Herbi and being an honestly good tank and I even miss a lot of the friends I played with. I’d go back and play again if I hadn’t quit to fill my time with studying and novel writing and bike riding and making new friends.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I stopped being so reclusive, stopped dating, stopped being so unfriendly, stopped being so uninterested in school when I quit FFXI.

    That’s it for my pithy conclusion.


    February 7, 2007

    Listen to Lake Desire on the Radio

    Filed under:Gender, Lake Desire Elsewhere, Online Communities, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 11:56 am

    Remember when I was on the college radio station a few weeks back talking about MMORPGs and gender in virtual spaces? The show was nationally syndicated! You can listen here. I’m towards the beginning of the program–don’t forget now, Ariel Wetzel is my real name! My bud Alex is also on the show talking about internet privacy–she is awesome!


    January 26, 2007

    Fitting In: Keep Your Mouth Shut

    Filed under:Online Communities — Lake Desire @ 11:51 pm

    In A Girl Gamer Diary, Sapphire discusses some of the sexism she encounters frequently as a gaming woman.

    The worst thing I’ve ever been told by someone was that I shouldn’t talk in my microphone if I don’t want that kind of attention, and that it’s just being brought upon myself. I’ve never felt so insulted, because it was like telling me that I’m not aloud to be myself. When I play my video games, I’m not thinking about the fact that I’m the only girl playing on the server. I’m thinking about the objectives, my score, and winning. So I’m going to use my microphone to tell my team mates where I’ve seen the enemies, or where the bomb has fallen, strategies and such. I encourage my team, and cheer when we win. How is that looking for attention? It’s just part of the game.

    This is an example of women being expected to hide a part of herself that isn’t the norm in gamer culture, something so crucial to her identity: her gender. The examples of harassment in her post–being called fat, accused of being a young boy, requests to see her breasts (i.e. demands of sexual access)–are punishments women receive from male gamers for stepping outside of the norm for being women and being open about it. And the people issuing the punishment blame women, like it’s our fault for refusing to behave the ways they demand of us.

    In a game where TeamSpeak is crucial to utilizing the game, hiding your gender is a very tangible setback–and another way women have to work harder to prove they’re as good at gaming as men.

    I don’t agree with Sapphire’s point that every woman who is “out” about her gender (isn’t that silly we have to come out?) has experienced harassment, but I think this article is pretty on-point with describing one way gender dynamics play out in gamer culture.

    Faith also responds to Sapphire’s post on The Girl Gamer, and points out that a lot of the sexist lines come from behind a computer screen where it’s harder to get your ass kicked. I agree: the internet doesn’t require the tact real life requires to hide wankery. The hateful things people say to attack Faith really piss me off–people seem like they go after her gender like it’s a weakness or something.

    Faith writes:

    So whether they are bagging on their team for losing and calling them a bunch of fags or bagging on you and telling you that girl gamers suck, its just how they play. Don’t take what they say personally, because they are just saying the first obvious thing they can bag on you about like sexuality or gender.

    I disagree here–I don’t think that this has to be the accepted standard for how people act in online games. Rather than develop a thicker skin (which I’m not especially blessed with), I’d rather hold men to a higher standard–I expect more out of them as decent human beings.


    November 7, 2006

    Double X-Factor

    Filed under:Gaming Women, Gender, Online Communities — Lake Desire @ 11:51 pm

    Erin Hoffman is a game journalist I was previously unfamiliar with, but I think I’m going to keep an eye on her work from now on. She wrote a piece for this week’s Escapist called The Double X-factor, that is pretty on point about how women are treated in gamer communities and why we are a minority in the game development industry. For example:

    The reality, alongside the reality of the largely over-25, non-dyed, non-Jazzercised female population in the industry, is not glamorous. It involves a steady, patient, unflinching

    process of slowly coaxing more young women into game development through direct mentorship – the same challenges faced in the even slower process of getting more women into boardrooms. This does not mean hiring someone of inferior talent simply because they are of a diverse group, as some automatically assume diversity to imply, it just means getting them in the doorway to begin with, and that means reaching out through game content and human resources. What some (white, male, 20-50-year-old) developers need to fully comprehend is that a larger talent pool is not scary.

    I’m glad the Escapist is featuring articles about women and games actually written by women these days, but I’m unhappy with some of the images they chose to accompany the article. On the second page is the shot of a woman with a tiny tiny waist stipping before a white man. She had no face. A quote from Hoffman is laid over the image and reads:

    God forbid a woman should want to play something to do with sex – someone call Nathaniel Hawthorne, stat.

    This editorial choice makes it look like Hoffman is arguing women are only interested in sex to be sexy for men–from the gaze of the male gamer, we’re another console accessory. And I think it’s fair to say Hoffman is arguing something rather contrary, with quotes like:

    The problem is that if your body type or personal style differs from the Hollywood femme-du-jour, you get called a dog – which, considering the source of these comments, is pretty damn ludicrous on its own – and if you’re attractive, it isn’t much better. Guys on the internet even seem to think they mean well in drooling over an attractive woman associated in any way with the industry, and it can be flattering at first, but in the end, it’s the same old debasement, the same old problem in a nicer wrapper: You can only be worth something as a woman if you are – scratch that, if your body is eye candy.

    Yes, women have interests our own, be them sex or gaming, that don’t stem from entertaining men!


    August 3, 2006

    Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans: 3rd Edition

    Filed under:Online Communities, Science Fiction, Site News — Lake Desire @ 10:26 pm

    Welcome to the 3rd Edition of the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans. Putting together this issue has been a pleasure; I’m learning so much about comics from you lot.

    If you’d like to host a future issue of the carnival, please E-mail ragnellthefoul AT hotmail DOT com .


    Film and Television

    Starting us off, Jen of reappropriate writes on Lois Lane in her Margot Kidder incarnation as a feminist icon:

    And despite being married to the most powerful man in the world, the flawed Lois is a reminder that what is truly breathtaking is not what Superman can do with his powers, but what humanity, particularly femininity, can do without them.

    In the category of race, LiveJournal user rachelmanija writes a two part post that analyzes the pros and cons of colorblind race casting, honing in on Star Trek.

    In another LiveJournal post, bitterfig shares her Thoughts on Lady in the Water, the latest M. Night Shyamalan film.


    Pam Noles–in “Persistence Overcomes Resistance”: Thoughts On The Black Panel at Comic Con International, 2006–recounts and analyzes the lone Black Panel at this years Comic Con:

    It’s one thing to choose to not acknowledge the myriad Other around you when you set out to do your fiction. I might even argue that this is your right, in a Woody Allen sense, if you choose to unleash your skills exploring a unique cultural subset with as much verisimilitude as you can muster to which this type of issue is not entirely applicable. But it’s something else ENTIRELY to recognize those differences, yet be too afraid to even make the attempt to engage with them on any level in the fictional worlds that you create from your soul. What’s wrong with your creator soul that the thought of realigning yourself beyond your default boundaries is so very frightful that you won’t even make the attempt? If you are too afraid to do that, perhaps it’s time to take another look at the job description.

    On the Whileaway LiveJournal Community, Ide Cyan writes on desirability of male nerds in Spider-Man: Unmasked and how it influences her purchases.

    100LittleDolls discusses Batwoman in Access to Power:

    As far as DC making the current incarnation of Batwoman a lesbian: it’s to sell books. DC in no way believes that straight women can’t be powerful, that a straight woman superhero isn’t the answer to the typical male (straight) superhero. Most of the superhero’s that we read about are straight: Wonder Woman is straight, She-Hulk is straight, Phoenix is soo straight, I could go on and on. I can only count on one hand the number of lesbian superhero’s I’m aware of.

    In Monday Misandry, Ragnell wonders if any man would actually avoid entertainment with respectul female characters.

    Katherine of Whereof one can speak writes about female characters positioned as the Other and how difficult it was for her to identify with these characters when she was a girl. From her post Costume design and reader identification; or For God’s sake, woman, put some underwear on!:

    Well, Sheeva was a very cool character in many ways. She was self-assured, confident, strong; she could make things explode with her mind. Even the above image of her is not the worst cheesecake I’ve ever seen, by a country mile: there’s no cleavage, she’s reasonably proportioned, her stance and expression are not porny and (gasp!) her shoes have flat heels.

    But she’s not wearing any underwear!

    And BANG! my eight-year-old self lost interest, just like that.

    Panties still seem to be out these days for superheroines. Karen Healey breaks down the of an upcoming issue of Supergirl in Whose Goddamn Title Is It Anyways:

    What the fuck is that miniscule ruffle that barely covers the top of her thighs? Could it possibly be made any clearer that this sixteen-year-old flying superheroine is not wearing underwear?

    If you weren’t familiar with either of these characters, based entirely on the depiction of their costumes and positions, which one would you say is capable of beating the crap out of the other without breaking a sweat?

    Who is powerful?

    Who is vulnerable?

    Yeah. And people wonder why I’m angry.

    In An Open Letter to Edgy Writers Who Write About Really Real Real Life, Dan Jacobson writes about rape as a plot device:

    You may think that this means that I think there’s something inherently wrong with dealing with sexual assault and rape in comic stories. This is not precisely true. Dealing with it is fine. But simply introducing it into the text is not the same thing as dealing with it. Simply presenting it as bad, or taking a textual stance against it, is not the same thing as dealing with it. We all know it’s bad. You won’t be blowing any minds with that stunning revelation. And yes, the same could probably be said for all violent crimes. What sets rape apart, however, is that it is a crime that, the overwhelming majority of the time, happens to women, and happens to them precisely because they are women.

    Video Games

    Guilded Lily has conducted a wonderful two part interview with game developer Tara Teich on getting more women into the game industry.

    My own entry for the carnival is Passing, in which I discuss my reasons for hiding that I’m a gamer and a geek.

    100LittleDolls–after experiencing a form of malicious alternative masculinity–declares in her post Masculinity, Nerds, and Me:

    I’m not interested in games, comics, anime, what have you, in order to prove anything. My interest is that I simply like them. I think the guys I came in contact with initially started out the same way, but found that as they grew older and had their masculinity questioned, they had to use their hobbies as a way to prove themselves. I, as a geek girl, stand in direct opposition to that, which is why I failed, after the first couple of hours, to find a common ground with them.

    That’s it for this issue! Thank you all for submitting. Keep an eye on the official carnival home for announcements involving the next issue. Until then, keep reading, writing, gaming, and opining.