September 12, 2006

Creepy Katamari

Filed under:Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 7:27 pm

I’ve got my ex-gamer roommate hooked on Katamari Damacy. Today, he played a level I’d forgotten about, Virgo, in which you collect little girls.

“Hmmm…It’s lacking a certain something…Is
it Our Royal Present? No, that’s not it. Oh, yes! We get it!
Prettiness! This sky is not pretty at all. It’s rough and
masculine. Possibly sweaty. What We really want is pure,
girlish prettiness. There should be loads of maidens like
that on Earth.” – King of All Cosmos


After three minutes of rolling a pink, heart-covered picking up children and hearing little girls scream, my roommate turned off the level. He said, “On one hand I know it’s just a crazy Japanese game, but it’s still disconcerting.” I agree: there is something unsettling, almonst violent, about collecting screaming, writhing girls and women in a game that is otherwise fun and accessible to nontraditional gamers.


July 26, 2006


Filed under:Gender, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 1:12 pm

I get a kick out of geek paraphernalia, but it isn’t something that I sport myself. In fact, I sometimes try to hide my nerdiness. I keep my video game remixes to my MP3 player and usually read on the bus instead of playing Gameboy. I’m happy to talk to strangers about cycling or veganism or feminism when I see a sign of the common interest, but I generally won’t jump into a conversation about video games in public.

I was recently at a neighbor’s party, and a guy I met asked me why I wasn’t drinking. “Don’t be a pus,” he said. I was caught off guard, so I replied very calmly, “I went on a 50-mile bike-ride today, so I really just feel like having water.” In response, the guy said he used to ride his bike to work, but it moved and now was two miles away from his home so he just drove. “I really spend most of my time on computers, at work then gaming when I get home.” He went on to me vaguely about PC gaming, and I just smiled and nodded. “Oh, that’s interesting,” I said while my gaze wandered for my roommate so I could have an excuse to escape. I could have interrupted this guy and made a comment to indicate I knew what he was talking about, that I was part of the geek club. But I decided not to. This guy was a jerk and a creep, and I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself.

In real life, I pass as a non-geek. I have legs covered in hair and scuffs and chain grease. I have waist-length curly hair. I wear clothes from Disney World, thrift-stores, and REI. I think my glasses are my only nerd-cue. So I pass as something else, someone out and proud about a lot of things, but not being a geek. I’ve let gamer become the private identity that I only share with those who get to know me and the rest of the world who happens upon my blog.

What would I have gained by giving a piece of myself to that guy at the party? What would I have gained from looking cool to someone who’d use my genitalia as an insult to bully me into drinking?

That guy reminds me of the type 100LittleDolls recently encountered. In her post Masculinity, Nerds, and Me she writes:

I’ve been thinking and thinking about the whole situation and managed to come up with this: the guys I was around were taking part in a form of alternative masculinity. They’ve suffered the consequences of not being traditionally masculine: they’re not rich, they don’t have tight bodies or physical prowess. A way for them to prove their masculinity is through wins and game scores, and extensive comic book knowledge. Another way is verbal; by using sexist and homophobic slurs, masculinity can be proved by effeminizing their peers.

100LittleDolls articulated this very well. If this is what we face as minorities in geek circles, no wonder I’m not quick to come out.


July 8, 2006

Voice Changing Software for “Lady Gamers”

Filed under:Gaming Women, Gender, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 8:30 am

Harassed in game? Now, instead of reporting the harassment to moderators or challenging the ways the game environment and culture encourage it, you have a new way of blending in and participating: disguising your voice as that of a man’s.

According to Eurogamer, there is a new software available that can change the pitch of your voice in online games like World of Warcraft with TeamSpeak so you can hide your gender.

AV Voice Changer Software is somehow a unique product for female online game players who want to prove that playing online games is not a pastime for men only, and that their talent can make male partners goggle.

This attitude suggests that the status of male gamers is desired, and women must do what they can–such as hiding their gender–to elevate themselves to be like the boys in their own club.


June 29, 2006

The World of Warcraft Community Loves Women

One of my most linked posts has been the narrative voices of women who play World of Warcraft I surveyed last winter. My questions were open ended and by no means scientific as I invited respondents to openly define themselves and their experiences as gaming women. I included excerpts from everyone who responded in the blog post I made in December.

A user on the official World of Warcraft, Bleahadin, forums has plagiarized the survey results and reposted them in their entirety. Fortunately, other users have pointed out the post is plagiarized and linked to my original post. I mind that the voices of a diverse group of women being represented as the opinion of one individual.



June 9, 2006

Humorless Feminists Ruining Gamer Fun Again

Filed under:Sexism, Writing — Lake Desire @ 8:23 am

I sometimes forget that with blogging on internet articles there is a great potential that the author will read what I have to say about her work. While I’ll call people of any gender on sexism, I want to be mindful I don’t discourage women from writing in male dominated fields like video game journalism. As I know too well from my own experiences, women who write editorials get enough hatred from misogynists. I don’t want to be another voice of discouragement when I critique. How can I help the author write a less sexist article in the future?

You know the How to transform your girl into a gamer article I blogged about the other day? The author has linked tekanji’s response and added this to her recap:

* A note from the author: if you are lucky enough to already have a tech savvy girl who dabbles in gaming from time to time, this article is not meant for you. This is not “how to transform your gamer girl into a hardcore gamer girl.” These helpful tips are for the ladies who have never held a console controller in their hands or who still think that Ms. Pac Man is the greatest game EVER. So before you flame me for being stereotypical or for suggesting that you “dumb it down” for the girls, I defy you to find me a chick who has never gamed before who could pick up an Xbox controller and play Halo out of the gate. …you won’t. Also, a pre-emptive strike for the militant femanist chicks who will flame me for being stereotypical….get a freaking sense of humor bitches!
Hugs and Kisses,

~HCG KPigl37

I think the author of the Transforming Your Girl article should try not to define gaming experiences from such an elite (male) perspective. Halo 2 is more hardcore and therefore a more accomplished game to enjoy, which negates the validity of enjoying old school games because they aren’t as serious by the guys’ standards. I think treating certain games as the ultimate goal may discourage your partner from gaming because other games she (I guess in this case we’re discussing women in heterosexual relationships) enjoys along the way might seem like they aren’t good enough.

Enough from me. I’ll leave the response to calling us militant and humorless bitches for you all. What do you make of it?


June 6, 2006

Now You Can Be a Bad Boyfriend WHILE Gaming!

Filed under:Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 4:43 pm

Josh of Cathode Tan found this beauty: How to transform your girl into a gamer! From the article’s introduction:

HCG KP1gl37 here. Guys, we need to have a talk. Is this a familiar scenario for you? You come home from a long day of work or school and are looking forward to relaxing on the couch to play a few hours of your favorite game. Within seconds, your wife/girlfriend swoops in and starts harping in your ear, “I’m not going to spend another night watching you play that stupid game for hours…blah, blah, bitch, bitch, BITCH!” Tired of hearing the same crap in your ear every day? Want to play your games in peace? Better yet, do you dream of sharing your love of gaming with that special babe in your life? Well, you came to the right place. Straight from the mouth of a female gamer, I will give you some great tips and advice to introduce the woman in your life to gaming.

The first word I noticed in that paragraph is BITCH. Why is this hypothetical girlfriend/wife sticking around?

tekanji’s snark in response to this article, How To Transform Yourself Into a Misogynist Asshole!, is priceless. My favorite:

It’s not the women who are the problem in this scenario, it’s the men! No person wants to be treated as an object for their partner’s amusement in a relationship. The men being described here — and I know they exist, because I have had the unfortunate occassions to hang out with some such losers — don’t respect women, don’t treat their girlfriends right, and then wonder why they get dumped. Telling them that their problems will be fixed by getting their nagging bitches of girlfriends into gaming solves nothing. It just lets them believe the fantasy that they don’t have to actually treat the women in their lives like they care about them, and in that scenario everyone loses.

I think the article’s author is trying to get this type of guy to approve of her by saying what she thinks they’d like to hear. She’s trying to appease both camps, and comes up insulting both women and their boyfriends by painting women as nagging and suggesting men want women to be the ones compromising.

Who’s going to write a guide to getting boyfriends to game?


June 3, 2006

Wonder Woman, E3, and Geek Culture

Filed under:Gender, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 8:54 am

tekanji has just written a lovely post on her blog about MusicPlusTV video jockey Kasey Poteet being barred from entering E3 cosplaying Wonder Woman. tekanji points out that the dress code restricts many more females than male (Rikku, Lara Croft, Blood Rayne, and more vs. Conan and the Hulk) from cosplaying the same characters whose simulated images are allowed at E3. She writes:

And E3’s enforcement of the dress code has done nothing to address this root cause. In fact, I’d go farther to say that it has covered it up like some dirty little secret. When the announcement to ban booth babes was first made, I was skeptical. And, I think this incident has caused me to realize why: the lack of booth babes at E3 has done nothing to change the boy’s club of video games, nothing to fight or even address the ever-present objectification of women, and in the end amounts to nothing but them becoming hypocritical moral police of what women can and can’t wear.

Like most manifestations of oppression that women face, this happens to males too. But this doesn’t negate that women have more restrictions.

Although she doesn’t entirely fault Kasey, tekanji also is uncomfortable with how Kasey portrays herself first as sexy and second as geeky. I think it’s important to remember the geek culture rewards women for acting this way, and although it’s my first instinct to object to women playing into the sexy geek persona, I shouldn’t fault her for going with it.


May 27, 2006

Maiden Love Revolution

Filed under:News, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 11:59 am

Ann of Feministing writes on the Dance Dance Revolution Spin-off, Maiden Love Revolution, which is apparently a best seller in Japan. From Wired:

Interactive romance novel meets management sim in Maiden Love Revolution! The PS2 game, a best seller in Japan, starts with a snack-happy ex-beauty queen who wants to get back to her dating weight. Players assume the role of 220-pound Hitomi Sakurakawa as she struggles to slim down – mostly by restricting her diet. To advance, Hitomi must count calories and increase her exercise. The game keeps stats on her progress and ultimately rewards her conformity with a boyfriend.

I enjoy playing Dance Dance Revolution; I think exercise should be fun. Who would this game be fun for? I have critiques based on the premise: it stigmatizes fat people for dating, suggests thin is healthy and withholding food achieves that “health”, and makes romantic partners into prizes for conforming to the status quo.

Based on Feministing commentors, 100littledolls reminds us to watch our ethnocentricity when critiquing other cultures:

I’m no expert on Japanese culture, but I know that there’s a lot of different genres and categories that feature games that wouldn’t fly here in the US. It’s important to note that subjects like sex aren’t viewed in the same way in Japan as it is here–we have separate cultures–but in the same breath, it’s important to recognize that Japan is a patriarchy, just like the US. We might not make sex games or weight loss games, or promote such titles in our mainstream culture, but we’re not innocent.

Very good point. As a white US blogger, I’m going to try and keep tabs on my ethnocentric American Gaze. I may have even been ethnocentric in the fact that I thought about how that game would make me feel, as an American woman, when I wrote my paragraph criticizing it.


April 19, 2006

Feminist Gaming Manifesta: Identifying Problems

Filed under:Feminism, Gender, Privilege, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 5:01 pm

A feminist gamer manifesta. About damn time somebody wrote one. Part 1 and Part 2 of the Feminist Gaming Manifesto by Matt Wilson. My post here is a response to part 1, which identifies problems in the gaming community and how they’re perpetuated.

I don’t mind that this is written by a man because feminism in theory and practice is ending sexism. Ending sexism shouldn’t be entirely women’s responsibility since we’re already oppressed by it. It is also nice to find more male allies. They’re too few in number.

I like this quote:

The result of that assumption is a set of behaviors that exclude everyone who isn’t considered part of that norm. In the case of gaming, it’s a predominantly white male group, so you end up with the assumption that the ‘normal’ gamer is also male. If that assumption manifests in game texts, rules and communities, then they can all make women feel unwelcome, even though gaming might be an activity they’d really like to participate in. It could be artwork, language in the game texts, the focus of discussions online, specific game rules, verbalized assumptions, even choice of words. Most often the things that provoke those feelings weren’t even intended. Nobody wakes up and says, “today, I’m going to oppress some women.” But when there are unquestioned assumptions at the level of the group as a whole, the results are inevitable. If you just don’t know what does and doesn’t exclude, you can’t easily avoid doing it.

I appreciate Wilson giving guys the benefit of the doubt. Most people don’t want to think of themselves as oppressors, and he’s reaching out to his peers and discussing how they can turn their well meaning intentions away from perpetuating the status quo.

Wilson also identifies many of the responses marginalized people face when raising their concerns (whether gaming or otherwise). I’m going to quote a few of them to add my two cents. On Denial and Minimizing:

Men will respond with comments like, “oh, come on, it’s not unwelcoming, you’re wrong,” or “is it really that bad? I don’t think so.” See, as the predominant group, men get to assume the right to interpret the experience of women and deny the validity of what they say. Then they get to impose their own views upon them, like “really, my game text that you think makes you feel uncomfortable is about this other thing.” If you can deny the problem, then you don’t have to take any responsibility.

I also sometimes hear that my concerns aren’t valid. I should be focusing on domestic violence or poverty or hyper-masculinity or some other “real” problem. This derails the discussion and determines what is valid. Well meaning or not, men are using their power to decide what my interests should be. (On a side note, I never say I’m not involved with other form of activism, although I don’t feel I need to bring up details from my personal life to prove myself to someone who has already intentionally disrespected me.)

On victim blaming:

When women speak up about something in various forums, men will say something like, “I think you’re just not looking at it the right way.” It’s essentially “your problem, not mine” with a polite veneer, focusing attention on the perceived limitations of women. Men are the norm, right? Everything was fine until the women complained. Any problem, then, must be from outside.

I’d like to add that sometimes women are also blamed by being told the problem is their fault. For example, a friend of mine was harassed in an online game. Rather than analyzing if and how the game environment normalizes misogyny, she was told she must have done something to attract the harassment. Want another example? Read comment 12 to Wilson’s post.

Found via Acid for Blood.


April 18, 2006

Division: A Girl’s Place in a Video Game Community

Filed under:Online Communities, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 9:51 am

My junior year of high school was the peak of my teen angst. I’d failed to find solutions to my problems in the real world–in hindsight I don’t consider them petty–so I turned to the internet for counseling. The internet became my outlet to self-destruction. I involved myself in a large online video game community.

The message board was part of a video game music website, but was hardly the focus of discussion. There were subforums dedicated to video games in general, politics, the media, intimate advice, introspective community discussions, and a free-for-all where anything was posted from nude pictures of posters to polls about which forum members you’d have sex with.

About one in ten of us identified as female (although we found out later three or four were posing). At the end of the year, contests were held for the hottest member of either gender, but it was in the “hottest female” thread with the most activity, and flaming. Those of us who posted pictures were scrutinized like we were standing before reality TV judges, ranked for our hot features and criticized for specific physical flaws. (I looked weird when I smiled too hard.) The post popular among the gazing men was a woman quick to debate with anyone uncomfortable with her nude pictures. She was the first one to prove if an image someone else posted of herself was fake. She played the same game I did… I just didn’t have a digital camera. I never became close to any of the other women who posted on these forums, but I had more than one man pursue me (I was underage at the time) and egg on this competition. The women were pitted against each other for their entertainment, and I participated because I wanted the top posters, the in-crowd, to like me.

This was not my first encounter with masculine entitlement. I’d experienced it in dating battles, and it was actually entitlement that led me there. Before finding the video game forum, I trolled (as much as you can behind your real name) the unofficial message board created by and for Advanced Placement students in my high school. (I know teachers lurked on the board, yet my multiple posts that said, “I’m depressed and want to stop feeling this way” were never answered by adults.) On there, I developed an online friendship with another poster (a senior at my high school) who liked video games. He invited me over and we hung out. I was his first friend he’d had over to his house, and he started telling people I was his girlfriend. I hadn’t consented to the title. He spent over a hundred dollars on my Christmas present (Lunar 2 for the PSX was pricey back then). I wasn’t into it, but how could I object? I’d cuddled with him and he’d spent so much money on me. How could I object to dating him? He didn’t notice I wasn’t into him, but I still felt awful when I told him I didn’t want to be his girlfriend.

It was this guy who introduced me to the video game forum, and I had other experiences on that message board I may write about in future posts. After more than a year, I withdrew from the community and cut off contact with most its members. I found online communities a hostile place where there were no immediate real life consequences for exaggerating the roles granted to you by your gender. I want to be a member of a video game community that is egalitarian and based on respect, and I’m willing to help build it.