December 31, 2005

The Stereotypical Gamer

Filed under:Gender, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 10:02 am

Bonnie Ruberg continues to give me great things to blog about. In her latest Escapist article, Puppies Aren’t for Sissies on Nintendogs and the stereotypical gamer.

A quick review of the average “serious” American gamer – both what he’s like and how he wants to be perceived – reveals the innate improbability of Nintendogs’ U.S. success. What does such a gamer appreciate? First off, technological innovation: in a technical sense, precision, in an aesthetic sense, realism. He likes racers and action adventure titles, but prefers, above all, first-person shooters. He enjoys a certain amount of competitive, in-game violence. He’s drawn to the accouterments of manliness, such as images of attractive women. What he dislikes: surrounding himself with cuteness. Doing so might make him seem weak.

Of course, in some sense, this supposedly average player doesn’t exist. That’s to say, no one is so uncomplicated as to unwaveringly meet these stereotypes. Nor is this description meant to imply that “serious” gamers can’t be completely the opposite. Everyone is different. This is merely, and literally, an averaging of current cultural prescriptions, which for better or for worse come together as an incredibly strong force in the consumer market. Sentiments like the ones outlined above make, break and shape games because they determine sales.

This brings me back to the recent stink raised by commenters on Utopian Hell who were quick to cry, “But that’s not me!” Does anyone actually believe that they are the stereotype?

Ruberg also observes that Nintendogs fans are defying the genderization of games:

At the same time Nintendogs is defying hardcore expectations, Nintendogs its defying expectations of gender, as well. In one sense, it’s bringing into question the idea of gendered game subject matter. If anything could be considered traditionally female content, taking care of adorable puppies is it; yet the title’s vast male following has obviously uprooted that assumption. The game is also defying expectations for types of gameplay. Generally, men are believed to be attracted to linear, goal-oriented play, whereas women are normally the ones more interested in fostering gradual progress and growth – the idea at the root of puppy care. Not to mention that Nintendogs is a “non-game,” and would usually be pushed to the fringes of the gaming landscape, where girl games also reside. Despite the odds though, Nintendogs has been totally mainstream-ized.

Hey, men can be nuturing and caring, too. And for once, that’s okay.


December 30, 2005

Game Girl Advance’s Year in Review

Filed under:News, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 8:07 pm

Instead of another best of the year list, Game Girl Advance looks at The Five Biggest Trends of 2005. They mention the sex and games controversy, and my favorite is 5.) Gamers Fight Back against Critics.

In 2005, as politicians grew more ferocious in their attacks on gaming, the gaming community has responded intelligently and carefully. Sure, there were the death-threats that gave Thompson even more publicity. But the overall reaction of the gaming community to criticism has been very calm and very effective.

It’s great that we have a voice, as a community, that is heard by the powerful lawyers, politicians, and judges. Way to go, everyone.


December 27, 2005

Women Who Play World of Warcraft – Survey Excerpts

The following are some excerpts from the responses I received to my World
of Warcraft survey
. Original spelling and grammar is still
intact. [Note added 6/29/06: I did not write any of this myself. These are the voices of many different women, and I did not exclude excerpts from anyone who responded.]



Women Who Play World of Warcraft – Compiled Survey Responses

As a companion to my women gamers survey, I also polled posters on the wow_ladies LJ community in November of 2005. I received 57 responses. Like my previous survey, this is by no means scientific or unbiased.

Read the original survey questions and actual excerpts.



Hot Boy-on-Boy Action

Filed under:Gender, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 1:55 pm

Astarte of Utopian Hell’s article Hot Girl-on-Girl Action recently made MMOrgy (not work safe) and IGDA and attracted some disgruntled visitors to her blog. Because the lack of options for female gamers is so mind-boggling for some in the target demographic, Astarte flips things around.

[Y]ou get to the only male option in the game. His stats are the same as all the other characters, but his story is much different, and his clothing is much different. It turns out that his parents turned him out of the family farm because he didn’t want to get married at the age of majority like every other male. Thus, he’s been forced to take his finely-honed martial arts skill out adventuring so that he can find a date. His main weapon is a quarterstaff, and his avatar is dressed in a mesh shirt, leather speedos, and he sports a constant hardon.

You’re not too thrilled with the female avatars, and want to play something you can relate to a bit more. Unfortunately, the male avatar only fits the bill in so far as gender. He’ll just have to do. Maybe you’ll be able to find some armor along the way to cover up his protruding nipples and bulging sack. At least he’s muscular, that’s a plus.

Yikes. I almost feel sorry for our token male character.


December 26, 2005

Privilege to Game

Filed under:Gender, Privilege, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 10:30 pm

While I was jotting down a list of the gifts I received for Christmas, I thought about a remark I made on yesterday’s entry about boycotting sexist games. Often, being able to boycott is a class and wealth privilege because you need access and money to patron alternatives to unethical companies.

When I worked at Walt Disney World on its college program, I lived in an apartment complex and rode buses provided by companies that Disney contracted. One bus route included hourly runs to Walmart on certain days of the week. Walmart is a store I choose not to spend my money at, so I found the location of a Publix grocery store. There were three ways I could get there: rides from roommates with cars, taking an on call shuttle that made special trips to the Publix, or taking the contracted bus to another Disney housing complex that was a mile walk from the store. Taking the “on-call” shuttle would require a cell phone (a privilege) or finding a pay-phone or phone to borrow. I was able to get rides from roommates (who had cars–again, a privilege) on a few occasions, but generally walked to the store, where I endured the summer heat and the shouts and honks from passing cars while I carried my groceries. Even after all that, I was still able to afford to purchase organic and prepared health foods because my parents gave me money to supplement the $100 US I averaged (after rent, which Disney deducted from my pay check, and taxes) after a 40+ hour work week. Being middle class, even when I working a job that paid less than my home state of Washington’s minimum wage, allowed me to have the privilege of boycotting.

Being able to game is a privilege. Being able to boycott is a privilege. I have the power to engage in the leisure activity, and try to change things about it that I don’t like. In the spirit of invisible knapsacks and unpacking them, and this blog’s themes, below I’ve listed some of the ways my situation has given me an advantage over others in relation to technology. I am an American, white, from a Christian family, middle-class, young, able-bodied, average-sized, and non-transexual.

  • I can decide what technology is valuable, and look down on those who do not have access to technology or choose not to use it.
  • I can ignore my positions of power. I didn’t think to preface this post with a disclaimer of the American-centric point of view.
  • I can decide what products to boycott, afford to boycott them, and criticize others for not boycotting them.
  • I can have an ad-free blog.
  • When I purchase a game, my payment is unlikely to be questioned because of my physical appearance or dress.
  • I grew up with a computer, and was taught how to operate one and type in school. I grew up with video games and access to them.
  • I can afford a cell-phone and a laptop.
  • I have the leisure time to game.
  • I can afford to purchase the newest games and technological gadgets.
  • I can drive to the store to immediately purchase something I decide I want, and can afford to pay shipping if I choose to purchase it online.
  • I can decide what others could afford or should purchase if only they didn’t spend their money on what I define as frivolous.
  • Games are written in a language that is familiar to me.. Game reviews and magazines are written in a language I understand, and “experts” are usually from my race and class.
  • I can use the internet as a tool to reach others like myself.
  • I can determine which genres of games are valuable and which are “beneath me.”
  • I can easily find games that represent members of my own race.

    Links to Privilege Checklists and Articles

    Here’s a collection of privilege checklists I’ve come across online. I’ll update it as I find more, and please share suggestions for additions.

    The Male Privilege Checklist

    Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack White privilege checklist by Peggy McIntosh, who started privilege checklists.

    Social Class Privilege — Beyond Ethnicity, Gender, and Religion

    Non-Poor Privilege Checklist
    The Invisibility of Class Privilege

    Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack II: Sexual Orientation

    Able-bodied Privilege : Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    Non-Trans Privilege

    The Costs of American Privilege Not a checklist, but I still wanted to include American privilege.

    Fatshadow’s Average-sized Privilege Checklist
    Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of Sexual Conservatism…

    Heterosexism 101

    Last update: March 14, 2006

  • end

    Alienating Audiences

    I’d never really been oblivious to the portrayal of gender in video games, but Final Fantasy X-2 was the first game that prompted articulation on being alienation as a “minority” gamer–and the first time decided to boycott a product I considered sexist. I had previously found the Final Fantasy series appealing to a diverse group of gamers, at least in my own sphere, because of their density. The games had something for everyone: storylines and complex plots, dialogue and character development, turn-based battles with room for high level achievements and character customization, and a plethora of minigames with more fun to offer than many stand-alone titles on the same consoles. Although I didn’t play any Final Fantasy games until VII, playing SNES Square RPGs with similar appeal, like Super Mario RPG and Chrono Trigger, during adolescence kept me interested in gaming when other friends began to move on.

    Final Fantasy X-2 wasn’t my first disappointment in the series (particularly my first time in Spira), but it was the first time that I felt this game is for someone other than me. I didn’t even have a chance to get excited about a role-playing game with an all female party; I remembered just how “strong” a character Yuna was from the last game. When the screenshots and production art made the forums, and I saw pictures like this (a declaration of the game’s intended audience), I thought they were a joke. A Final Fantasy game about collecting outfits? Although many thought the upcoming game looked cheap and insulting, others seemed to be missing the point. I recall reading articles and forum posts written by male gamers who were excited that more games like FFX-2 and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball were coming out with things women like, shopping and clothes, so girls can have fun gaming, too. Like they thought the game was for women.

    I did eventually borrow a copy of FFX-2 and found some fun playing it. I enjoyed the battle system (even if the bosses were a little easy), but I got the most joy mocking the game itself with friends (another blog post entirely).

    This tangent was prompted by a link MMOrgy (not work safe) to a discussion on the World of Warcraft forums prompted by this poster expressing feelings of alienation by not fitting into the target demographic group:

    I think it’s fair to say that the female armor art is generally designed to be ’sexy’, while the male armor art is not. I assume this means that Blizzard is more interested in the demographic that likes their fantasy in a ‘Heavy Metal’ style, than the demographic that is offended by that representation of women.

    I also don’t see any sign that Blizzard acknowledges that these design decisions alienate some of their potential player base. They are either oblivious, or don’t care. In either case, I can’t really continue to support them with my money.

    I haven’t read many of the following 500 posts, so I can only guess if the first page is typical of the rest of the discussion/flame-war. On cue, the first reply is the Voice of Male Privilege with “You’re reading too much into things”. (Ironically, the poster asks “There are no overweight people either. Hell, a large number of minorities are missing. Is this an indictment by Blizzard for white superiority and magazine attractiveness? No.” Funny, I answer yes.) The third poster says he (I’m picking the male pronoun because the avatar is male) also cancelled his account because “i have tried to speak out about it and have been silenced by blizzard. clearly, it is time for me to stop giving them my money.” Quitting isn’t a bad way to do something about it.


    December 24, 2005

    For the Last Minute Shopper

    Filed under:Gaming Women, Gender, News — Lake Desire @ 4:02 pm

    For you procrastinators, Tekanji has just written a geek-friendly gift guide. All you evolutionary biology fans will be pleased because “all women love puzzle games; it has something to do with snakes and evolution.”

    Also, Game Girl Advance is back from hiatus.


    December 22, 2005


    Filed under:Gender, Massively Multiplayer Online Games — Lake Desire @ 4:55 pm

    Bonnie Ruberg has a new article out for Wired called Cyberporn Sells in Virtual World (not work safe). Her article looks at Slustler, a virtual pornographic magazine in the MMO Second Life. The magazine features touched up pictures of nude or partially-nude avatars. Something is missing, though.

    Why does Slustler only take female models? “It’s mostly for aesthetic reasons,” said Struszka. “In Second Life, the choices for women to design themselves in interesting and attractive ways are much greater than those for men. Plus, “with so many women that are actually men in real life, there seems to be a clear demand for female figures from both genders.”

    Again, a limited type of sexuality is being portrayed when half the population is excluded.


    December 21, 2005

    When Being a Female Geek Isn’t Enough

    Filed under:Gaming Women, Gender — Lake Desire @ 9:54 pm

    Rocky Mountain News reports that ‘Gorgous geeks’ get some exposure. Software programmer Lilac Mohr “was tired of being the only woman in the office other than the receptionist” and decided to defy geek stereotypes. But by defying stereotypes, some of the models seem to be fulfilling others.

    As to whether the calendar objectifies women, Mohr said it wasn’t her original intent for the models to show quite so much skin. But many of them wanted to in order to poke fun at their nerdy images, she said.

    Read more at the Geek Gorgeous official calendar website.