February 27, 2006

Memorial for Octavia Butler

Filed under:News, Science Fiction, Writing — Lake Desire @ 10:40 pm

Pacific Northwest readers: there is going to be a memorial for Octavia Butler at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle on March 2nd, 2006, at 7:30 pm. My class schedule will make it difficult for me to attend, but if I am able to make it down to Seattle I’ll post here so I know to say hi to any readers attending.

Tip-off on Whileaway. Also information there on a memorial in New York March 3rd.

I’ve also posted a bit more about Octavia Butler on tekanji’s blog, including links to some of her work available online.


Reconstructing Video Games

Filed under:Feminism, Gender, Ludology, News, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 1:50 pm

Just as I’m identifying the social body as a type of virtual body for my research paper on the traffic of virtual bodies, I find the latest issue of Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture is on The Play’s the Thing: Games, Gamers and Gaming Cultures via Academic Gamers.

Articles of interest include Geeks at Play: Doing Masculinity in an Online Gaming Site, More Than Girlfriends, Geekettes, and Gladiatixes: Women, Feminism, and Fantasy Role-Playing Games, and When a Killer Body Isn’t Enough’: Cross-Gender Identification in Action-Adventure Video Games, among lots of other titles.

I’ll review the journal when I can and hopefully report back with my responses to some of the articles.


February 25, 2006

Not Quite What I Picture When I Hear “Girl Gamer”

Some recent attention has come to my World of Warcraft survey on the the play girlz and WOW Insider. The latter site posted a follow up on “girl gamers” yesterday.

The the three images at the top of this entry are the images displayed in the three linked posts, the first from the play girlz and the second two from WOW Insider. The first is a screenshot of a blood elf, an upcoming playable race very similar to the in-game appearance currently playable night elves. The second image is official art for an undead female (very much unlike her appearance in game, which is not mainstream “sexy”), and the third is another image of a blood elf. The breasts are the center of the second and third images, nipples outlined in the last picture.

I’m not sure that the post authors themselves selected these images or not, but it is ironic to read criticism of the sexism women encounter in World of Warcraft besides images of sexualized characters. Portraying female characters as highly sexualized reduces them to objects with a single identity: their attractiveness. That attractiveness caters to the hegemonic heterosexual male–the gamer with the loudest voice in World of Warcraft. This portrayal fuels harassment by the dominant player who has difficulty seeing beyond the sex appeal before him. If he sees women in World of Warcraft as foremost a hottie, he believes she is there for his pleasure and treats her accordingly.

Edit: Elizabeth of WOW Insider recropped the images. They look much more tasteful.


February 23, 2006


Filed under:News, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 8:21 am

I’m alive, I swear! There are just a few weeks left in the quarter, so I’m swamped with school work. Hopefully I’ll be able to kick lots of posts out over spring break. In the mean time, here are some links to what I’ve enjoyed reading lately.

Through Guilded Lilies, two blogs I recently discovered, by graduate students studying video games from a feminist persepctive: Netwoman and Joanna’s Adventures in Academia.

Specific Posts:

the play girlz gaming blog: The Women in WoW: Blogger Ingrid analyzing the results from the WoW survey I posted in December. I just plunked down the words from those who obliged me a response without much public analysis, so it is great to see others looking into what was said.

Wonderland: The Shopping Game: This line, in response to a Sega shopping/fighting game targeted towards teenage girls, made me crack up:

It’s a well-worn and well-loved cliché that in order to get more females playing video games, you need fewer violent, murderous games and more games about.. er.. shopping. And things. Puppies, maybe. Cooking. Singing, dancing. Torturing people. Woops, who said that?

Yay for irony! And properly pointed out, the guys are going to enjoy this game just as much (I say more–look who enjoyed Final Fantasy X-2 and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball) as the official target audience.

Man Bytes Blog: It’s Just a Game: This post debunks the “it’s just a game” defense us “sensitive” types have thrown at us when we oppose racism, sexism, or in the case of this post, homophobia in video games. Corvus offers this chilling observation:

Chillingly, I suspect those who quickly cry “it’s just a game” as an attempt to deride arguments, or to justify inappropriate behavior, are being consistent. If that’s the case, I can all too easily hear them saying, “It’s only one restaurant,” or, “it’s not even a very good movie theater,” every time they are exposed to an argument about injustice. But of course, it’s never just a single game, or one restaurant, or a single theater. When people feel free to express hateful views or act upon unspoken bigotry, it’s always a sign of deeper issues within our social space.

And I liked to hope that comments like this were just confined to the internet, where there are fewer consequences for being an ass.


February 19, 2006

Exploring the Gendered Value of Virtual Bodies

Filed under:Site News — Lake Desire @ 11:57 am

The end of the quarter at my university is getting close, so I’m plunging into the first draft of my research paper for my cyborg anthropology class. I’m fascinated by the economic value of virtual property–and cyber bodies–and the implications of their tangibility. My preliminary questions:

The boundary between virtual worlds and real life grows more fluid as virtual worlds become more ubiquitous. One such way the virtual worlds infiltrate reality is the value assigned to virtual property. Items and currency are sold for real life currency. More interestingly, real world monetary values are assigned to virtual bodies.

In this paper, I will explore some of the following questions: What defines a virtual body? Why is there an inequality between values of female and male avatars? What implications does monetary value on a virtual persona have towards the real world?

If anyone wants to volunteer their economics background, I’d love to drill you. I’ve never studied economics so it’s a bit new to me. If anyone knows any articles or books I should check out, also please let me know. So far, I’ve been consulting the Video Game Theory Reader, Virtual Gender, and Synthetic Worlds. I wanted to incorporate gender, my pet interest, in studying virtual economics, and this paper by Edward Castronova inspired the angle.


February 18, 2006

Gender Equality in Asian Gamers

Filed under:Gender, News, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 10:04 pm

Gamasutra’s industry news reveals that a Study Shows Gaming Gender Equality in Asia. The study found that:

Asian men and women are on par with one another when it comes to playing online video games. 50% of respondents from Asian nations who answered affirmatively to playing online games were male, which 49% were female.

I find it interesting that males being equal to females in Asia is the highlight of the study. It found that North American, European, Austalian (as other studies have shown) women outnumber men as online game players. It’s news when the men catch up to the women in something dominated by females.

The report also covered other regions of the globe, each of which was more weighted toward female online gamers. In North America, the male to female ratio was 39% to 52%; in Europe, it was 28% to 39%, and in Australia, it was 27% to 53%. (No South American or African nations are included among the 13 that Global Digital Living surveys.)

I’d like to know who is playing online games in South America and Africa. Access to computers and the internet is a luxury and privilege even moreso in some places than other, especially in regions where the cost of access is more than the average household income.


February 17, 2006

My Nerdy Lady

Filed under:Gender, News, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 10:37 am

Critiquing articles in the online gamer magazine Escapist is becoming a new duty of mine. Bruce Nielson’s article, My Gamer Lady, has prompted much commentary from me. He begins by affirming the happiness and power he finds in nerdhood. Cool. I love being a nerd and found empowerment through my geeky persuits, so I can relate. Until the second sentence in:

If women like big muscled men because evolution adapted them to be attracted to the strongest hunters during our hunter/gather phase, a thousand years from now, women will be attracted to guys with taped eyeglasses and fetishes for Lord of the Rings, because – let’s face it – nerds now rule the world!

Oh, snap! It’s male nerds who rule. (I’m disappointed Nielson doesn’t go any further into this claim, but I do appreciate the jab at evolutionary biology. At least I hope that’s a jab.)

Before his marriage, Nielson hid his geekiness from his dates:

I’m pretty sure quite a few women secretly never went out with me again when they discovered my dark secret. I quickly learned that potential dates would stay “potential” unless I learned to obscure that part of me.

There is an undertone of women are shallow because they aren’t interested in me here. Did Nielson wonder why it was difficult for him to date a woman who accepted or even shared his geeky interests? It is also interesting that Nielson felt the need to slowly introduce his girlfriend-progressing-to-wife to games slowly, through . Instead, he could have examined why fewer women were as compelled by video games as he. Perhaps they felt isolated by games because they couldn’t find representations of themselves in characters.

I challenge my readers and fellow bloggers to analyze the conflict of interests Nielson finds between his wives affinity towards “chick flick” storylines and his aversion to such.


Escapist Twofer

Filed under:News, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 7:54 am

Today’s Escapist Magazine Extra is comprised of not one, but two articles of interest: My Gamer Lady by Bruce Nielson and Infinite Princesses by Kyle Orland. Snarky commentary will ensue shortly, perhaps starting with the ball and chain image on the first article. In the mean time, read up.


February 14, 2006

Orgasm: Game Over

Filed under:Gender, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 7:51 am

Bonnie Rueberg is giving me lots to blog on this morning. On her blog, Heroine Sheik, she discusses games in which the goal is to make female characters climax in a post entitled Orgasm: the Ultimate Game. She examines the potential for well-intentions in the premise:

In real-life sex men — or so we commonly perceive — care more about their own pleasure than that of their female partners. Yet in these games, only female excitement matters. Does this represent some largely-unexpressed desire to care for a woman’s sexual needs?

Rueberg’s conclusions are ones I can agree with:

Female orgasm, in becoming a game, also becomes a meter of player skill. What matters isn’t that the girl orgasms, but that the (usually male) player has been able to make her do it.

In this way, female orgasm is used as a barimeter of masculinity. But, keep in mind, these games (for some players, at least) are also arousing. So are these men aroused by the on-screen girls’ reactions, or their ability to, literally, play her?

Rueberg’s post identifies how such video games hide under the guise of women’s pleasure. In reality, however, they are ultimately another way for men to define and control women under their own gaze.

Her meditations on such games’ lack of penetration are ones I will ponder, and hope she’ll address further in future posts.


Looking for Interviewees: Gamers who Bender-bend

Filed under:Gender, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, News — Lake Desire @ 7:38 am

Game journalist and blogger Bonnie Rueberg is looking for gamers who swap genders in Massively Multiplayer Online Games. She is putting together gamer profiles for an upcoming Terra Nova post. From her blog:

I’m putting together a short list of profiles of players who present cross-gender in MMO’s for a post on Terra Nova. It’s nothing formal, and I don’t need names or explanations (See it all goes back to your childhod…), just a brief description of what you’re like in RL — things like, what you do for a living, how old you are, what you look like, what your hobbies are, how long you’ve been gaming — and an even briefer description of what you’re like in-world.

So, if you’re interested in sharing a little bit about yourself, feel free to email me at bonnie [at] heroine-sheik [dot] com, or, if you’re feeling brave, leave a comment here on the site.

Have fun, all you gender-benders. I’ll link the Terra Nove post here when it’s released.