May 31, 2006

Survey for Daughters of the Tech Revolution

Filed under:Gaming Women, Gender, News — Lake Desire @ 3:19 pm

If you’re an American woman born between 1970 and 1985, you can participate in a Georgia State University survey on Daughters of the Revolution: Females Born in the ’70’s & Early ’80’s, Writing, and the Digital Revolution. I’m filling it out now.

Via Netwoman.


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.


May 26, 2006

“It’s just a video game, why don’t you focus on a *real* issue?”

Filed under:News — Lake Desire @ 6:46 am

When critically discussing video games, I often see responses like, “It’s just a video game, why don’t you focus on a real issue?” tekanji has a wonderful new post up on her blog called Debunking the Myth of Frivolty in her new series on understanding pop culture.

She writes:

What I’m trying to say is that when you label an issue as “not real” in an attempt to dismiss the person speaking about it, the word “real” loses all meaning. It becomes shorthand for “things I believe in,” but, guess what? Just because you believe that one thing is more important than another doesn’t invalidate the subject at hand. Novel concept, I’m sure! You don’t think pop culture is important? Great, there’s the back button. Hit it and find a subject that does interest you.

Think studying pop culture, including video games, is a waste of time? Well, we’ve all got different interests. Don’t waste your time by telling us that. Instead, find what you think is a real issue and work on it. No need to come back here and report to us.


May 21, 2006

Terra Nova Discusses Colonialism in World of Warcraft

Filed under:Race, Videogames, World of Warcraft — Lake Desire @ 8:03 am

In response to my post yesterday on Race and World of Warcraft, commenter Dave linked me to a recent Terra Nova article on Cultural Borrowing in WoW. Blogger Greg L quotes an undergrad paper:

The clearest indication of colonial awareness can be seen in relation to the excerpts concerning the Horde and Alliance cities. The majority of the respondents note that, in some form or fashion, that the “Horde seem to be more tribal or barbaric. Much more primitive or backward…. The Alliance cities are paragons of sturdiness, whimsy, technology, and nature. This reinforces the idea that the Alliance are the ‘good guys’ by being more advanced.” Part of this thought process seems to reflect a certain measure of acknowledgement for the ‘European’ or Western bias built into the good vs. evil dichotomy in the game. As one interviewee puts it, “Alliance cities are cleaner and more epic. Even the music is epic.”

No wonder there are so many more alliance players than horde!

The post was slashdotted, so there is a huge discussion going on. If you have time to wade through the comments, feel free to pull some of them to discuss here.

The Terra Nova post also links to a Gameology call for resources discussing Race and Video Games. Commenters were able to find some references, but race in video games seems even less examined than gender is. I wonder if most writers don’t feel qualified to write on race, like it’s something other people experience. It’s not; white is a race, too, and we can talk about it.


Bonnie Rueberg on Virtual Prostitution

Filed under:Online Communities — Lake Desire @ 7:47 am

Journalist Bonnie Rueberg of Heroine Sheik has written an interesting post on virtual prostitutes. Although my views vary from hers, I’m always happy to see another writer respect the people who are prostitutes first as humans and not victim-blamed scourges of society. She points out that virtual worlds create a safe place for people to:

Of course, virtual prostitution has fewer risks and is easier to get started in that real-life prostitution, but the point isn’t to say the two are the same. No, the point is this: If players across the country can be finding liberation in online sex working, why can’t real-life workers be doing the same?

Virtual worlds aren’t entirely safe spaces–most of us have experienced harassment online–but there is an increased physical safety when sex takes place online. I don’t believe we can have a sex industry free of exploitation in a world entangled with institutional oppression. That oppression bleeds over from the meat world into virtual worlds, but virtual worlds are a place where you can be empowered by enjoying sex without (I hope) getting STDs, beat, pregnant, indebted, or arrested.


May 20, 2006

Racialized Trafficking of Bodies in World of Warcraft

Last quarter, in my cyborg anthropology class, I wrote a paper called “The Traffic of Virtual Bodies in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games.” I was nominated to share my paper in my university’s scholars week, and joined two of my classmates to present a fifty minute talk on World of Warcraft. To embody how ubiquitous World of Warcraft is, the classroom was standing-room-only. My first classmate showed us a slide show of the gamer’s architecture and talked about the ideas of real world cultures invoked by Blizzard. My second classmate logged in the game and showed us her tauren. She discussed how taking on a virtual avatar is a posthuman experience. I spoke last and discussed how I categorize the virtual bodies in MMORPGs by the individual, social, and political bodies and how they partake in the game’s economic body and are all trafficked for real world currency. Our presentation was a hit, and we had a great Q&A with the audience. I’m happy my first presentation to a big group (outside of the classroom) went so well. I closed by saying although I believe video games in many ways are sexist, racist, and classist, it’s okay to both critique and enjoy them, and that I’m optimistic people like us can demand games become more progressive.

As my classmate pointed out, Blizzard invokes what the (supposedly) mainstream male gamer wants. I left thinking about this, and wonder how much the audience becomes what the game designers think it is. Gamers may become the audience through a self-fulfilling prophesy when we either conform to their status quo or drop out when we’re told this game isn’t for us.

I personally find it racist for cultures to be appropriated and re-marketed as what the hegemonic white male gamer is told he should want (which gives the message that you’re the secondary audience if you’re a person of color and queer and a woman). I’ll use the tauren race as an example. As my classmate pointed out, tauren villages are decorated with long houses, teepees, totem poles, and a dream-catchers to represent a pan-Native American culture. Thousands of indigenous nations are lumped together, painted primitive, and sold to the Western gaze.

During my presentation, I brought up Ed Castronova’s finding that female avatars sell for 12% less than male avatars. I notice that because gender doesn’t affect the mechanics of gameplay, people are paying more for the desired social role in the game. I find this phenomenon fascinating, and I hope I have a chance to study it more in school and blogging.

I realize that cultures are appropriated and sold in video games, and gender influences the trafficking of virtual bodies (as feminist theorist Gayle Rubin points out, women are trafficked for gender alone), so I wonder… how is the traffic of virtual bodies racialized? I don’t have an answer yet. Your thoughts*?

*I expect you to respect my opinion that race is a social construct and racism is institutionalized when participating in discussions here. Do not derail the conversation to argue otherwise.


May 14, 2006

Thank You For Gaming, Mom!

Filed under:Gaming Women, Personal, Site News — Lake Desire @ 4:00 pm

Happy mother’s day, Mom! Thank you for raising me to be a compassionate, independent, confident person. And thank you for introducing me to video games. My earliest memories of gaming include watching you kick butt on Super Mario World. I hope you pick up the controller again now that Logan and I are grown.



May 11, 2006

Erase Racism Call for Submissions

Filed under:News — Lake Desire @ 6:54 am

Rachel of Rachel’s Tavern and Ally Work is putting together the first issue of the Erase Racism Carnival. More details:

Our theme is: What is racism? We are looking for essays/posts that describe racism, from a personal perspective, a group perspective, or at the societal level. All are welcomed to submit. Submissions can be made at this address. Submissions will be open until May 18th, and the Carnival will be posted on the 20th.

I encourage all of you game bloggers to analyize race in video games. If you don’t have your own blog, please feel free to E-mail me about hosting a post here. I don’t see much race analysis of video games (maybe I’m not looking in the right place?) and need to start writing more of it myself.

Also, a quick plug: I’ll be hosting the Carnival of Empty Cages on on June 1, 2006 and need submissions! From the call for submissions:

The issue’s theme will be passion. What animal liberation or veganism/vegetarianism gets you going? Spending time with your companion animals? Inventing recipes? Working at a shelter? Building solidarity with other social activists? Raising vegan children? The theme is just a suggestion, of course. You don’t need to be vegan to participate so long as your post isn’t contradictory to the carnival’s dedication to animals, animal liberation, and animal rights. If you write a special interest blog, I encourage you to discuss animals in relation to your blog’s theme.

I bet most of you have had a special relationship with an animal in your life (even if it’s your Neopet or Nintendog), so you’re welcome to write about that even if you aren’t an animal rights type. It’s a great chance to promote your blog to a new set of readers.


May 10, 2006

A Focus Group Recap

Filed under:Gaming Women, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 6:59 pm

A few weeks ago, 100LittleDolls was told she couldn’t attend a focus group on the X-men games because she is a woman. Her partner, Shions_Glasses, went in her place and has posted on the discussion. He spoke out for female gamers in a place we weren’t allowed:

The highlight of the afternoon, however, was the description of X-Men Femme Force. In this concept, Mystique releases a virus that affects all the male X-men leaving only the women left to stop her. Kind of a corny story, but having an all female mutant cast would be pretty cool. I read on though, and discovered a main part of the game would be to “dress up” your characters in different outfits, then it made a reference to DOA and claimed that the game would be just as sexy. Ouch. Costume changes are great, but the X-women aren’t dolls, they’re freedom fighters. To my surprise, I wasn’t the first person to speak up. Two other people in the group informed everyone that their girlfriends were gamers and played the first two Legends along with them. They said that they were extremely disappointed that they couldn’t come to the focus group. I also spoke up and related 100littledolls’ plight. We agreed that we would play a game with an all woman cast. I then pleaded with them to not objectify these characters–I told them that it would be unnecessary and offensive.

I like to think the best of people, so it’s a bit alarming that game designers can really be so clueless! Shions_glasses spoke up for female gamers in a place we weren’t allowed, and I hope this leads to regular all women and mixed gender focus groups at Activision.


May 7, 2006


Filed under:Site News — Lake Desire @ 11:07 am

I’ve declared today official New Game Plus delurk day. That means come out from behind the monitor and introduce yourself. I especially want to hear from those of you who know me in real life and secretly read my blog like I don’t know.