La la la I’m not listening (to online sexism).

One of the big stories this week has been around one of the (female) Bioware writers, Jennifer Hepler, being a target of rants on reddit. Naturally, because she’s female and they’re ranty gamers, this took on a sexist note very very quickly. I’m not saying that this per se is better or worse than the random death threats that male writers also get, but it’s definitely an unpleasant thing.

One thing this clarified in my mind is that how my favourite blogs and news sites respond to this type of ‘story’ is going to strongly affect whether I’m going to bother reading them in future. The internet is not about freedom of speech, it’s about being able to curate the views and content you receive. None of the websites that posted those hateful comments chose to moderate them out. They could have done, but they didn’t.

So I’ll stick with sites like:

(Both links are to coverage of this story which is respectful to Ms Hepler while still discussing her views, and gives no space to the haters.)

I realise there is a portion of the gaming fraternity for whom getting online and talking racist, sexist, homophobic smack talk is part of the fun, but they are not my community and I’m not interested in any websites which actively engage with them. I’m also not interested in playing any games with them. LTM (learn to moderate).

A Game of Hormones

While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.

I realise this is mostly a gaming blog, but I felt it was probably worth dropping in a quick comment about female geeks. Both me and Spinks are female, and you may have guessed that geekiness runs proudly in our blood. As children we asked for the original D&D boxset to play with our other sister, and we’ve been playing tabletop and computer RPGs ever since. We read sci-fi and fantasy along with more ‘mainstream’ fiction, but honestly, for me the SF fiction IS mainstream, it’s what my friends read, it’s what I enjoy most. We read comics, we understand the tech we use, we love gadgets as much as any of our male friends. And – we both LOVED the Song of Ice and Fire series and are very excited about the forthcoming HBO adaptation of ‘A Game of Thrones’ (starting on sunday 17th in the US and monday 18th in the UK).

The above quotation is a clip from the New York Times preview of the show, written by a woman. It’s quickly becoming infamous, as women around the internet step up to rubbish its claims. It’s worth a read purely because it’s a really bad piece of journalism. Not because the comments about women offend me, but because it makes so few comments  about characterisation, storyline, style – all the things I might want to know about a TV show that’s new. Instead, it comments about the sexual shenanigans and the genre – clearly one the writer doesn’t enjoy one bit. Even in reference to the sex on the show, she writes:

The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise.

Yeah, I watch shows for the sex scenes, I really do. Especially while my husband can enjoy all the politics, violence and swordplay. What am I looking forward to about the show, for that matter? Well, seeing the deep and rich characters from the books brought to life with sumptuous settings and HBO financing. I’ve read the books, my husband hasn’t, as it happens. We’re going to see how differently we react to the TV show while watching it together. I do love fantasy books, he tends to prefer hard science fiction. But when I recommend ‘A Game of Thrones’ to people (and remember I work in a library so I get to do this a fair bit), it’s because it’s not all swords and sorcery – it’s got incredibly complex characters and storylines, politics plays more of a role than magic and there are NO ELVES (yet!). It’s fantasy but written more like a historical novel (a genre of books that, by the way, seems to appeal to women as much as to men from my basic observations at work). And I think because of all the intrigue and the fantastic setting, it fits really well within the HBO remit that includes True Blood, The Sopranos, Rome and The Wire. In fact, I think it relates more to Rome than to True Blood, if it comes down to it.

The article has received many better responses than I could ever give. Here’s a selection of my favourites:

Reading them gives me hope!

Don’t go adventuring without your makeup bag

This is a post I half wrote ages ago but put aside because I thought it was kind of petty. But I was playing with the character generation on the Rift beta and suddenly it took me right back.  One of the options you get on female characters is to select one of about 10 different styles of makeup. Rift is by no means the only game that assumes you would want to dress up your (female) character with dramatic makeup, it’s just the latest that caught my eye.

riftmakeup

They’ve put a lot of graphical effort into the makeup design in this game. I noticed that it’s race specific (the Eth for example, have egyptian style heavy kohl on the eyes) and quite artfully done. Maybe they have a would-be makeup artist on staff. (My major beef, for what it’s worth, is that on one of the races there seemed to be a permanent pout with lipgloss that I couldn’t get rid of. I really dislike lipgloss.)

riftmakeupelf

I can understand why characters in a game might be given the option to wear make-up, even though I think it’s silly for a fighting adventurer to have access to a full makeup kit and use it like a film star. It’s part of daily life for a lot of people, and I know women who don’t consider themselves properly dressed without a layer of slap. I can understand why city dwellers or nobles in other settings might have the option to wear make-up too, it’s been a part of human interaction for thousands of years.

riftmakeupdrarf

I even get that we’re all bombarded with images of pretty women with expertly applied make-up in TV, films, adverts, and so on so it’s natural that a lot of players want that look for their character. In a game world where you can go into battle in a platemail bikini and high heels (hi Aion), it doesn’t seem smart to quibble about a bit of face paint.

I’m also impressed by the amount of effort the Rift artists put into all the different makeup combinations on the different races. These screenshots don’t really do the face paint justice.

Even though it feels like a lot of effort for something that no one else will ever really see in game, including the player – I mean how often do you stare another character in the face from close enough range to see their makeup?

rifteth

But it does my head in to imagine makeup as being a fixed thing that you have to decide on at character generation and can never actually change afterwards. And please please please give me the option to turn off the lip gloss.

Links for the Summer’s end

Hope you all are having a good weekend. It actually isn’t raining here which is astounding because it is both August Bank Holiday and Festival weekend (I’m not going this year but can hear it from my house).

  1. Peter Molyneaux reckons that Americans find it harder to play evil characters than Europeans or Japanese. Write up via The Escapist and Game Set Watch.
  2. Brian Crecente@Kotaku enjoyed trying Diablo III’s witch doctor at Gamescom, but wonders how much of that is down to nostalgia. Do we like games because they’re good or because they remind us of other games we used to like?
  3. Game by Night has some good advice for avoiding keyloggers, and how to get rid of them if you do pick one up.
  4. Kinless is getting conflicted signals from Blizzard. On the one hand they encourage alts (heirloom gear, new classes) but on the other hand … where are the new character slots? Do Blizzard love alts or hate them?
  5. There are a few games in open beta at the moment. Julian@Kill Ten Rats asks whether Open Betas really work as beta tests.
  6. Rohan ponders why players hate the new faction leaders in WoW so much – Garrosh and Varian are not well liked.
  7. Romantic subplots in games like Mass Effect and KOTOR are not without their critics. I have said before that it felt to me like ‘select the right options and get the girl’. Kotaku points to an article on gamecritic.com by Alex Raymond who argues that games present a model where sex is given out as a reward (just like epics), not shown as part of an ongoing relationship.
  8. G Christopher Williams at Popmatters asks why it’s always more fun to kill Nazis, and whether it matters.
  9. Runeforge Gossip has some advice for anyone who wants him to respond to their LFG(uild) posts.
  10. That’s a Terrible Idea unearth the rotting corpse of the GNS model and ask how we can get more simulationism in our MMOs. How can we focus more on immersion and the experience of being a ((insert race/class/etc here)) and less on achievements and rewards?
  11. Tobold gets some interactive drama going with his readers, otherwise known as the Is he? (Gevlon) or Isn’t he? dance. Personally I’m so happy to get any comments at all that I’m not inclined to mess with people’s heads just for the sake of it … or am I?

Blogs about new games

There were a lot of announcements about new games during cons recently, and we’re not done yet. If you want to follow the news about an upcoming  game, why not subscribe to one of the blogs and let someone else do the work? :)