Gamers have an Image Problem

Abstract: This image problem is rooted in a failure by the mainstream media (and film) to treat video games as an acceptable pastime, making gaming “a dirty word“, and perpetuating the notion that women shouldn’t have authorship over technology around them. The male gaming community is only partially responsible, and this will be discussed in a subsequent post. This post was formulated after analyzing video game coverage by major female-oriented publications and by my personal memory of video game scenes in movies.

“One of the things we were trying to combat with 3G was how girls are discouraged from learning anything about technology beyond how to use it, [not] to be responsible or have a form of authorship with it.” – Terence Hannum, Internship and External Relations Coordinator at Columbia College

Any female in her 20’s that plays video games knows gaming has an image problem. Not only does the community you play in make you feel unwelcome a la the blog “Fat, Ugly or Slutty“,  your parents find your enjoyment of video games off-putting, as do 30-somethings co-workers. I’ve had more than one conversation at slightly older dinner parties become painfully awkward when I mention I like/want to write about video games. The women scan the room and decide it is time to mingle. Then I am left with some guy, and as the silence continues between us, I begin to question his intentions. Sometimes I can see this male have an OMG-GIRL-GAMER-freak-out moment, all in the eyes, and when it abides he hesitantly remarks I must be the male gamer fantasy or some other weird crap.  Then I decide it is time to mingle.

My mom keeps thinking I will grow out of my love of video games. She is not impressed when I tell her I am laying down plumbing because my city’s population explosion is  forcing me to expand my city limits.

There is a common thread behind these awkward interactions: people born before the 80’s view video games as either a waste of time or a childish hobby. How can that be, when video games have been around for 30 years  – and adults now play video games and teachers use video games as part of their curriculum? Read the rest of this entry »

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New Wii Kids game 'Enjoy Your Massage!' is porn for adolescents

Enjoy Your Massage!” comes out August 9th, and has an “E” rating. Not surprisingly, it’s being made by a Canadian Company.

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After having watched the trailer above, I don’t know why Nintendo is wasting its time with crappy games like “Enjoy Your Massage!”. The music sounds like I am riding in an  elevator to hell, the point of view never zooms out so I can see the female giving the massages (just my hands), and the actual massage motion looks like I am scrubbing or cleaning something, not massaging. I hope young boys who buy this game don’t think this is what massages are like.

As for actual game-play, it’s just a memory game so that might be fun for someone? I call this game adolescent soft-core porn because of the rewarding pictures you get to see of your clientèle once you’ve successfully completed a massage (there is even a zoom feature, presumably to get a close-up shot of panties or cleavage)- and there is no other reason to have those reward photos except to stimulate arousal.

If I was an adolescent boy, I’d rather play any of the Dating Sim games at Newgrounds.com being as they are free… and sometimes show nudity.


The Case For Video Games As Art Continues

Rapture is an underwater city with art deco de...

Underwater city with art deco designs, in Bioshock. Image via Wikipedia

Tom Bissell, in a Salon interview promoting his new book “Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter“, continues to make the case for video games as art. The whole interview is worth reading, but here are some choice tidbits:

Around 2006, 2007, a handful of games started coming out that, as someone who played games but didn’t think of them as like a viable artistic medium, made me think, “Wow things have gotten extremely compelling formally.” I mostly associated video game storytelling with unforgivable clumsiness, irredeemable incompetence, and suddenly I was finding the aesthetic and formal concerns I’d always associated with fiction: storytelling, form, the medium, character. That kind of shocked me.

Games that changed the paradigm, at least for me, were “Portal,” “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” and “BioShock.” All took their storytelling seriously in different ways, and brought to the table a relatively unusual level of sophistication when it came to video-game storytelling. They simply didn’t seem unnecessarily dumb in the way a lot of video-game storytelling games feel dumb.

Roger Ebert has famously argued (and recently restated in a blog post) that video games should not be considered art. What do you say to that?

I really admire Roger Ebert a lot, but on this issue he’s just wrong. I think he even kind of knows he’s wrong, and he’s kind of Custer in a battle that he knows he’s outnumbered on, but he’s actually asking the wrong question. The question is not, “Are video games art?” The question is, “Can artists express themselves through the video-game medium?” …

He’s kind of right in the sense that this isn’t going to stand up against impressionist painting, but it’s not supposed to. …

…It’d be like giving sex advice after having watched “Debbie Does Dallas,” but never having fucked anyone.

via Salon “Extra Lives”: Are Video Games the Next Art Form?

Interestingly, perhaps because neither of two are from an arts background, the point of “interactive art” was never mentioned in the interview. Perhaps Roger Ebert is unaware of the “interactive art” movement, and his ignorance of this type of artistic impression (despite beginning in the 20’s, catching steam in the 60’s, and exploding in the late 90’s)  is what keeps Ebert from understanding video games as art (that, and the fact that he doesn’t play any video games).

Interactive art is defined as a form of art that requires the viewers to participate in some way. Without the viewers participation or input,  the art piece would not function, and therefore not be. The art would be reduced to a monitor, sensors, plastic, metal, wood, what have you –  plain ol’ inanimate objects with no artistic merit.  Now consider video games. Without the video game player, directing the characters, unlocking story arcs, making choices, providing input, the video game would cease to be a work of art, and just be code, or plastic and metal – plain ol’ inanimate objects.

We already consider films as art, so why when video games combine the visual medium of film with  interactivity, are they not considered art? Sure, not every game is a work of art, just like how not every movie (Transformers?)  is a work of art. The art community already considers art that isn’t displayed in galleries or museums  ( see the “street art” movement) as “high art”, so why can’t we make the obvious leap to video games?


Nintendo ad makes the feminist in me happy

The below ad aired some time in early May, but I am one of those weird people that only watches TV on the internet (yay, Hulu?) so the first time I saw this  ad was yesterday. Did I miss the parade?   I will admit I  spend a lot of time on here talking about what displeases me regarding gender in the video game industry, but this ad gets it whatever that “it” is.

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The 30 second ad opens up with two women in their late 20’s, early 30’s, sitting on a park bench. One woman looks professional in every sense of the word- from her attire, to her make-up, to her calm but gracious behavior – all while being sexy.  The other character in this ad looks  like she engages in a more relaxed lifestyle- she is not in business attire, wearing a patterned shirt, eating chips or cookies and  presumably slurping a soft drink. This second character gets caught up in the moment and does things spontaneously, like talk to strangers. Right off the bat we know this game is for every type of woman (well, “white” at least).

This ad puts a new spin on what many parents think of as just a child’s toy. Both of these women are beautiful and fit, proving that you don’t have to be an overweight loser nerd in their parents basement to like video games.  These video game playing gals are also outside, loving life! Perhaps employed and on a lunch break! They don’t look depressed.

The  professional woman is playing a puzzle game on the Nintendo DS.  Why play Sudoku, or do a crossword puzzles, when you can do it on a portable high-tech consumer gadget? We don’t need to chop down any trees for these types of puzzles… or be at home linked into a social network like our older aunts. The  free bird character (played by Jama Williamson, the actress who plays Aziz Ansari’s ex wife in Parks & Recreation) jumps in at the end of the commercial and helps solve the puzzle. The professional woman has enough class to not be phased and the two women move closer to each other on the bench so they can both play,  indicating that these two can be friends in real life after all! How idyllic – no back seat gamer there. Nintendo says “See, technology can bring people together!”

Way to go, Nintendo! Look at you, understanding the older untapped female market with all your research and consumer reports! Your good efforts almost make me want to go out and buy another DS game …. from the used bin.


How to talk to your video gaming significant other

Live In- Nerd Rage

I typed in "nerd rage" and this is what Zemanta found.... Image via Wikipedia

It is 2010, and techno-phobes are crying over our youth’s inability to communicate without a machine and somehow we’ve lost the subtle art of conversation.  Social media is more popular than ever, and even the video game industry (from Xbox Live to Steam) has gotten into the online community-building business.

The exact percentage of the US population that plays video games is unclear, but lies between 68%  (the Critical Gaming Project), and 87%  males/ 80%  females (2009 chart from gameindustry.com). The percentage of the population that plays video games online ( chance for addiction increases) hovers around 58% for males, and 42% for females.

According to some Australian researchers, 1 out of 10 gamers is addicted, but I have a hunch that percentage might be higher. My hunch is based off of Cracked.com’s most excellent piece “5 creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get you Addicted“. For those about to scoff at the idea of being addicted to something that “isn’t even real”, David Wong counters with:

Your brain treats items and goods in the video game world as if they are real. Because they are.

If it takes time, effort and skill to obtain an item, that item has value, whether it’s made of diamonds, binary code or beef jerky.

After all, people pay thousands of dollars for diamonds, even though diamonds do nothing but look pretty. A video game suit of armor looks pretty and protects you from video game orcs. In both cases you’re paying for an idea.

If you or your significant other is a gamer, chances are, there is some form of neglect going on in your relationship.

Before I address the right ways to go about approaching  your significant other when you feel they’ve been playing video games for too long, I would first like to address the wrong ways. And while this “How-To” might seem obvious to some, it apparently isn’t when you consider  the magnitude of people using the wrong methods to deal with their video gaming significant others.

THE WRONG WAY TO GET YOUR GAMER’S ATTENTION

1) Destroying your significant others gaming property, from deleting characters to destroying consoles

The internet is littered with  videos of gaming equipment being destroyed by significant others. Despite many internet users proclaiming these videos as fake, the destruction of property in each video is too real (and also could be deemed illegal in some cases). There is a reason these videos are popular – these videos appeal to both the gamer who fears their significant other will do this to their machines, and to the significant other who sympathizes with the person doing the smashing.

Deleting Characters

The most recent video to make the rounds of the internet is “Girl deletes WoW Characters, Dude destroys Computer

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Read the rest of this entry »


The Internet wants a Half-Life Movie

If Gordon Freeman gets dialogue, Hugh Laurie is your man...but I also wouldn't be opposed to Robert Downey Jr as the crowbar-wielding physicist

Over the weekend, a post appeared on Josh Whedon’s “Official Facebook page” implying Whedon was talking with Valve over a Half Life movie.  The internet became excited (no one questioned the outlet for this breaking news ?), and predictably, the Official Facebook page was a dud. This isn’t the first time rumors of a Half- Life movie have hit the internet.

Back in 2006, GameSpot ran a post called “Tarantino to direct Half-Life movie?

While making preliminary plans for their annual sojourn into the deafening neon inferno that is E3, GameSpot editors spoke with a person who has many contacts within the Los Angeles film industry. The person in question said that the hot game-movie crossover project du jour was Half-Life, Valve Software’s groundbreaking shooter.

Furthering the hoax, 6 months later someone took it upon themselves to create a teaser-trailer for this fake Half- Life movie, viewable here. Three years later, The Purchase Brothers created some very impressive short films based off the Half-Life universe,  impressive enough to catch  Valve’s attention.

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Various blogs have written about the creation of a Half-Life movie, and just recently Empire Online named Gordon Freeman the greatest video game character of all time, over Mario or Master Chief. Even GameSpot readers from a poll last year think Gordon Freeman is a better hero  than Mario (though the voting results could be due to Valve announcements).  By all accounts, a Half-Life inspired- movie makes sense and I am dying for some modern action movies where the people of Earth kick some serious alien ass  in an “Aliens” sort of way.

Psst…Hollywood, please don’t make another Prince of Persia movie, or any other movie where we continue to offend those in the Persian Gulf. Stick with invaders from outer space, ok? At least until the Middle East and Asia cool their war jets.


Surprise! Size matters in a porno video game

ESRB "Adults Only 18+" rating symbol...

Image via Wikipedia

I would first like to clarify that I did not play the entire game, just the demo (I am not about to pay for a porn video game, thank you very much). I would also like to mention that I have never played a porn video game, or an “action adventure porno game” before in my life.  We live in a world where a good chunk of our population plays video games, or watches porn, so it is only a matter of time before someone combined the two: hence,  Bonetown.

Even though the game came out in 2008, I found the cartoony ‘Bonetown’ the other day when this article was on the front page of digg. Other outlets have written about how “morally depraved”  Bonetown is, or how offensive the game is on a variety of different levels, so I am not going to go there in this post. Writes Jessica Wakeman over on The Frisky:

“Bonetown” touts itself as “the world’s first action adventure porno video game,” but it’s more like thoughts from the internet’s most ignorant trolls set to animation. You know, the trolls who think racism and sexism have been “solved” so it’s really hilarious to perpetuate stereotypes about minorities and women.

via ‘Bonetown: “The World’s First Action Adventure Porno Game

Bonetown is supposed to take place in some GTA universe, where everyone is running around drunk, stoned, or both, and you have sex right on the street. Because I was playing the demo, I was confined to this small area around a beach (here is some very NSFW gameplay in a trailer park that I did not have access to), and I quickly learned the world map. (The only building I was allowed to enter in the demo kept crashing my PC.)  I spent my time running around beating up Asian tourists or stoners and sexing up fat ladies.

Read the rest of this entry »