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 »


Crysis 2 has broken my heart

Crysis 2

poor poor NYC…  Image via Wikipedia

I never download anything the day it becomes available, as it requires discussion (I currently share a video gaming machine with my boyfriend). Nevertheless, the Crysis 2 demo was downloaded and I didn’t even have to pitch it.

I had a great time with Crysis, and it was the demo that originally sold me on the game. I especially became adept at firing on enemy targets with the assault weapon attached to a boat. My whole strategy for attacking this encampment by the water involved this boat (think to the tune of this song).   I have good memories of the first demo, so saying I was excited is an understatement.

Then we went away to Florida for 6 days.  The demo was not played.

Upon returning from vacation on the 25th, what is found? The Crysis 2 demo is multiplayer, and only available to play from March 15th to March 22nd. If you try to play the demo after March 22nd, there are no servers available for you to play on. What kind of marketing madness is this??? Sure, this limited demo-play generates buzz, and Crysis 2 demo players get another reason to feel all superior, but what about me? I am left heartbroken and the high interest of  paying $60 has dissipated.

The void was filled by Neverwinter Nights 2 and all the expansion packs….


I’ve been in three separate publications in the last 24 hours

The god Woden, after whom 'Wednesday' was name...

Wednesday was named after this god ^^^ Image via Wikipedia

….and it wasn’t because I submitted any articles!

First, I was quoted in the Tribune’s RedEye on an article about female gamers….

Eordogh, a freelance video game writer, said she used to play PC games under the screen name “Laser Kitty,” but changed it to “Laser Gandalf” because of the perverted or sexualized comments she’d receive from male players who concluded she was female.

“When I play online, I get a lot of comments like ‘Show me your boobs,’ ” Eordogh said. “If a girl wants to be sexy, that’s fine, but I wish I wasn’t held to the same standards. I just want to play games, not be stereotyped.”

– “Play girls: the life of a female gamer in Chicago“, by Ryan Smith

I say something else too, but I want you to click the link. I made sure to get 2 hard copies of the RedEye yesterday.

And it was brought to my attention this morning, that there is a photo of me on the Huffington Post under an article titled Ladies Love Rahm. The photograph was taken on Saturday when I got to ask Rahm Emanuel a softball question. An internet/twitter colleague found the photo in the AP database. To see a larger version of the picture, click here.

UPDATED:

And, a photo of me is on Gawker as well! (With Rahm Emanuel of course)


Why Call of Duty: Black Ops sucks

Ohmygod, will Black Ops be the most profitable game of the Call of Duty franchise? Ad-fed gaming media says YESSSSS!

This game is soooo good, you don’t even have to use your weapons!

Thanks for the tip, reddit! Now I have another reason to never play this game…


A Reality Show about Gamers?

Family watching television, c. 1958

TV has come so far....

Video games have been around for more than 50 years, and reality television for 30 years, so it is only natural that one day there would be a reality show about gamers. (Why it took so long for video games to become mainstream when cellphones became mainstream almost overnight, I don’t know.)

The only reality television show out there about gamers is WCG Ultimate Gamer, so being the gamer that I am, of course I would  watch it. How could I not, when there is nothing else to watch on the internet?

My boyfriend refuses to watch it, calling it “WCG the biggest loser”. Harr di harr harr.  His sentiments are tame compared to chat rooms and message boards. There is much hate for this show on the internet, and I am baffled by  its existence. You’d think the nerds, freaks, and geeks would enjoy mainstream culture catering to them with a reality show.

I get a kick out of the show though, because I enjoy watching real people  (or in this case competitive gamers) face challenges, come to self-realizations in front of cameras, deal with confrontation and stress, be drunk most of the time … and “be put to the ultimate test”.  Here is a show about a group of people who think they are the best at my favorite form of entertainment (aww snap!). Watching this reality show is a no-brainer for me (WCG, and The Colony, baby).

WCG Ultimate Gamer is now in its second season, and as I write this, the 3rd episode aired days ago. I didn’t want to write about the show at first, because I tried out for it (you can read about that here), and became disillusioned when I was asked to perform only on an Xbox. I think some producers heard my complaints as this year, Tekken 6 (arcade style) and Mario Kart & Sports Resort for the Wii, were played this season. While the inclusion of other consoles perked me up, it also soured me since I absolutely own at those two games.

But enough exposition –

Read the rest of this entry »


The 'Dance Central' Work Out

A remix of "Your Rain" was used in K...

GTFO DDR!!!! Image via Wikipedia

I knew about the “Portal 2” announcement and the newest Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer before E3, so I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of the convention that would shatter my hum-drum gaming existence.

But then I saw “Dance Central“.

I think it was love at first sight.

I tried to resist. Dance Central? Please, Fruzs, have some gaming class.  I can’t buy an Xbox and Kinect just for “Dance Central”. I am part of the “Glorious PC Gaming Master Race” – not some ninny scum “Dirty Console Gaming Peasant”. But then I remembered how much I love dancing.  And then I noticed this game actually teaches you different dance moves – moves I’ve never attempted before.

[youtubevid id=”JS2LvrdIbPA”]

This isn’t DDR, where I jump around pressing buttons to the beat with my feet, and nothing happens with my upper body (DDR is no  “glorified tap dancing“).  And I do like this idea of making “working out” a game. Sure, marathon running or sprinting is a great skill to have if I needed to worry about the impeding Apocalypse, but I’ll take my dancing in my home with weights over running on pavement every 6am any day.

[youtubevid id=”EOIVaPryg8w”]

I never got into the Wii Fit, with its balance board, or yoga  in general, because I much prefer high impact workouts, like jump roping, or dancing in my apartment with weights. Why not just play this game with some light 2 – 3 pound weights around your wrists?   (psst, “gamer girls”, if you post videos of yourself playing this game with weights come November, you must link here, or I will get very mad.)

I would to take this moment to challenge you,  Kristen from GameMeetsGirl, to a Dance  Off.


Steam Sale: 7 Games for your Girlfriend

Two things I hear from my gaming male friends often are “I can’t find a girl that games!” and “How can I get my girlfriend to play video games?”. Steam is currently having a huge blow-out sale on hundreds of video games for the Mac/PC until July 4th, and with prices cheaper than a trip to the movies, there is no better time to get your lady a video game.

I’ve compiled a list of games the ladies would enjoy despite being unfamiliar with the whole video game genre. These are also the best of the cheapest, because when a game is less than $10, how can your girlfriend get turned off by the price?

In order of ascending difficulty:

1. Osmos, for $4.99

This game is the exact opposite of those “damn noisy shooters” you like to play and is perfect for the lady who has limited to no experience with video games. As the above video demonstrates, this game is as close to a yoga session for your brain as it gets. You have to be patient, flying through space in your quest to eat other orbs. The saying “Good things come to those who wait” is applicable in describing Osmos game play. You have to stay calm and move slowly, or risk colliding into a bigger orb that will eat you. Despite this games simplicity, the levels do get a bit harder as you progress through the game; there is some sort of challenge (I moved too fast and flew into the sun a couple of times).

You can play Osmos for as short increments of time as 5 minutes (a level), and feel satisfied.

2. Blueberry Garden for $4.99:

If you’re looking to get out of seeing another bizarre European indie film, get your gal this game instead. Designed by a Swede, this beautiful and quirky game reminds me more of an interactive art piece than a video game. Don’t be fooled: there is a goal in this game, not made evident by the above trailer.  If Ebert played this game he would give up his silly notion that video games are not an art form. Bobbie Johnson, from the UK Guardian, described this game as ” a dainty piece of indie magic”: “I almost wanted to put it in a ribbon-wrapped box with a kitten and cry a little”.

Blueberry Garden is more fast paced than Osmos and Machinarium.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

[youtubevid id=”BV9WTzK1uqE”]

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

[youtubevid id=”dGBOGamm1x4″]

Read the rest of this entry »