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 –

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Are female exclusive gaming clans anti-women?

Imagine Dream Weddings: girl-game comes with f...

All female gaming clans are the reason they make games like this one: Image by gruntzooki via Flickr

I have long puzzled over the validity of  “all female” gaming clans… and as more young ladies get involved in the competitive gaming industry, more and more all female gaming clans are popping up. The following is a rant of ideas that have been around since 2006.

I understand women feel the need to band together as the video game industry is male dominated and women can feel marginalized,  and granted, some male gamers are still shocked to find a girl gamer online, but that novelty is disappearing as more and more women play video games. There is no need to segregate competitive clans based on gender, and  exclusively female clans hurts the female gamer in the long run.  It is already hard enough to be a female gamer, from the cracks at my voice sounding like a 12 year old, to all the close-up porn sprays I am subjected to, that the idea of me asking for special attention because of the genitalia between my legs is just mind-blowing. I just want some R-E-S-P-E-C-T,  nothing more, nothing less.  I just want to be a person that plays games. I don’t want to be a novelty.

By having the female gamers separate from the males in competitive gaming clans, you are asking that the females in the gaming world be treated differently.  By asking that females be treated differently, you are perpetuating the myth that women in gaming is a novelty, and is something special.  By having an all female gaming clan, you identify yourself as the other, as the outsider, and how can you ever be fully integrated into the gaming community if you wish to remain in your gender-based group? It doesn’t happen.  All female gaming clans, while sounding good initially, just make it worse, especially when you never hear of them winning a single tournament (or maybe that is the gaming media’s fault?).

(Side note: why does it matter how good these ladies look, any way? Shouldn’t their skills matter more than their appearance? These gaming clans are marketing themselves to women, not men, so why all the revealing pictures? I’d rather join a clan where everyone was dressed like a classy lady, thank you very much.  Is this why females have yet to win any major titles? I don’t see competitive male gamers being judged on both their appearance and gaming skills, so why do women need to prove that they are hot AND a good gamer? Hot women who play video games are not a novelty any more, sorry.  If over 50% of us play games now, chances are, many of us are attractive.)

I can’t think of a clan that claims to be all male (it happens by default), so why are there all-female clans? It’s not like the competitive gaming community has different categories for male and female gamers, right? Competitive gaming is not the Olympics in the physical sense, so we ladies don’t need separate teams…the sooner we are integrated the sooner we will gain respect in the community.  If women ever want to be treated like normal human beings in the gaming community, they have to start acting like it.  Female gamers need to get into the habit of viewing themselves as plain ol’ ordinary gamers, not OMG “girl gamers” in need of their own special “girl gamer” clan.

If I see one more profile with the words “I’m a hot girl gamer, deal with it!” or another attention whore-y profile (I get it, you’re insecure!) next time I log on I think I will riot. Somewhere. On the internet.   Or maybe I just don’t understand, because I am no longer a teenager and I don’t play with teenagers…..


My FarmVille Epiphany

FarmVille

That duck looks too happy. Image via Wikipedia

When I first saw FarmVille on Facebook, I immediately shunned it. At one moment in time, it felt like all of  my female Facebook friends were doing it,  so therefore I wanted to have nothing to do with it. I took the saying “If  all your friends are doing it, would you?” to heart. I am a skeptic of the unanimously popular.

I freely admit that as a grown up, this now makes me a jerk.  What can I do though?  It’s my initial gut reaction. Also, inside my head, there’s a 15 year old male gamer,  scoffing at the farm game, and probably questioning my sexuality. Real gamers don’t play FarmVille, right? Even if you’re playing for an hour a day, every day, you could never EVER be a “gamer” because you played Farmville. Those are the facts of gaming life, I am pretty sure.

A couple days ago, I happened to read “Nice Guys, Stressed Ladies, And The Curious Ways They Play Video Games” by Leigh Alexander, and it made me want to play Farmville. It was this quote, in particular:

“It just feels really good to know that I’m on top of things,” she tells me, chewing on her straw a little nervously as she explains why she’s so into FarmVille. “I like to know my farm is in good shape and, like, everyone can see it.”

The article goes on to mention how games are used as escapism, or control, or a coping mechanism, or some other psychological reason proving we are still so tortured despite our tremendous technology…. (except, I added the weird philosophical wane on technology at the end). What I am trying to say is, I too, want to feel like I have my shit together….and  with FarmVille, I can knock out being social, AND get that the fake accomplishment/satisfaction feeling from having an orderly farm. And everyone seeing that I have an orderly farm. I have healthy cows. My chickens lay nice eggs. My crops are fertile. I have accomplished something very important today.

… But then I pull up the FarmVille website, and I am instantly terrified. I can’t click on anything in the page. This is a game…? It doesn’t look like a game. The website tells me nothing… Except… if I want more information, I must sign into Facebook.

Here is the other part of the dilemma:  I can’t sign into Facebook, because then everyone will know that I am now playing FarmVille.  I am a proud member of the  “I dont care about your farm, or your fish, or your park, or your mafia!!!”  Facebook group. Or, at least that is what I tell myself, the “myself” that has been influenced by gaming males….  But enough about males: either way, can I go back on my digital word? Do I need to create a fake Facebook account so I can play FarmVille? Why do I even care that much about FarmVille to consider making a fake account!?  (Why, FarmVille, why have you eaten at my psyche like so?)

As if on cue, last evening I stumbled upon this NPR story on older female players and “Bejeweled” (…which also happened to mention FarmVille):

“What you find is a lot of women who are both working and raising children just have no time for relationships,” says Misiek Piskorski, who teaches about online social networking at the Harvard Business School. “But it’s not like they wouldn’t want to spend more time having these relationships. It’s just really, really hard. And this allows them to basically sustain these relationships.” Piskorski says the games aren’t taking away from face-to-face interactions. They’re just replacing time these women would’ve spent watching TV or some other media. And for busy King, that’s good enough.

I played Bejeweled (and Mah Jong tiles, JT’s Blocks, Text Twist and many many others) during my free periods all through high school, so I am all Bejeweled out at this point in my life. But NPR, mentioning FarmVille when I am already wrestling with my decision of the game? Are you listening to my thoughts, NPR?

I do like that these social networking games are the new way of “doing lunch”, or “grabbing some coffee”, but should I replace actual face time with digital time?   I can reach more of my friends by interacting with them digitally, but do I lose something when sacrificing actual face to face interaction? Is this a trade-off I want to make?  As I age, I wonder if I really need to keep up this “gamer cred”. What is the point in impressing the “young male gamers” in my head when I am in my mid-20’s?  If I play a game to relax and unwind, does it matter what kind of game it is?

My boyfriend jokes that he will break up with me if I got addicted to FarmVille, so I guess gamer cred still lives on at my age… Maybe I should stick to Team Fortress 2 as my “coping mechanism“…..


New website lets male gamers pay to play with hot female gamers

OTTUMWA, IA - AUGUST 13: Five-time video game ...

Eh. I've seen hotter male gamers! Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Online gamers know what happens when a female (or a dude pretending to be female) joins a match. Every sex-starved dude pounces on her like a dog in heat. She doesn’t even need to speak if her handle contains words like “chick” or “lady”. You can guarantee that at least one tongue-wagging guy will flood her inbox with messages or attempt to harass flirt his way into her heart, completely unaware that she’s probably a hideous monster. On that note, it’s tough competing with all that testosterone, and even tougher finding a hot gamer girl, but that’s about to change, courtesy of GameCrush, the world’s first website that hooks you up with hotties who can handle two analog sticks at the same time

via Game Daily “Hook up with GameCrush”

This news is ridiculously apt, considering my latest post on gender issues in video games…

On one hand, this sounds like a great way to make some extra cash if you are an attractive lady, but at the same time, it doesn’t really help with the whole “women aren’t respected in the gaming industry” bit. Hmm…. 30 dollars an hour? Tempting, but I must remain strong on principle…

After a session you can rate your PlayDate on her hotness, gaming skill, and flirtiness. The highest-rated girls will receive preferred placement on the site. GameCrush is assembling a team of its most highly regarded PlayDates called JaneCrush, which should be similar to Ubisoft’s Fragdolls. Members of JaneCrush will generate content for the site like blogs and editorials. GameCrush wants to turn its most popular girls into gaming stars.

via IGN Xbox Live “Would you pay a Girl to Play Halo with you?”

This newest development might as well  say “only sexy ladies (or those that pretend to put out) have a place in the gaming industry”! And GameCrush wants to be like Ubisoft’s Frag Dolls? Please. The Frag Dolls are normal, respectable ladies that did not start out on some sleazy pay-to-play chat-roulette style game site.  I don’t know who is being exploited here, the ladies, or the “sex-starved”  males that would fork over cash…

Also, why isn’t there a website like this for girl gamers? I mean, there are some really atrocious looking male gamers and I would love to play with some attractive males.  Oh wait, I almost forgot, they wouldn’t make a site like this for women, because women aren’t that desperate-

Or maybe I am overreacting, and this will be the newest way for gamers to meet each other… What happened to the good ol’ fashioned way of falling in love with one another over the internet before you saw each others faces…. : /


Gender issues in video games

I read Katharine Fletcher’s piece “Confessions of a Call of Duty girl: Women in Games today” with my usual omg-article-about-girl-gaming zeal. Fletcher’s piece was interesting for a couple of reasons:

First,  Fletcher admits that she probably got her job because she was female, and that is perfectly acceptable, and understandable in the gaming industry. If you have been reading my blog, you should all know that women gamers make up about 40% of the gaming population (includes casual gamers), yet we are severely under represented, and if we are represented, it is in an overtly sexual way.  Case in point, Fletcher mentions Alex Sim- Wise, the NSFW model and game columnist. While I am not saying she should not take her clothes off to make more money off horny virgin males, it doesn’t really help us gamer ladies be taken seriously.  And, her nakedness, while strictly meant for the males, is potentially a big turn off for women who might be interested in gaming. That’s just my “feminist” two- cents popping out to say hello…. and this video below, narrated by a male, says everything I could possibly say on the subject.

[youtubevid id=”R8ZVZRsy8N8″]

Second, when talking about the cancellation of Women In Games, Fletcher wonders why the conference couldn’t sell enough tickets. I never even heard about the Women In Games conference until news broke that it was canceled this year. Ouch. Well, gaming media is male dominated, and I don’t see much effort being put by the gaming media to reach out to women, so the fact that I never heard about the conference isn’t a surprise.

Could it be that, as with third-wave feminism, the embracing of diversity of viewpoints and lack of a single unified cause is harder to promote?

via Confessions of a Call of Duty girl: Women in Games today

Third,  I wonder if the apathetic attitudes and the mis-notion of feminism as being about women over men and not about equals is a British issue, because the ladies over here in America just want some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I don’t think the goal of gender blindness is reasonable, because let’s face, we’re all animals at heart, all motivated by sex.  Mutual respect should be our the top priority, but we’re a long way from that….

When it comes to women in the gaming industry, sexually charged conversation is the dominate voice. When male gamers ask to see your boobs, or why you don’t have a sexy picture of yourself as your avatar, they do it because they don’t respect you as a person, and view you as a sexual piece of meat, even if they won’t consciously admit this. But hey, those males don’t know any better, because there aren’t other opinions or behaviors in that subculture, right? Have they been conditioned to behave this way?

I agree with Fletcher wholeheartedly, the more voices in gaming, about gaming, the better. I would think the notion of “many voices”  would be easier to promote….


Women's History Month is insulting

Suffragettes - Labor Day 1913 (LOC)

"Omg, can we vote already? Or wear pants yet? It's now the 20th century!" Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

I was browsing through a list of free lectures in Chicago when it hit me that I was doing so during “Women’s History Month“,  …..and I subsequently became enraged. Why do women have their own history month? Why do women need their own history month? I know what women’s impact on our society has been, thank you very much. Men’s inability to resist our naked bodies has been made very clear in the Christian “apple” parable. Who do you think is responsible for the creation of the 7 day week, and the 4 week month, eh?

The fact that women need their own history month is incredibly insulting….   we are the majority sex on the planet, but we are still treated like a minority. Every time a female becomes the first of her gender to occupy a position of authority, it is  noted in the history books.  Really, gentlemen? Are you that pathetic that it has taken thousands of years for you to share your power? Are you that greedy, and blind to all the problems of modern society? Stop making us women feel bad…. a history month feels like you’re pissing on our legs and telling us it is raining.

That rant aside, I was very pleased to see that no library or cultural center in Chicago is treating Women’s History Month with any extra pomp or circumstance by having more “feminist” lectures than usual.  Caffeine Theatre will be performing plays by Emily Dickinson at the Newberry Library at the end of the month,  and the Assistant Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs will give a talk on the role of women in Egyptian history next week at the Chicago Cultural Center.