Life is Strange and the "Perfect Victim"

May 11, 2015 Articles, Video Games Comments (1) 33

By: Seth Brodbeck TW: Discussion of date rape and rape culture. Brief references to suicide.(Also: Spoilers for the first two episodes of Life is Strange, but I thought the above information was more important)

Life is Strange by Dontnod Entertainment

Here’s what we know as of Episode 2 of Dontnod Entertainment’s game, Life is Strange: Girls who go to Vortex Club parties are getting drugged, probably by Nathan Prescott, who has a demonstrated ability to get away with a lot around Blackwell Academy thanks to his parents’ patronage of the school. It’s definitely happened twice, to Chloe and Kate, it is quite possibly what happened to Rachel Adams, and is implied to have happened to many more girls by the binders shown briefly at the end of each episode so far. It is not explicitly stated that any of these girls were raped–it’s possible that something else happened to them which is connected to the other strangeness in Arcadia Bay–but the sequence of events bears a strong resemblance to accounts of date rape. Even if the game may be setting us up for a revelation that criminal behavior of a different stripe is occurring, the stories are still evocative of the experiences of rape victims.

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#HowOldRobot Proves Link is a Girl

May 1, 2015 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 11

Considering #HowOldRobot has been trending on all my social media platforms for the past day, I’m going to assume most of you have gotten the chance to play with it by now. For those that haven’t, the #HowOldRobot was created by a Microsoft Team and it will guess the age and gender of any picture you throw at it. It’s more often wrong than not, but there’s something alluring about playing guessing games with a robot.

I’ve had fun with this, my friends have had fun with this, and  Kotaku has definitely had fun with this.  So far it’s rarely on point, and seems to only be successful as a marketing ploy. The plot begins to thicken when you realize the #howOldRobot reads Link as a girl in almost every single photo submitted. Is it because of his delicate features, or is the robot smart enough to know our secret fantasies of Link as a girl?  Continue Reading

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4 More Projects for Nintendo and Playboy (NSFW)

March 30, 2015 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 7

Earlier this week Nintendo invited Playboy Playmates Amelia Talon and Pamela Horton to play the upcoming third-person shooter game, Splatoon. Five months ago Nintendo teamed up with Playmate Pamela Horton for a nude Bayonetta Playboy spread. We can sit around and wonder why Nintendo keeps teaming up with the Playboy Playmates, or we can embrace this new partnership with wild speculation. So let’s take a look at three more potential projects for the pair. Note: Many images nudge the NSFW line. 

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Final Fantasy XV Director Talks Gender In Face of All Male Cast

September 25, 2014 Articles, Video Games Comments (1) 5

If I was giving a lecture on the development of female characters in video games, the Final Fantasy games from Square Enix would be a key part of that discussion. In an era where many women in games were relegated to damsel roles, many of the Final Fantasy games gave you female members in your party, and gave them important narrative roles to boot.

Since Final Fantasy has such a rich history of including interesting women in the series – the recently completed FFXIII series was helmed by a lady named Lightning – it’s confusing that the upcoming game Final Fantasy XV features a cast of all-men. In an interview with 4gamer, FFXV director Hajime Tabata confirmed that the party is male only – with no playable female characters in sight.

FFXVMen

When unpacking this information, Kotaku’s Brian Ashcraft notes that there is a history in Japan of all-male driven games being extremely popular with female players. Instead of alienating female players, he suggests that there is a possibility that the all male party was meant to draw Japanese ladies to the game in droves.

Luckily, with a new interview between IGN and Hajime Tabata, many of our questions are answered surrounding the all-male party, and we see that even the director was  uncomfortable with the all-male approach. Tabata explains:

“The party members being all men was something that [former director] Tetsuya Nomura had kept as a very important element of this journey. He wanted to depict a story in which a group of men, a group of friends, journey throughout the world. So that’s something that I kept in Final Fantasy XV”

He also went on to mention that he feels that “gender bias is unhealthy” and that there will be prominent female characters who appear in the game. Considering Ubisoft’s response to questions surrounding female characters was “Um….derrr…they’re too hard to animate” Tabata’s explanation of the FFXV cast sounds more believable and understandable.

Square Enix has already released an all female Final Fantasy game in the critically misunderstood Final Fantasy X-2, so it’s only fair that we’re about to receive an all-male party to journey with. Perhaps without women around, these men will actually be able to say more than “………………..”. Maybe Noctis, the only playable character in FFXV, might break the mold for our stereotypical male Final Fantasy protagonists. BRING IT ON!

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Rounding Up the Sexist Cyclones of Gaming in August 2014

August 29, 2014 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 8

Whew. So it’s been an incredibly rough couple of weeks to be a lady in video games. Like, some of the events of this week make me want to throw my Playstation out the window and just give up on the community completely. Since my emotions have been interfering my my eloquence, I thought I’d round up some articles from some other games critics so you can get informed regarding the various situations.

An Awful Week to Care About Video Games by: Chris Plante

This article by Chris Plante of Polygon does a great job of explaining the harassment of Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Phil Fish and even Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley that have happened in the past week (or so). He also makes a good point about where games currently stand, and closes with the following paragraph:

This week, the obstinate child threw a temper tantrum, and the industry was stuck in the metaphorical grocery store as everyone was forced to suffer through it together. But unlike a child, the people behind these temper tantrums are hurting others. It’s time to grow up. Let’s not wait until next week to start.

I would urge everyone to read the article just to get up to speed on current gaming events, but also to truly heed his call to action. Hurting people isn’t fun, and it isn’t productive, and it should be happening. If you’re contributing to the problem, please please grow up.

Don’t believe the ‘conspiracy,’ gaming has bigger problems than ‘corruption’ by: Emma M. Wooley

When Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend posted an expose of their break-up, he probably had no idea that how large the issue might become. Or maybe he did, and that’s why he told the internet that his ex-girlfriend cheated on him repeatedly. Regardless, what came of this has been some bizarre accusations of breach of ethics that have continued to rock gaming journalism.

Emma Wooley takes a hard look at these cries of “corruption” and quickly gets to the heart of the matter:

Gaming’s most pervasive issue isn’t corruption, but the people who’ve taken ownership of something that isn’t solely theirs to begin with. In trying their damnedest to limit the appeal of the medium and use online harassment to achieve their goals, this group of toxic trolls are proving themselves to be gaming’s biggest problem.

PREACH.

Video games, Misogyny, and Terrorism: A Guide to Assholes by: Andrew Todd

It’s great when women step up to defend themselves online, but sometimes it’s just as great to watch a key demographic of gaming (white men) take on all the trolls. Andrew Todd takes the week’s events and goes after the people perpetrating them.

But it doesn’t matter if you’re the funniest or cleverest abusive dick on a server – you’re still being an abusive dick, and you’re still perpetuating a problem that has visibly grown way past that comparatively innocent context and into actual terrorism.

The piece does a good job at picking apart various elements that have built to self-identified gamers perpetuating acts of terrorism, but the best part is watching the author’s anger shine through. I don’t usually root for people to get angry, but sometimes it’s really great to know other people are just as upset about an issue as you are.

Fanboys, White Knights, and the Haiball of Online Misogyny by: Tauriq Moosa

While Tauriq Moosa is yet again looking at the threats and attacks that have been perpetuated against Anita Sarkeesian, he takes a look at the problem from a different angle. In this piece Moosa picks apart the different ways men and women are threatened online, and demonstrates how easy it is to discredit male allies with the phrase “white knighting”.

It’s the one thread directly aimed at heterosexual men, while the others are all about silencing women. It’s a machine of antagonism, a tentacled, hairy creature wanting to wind its way into dominance. Men who are not targets of rape and death threats can use this immunity to the benefit of targets who are by showing support, as Whedon and Schafer demonstrated, but bigots use terms like “white knighting” to try curb even this.

Yet again, we see an article ending with a call for men to stand with women and not silently ride out these attacks. Join the fray! We’ll give you cookies!

‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over. by: Leigh Alexander

I love this post by Leigh Alexander for so many reasons, but this paragraph really cuts to the heart of some of gaming’s ongoing problems:

When you decline to create or to curate a culture in your spaces, you’re responsible for what spawns in the vacuum. That’s what’s been happening to games.

“Gamer” isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use. Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad.

These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers — they are not my audience. They don’t have to be yours. There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had.

You should really just go read the article before I copy and paste it in its entirety here.

The End of Gamers by: Dan Golding

Golding’s piece is an excellent follow-up to Alexander’s, further explaining how gamer identity has formed over the years and how it’s been stretched so thin it’s finally breaking apart.

When, over the last decade, the playing of videogames moved beyond the niche, the gamer identity remained fairly uniformly stagnant and immobile. Gamer identity was simply not fluid enough to apply to a broad spectrum of people. It could not meaningfully contain, for example, Candy Crush players, Proteus players, and Call of Duty players simultaneously. When videogames changed, the gamer identity did not stretch, and so it has been broken.

With all of these pieces about the death of “gamers” I’ve been searching for a word to call myself. Golding hits upon a new one: players.

The Truth about Zoe Quinn by Elizabeth Sampat

Elizabeth Sampat’s defense of her friend, Zoe Quinn, and the grief she’s experienced during the last week brought me to tears.

I could tell you stories about the voices we’ve lost, the women we’ve scarred, the people we’ve left behind. I want to, but I’m not sure you’d get it. I tweeted earlier today, We should have a war memorial for all of the women we have lost to this. We should lay flowers and grieve and see our reflections in stone. And I meant it. I wish there were a way to honor the people our industry has wronged, and a way to visualize the enormity of what we have lost because of it— some representation of the gap between what games are and what they can be, and the pieces of the bridge between that have fallen away.

Poetic, beautiful, and fierce, this is the piece that you need to read above all others.

Those are the most important pieces to read to get caught up and informed of the situation, but here are a few more just in case you’re really into research:

If there are more links you think you make the list, let me know! I’ll continue rounding them up over the weekend and next week.

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Let's talk about Ethics in Games Journalism

August 28, 2014 Articles, Video Games Comments (1) 13

This is one of those weeks where I am quite content not to be reject the label of  “games journalist” in favor of “academic-trained games critic”. This is due to the insane ethics tsunami that has hit the gaming community following accusations that an indie-game developer slept with a games journalist in order to receive positive reviews of her work. While this myth was busted by Stephen Totillo, the Editor-in-Chief of Kotaku, the focus on accusing games journalists of breached ethics continued, leading to a reddit thread calling out two prominent journalists.

The thread details instances in which Patricia Hernandez of Kotaku and Ben Kuchera of Polygon have published articles in which they had a conflict of interest. In the previously mentioned piece by Totillo, he affirmed Kotaku’s dedication to a standard of ethics, claiming that,

My standard has long been this: reporters who are in any way close to people they might report on should recuse themselves

Grabbing that single line of the article, reddit user F1renze accused Patricia Hernandez of publishing articles featuring her friend’s games.

Ben Kuchera’s fault, according to the same reddit user, is that he published an article on Zoe Quinn without acknowledging that he support her Patreon campaign, giving her money to develop games on a monthly basis. F1renze suggested that this was in direct opposition to the Polygon Code of Ethics which says:

Unless specifically on a writer’s profile page, Polygon staffers do not cover companies (1) in which they have a financial investment, (2) that have employed them previously or (3) employ the writer’s spouse, partner or someone else with whom the writer has a close relationship.

Both accusations have resulted in the target publications making statements. However, before we delve into the “is it ethical or not” question, let’s take a moment to look at the point of video game publications, basic journalism ethics, and the outcome these decisions might have within the gaming community.

Why Do We Have Video Games Journalists?

Have you walked into a GameStop recently? You pick up your game, go to the counter to pay for it, and at some point in this moment the cashier will probably ask you if you’re a GameStop Rewards member. If you’re not, they’ll attempt to sell you you on the membership, telling you how much money you’ll save and how you’ll also receive a 12 month subscription to Game Informer in the process.

GameInformer2013The fact that GameStop is tries to sell all it’s customers a membership with a subscription to a game magazine illustrates the original purpose of games journalism: pushing product. How will you know which games to purchase if games journos don’t review games and tell you about upcoming fun stuff? How would you know about “exciting developments” of an up and coming game that might make you want to buy it if not for games journos?

To be fair, it’s not all about pushing products these days. It’s also about covering important news, commenting on the state of the industry, and sharing nifty things with fan communities (and click-bait articles, lists of top 10 whatever’s, and lots of fan art from Tumblr and deviantArt). Yet the fact remains that initially, a large part of games journalism was to make players aware of product, and inform them which products they might want to buy.

Application to Ethical Concerns

Since a large function of games journalism is still to aid a discerning public in games purchase, it makes sense that gamers are concerned with the ethics of games journalism. As a public we would prefer our journalists to be as non-biased as possible when advising us on the myriad of ways to spend our money.

The Society of Professional Journalism has a code of ethics which has a few things to say about acting independently:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  • Disclose unavoidable conflicts.

The problem here is that as members of the gaming community, which is a close-knit little subculture, all games journalists face conflicts of interests. Being a member of the gaming community can be seen as a conflict of interest. Journalists in the gaming world frequently receive review copies, get to attend elaborate parties at gaming conventions, and make friends and contacts within the community itself that color all of their opinions.

Many games publications handle these problem differently, but the prevailing way to be an ethical games journalist seems to center on disclosure. Going back to the fact that gaming publications first began to sell products, this makes sense. I would often rather read a review of someone who bought and paid for a game themselves than a review from a journalist who was given a complimentary review copy.

Realistically though, most games journalists don’t make enough money to do that on a regular basis, so it helps the reader make an informed opinion when the journalist discloses information about their relationship to the product they are reviewing. For instance, whenever I review comics I typically point out that I have a huge lady-boner for the art of Phil Noto and Ross Campbell, which colors my objectivity about reviewing products they are associated with.

In this regard, I can support the argument that Patricia Hernandez should have mentioned that she was friends with Anna Anthropy when reviewing any of Anthropy’s games. If you’re reviewing a product that a friend has published, it’s wise to mention that conncetion. Since the initial reddit thread, many of Hernandez’s articles have been updated to include an update disclosing Hernandez’s relationship with Anthropy.

But Crowdfunding!

This discussion becomes more complicated when throwing things like Patreon and Kickstarter into the mix. Patreon is a crowd funding website that allows consumers to support artists, YouTube personalities, writers etc. directly, often paying a monthly subscription or a certain amount per object produced. Similarly, Kickstarter allows users to back a project, often receiving exclusive perks as someone who helped bring the project to fruition.When I backed the ridiculously over funded Veronica Mars movie project, I backed at a level that also netted me a hard copy of the movie, a t-shirt, and a poster. NO REGRETS!

Backing a Patreon or a Kickstarter isn’t exactly the same straightforward transaction of buying a game. It’s a weird mixture of purchase and support, that does muddy the water a bit when it comes to journalism ethics when it pertains to journalists writing reviews. Again, disclosure seems to be a key factor in dealing with these issues, yet it’s not the universal answer as Kotaku and Polygon’s responses to accusations demonstrate.

In a statement, yet again, from Kotaku’s Stephen Totillo he said,

We’ve also agreed that funding any developers through services such as Patreon introduce needless potential conflicts of interest and are therefore nixing any such contributions by our writers. Some may disagree that Patreons are a conflict. That’s a debate for journalism critics.

However, Polygon’s response does not include an ultimatum to its writers to cancel all their Patreon pledges. Responding for Polygon, Christopher Grant had this to say on the matter:

While I disagree that contributing to a game developer without holding an actual financial stake in their success is a violation of the spirit of that principle, I also think that disclosure is the best medicine in these circumstances. So starting immediately, I’ve asked everyone on staff to disclose on their staff pages any outstanding Patreon contributions and, additionally, to disclose the same on any coverage related to those contributions under that staff member’s byline.

So one publication forces writers to completely shut-down any and all pledges to current Patreon projects (for further discussion check out Kirk Hamilton’s thoughts and the responses to it on twitter) while the other publication clings to the disclosure model.

Problem Solved, Right?

Not exactly. While the conversation about ethics and gaming has actually been a productive (if frustrating one) leading publications to consider how to ethically handle platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter, the motivations for the discussion are more morally ambiguous.

As mentioned earlier, the general conversation regarding games journalism began with people harassing a lady game dev Zoe Quinn after her ex-boyfriend published an expose of their relationship. So it might behoove us to think, for a moment, if there is any particular reason that Patricia Hernandez and Ben Kuchera were the journalists targeted for beach of ethics when there are most likely others that could be singled out for similar “crimes”.

Patricia Hernandez is one of the few prominent women games journalists, and her articles are frequently targeted with malicious comments when she discusses issues like sexual consent, rape, or any article dealing with women whatsoever. Some people take it to the next step and post images like this about her:

If a certain group of people who wanted to keep up momentum for harassing and discrediting women in game, Hernandez makes an excellent target. For Kuchera, whom I’ve occasionally called a misogynist (see look, disclosure!), his support of Zoe Quinn’s Patreon and subsequent articles about Quinn is potentially what damned him.

If, and it is a big if, the motivation behind singling out Patricia Hernandez and Ben Kuchera was to further discredit women in the gaming community and their supporters, then ramifications of the policies enacted by Kotaku and Polygon should be examined through the lens of how they might affect women in the gaming industry.

Patreon and the Ladies

Polygon’s policy of forcing it’s writers to disclose the Patreon’s they support doesn’t have too many negative ramifications. In fact, by including support Patreon’s on writer’s bio pages, it might make many video games related Patreons more visible to the average gamer.

Kotaku’s response to ban the site’s writers from supporting Patreons is a different kettle of fish. Many female game developers and lady journos have turned to Patreon in recent years for primarily two reasons. The first is that in a predominantly male industry (in terms of journalists and game devs) Patreon offers women a way to seek funding outside a system that can be emotionally exhausting to deal with. Secondly, as the conversation around GiantBomb’s recent hire demonstrates, women have a difficult time getting jobs in the gaming industry – particularly in journalism – due to systemic barriers related to patriarchy.

Basically, if you want regular pay as a lady in gaming, Patreon might be your best option. 

Many women on Patreon barely make a liveable monthly wage – and that wage is subject to patron whimsy. For instance Lana Polansky makes $478 per article, and typically strives to write two articles per month giving her $956 a month before Patreon takes their cut. While that’s slightly better than minimum wage, it’s disconcerting to live month to month on the whims of people you might now know. As Maddy Meyers, assistant editor at Paste Games notes,

Since many Patreon professionals rely on their patrons for needed income and money is often exchanged from one writer to another, banning writers from pledging money to Paterons has the potential to take needed income away from women in gaming. If enough online publications follow suit, it could be enough to silence many diverse voices that are desperately needed in the industry.

Of course, that’s a worst-case scenario prefaced on the idea that targeting Patricia Hernandez and Ben Kuchera was a specific decision in an attempt to silence women-friendly voices in gaming. They could have been targeted for simply being big names in the industry, or just because they were the easiest targets. Still, in discussing hot issues like ethics in games journalism, it’s important to call into question who started the discussion, look for potential ulterior motives, and consider the far-reaching effects any publication decisions might further disenfranchise groups within the gaming community that are already struggling.

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Threatening Anita Sarkeesian for Criticizing Misogyny Definitely Proves You're Not A Misogynist

August 28, 2014 Articles, Celebrity Spotlight, Video Games Comments (3) 16

….not. As you know, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency released another video in her Tropes vs. Women in Video games series this week. While it has been met with surprising support from various celebrities, the backlash to the current video has prompted Anita Sarkeesian to speak out about the threats she is facing because of it.

On August 27th, Sarkeesian posted the following:

An hour or so later she posted the she was safe, the authorities had been notified, and she would be spending the night with friends just to ensure her continued safety. So people on the internet (I’m mostly going to assume men here) feel so threatened by Sarkeesian’s video series that they force her into physical hiding?

My mind just wants to explode. Attempting to harass someone into silence is not the technique of a group that genuinely wants to have dialogue and prove their points by civilized means. Using scare tactics, doxxing, and physical threats to silence someone is for one illegal, and two terrorist/guerilla tactics.

Sarkeesian further went to share some of the harassment she receives on a normal day.

Sarkeesian-threats

This is basically my worst nightmare, and why we’re not seeing many other lady games critics stepping up to be the next Anita Sarkeesian. Sadly, this might also be par for the course for many female journalists, in gaming and other categories.

The Huffington Post reports that a new study by think tank Demo found that famous or well-known men receive more negative messages on twitter than their female counterparts, in every category except one. Guess which one? Journalism.

More than 5 percent of all Twitter messages sent to female journalists are unfavorable, according to the study. In every other category of distinguished females, however, the number is much lower, at 1 in every 70 tweets.

It’s not just on twitter. Jezebel recently reported that they had been subject to large levels of harassment by individuals creating burner accounts to leave comments of a violent pornographic nature on various articles. While Jezebel’s parent company, Gawker, has made moves to address the situation, the fact that women and women-centered websites are subject to this sort of attack is horrifying in and of itself.

Adding the word games to lady journalist seems to compound this problem. Women in the gaming community have been subject to gross amounts of sexism over the years, from everyday lady gamers, to professional players, and even the devs themselves. Briannu Wu, the head of a gaming development studio recently shared some of her, and her other women’s harassment experiences in the gaming industry. 

My name is Brianna Wu. I lead a development studio that makes games. Sometimes, I write about issues in the games industry that relate to the equality of women. My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me.

According to the article, Wu has not been out to her car alone since January, due to the fear inspired by random harassers. For female games journalists, the experience is similar, as people around the internet attempt to cow them from speaking their minds and sharing new perspectives. One only has to look briefly at the comments on articles by female games journalists to get the picture.

Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a female games journalist in the first place if you aren’t already entrenched in the community. I can only name three female journalists that work for major gaming publications off the top of my head (Patricia Hernandez for Kotaku, Danielle Riendeau for Polygon, and Cara Ellison for Rock, Paper, Shotgun), which makes them easier to single out for hatred of a large magnitude.

You don’t have to search for long to find images like this from users on Tumblr, Reddit, or 4chan:

I personally get a little freaked out when I receive the odd comment or two telling me to “eat shit”. I can’t imagine being afraid to Google my own name, for fear of seeing images and threats of this nature. Let’s be clear: this is not okay. Nor is it productive.

Sure, perhaps there are women who will think twice about getting involved in the gaming community. Sometimes I sit at home and think to myself, “Man, I need to get new hobbies where people won’t harass me”. But that shouldn’t be my problem, that shouldn’t be a female game dev’s or female games journalist’s problem. The problem, sadly, is with a small minority of the community itself, who is not content to let anyone attempt to change their rigid definition of what gaming is.

Guys: we’re not coming for your games. We just want to make the community a better place for everyone – you included. Driving Anita Sarkeesian into hiding, hacking Zoe Quinn’s Skype account, and all the other various and sadly mundane forms of harassment that are perpetrated against women in gaming only proves how much harder we need to work. We might be afraid (I am), but your attacks only help others realize how much things need to change.

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Celebrities Speak Out on behalf of Sarkeesian's latest Tropes vs. Women in Video Games video

August 27, 2014 Articles, Celebrity Spotlight, Video Games Comments (0) 7

When Anita Sarkeesian released the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter in summer of 2012, she most likely had no idea that she was about to start the misogynist storm of the century. However, she valiantly martyred herself for women in gaming, and brought attention to some serious problems women face when trying to participate in the gaming subculture.

In the two years following the horrible personal attacks on Sarkeesian’s series, issues surrounding women in gaming have become more prominent in the gaming community. Where once they were only spoken of in hushed whispers among friends, now many gaming journalism websites regularly post features on women, and even call out companies that think women are too hard to animate.

A more noticeable shift in this conversation has come about with the release of the latest Feminist Frequency video, Women as Background Decoration: Part 2.While there has been the usual rabble around the internet decrying the current video, for the first time two major personalities – one specifically in gaming culture and one in popular culture at large – have spoken out in defense of these videos.

Tim Schafer, the founder of Double Fine Studios and creator of gaming favorites such as Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and more recently Broken Age, shared the video on twitter, emphasizing that it was a must-watch for all video game professionals.

Then, out of nowhere, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer himself stepped into the arena sharing the following thoughts.

https://twitter.com/josswhedon/statuses/504505877286895616

https://twitter.com/josswhedon/statuses/504508687722250240

While there have always been men and women within the game industry who have supported Sarkeesian’s project, it feels like the first time a game developer not already aligned with a feminist gaming movement has stepped forward on her behalf.Joss Whedon’s input is not particularly surprising, but support of the video will be felt not only in the gaming community, but in larger geek-culture as well.

This follow’s Sarkeesian’s winning of the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award, which honors an individual who have helped the game industry advance to a better place. It may have taken over two years and thousands of trolls for the Feminist Frequency videos to get the support that they deserve, but it’s great to see large names in the industry publicly admiring her work now.

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Gamescom Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain trailer demonstrates more casual Hideo Kojima sexism

August 20, 2014 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 10

Just as my love for anything drawn by Ross Campbell is well known (and Kevin Wada covers) so is my distaste for games touched by Hideo Kojima. It’s solely because of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes that I was forced for the first time to type the phrase “vagina bomb”. It just doesn’t sit well with me. So I’ve been interested in the development of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, just to see if history would repeat itself.

The first whiff of sexism surrounding The Phantom Pain came from the early information regarding the game’s new female sniper, Quiet. She looks like this:

QuietMetalGearSolid

On twitter, Hideo Kojima himself took to explaining the look of this new character saying, “I’ve been ordering Yoji to make the character more erotic, and he did it well.” Quiet is certainly erotic – perhaps the most sexualized female character in video games that I can easily recall. She’s even worse than a majority of comic book superheroines that come to mind, which is really saying something. Realizing that perhaps something got lost in translation, Hideo Kojima further explained his intentions with the design of Quiet via this video form IGN.

He points out that much thought has gone into the design of Quiet, not only her visual look but also her background and formative life choices, saying that once her story is revealed all will be made clear. Without further details, many fans have taken to crafting wild theories for why Quiet dresses the way she does. For example, many western gamers have postulated that Quiet is actually Chico, a character from Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes after he undergoes a sex change due to the psychological trauma he experiences at Skullface’s hands (though this theory was recently refuted by Stefanie Joosten, the actress that plays Quiet).

Until the new game comes out, it is difficult to judge the character, no matter how repugnant I personally find her attire. However, there is one moment from Hideo Kojima’s video explanation of Quiet that immediately came to mind while I was watching the Gamescom Gameplay Trailer for The Phantom PainAfter Kojima berates his audience for prematurely judging Quiet, he goes on to say, “We’re not a game company that would just show a hot girl without reason.”

HideoKojimaHotGirl

Yet, the reasons that Kojima and his studio has for including images of hot girls in Metal Gear Solid 5 are not necessarily good reasons. In the the new footage of the game from Gamecoms, players were introduced to new uses for the box item. Previously players have been able to use it as cover, but the new game allows more versatility for the cardboard item.

One of these new uses is the addition of stickers. One such sticker is that of an enemy soldier saluting, which will further disguise the player inside the box at long distances. The other sticker, an image of an attractive woman in a bikini, beckons enemy soldiers closer to kill them more easily – this is demonstrated around 1:29 in the video below.

So Kojima and Kojima Productions have no problem showing an image of a hot girl as long as it serves as a tactical diversion for the player. It is a reason, but it’s not a reason gives me any confidence in expecting a decent explanation for the way Quiet will be represented within the new game. In fact, after the way the female character Paz was treated in MGS: Ground Zeroes, it’s difficult to have any faith that Quiet will enjoy a better fate – although almost anything would be better than death by vagina-bomb.

Overall, this new footage means I’m still not holding out any hopes that Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain will diverge from the gross exploitation of women featured in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. Instead, I’ll turn my attention towards the new Silent Hill game and hope that Guillermo Del Toro’s influence can help soften the brunt of Kojima’s vision.

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We Can All Calm Down: Rise of the Tomb Raider isn't *really* an Xbox Exclusive

August 13, 2014 Articles, TV and Movies, Video Games Comments (0) 8

Gamescom 2014 is going on right now, which means Microsoft and Playstation are once again trying to outdo each other. In this competition, Microsoft seemingly had a huge weapon in its arsenal. They announced yesterday that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be an Xbox Exclusive.

In fact, this is not the case. In an interview with Eurogamer Xbox boss Phil Spencer mentioned that, 

“I have Tomb Raider shipping next holiday exclusively on Xbox. It is Xbox 360 and Xbox One. I’m not trying to fake anybody out in terms of where this thing is. What they do with the franchise in the long run is not mine. I don’t control it. So all I can talk about is the deal I have. I don’t know where else Tomb Raider goes.”

While Spencer wasn’t willing to confirm how long Rise of the Tomb Raider will be exclusive to the Xbox, this news is still good for Playstation owners. 

As a colleague of mine recently pointed out in an article over at Gameskinny, making one of the few games featuring a strong female protagonist a console exclusive could have had negative ramifications for ladies in gaming as a whole. Fewer people would have been exposed to her story, and ultimately if the game sold poorly “it would contribute to the myth that female-led games just don’t sell.”  

It really feels like we dodged a bullet here, and I’m happy that I can continue planning my eventual Playstation 4 purchase while still looking forward to some Lara Croft action. 

 

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