Gamerisms

RSS

Posts tagged with "men"

Sexual Dimorphism in World of Warcraft.
The term sexual dimorphism refers to differences between males and females of the same species.  Some animals are highly sexually dimorphic. Male elephant seals outweigh females by more than 2,500 pounds; peacocks put on a color show that peahens couldn’t mimic in their wildest dreams; and a male anglerfish’s whole life involves finding a female, latching on, and dissolving until there’s nothing left but his testicles (yes, really).
On the spectrum of very high to very low dimorphism, humans are on the low end.  We’re just not that kind of species.  Remove the gendered clothing styles, make up, and hair differences and we’d look more alike than we think we do.
Because we’re invested in men and women being different, however, we tend to be pleased by exaggerated portrayals of human sexual dimorphism (for example, in Tangled). Game designer-in-training Andrea Rubenstein has shown us that we extend this ideal to non-human fantasy as well.  She points to a striking dimorphism (mimicking Western ideals) in World of Warcraft creatures.
Annalee Newitz at Wired writes:

[Rubenstein] points out that these female bodies embody the “feminine ideal” of the supermodel, which seems a rather out-of-place aesthetic in a world of monsters. Supermodelly Taurens wouldn’t be so odd if gamers had the choice to make their girl creatures big and muscley, but they don’t. Even if you wanted to have a female troll with tusks, you couldn’t. Which seems especially bizarre given that this game is supposed to be all about fantasy, and turning yourself into whatever you want to be.

It appears that the supermodel-like females weren’t part of the original design of the game.  Instead, the Alpha version included a lot less dimorphism, among the Taurens and the Trolls for example.
Newitz says that the female figures were changed in response to player feedback:

Apparently there were many complaints about the women of both races being “ugly” and so the developers changed them into their current incarnations.

The dimorphism in WoW is a great example of how gender difference is, in part, an ideology.  It’s a desire that we impose onto the world, not reality in itself.  We make even our fantasy selves conform to it.  Interestingly, when people stray from affirming the ideology, they can face pressure to align themselves with its defenders.  It appears that this is exactly what happened in WoW.

Sexual Dimorphism in World of Warcraft.

The term sexual dimorphism refers to differences between males and females of the same species.  Some animals are highly sexually dimorphic. Male elephant seals outweigh females by more than 2,500 pounds; peacocks put on a color show that peahens couldn’t mimic in their wildest dreams; and a male anglerfish’s whole life involves finding a female, latching on, and dissolving until there’s nothing left but his testicles (yes, really).

On the spectrum of very high to very low dimorphism, humans are on the low end.  We’re just not that kind of species.  Remove the gendered clothing styles, make up, and hair differences and we’d look more alike than we think we do.

Because we’re invested in men and women being different, however, we tend to be pleased by exaggerated portrayals of human sexual dimorphism (for example, in Tangled). Game designer-in-training Andrea Rubenstein has shown us that we extend this ideal to non-human fantasy as well.  She points to a striking dimorphism (mimicking Western ideals) in World of Warcraft creatures.

Annalee Newitz at Wired writes:

[Rubenstein] points out that these female bodies embody the “feminine ideal” of the supermodel, which seems a rather out-of-place aesthetic in a world of monsters. Supermodelly Taurens wouldn’t be so odd if gamers had the choice to make their girl creatures big and muscley, but they don’t. Even if you wanted to have a female troll with tusks, you couldn’t. Which seems especially bizarre given that this game is supposed to be all about fantasy, and turning yourself into whatever you want to be.

It appears that the supermodel-like females weren’t part of the original design of the game.  Instead, the Alpha version included a lot less dimorphism, among the Taurens and the Trolls for example.

Newitz says that the female figures were changed in response to player feedback:

Apparently there were many complaints about the women of both races being “ugly” and so the developers changed them into their current incarnations.

The dimorphism in WoW is a great example of how gender difference is, in part, an ideology.  It’s a desire that we impose onto the world, not reality in itself.  We make even our fantasy selves conform to it.  Interestingly, when people stray from affirming the ideology, they can face pressure to align themselves with its defenders.  It appears that this is exactly what happened in WoW.

More on sexist men in online gaming

Despite bad experiences I’ve had, I truly believe that only 10% of male gamers are total douchebags who enjoy being overtly sexist to goad women, while the other 90% of male gamers are guys who just want to game without having it be at other people’s expense. I even believe that the majority of that 90% is, deep down, actually uncomfortable with such overt sexism.

But when those 90% of non-douchey men don’t say anything, then it seems like that 10% dominates the entire community of gamers. Engaging in overt sexism is a core problem, but it is complacency that is the greatest enemy of an accepting environment.

As much as it may be difficult and even scary for men to stick up for women, even when they know it is unsettling to say nothing, I want a bigger push for proactive attitudes in men to squash to douchebaggery and sexism from other men who need to hear that their “jokes” and sexism will not be accepted, and will not be the norm; even when the perpetrator is a friend and even when there is no woman around to hear it, we need to always support each other, because when a woman is being disparaged, disrespected, and made fun of solely because of her gender, it’s unjust to say nothing.

- Aria

Jan 9

Nerds and Male Privilege Part 2

In a continuation of Kotaku’s discussions on male privilege in gaming/comics/geek culture, the writer takes the time to dissect and deconstruct many of the common excuses that men make for not considering the role that sexism plays in geek culture, in what he calls, “The 3 Ds of Arguing.”

Dismissal entails denying that the issue exists at all in the first place, evidence be damned. This often involves long and tortured explanations about how something really isn’t sexist at all and is perfectly rational and egalitarian. Occasionally it involves explaining to someone how they’re completely misinterpreting things, they’re oversensitive or overemotional.

Nerds and Male Privilege Part 2:  Deconstructing the Arguments

No, you’re sexist! You’re trying to oppress men!

Deflection is all about verbal judo and flipping the accusations around on the accuser. In terms of arguing male privilege this usually appears as variations of “No, women have all the power, they’re more manipulative than men” or “You’re discriminating against us!”

Derailing is the most common version of these arguments and serves to change the subject of the conversation, usually by the people in question. Suddenly, instead of discussing geek culture’s implied accepted roles for women, we’re discussing the hierarchy of oppression or why we’re talking about this instead of, say, female circumcision (which is, like, way worse). Or dealing with assertions that, by extension, anyone who agreed with the article wants to ban all “sexy” characters from video games forever.

Note how the 3 Ds are actually very applicable in many conversations about how male privilege functions in different cultures and sub-cultures.

Although on Kotaku, it can be a face-palming experience to read the comments section, this time around, there is definitely more support for what the writer is articulating, even despite the usual privilege-deniers. The more that influential sites like Kotaku talk about these issues, the more that people can feel comfortable with talking about their own experiences without fear of being immediately shut down by the very culture these articles are trying to get us to look at and dismantle.

Nerds and Male Privilege

This great article from Kotaku, (that’s right, Kotaku) functions as a kind of introductory lesson to its mostly male readers about male privilege in the gaming world, breaking it down piece-by-piece for the men who have ever refused or ignored talks of male privilege in gaming culture. Now, many of us gamers who already understand the ramifications of a cis-straight-male-dominated gaming and geek culture will not be surprised at all by the writer’s words. However, this 101 on male privilege features important and vital information for those gamers who have lived their lives as geeks blissfully unaware, or defiantly ignorant, of the privilege that they hold within gaming, and how that privilege manifests in all areas of their lives.

Now with this in mind, consider why being a girl first may be a hindrance to geek girls. A guy who plays a first person shooter – Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, what-have-you – online may expect a certain amount of trash talking, but he’s not going to be inundated with offers for sex, threats of rape, sounds of simulated masturbation or demands that he blow the other players – but not before going to the kitchen and getting them a beer/sandwich/pizza first. Men will also not be told that they’re being “too sensitive” or that “they need to toughen up” when they complain about said sexual threats.

Men also won’t have their opinions weighed or dismissed solely on the basis of how sexy or attractive they are. The most common responses a woman can expect in an argument – especially online – is that she’s fat, ugly, single, jealous, a whore, or a lesbian – or any combination thereof – and therefore her opinion is irrelevant, regardless of it’s actual merits. This is especially true if she’s commenting on the portrayal of female characters, whether in comics, video games or movies.

It seems rare when an influential and popular site as Kotaku features an article like this as their top story, and hopefully, more will come.

As usual on Kotaku, whenever there is an article directly relating to critiquing the cis straight male culture, be careful when reading the comments, as although some are indeed supportive of the article, and some feel enlightened, many comments are men defending the culture and upholding the status quo of the straight male gaze.

TW: mentions of violence, racism, sexualization
[image description: A poster for Max Payne 3. At the foreground on the right is Max Payne, a white cis man with a beard, holding a whiskey a glass and wiping his mouth. In the background to the left is a dark-skinned cis man with most his face covered, holding an automatic weapon in one hand. To his right is a white cis woman with her hands behind her back, writhing in pain]
This is the newest cover art for the game Max Payne 3.
Let’s ignore Max Payne himself. Let’s ignore the game’s content, message, previous incarnations, et cetera. This post is just about the advertisement poster, and I do realize I am largely taking it out of the context of whatever kind of game Max Payne is. This cover art displays some very racialized, sexualized images that I’m actually surprised a game company would actually use.
Let’s start with the woman. Looking at her in the background is very discomforting. Although she appears to be held captive against her will, her post is almost model-esque, just teetering on the edge of looking like she’s in pain or in pleasure. It evokes both violence and sexualization at the time, a rarity, but not unheard of, in advertisements and posters and covers featuring women.
Now, let’s look at the dark-skinned man to the left of her. Max Payne 3 appears to be set in Brazil, so of course there are going to be brown people around. However, even without the context of the game, just take a look at that image. A dark-skinned, evil looking man taking hostage of a beautiful white, or at least light-skinned, woman. This is something I think we see all too often.
We can look at the presentation of the woman and the presentation of the dark-skinned man, but when you put them both together onto one cover art with Max, who many unfamiliar with the game will probably assume is the protagonist, at the foreground of the picture, how can anyone look at it and not see a sexualized, racialized image?
- Aria

TW: mentions of violence, racism, sexualization

[image description: A poster for Max Payne 3. At the foreground on the right is Max Payne, a white cis man with a beard, holding a whiskey a glass and wiping his mouth. In the background to the left is a dark-skinned cis man with most his face covered, holding an automatic weapon in one hand. To his right is a white cis woman with her hands behind her back, writhing in pain]

This is the newest cover art for the game Max Payne 3.

Let’s ignore Max Payne himself. Let’s ignore the game’s content, message, previous incarnations, et cetera. This post is just about the advertisement poster, and I do realize I am largely taking it out of the context of whatever kind of game Max Payne is. This cover art displays some very racialized, sexualized images that I’m actually surprised a game company would actually use.

Let’s start with the woman. Looking at her in the background is very discomforting. Although she appears to be held captive against her will, her post is almost model-esque, just teetering on the edge of looking like she’s in pain or in pleasure. It evokes both violence and sexualization at the time, a rarity, but not unheard of, in advertisements and posters and covers featuring women.

Now, let’s look at the dark-skinned man to the left of her. Max Payne 3 appears to be set in Brazil, so of course there are going to be brown people around. However, even without the context of the game, just take a look at that image. A dark-skinned, evil looking man taking hostage of a beautiful white, or at least light-skinned, woman. This is something I think we see all too often.

We can look at the presentation of the woman and the presentation of the dark-skinned man, but when you put them both together onto one cover art with Max, who many unfamiliar with the game will probably assume is the protagonist, at the foreground of the picture, how can anyone look at it and not see a sexualized, racialized image?

- Aria

Jul 9

Using the Bechdel Test on Video Games

Some of you may have heard of “The Bechdel Test." For those of you unfamiliar with it, it is basically a set of criteria that doesn’t determine whether or not a film is feminist, but just to determine if it has a notable presence of women.

However, although this litmus test is mainly used for films, I find that it also appropriately assesses the presence of women in video games.

Here are the rules:

  1. There must be at least two women
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

I looked through the video games I currently own and assessed whether or not they passed:

  • Uncharted - Drake’s Fortune has less than two women, Among Thieves is iffy cause Chloe and Elena talk, but only when Drake is around and usually about his plans
  • Assassin’s Creed - 1 has less than two women with speaking roles, 2 has Ezio’s mom and sister but I don’t think they talk to each other, Brotherhood barely passes since it has Lucy and Rebecca talk about the Animus a bit
  • Call of Duty Black Ops - does not pass, I don’t know if any of the games in the Call of Duty series passes
  • Final Fantasy XIII - Definitely passes
  • LA Noire - has several female characters but they never talk to each other
  • InFamous - 1 has less than two women, 2 may pass, but like Uncharted, the two women mainly talk about the male protagonist and what his next move should be
  • Ratchet and Clank series - As far as I know, none of them pass because they all pretty much have less than two women
  • Heavy Rain - less than two women
  • Some games pass or not depending on whether or you can choose to have a male or female character

Of course, most fighting, puzzle, and racing games are not eligible for this test. However, for games that are story-based, it’s interesting to see which games actually pass the test, since, as indicated in the list above, although there has been an improvement in the representation of women in video games, that doesn’t mean that women are present in a rate anywhere equal to men or that they have story lines and personalities that don’t revolve around men.

- Aria

Female Armor Sucks!

Have you ever played a video game in which everyone had armor, saw a female character, and gave one look at what she was wearing and thought, “There is no way that could ever function as real armor”? I know I have, far too many times. These often-ridiculous costumes are mainly used as eye-candy for the straight cis male gamers and dehumanize many female characters to only their body parts and not their actual skills in warfare. They are perhaps one of the few things in a video games that can take me out of the moment due to the blatant hypersexualized nature, and confusing notion that they could function as armor.

College Humor has created a new video showing some of the inconsistencies and downright idiocies of the differences in armor for men and armor for women in video games. While male characters actually have, well, protective armor, female characters are often saddled with very revealing clothing that is completely ill-functioned to be anything other than a weird costume.

Jun 1

Sex and Gender in Mass Effect

It is a barely a question that the Mass Effect series, and its creator, Bioware, has been a gaming model for inclusiveness. Whether it’s by race or sex, or sexuality, Mass Effect goes beyond most other games to create a portrait of great diversity. However, as I played through Mass Effect 2 for the third time, I took more notice of the portrayals of sex and gender present in the game. We can look at characters like Tali, Jack, Miranda, Liara, etc. and see great diversity amongst their portrayals. But if we look at the galaxy as a landscape of what sex and gender is in the ME universe, we see a more complicated and contradictory idea of being female, and being a woman in the ME world.

[image description: three mercenaries with guns pointing to the right. Two are male-presenting humans, one is a female-presenting human]

One of the nice details that Mass Effect incorporates that makes it different nearly every other third-person shooters is that it features women not only as important characters with dialogue, but also as thugs and grunts and hench-people. This detail may seems small, but I find it to be a revolutionary concept in action games, because it shows women not only as agents of great heroism, but also as people willing to go down the wrong path looking for a quick buck or some action. You rarely see games in which women are not merely the seductive, maneating ringleaders. They can also be the thugs.

[image description: picture containing headshots of Jack, Ashely Williams, Miranda Lawson, Tali vas Neema, Liara T’Soni, and Kelly Chambers with the title “Mass Effect” on the bottomr right corner]

However, if we look, we can see that anyone in the game who is female or a woman is human, asari, quarian, or rachni (that’s right, I’m even considering the rachni as an example). There are no female or woman-identified turians, salarians, krogans, volus, elcor, hanar, drell, or batarians throughout the series at all. Essentially, even though the game tries to be gender-inclusive, the series still projects male as the default.

In the game, according to the codex and some male members of the respective species, Salarians are 90% male and the females stay on their home planet to be politicians and leaders. Female krogans are “passed around” based on fertility viability and also stay on their home planet in order to reproduce. Hanar females are said to be indistinguishable from the males. All other female members of a species are basically non-existent and seldom mentioned in the ME universe.

[image description: black-and-white concept art of the asari race in mercenary, casual, and military armor]

The asari are of course, a different case. The codex goes into detail how the asari do not have a gender or sex; they just are. This distinction means that the asari sit outside the gender binary and that binary labels should not apply to them, yet because they all look like cis women, they are an “all-female race,” and are referred to as women throughout the series. The asari could have been a very unique portrayal of what it means for an entire race to be non-binary, yet instead, they are just given the title “all-female” as a titillating fantasy of a race that is essentially entirely composed of cis women.

Although they are some of the most capable warriors in the game, the fact that the asari are considered all-female and the most human-like of the races makes them the most sexualized and exoticized group in the game. They are the exotic dancers, the strippers, and the race of choice as the Citadel consort and compose of the majority of her staff, which are all female. They basically function as the ME universe’s embodiment of femininity, as they fall prey to several stereotypes of cis women. They have never engaged in civil war and are diplomatic (because women obviously never engage in war), they have “stages” in life - maiden, matron, and matriarch, the only species to have such clearly defined roles (which correspond to prescribed roles projected to women today), and as pointed out above, are very sexualized.

[image description: asari scientist Liara T’Soni]

Even Liara T’Soni as the potential “lesbian” romance option in ME1 is essentially a cop-out. So, lesbians are okay so long as they are different species? In ME2, Kelly was the first character introduced who could be a same-sex romance for FemShep, but the romance is not as in-depth as the ones with the dossiers. Now, lead producer Casey Hudson confirmed that there will be more same-sex romance options in ME3, so hopefully this means that FemShep could romance someone like Jack or Tali (PLEASE PLEASE TALI), and MaleShep could romance someone like…um, anyone male.

As with every other game company, Bioware does not include female counterparts to most of the races due to insufficient memory, time, money, etc. on creating female characters. But does there really have to be a great distinction between male and female species? Does every female alien in ME need breasts, hips, and a slim figure? Does every female alien have to look attractive? I doubt anyone will run away from the game if they see a female Krogan with the body and scars of a male krogan; in fact, I think that would be awesome to see. Do there need to be distinct differences between a “male” and “female” of a species?

I’m hoping in Mass Effect 3, we see a more detailed portrait of sex and gender in the game. Some planets in ME3 include the turian homeworld and a return to Tuchanka, the krogan homeworld. Perhaps we will see turian or krogan women. Or some other woman of another alien race. Or some other exploration of sex and gender in the galaxy. Either way, I’m looking forward to ME3 and waiting to see the next steps they take in inclusiveness.

- Aria

[Image description: Photo of two cardboard Duke Nukem displays. They both feature the character of the same name in the center. One has a thin blonde white woman in a revealing school girl costume posing next to him. The other features two of the same women posing on either side of him, one edging her hand toward Duke Nukem’s crotch suggestively. Where the women’s faces should be, there are windows cut out of the cardboard so someone can stand behind them and put their face there instead]
Saw this at Gamestop today. I don’t think I need to say anything about it other than it really shows what the Duke Nukem franchise stands for.
- Aria

[Image description: Photo of two cardboard Duke Nukem displays. They both feature the character of the same name in the center. One has a thin blonde white woman in a revealing school girl costume posing next to him. The other features two of the same women posing on either side of him, one edging her hand toward Duke Nukem’s crotch suggestively. Where the women’s faces should be, there are windows cut out of the cardboard so someone can stand behind them and put their face there instead]

Saw this at Gamestop today. I don’t think I need to say anything about it other than it really shows what the Duke Nukem franchise stands for.

- Aria

Ms. Splosion Man: Like Ms. Pacman, But More Sexist

After the success of the XBox Live Arcade game “Splosion Man,” which chronicles the adventure of an explosive science experiment gone wrong as he escapes the lab in which he was created. the sequel, “Ms. Splosion Man,” is an add-on that seeks to use the same mechanics of the original, but, oh em gee, the science experiment gone wrong is a lady! Clearly, this character is a a nod Ms. Pacman, but not in right ways.

Here’s the very first thing that is troublesome: Why “Ms. Splosion Man?” Why not just call her “Splosion Woman?” Of course, since this is a throwback to Ms. Pacman, it makes sense, but why must her name, and therefore basically her identity, be tied to Splosion Man when it appears that the two characters don’t even have anything to do with each other besides their powers?

Here is a picture. It’s a back view, but gives you the basic idea:

Wow, look at how clear it is that she’s a girl! She wears a bow! She’s pink, the color of women! She is super conventionally skinny, yet has a chest and a butt that sticks out for everyone to see! She has strange men oggling at her for no reason and doesn’t even care!

After seeing a few trailers, I happened upon an actual gameplay trailer, which you can view here:

http://youtu.be/H0cNmTWwOV8

There are many problems in the trailer, such as the in-game shouts of the character herself. In the original Splosion Man, the title character would randomly yell things like, “Bacon!” and other clearly non-gendered things. But in the trailer, Ms. Splosion Man says things like, "I must, I must increase my bust," "Do I look fat in this?", "You had me at hello!" and most randomly, "Who left the toilet seat up again?" Wow, now I can definitely tell that’s she’s a a woman! She is filled with superficial insecurities! She is obsessed with love! She cares about the toilet seat that takes two seconds to put down!

The real problem is that I believe the makers of the game are actually trying to be satirical, and not sexist. However, satire is very hard to translate that into a video games since everything needs to be heightened in a certain way, and satire requires a lighter touch. As this game tries to have its main character be the new Ms. Pacman, Twisted Pixel could have just slapped a bow onto Splosion Man and left it at that. But no, instead, they turned a potentially nostalgic concept into something that so far, just seems sexist, tasteless, and unfunny. Maybe it will be different once the game comes out, but so far, it doesn’t look too good.

-Aria