Tag Archives: gaming

Designing a fantasy, and how devs can do it wrong

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(I’ve been inactive here for a while; busy with a project, promoted to guild leader and doing guild stuff, and general summer things. Anyway, I’ve still been posting on my Tumblr where posting is a lot easier and more convenient for quickie posts, and sometimes I think the posts can go up here as well. This is one of them.)

 

More Extra Credits, because they do great stuff. And more that can so easily be used to explain why women so often feel unwelcome, or at least a little put off, in the gaming space.

The episode itself is rather broad, but briefly mentions something that comes up a lot in discussion: Power Fantasy. And then it advises you create every aspect of your game, but specifically the visible stuff like art and sound design, in a way that fits this fantasy. Later on, it also talks about the importance of figuring out who your audience is to better tailor your fantasy to their demands.

And here lies the problem. Devs almost never consider women as part of this target audience. At best, “women also play games”, which basically means “yeah, we make this game for men, but we’re okay with women playing, too”. And that’s bullshit. You cannot complain that your sales numbers aren’t rising for all eternity when you so steadfastly refuse to include women in your audience right from the beginning.

When you are selling a fantasy, and you want to sell it to women as well as men (which is my shorthand for “anyone but straight white cis men”, which is a rather unwieldy phrase, so forgive me for stuffing it all into the “women” bag for this piece, because while I mainly talk about women, this goes for the entire huge and hugely diverse gaming audience), then you need to create your game for men and women. I’ll tell this bit specifically to the AAA devs, though if you think it applies to you… well, if the shoe fits and all that. Anyway. Don’t just expect women to keep buying your games when you don’t care about making games for women – in this day and age, we have an entire indie market to choose from, a market that increasingly caters to us because you clearly don’t bother.

But AAA games keep creating their fantasies primarily for men, and how they design their female characters, playable and NPCs, reflects that. Women are always a little sexier, a little more conventionally attractive, a little more generally feminine than male characters. Even in a game that is expressly a power fantasy, the female characters don’t cater to the female power fantasy the same way the male characters cater to the male power fantasy. They, too, cater to the male fantasy, with the most bizarre but logical extreme being the infamous bikini armour glued onto Escher women.

This isn’t a power fantasy any more once you leave the assumed main audience of straight dudes behind. And that’s when a game starts falling apart, because when you do not look at a game in this very specific way anymore (as even a lot of straight men don’t), then the pieces don’t fit the puzzle. You can’t have a buff guy decked out in battle-worn armour and realistic-looking weapons when his absurdly busty-but-petite companion is wearing a chainmail croptop and skintight leather leggings into battle, and then expect the image of the power fantasy to hold up for everyone in the audience. When you do this, you have no right to complain about people criticising your game for lack if artistic cohesion and realism, strange design priorities and obvious sexism. When you do this, you should at least admit that this is what you wanted to make instead of cowering behind excuses and “at least we have playable women!”. If you really wanted to include women and target them in the same way you target male gamers with your product, you would give as much thought to the female fantasy as you do to the male. And since you barely seem to consider the fantasy aspect in the first place, and when you do, you do it from a purely male perspective, you shouldn’t pretend that you consider women an equal part of your audience.

Small tangent before I stop lecturing: This ties into why people have a hard time accepting video games as an art form. Art ist criticised all the time for every little thing. Creators of video games so often try to shield themselves from this kind of criticism, or have their fans do it for them. They don’t give any thought to how their product reflects the world, presents ideas and opinions through its worldbuilding, design and characters. Art has to consider this. It doesn’t exist in a bubble. Good art has to consider how it affects those that consume it, how those consumers will receive it, or it will be rightfully criticised for it. A work of art has all its parts come together as a cohesive one to express its message. Video games often lack this cohesion, and thus deliver either really mixed messages or downright problematic ones. They can and should be criticised for that.

Video games are art. So stop acting like petulant children and start acting like actual artists. Until then, you have no right to complain about not being treated like artists, and your work not being valued as such.

Killing undead? Cool. Slaying dragons? No big deal. Doing homework? Ohcraphellno! (Also, some stuff about my NaNo novel…)

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Randomness ahead, you have been warned.

 

A few signs that you have played way too many video games lately…

 

1. When someone asks you how you spent your weekend and you automatically reply “I killed some dragon champions and then defeated Napoleon’s army” before you realise that’s probably not what they meant.

 

2. When the Decision Of The Day involves choosing dialogue options based on the choice between “have threesome with knight and pirate” and “have threesome, then invite the elven assassin to join”.

 

3. When you deliberately buy food that can be eaten with one hand or with no hands at all, if necessary.

 

4. When you choose buying a new headset over buying new shoes. (Finally, Teamspeak, woohoo!^^)

 

5. When you start dreaming about attacking That One Mean Professor with fireballs before feeding him to an ogre, and you catch yourself making plans on how best to ambush him.

 

6. When your biggest problem is choosing between two equally awesome games you still have to beat that will both eat away your whole weekend (and possibly Monday morning, too).

 

7. When finishing a particularly difficult dungeon is the pathetic climax of your whole week…

 

…I can’t be the only one, can I?

 

 

And now for something entirely different.

I can’t help but feel like I’m sort of ruining my chances to ever get published. First, I create a character of an age apparently despised by publishers (my heroine is twenty-five! *le gasp* How dare I make her even a day older than seventeen?!), then I create an equally unloved plot (*insert shocked expression here* my MCs make morally ambiguous choices!), and now I decided to scratch the romantic subplot (without which no novel can survive these days. Or so it seems…). So I’m not even sure what is left to show editors and agents. Y’know, apart from the plot and the characters and the fact that it’s something that would be pretty much filling a niche in the market that’s been more or less ignored until now (the young adults who are, actually, young adults, and not whiny teenagers falling in love with supernatural creatures of varying creepiness).

Seriously though, how do I explain the lack of basically everything that appears to make a book sellable? o_O

 

 

-Ricarda

Fake Geek Girls and why this whole debate is bullshit

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A warning beforehand: This is going to be a rant, and it probably won’t be coherent. You have been warned, now carry on :>

 

Not sure if this so-called “fake geek girl” thing is even popular enough to be widely known. Basically, it’s about girls who call themselves geeks and subsequently get called posers by the so-called “real” geeks. Yep, it’s like kindergarten, but that’s the fun of the internet, right?^^

So yeah, maybe I’m kinda behind on this, but I just now realised how much this thing escalated. Honestly, I didn’t really expect this level of hostility from those who got ostracised as kids for loving what they love. C’mon, shouldn’t you know best how that feels?

Only we are not children anymore, and apparently, adult “geeks” are free to insult everything and everyone they consider a “fake”. So far, I haven’t been able to determine the exact amount of knowledge about [insert random part of geekdom here] that separates the poser from the true geek. Doesn’t seem to matter anyway, since pretty much everyone seems to qualify as a fake in the eyes of a select few who only deem themselves and their devout followers worthy of wearing the badge of “GEEK”. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it sure feels like this is the case.

What I don’t understand is where all this hatred comes from? I mean, those guys (and gals) probably were the kids who got picked on because they went to see Star Wars Five times in opening week and lugged around books that had more pages than their schoolbooks. They likely were excluded because they were different, and now they do the same to others. Guys, do you even see the irony in this? Man, you’ve gotta be stark raving mad… (let’s play Who Spots the Lame Iron Man Joke :P)

Speaking of let’s play, one thing that can serve as a nice example for this selective exclusion is Joe Peacock’s reaction on a reaction on his first article (see link above). He explicitly states that “gaming is not geeky”. (Also, he kind of insults booth babes and claims they only do it for the money. Dude, they probably do, they are paid models, it’s their JOB! /random comment) Okay, fine, there may be various opinions on that one. What irks me is that in his other article he mentions “celebrating great comics, great games, great art, great movies and great television”. Yes, fine, I’m with you on that one. BUT! If you exclude games from the “geeky” spectrum, why not comic books as well? After all those films, they are just as popular as video games; maybe even more so. My mum watches those films with me, but she doesn’t play video games (yet^^). So, what makes comics geekier than games? Is Doctor Who still geekier than Supernatural? And since when has art NOT been geeky, no matter what kind or art?

Excluding one thing because it became “too popular” while simultaneously embracing another which is just as popular just because YOU happen to like it makes you look like an idiot. Just so you know.

 

Now, to enrage the “pure” geek community a bit:

According to this Venn diagram, what do you think I am?

Matthew_Mason_Nerd_Dork_Geek_Venn_Diagram

If you guessed “geek”, you just earned yourself a cookie :>

See, I may sound arrogant, but I am obsessed as well as smart; granted, I’m not totally socially incompetent, but I do qualify as “awkward”, even on my good days (does this mean I’m a geek/nerd hybrid?). Now, this lovely diagram was used by Tara brown (see link above) to back up her point (she’s one of those who hate the “fakes”, in case you’re too lazy to read the whole thing…). So, according to this, I’m a pureblood geek – but according to the rest of her article I’m not.

Did your head explode already?

You see, this is why this whole debate is downright stupid. The geek culture has grown so much over the past few decades, it’s just ridiculous to try and keep it as it used to be. There are tons of people out there who are “modern geeks”, but probably wouldn’t have qualified as one had they been born in the seventies. Hell, I wouldn’t. No, I haven’t read every single comic book that’s out there (mainly because they are insanely pricey around here; we don’t get normal, cheap comics to read and throw away, we get fancy graphic novels to put on our bookshelves that cost a shit ton of money -.-). No, I haven’t played every single video game there ever was. And no, I haven’t had the time yet to watch every single episode of Doctor Who (and I never will watch all of them, simply because I’m too young to have seen the lost episodes on TV :<). Well, sue me. I don’t care what you elitist freaks think – I stand by it, I qualify as a geek, by your standards and mine. And your efforts to exclude people like me to keep “your” culture pure just serves as evidence for how much asshattery is going on in the world, even in your precious geek culture.

Also, I’m wearing a Batman shirt as I write this. Because I love Batman. Or maybe I am Batman. Who knows.

 

 

-Ricarda

 

PS: Just an afterthought… I read in one of the articles against fake geek girls (by the way, why never “fake geek dudes”? oO) that only those qualify as true geeks who contribute to the culture. I wonder what they think about all the “fake geek girls” writing fanfiction…

I have no life…

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But I’m totally okay with that :)

 

So, NaNo is over, it’s too cold to go anywhere if I don’t have to, and that means: gaming time! Aside from catching up on the 140 hours I lost when I tried to transfer my Skyrim save games from my brother’s PS3 to mine (apparently, you’re not allowed to do that; the game will let you load and play the save game on another system/account, but not save or earn trophies. Way to go, Bethesda -.-), I spent my time in Guild Wars 2 and thus in Tyria. I’ve already spent way too many hours playing Guild Wars, way back when it first came out (and saying that makes me feel really old right now…), and when they announced GW2, it was clear I’d buy that too. And while I had little time during summer (new town, new place, BA thesis, the usual…), I kind of became obsessed with the game again during NaNo (wonderful timing, I know…), and it has eaten most of my life since then. Not that I mind.

It’s an awesome game. They took all the good stuff from GW, mixed it up with some (necessary) alterations, wrote up a cool storyline, and there you go, best MMO I ever saw :) Everyone who’s toying with the idea of trying out online gaming, but shies away from a) monthly fees and b) mediocre graphics can very well give GW2 a try. No fees, just buy the game and play, and the graphics are decent enough, even for a game that has been in development for a solid five years (probably longer, but that’s when they announced it). All in all, it’s my personal Game of the Year. And yes, it even beats Skyrim. Which is technically a 2011 game, but I only got around to playing it this fall… what? I was broke last November and couldn’t afford a new PC or console :P

 

Anyway, I’d like to introduce you to my two favourite chars. Meet my main-main char (yes, that is a word^^), the lovely norn elementalist Darla Firebringer:

GW2_Darla_Firebringer01

 

Alongside her, I trained this handsome fellow, who happens to be modeled after my MMC in my NaNo novel, norn warrior Petri Halvarsson:

GW2_Petri_Halvarsson01

(Below those two are my sylvari thief, my norn ranger and my asura necromancer, all still below level ten and only played very occasionally.)

 

Those two share a backstory; after I roleplayed my warrior for a while, he sort of became a unique character in his own right, and he has little in common anymore with the guy from my novel. Taking OOC to a whole new level^^ I’m currently writing up their story as a fanfic, and it may or may not end up on FF.net in the future. If I decide it can still be called a fanfic, that is. I took a lot of liberties with the actual GW2 storyline, and I’m not sure anyone would even want to read it. Meh. We’ll see.

So far, have a good night :)

 

 

-Ricarda