Tag Archives: video games

And in engineering-videogamer world

In my world the word diversity often (usually) refers to a mixed social identity composition of a group, typically encapsulated by socio-analytic categories like race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, sexuality, age and more. Watch what this video (for a game that I enjoy and play with friends!) implies diversity is:

And, to some extent, they’re right – the game has all kinds of heroes – aliens, monkeys, scarecrows, overweight alcoholics and more. Unfortunately LOL is not diverse and quite cliche in that:

  • Sexist cliches – Every female character is either a little girl (child) or a fighting fuck toy trope (with impossible proportions – the male characters have comparably more diverse body types). Of the non-human monsters (no, Yordles don’t count) there is only one with a female voice, as compared to dozens with male voices. And just in case you were thinking about suggesting the male characters have unrealistic bodies too, you might consider that this too is part of structural oppression.
  • Colorblind racism – Nearly all of the characters have either white skin (Caucasian) or fictional skin (bright red, blue, etc…). You can spot a couple of champions who are probably of implied Asian decent and perhaps some purchasable alternative hero looks (you have to pay money to be black Ryze or Latina Karma?) that may include others. Fantasy and Sci-Fi worlds without racial diversity are certainly cliche and default whiteness is a form of racism (think of Band-Aids or crayons of peach color being labeled ‘flesh-colored’).

I’d also add that far too many of their characters seem to have some serious anger management issues, but that would make a little more sense in the context of battle.

Back to Gender and Videogames

Figured it’s about time to score another feminist gamer post. I’ve often appreciated MovieBob’s strong statements on body types in gaming, and so when another video blogger on the Escapist had one I thought I’d throw in.

Jimquisition is an admittedly awkward guy, especially compared to Yahtzee or Bob, but really this particular site is all about the nerdery, so I happily give him props for things like his complaints against absurd DRM. His latest, however, left me in a bit of a tangle:

I mean, he’s right, we should have more female characters represented in games like this. But what I’m sure he knows is that there’s a cultural dimension beyond production costs and hit boxes. I’d like to believe I’m a pretty level-headed feminist, but if you showed me a video of a woman getting punched in the face and then a man getting smacked in the very same manner – all context suspended – I’d probably feel worse about the woman. I know that’s a potentially sexist reaction, but I think it probably ports to games – our fantasies get busted up if we see women getting shot, cut and blown up in games. I already think it’s quite unfortunate we’re so immune to fantasy violence, I’m not sure that I want us to be immune to fantasy violence against women. And, likely, Jimquisition would agree, given his stance against rape in fantasy games and his identification of women as simultaneously sexualized and brutalized in games.

I also worry that the addition of female body types risks what Professor Lisa Nakamura posited as identity tourism. Given that many (read: most) women are turned off by the gore and sheer aggression present in many FPS games I think we’d be looking at a lot more guys playing female models. This might not be a problem, necessarily, but if these guys start to fulfill sexist stereotypes in the women they play (see Lori Kendall’s statement in Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub… or just take a look at the play guides for Janna in League of Legends, the biggest online game these days) then we risk worsening the situation.

So what’s my opinion? Well, I think we should have more female body types in games, but please, could we work on toning back the violence? These spoiled 14 year old boys immersed in Call of Duty end up as engineering students forced to take my classes and have no idea how to have empathy for other human beings. It’s hard work repairing them – they don’t really like listening to a “pussy” like me when they’re too busy “raping” their math exams. I’m not saying the violence in videogames is directly linked to sexism, I just find the hyper-competitive survival-of-the-fittest ultra-aggressive types feast on that ish.

Or, at least, often that’s my perception. Happy Monday all!

Body types in video games revisited

Most feminists who have played or seen videogames have noticed the frequent lack of diversity in available character body types. Typically characters in games take on super-human forms, for men this means huge muscles and for women this means big boobs and impossibly thin waists. Instead of ragging on about this I thought I’d point out Blizzard’s Diablo 3 has some unusual elements of body diversity:

Here we have a female barbarian, who is quite muscular and without ‘perfect’ hair and…

also here is witch doctor class who is a little overweight, hunched over and is also a person of color. The male monk (not pictured) might also be similar to someone of middle eastern ethnic decent.

Now this is not to say we can’t find some of the typical body forms within their array of characters (the super tall & thin Demon Hunter female, for instance), but I think it’s a small step forward.

I should also point out that the witch doctor stereotype is potentially problematic. I’d argue it furthers the ‘othering’ of non-whiteness, continuing with the racist tradition of relegating people of color to¬† “primitive” archetypes and associations. It’s no coincidence that the female wizard isn’t black or male barbarian isn’t Asian.

So more work ahead of us, but evidence of progress, in my opinion.

Gendered poses in visual mediums

One of my favorite sociologists-in-disguise is MovieBob. A while back he released a video that I’ve been using in my classes to point out sexism in videogames as it occurs in the way that female characters are physically posed (a notably different critique than the usual “they all have giant boobs and skinny abs routine” that makes the bros think again):

I absolutely love this kind of intelligent and insightful commentary, though I also appreciate his willingness to reach out to the more thick-skulled males out there.

The other day my dear Dellington found a perfect example of what he’s talking about here. Observe, the sexualized mostly-male Avengers:

Picture borrowed from elephantjournal.com.

Another interesting computer game….

UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) is just full of surprises. One of my fellow VISTAs was complaining about dying in a game yesterday, and when I asked what she had been playing, she showed me a the UNHCR computer gamed called “Against All Odds”:http://www.playagainstallodds.com/game_us.html in which you can choose to play a refugee “running from persecution” after a military coup, “living in a border country,” or trying to find “a new life” (resettling in a new country). Especially fun are the parts where you get interrogated by the government and just see blood dripping onto the screen if you give the wrong answer; trying to click your possessions into a backpack to flee before the soldiers get to your home; and being murdered by the people you ask for help.

Virtual dog walking

I’ve never understood video games like DDR or those interactive boxing games, but here’s one even that crowd might balk at. Apparently Tokyo arcade goers latest challenge is taking their dogs for walks. In this simulation, gamers must control walking pace and keep a sharp lookout for perilous-puppy hazards like other dogs and seductive hydrants.

Photo and story from “CityM.org”:http://citym.org/blog/archives/2006/04/dogwalking_vide_1.html.

The Amazing Nintendo House (aka my dream home)

Sometimes you see something so amazing that your jaw drops and can’t be lifted back up for a few minutes. Such was my viewing of this Nintendo house, created by a fraternity at Carnegie Mellon University. Every single feature, from the Zapper staircase to the Game Boy on the side, is carefully crafted and simply a visual masterpiece.

This structure solves a problem that I’ve pondered for ages: how can I demonstrate how much I truly love gaming just from my home decor alone? Now, I have something to aspire to. Not enough pictures of this fine structure exist, but take a look at the “Flickr album”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/7891513@N07/ for more awesome shots! Thanks to the folks at “Destructoid”:http://www.destructoid.com/fraternity-s-nintendo-funhouse-college-is-useful-again-update–31102.phtml for unraveling the mystery of this fine house’s creation!

More Microsoft news – color barcodes

Microsoft has recently announced the development of a system to encode more information onto their DVD discs and games by using a “system of colored, triangular barcodes”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6570871.stm. These are not meant to replace the black and white, linear barcodes that everyone knows and loves. Instead, disc owners can use a camera phone to read the data stored in the code and access online materials, extra downloads, or other game-related features.

The Art of Wii – Creativity Meets Technology

Nintendo of Canada is hosting a “unique sweepstakes”:http://theartofwii.nintendo.com/ in which contestants can win one of six beautifully crafted, artistically brilliant, hand-painted Wiis. These systems are gorgeous.

http://theartofwii.nintendo.com/ Each was crafted by a renowned Canadian artist, and each provides a unique interpretation of Nintendo's vision for the Wii: one features a friendly bunny waving hello to a friend, while another (pictured below) features a slick character exploding out of the Wii canvas in a fury of 1-Ups and treasure chests (brandishing a Wiimote and Nunchuk, no less). This entry was posted in Original Duenos and tagged , on by .