August 19, 2010

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Xbox to Women – “We’ll Help You With Your Sons Account”

Filed under: Gaming,Gender,Media — Tags: , , — Rachel @ 11:31 pm

Recently the website posted a letter they received from an irritated female gamer.  She had contacted Xbox Live support to downgrade her account, and the reply she received told her they would be happy to help her with her sons account, and they know how disappointing it can be for her son when Xbox isn’t working properly.  And here’s why I’m writing about it – the woman who wrote in?  Never mentioned a son in her correspondence, and in fact she doesn’t even have any kids, much less a son with an Xbox account.  There is an automatic assumption that if you are female, you couldn’t possibly yourself be a gamer.  XBox is flooded with problems for girl gamers like me, but it’s something that is rarely addressed.

A few weeks ago, Gears of War was offering extra experience points for playing online.  Previously, I had always signed in as the +1 to my boyfriend’s account, and nothing would be saved.  Xbox was offering a 30 day trial period, so I figured, what the hell, I’ll sign up, I can always cancel once the trial period is over.  While thinking of a username, I realized that all the combinations of words that I would like to use, that I identified with, were all “feminine” in some way.  So immediately the first three ideas I had were out.  Of course, I could’ve used one of those names – but then I would’ve been subject to pictures of male genitalia, sexual harassment, and misogynistic comments.

When I finally settled on a username, one that is actually specifically male, I was happy.  “No more problems or worrying about any of the above” I thought.  The second day playing under my new account, I was invited to a chat with fellow team members while playing Warzone.  I realized that, even if I wanted to join (which I didn’t – I was already getting the feeling they were pissed because I wasn’t doing well), I couldn’t.  That would reveal me as being a woman, and wasn’t something I wanted to deal with.  (I was right about the annoyance part – they sent me messages telling me to “Get the fuck out!!!!!!!!” once the game was almost over.)  On top of all that, I was frequently put into games with people who had information that tried to circumvent the automatic Xbox offensive word finder – people would put words like “raep” and “b1tch” in their usernames or profiles, or in some cases, both.  I filed complaints each time I came across one, but over the long weekend, it seems I encountered this multiple times on a daily basis.

Currently, there’s no solution for stopping any of it, there’s only doing what I did – hiding.  Hopefully Xbox will get a clue and begin adding the “misspelled” words to their automatic finder.  Maybe institute a zero-tolerance policy on any of the above mentioned behavior?  But until then, it’s all male-sounding usernames and filing complaints one by one.

August 14, 2010

Rants Of A Gamer Girl: Women Are Not “Species” or “Creatures”

Filed under: Gaming,Gender,Media — Tags: , — Rachel @ 3:40 pm

Last year a training video from Gamestop was leaked online.  It treated female customers as a rare “species” and taught new employees how to handle these bizarro customers in the form of a safari-like-adventure training video, on how to handle these “creatures.”  Of course what’s hilarious is that as the first type of female customer is explained, we’re told they don’t like to be “condescended to or ignored.”  Personally, I find it a little condescending that a.) this video was made in the first place, and b.) GameStop trains their employees by referring to female customers as “creatures” and “species.”  I suppose no one at the top thought to take into account the fact that *gasp* women might actually work there?  Apply for jobs there?  Might know to speak to a female customer the same way they would speak to a male?

Obviously not – training tip number one?  How to handle a woman who enters the store and looks like “a deer in headlights.”  An employee approached her, and she hears his introduction as the noise of adults on old Charlie Brown cartoons.  She doesn’t understand his gamer “lingo” and of course she does the logical thing and turns and runs. Because that makes total sense.  I don’t know shit about make-up, but if I stroll into a Sephora and an employee introduces the store, and herself, I don’t fly into a panic and start moving for the door.  Apparently he flew into some gamer-jargon tirade, which we’ll never know the content of, obviously it was too complex for her to just ask “I’m sorry, I’m just looking for this game.”  Luckily, they replay the scenario where the give the “subject the comfort to admit her lack of knowledge.”  They turn a “hunter” (someone who wants to buy only one thing) into a “gatherer” by offering her a subscription to Cosmo – because WHAT LADY CAN TURN THAT DOWN AMIRITE?

When women are surrounded by attitudes in gaming that they’re stupid and completely out of place, it makes it little wonder that they’re not really interested in joining the community.  And it’s especially unsurprising that once we do, we’re continually annoyed by the messages we’re surrounded by.

May 19, 2010

Red Dead Redemption: Increase Your Gamescore For Violence Against Women

I play video games, but I’m picky.  As a huge fan of Deadwood, I was excited when I learned about the release of Red Dead RedemptionGrand Theft Auto in the Wild West, stealing horses instead of cars.  Like a video game version of one of my favorite television shows.  And then yesterday, I learned of a hidden achievement in the game, and
all my excitement and anticipation was flushed down the toilet.

In trying to pay homage to the classic westerns of yesteryear, where women were tied up on train tracks by a cartoon-y villain with a handlebar mustache, the game offers an achievement for tying up a woman and throwing her onto a set of train tracks.  Except there’s no hero to save the day and untie her before the train comes, the points
are only awarded if you stand and watch as you let her be run over.  It’s unfortunate that they made the achievement gender specific.  Why couldn’t it have been a man or just a person?  Rock Star Games does not exactly have a stellar record when it comes to females in their video games – most in the Grand Theft Auto series are prostitutes, drug addicts, victims, and strippers.  While they were a little better in Red Dead Redemption – it’s a woman who saves the main character in the intro and women are shown talking about religion and politics in the opening credits sequence, they negated the little good they did by offering five measly gamer points for violently assaulting and killing a woman.

Youtube is already filling up with videos of gamers recording themselves getting the “Dastardly” achievement.

April 11, 2010

Gamer Girls Gone Wild

Filed under: Gaming,Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Rachel @ 9:12 pm

If you’ve ever played an immensely popular online video game on Xbox Live, you know how annoying it can be.  It’s usually seconds before you end up pausing, going to the settings menu, and selecting an option to turn off the sound of the other players – screaming 13-year olds, racism, homophobia, and more swearing in a 15 minute Call of Duty match than at your average frat party.  Seriously, playing online can (and usually does) suck.  People cheat, players drop out, and internet connections go down.  Bummer!

Okay – so those are the problems faced by your average gamer playing online (read: male).  Being a girl introduces a new set of issues: sexual harassment and misogyny run amok.  Women won’t participate in the smack talk so their gender isn’t revealed, saving them the verbal abuse; they’ll avoid using feminine slanted usernames for the same reason.  A fellow female gamer I know, who has a feminine descriptor in her username, is frequently bombarded with pictures of male genitalia and sexually explicit messages.

A few weeks ago, a website was set up to appeal men who do want women involved in their games – The site offers men the ability to play online with girls specifically.  Currently the site is down, “…due to the incredible user response.”  Interested parties can pay $6.60 for ten minutes of game play with the girl of their choice.  The trailer boasts “Thousands of Profiles” to choose from.

GameCrush’s press release positions the site as empowering for women, advertising that “PlayDates can make up to $30 or more per hour while having fun playing online games.  After a game session is completed, Players rate their gaming experience, and top-rated PlayDates are rewarded with enhanced site promotion and additional benefits.”

Now – I’m not one to throw around the word “prostitution” lightly, but the site feels it could be headed that way.  Alas, the site is down so it’s impossible to tell what the average profile pictures looks like, or what an average “chat” consists of.  But telling women that they can make money and reap the benefits by impressing the men who pay to play sounds like a fast way to promote a “Tits or GTFO” mentality in the interactions.

The site was built on a negative assumption – video game playing men are nerds who can’t get girls.  If a guy has girl-friends or a girlfriend who plays video games with him, what would the appeal of this website be?  There wouldn’t be any!

Sample screenshots of the website show conventionally attractive women, and the homepage preview displays a “Featured Player” pulling down her top.  This:

is’s profile picture on Twitter.  They’re already using sex to sell, as evidenced by their promotional campaign.  GameCrush readily admits it “…does not monitor, moderate or otherwise control the interaction between its users.”  Sounds like a recipe for a creepy party.

For a supposedly overwhelmingly popular site, their Facebook fans are less than 500, and they haven’t even achieved 1000 followers on Twitter.  I’m certainly curious to see what the site actually has to offer once they go live.

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