July 1, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Criticism Does Not Equal Censorship

On Monday, The Supreme Court announced their ruling in the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (representing the video game industry).  I was ecstatic.  Despite how often I write about the horrid depictions and unnecessary violence against women in video games, I’ve never called for their censorship.

To give a little backstory and context of the Supreme Court case, the law in California was an unprecedented restriction on media.  Films are self-governed by the MPAA, not the law, and it works.  An employee at your local theater who sells a ticket to an R-rated film to an underaged kid, is not criminally liable.  While, the video game industry has an equivalent with the ESRB, the law that Leland Yee proposed would hold cashiers and retailers criminally liable for selling an M-Rated game to a minor.  Especially absurd, considering the FTC report released earlier this year, that rated the ESRB as the most successful self-governing body in the entertainment industry.  X-Play’s Adam Sessler does a great job of explaining the ramifications of this law being upheld in his most recent episodes of Sessler’s Soapbox, available here and here.

There seems to be frequent confusion in the interpretation of my posts – that by expressing frustration with misogyny in the video game industry, that I have a problem with violence in video games, or I think they should be subjected to censorship.  It’s certainly not the case.  I find people like Jack Thompson, and Carol Lieberman abhorrent.  Using video games as a scapegoat, and making up information as you go along has potential to be incredibly harmful.  Leland Yee, is similar to Thompson and Lieberman in his views on video games (he certainly has a history of falsifying statistics), and almost succeeded in setting a federal precedent for restricting the freedom of speech.

I view video games in the same way I view every other form of media – with a critical eye.  Writing about Victorias Secret’s stupid ad campaign doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be allowed to market their products, and writing about the incredibly sexist attitudes held by the video game industry doesn’t mean I think their games should be banned from sale.

In my first post on Feminist Fatale, I wrote that despite my disgust with imagery and depictions of women in media, I “believe in…having the right to publish.” It’s an opinion that extends to video games. I hope that by writing about video games, consumers will learn to demand better from the creators.  The writers, designers, and developers shouldn’t be forced to limit their creations by the government.

September 11, 2010

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Gears of War – Women On The Front Lines

Filed under: Gaming,Gender,Media — Tags: , , — Rachel @ 1:15 pm

In addition to criticizing the negative aspects of being a gamer girl, I plan on writing about positive portrayals and treatment of the female gender in the gaming community.  There are some pretty kick ass companies out there making games that feature smart, non-sexualized, independent women.

Gears of War wasn’t the first third-person shooter game I played, but it definitely piqued my interest in the genre. (Previously I spent most of my time playing racing and skateboard games.)  I became interested in Gears via the online options – playing Horde and Annex are among my favorite ways to spend a weekend.   The first two games of the franchise only featured one female character – Anya Stroud, the control contact for the COGs.  Anya is smart, non-sexualized, and a valued member of the COG team.  In the upcoming Gears of War 3, Anya will be on the combat side of the COG team, along with a newly introduced character – Sam Byrne.

During an interview with G4, Cliff Bleszinski, Design Director of Epic Games, explained the reasoning behind having playable female characters in the latest installment.  “There’s more female fans in that franchise than a lot of other shooters…We wanted to depict the women as…tough, more like Jim Cameron women.  Like Sarah Conner, like Ripley from Aliens who are tough, and not like girls on the cover of like, Low Rider magazine.”

The fact that the team at Epic Games decided to listen to the female fans of the game, and made these characters badass and non-sexualized is something I can appreciate.  I’ll find out if Gears of War 3 lives up to my expectations next April when the game is released, but for the time being, I’m feeling pretty hopeful about it.

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 Consumerist.com 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.