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QueerGamersXist Blog

A thank you to Carolyn and Johnny

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This video made my (GTAV over-saturated) week. Johnny's intelligent, reflexive insights were a refreshing break to the endless praise of this ''perfect'' game and the endless denial of gamers thinking games are --or somehow even can be -- devoid of social context. worse to see still was the endless vitriol directed at carolyn petit, who provided the initial breath of fresh air in her review of the game, in which i appreciated her candor surrounding GTAV's endemic misogyny. of course, her review was promptly followed by the usual mis-pronouning and both casual and overt transphobia and misogyny that pervades a disturbing amount of the critical comments she receives here, and in this case there was an even more extreme level of personal hostility directed at her. while repugnant, it is also sadly unsurprising given past responses to her attempts at discussing the social or political implications of games (or anyone else' for that matter, though as a women she is obviously targeted more because when a women brings up female representation, the dominant sexist attitude can dismiss her as self-serving or pushing a personal agenda). Discussion of a game's political and social implications *is* something i find deeply valuable in a review because those things affect my decision to engage with the game or not, and few other mainstream outlets even broach the subject. thank you for that, carolyn. now, obviously GTA is a bastion of politically incorrect, offensive trash--not just sexism, but racism and classism (etc.) abound. and like so much of current media, Rockstar doesn't have a grasp on (or doesn't care about) exactly where the line is between successful satire which challenges an offensive image or narrative, and that which simply reproduces and normalizes problematic representations, the latter of which media gets away with all the time with a wink and a nod and a dubious claim of ''irony.'' i would like to see more, deeper discussion of a game's representations and social context in reviews, not less. I typically cant stand most of the comments section, but the above vid made me want to scroll down and say thanks to johnny and co. for this episode. (yeah, people who publicly give a s**t about this stuff in the industry really are that rare.) and it's also true that i often click play on feedbackula with unease, knowing that i'm either about to just be offended by the BS and oppressive trash getting a platform, or feel warmed by your completely on-point and often hilarious take-downs of that same vitriol. this is especially true in relation to issues of identity and representation, as evidenced in the recent mammary gate ep, and it makes me hopeful to see you (honestly, ANYONE on a mainstream gaming site) openly discussing this problematic culture --and importantly, your own role in maintaining it and/or challenging it. i would like to commend gamespot for its integrity here. sadly, it comes shortly after i had this misfortune of watching Danny O'Dwyer make some of the most misogynistic comments i've ever heard in the random encounter vid for GTAIII. (And no, apologizing for the comments right after and saying you just got out of a break-up are no excuse for the seriously effed up way you just talked about women and their bodies. not even a little.) i definitely had no interest in watching any of his other vids following that, but even looking at this feedbackula ep and that random encounter alone - barely 2 weeks apart - demonstrates how much work there is to be done. if GameSpot wants to be committed to not spreading or allowing hate speech and misogynistic BS in the comments, why does it tolerate and even promote (it was a featured vid, after all) such behavior by its staff? why do we as a gamers allow --or through silent consumption, encourage-- these attitudes? i hope that this discussion is embraced, not stifled, and that people do start to use these comment boxes for more than s**t we can laugh at and pretend doesn't reflect very real and ugly aspects of gaming culture. because it's. not. just. gaming culture. gaming doesn't exist in a vacuum; it's a subset of dominant culture, and as such has all the same problematic ''isms'' to deal with. there is no 'keeping politics out of gaming' because it's all part of the same wider set of beliefs, attitudes, and practices. media creates, reflects, and sustains culture and gaming is as much a part of that as TV, movies, books or the newspaper. pretending otherwise is just naive. games deserves the same level of scrutiny and examination of cultural context as any other piece of media. as johnny mentioned, aren't gamers advocating for gaming to be more widely accepted and valued for the art and culture it is? well, some responsibility--and importantly, accountability-- necessarily comes with that. it's hard to look at something you love and acknowledge it has faults --but that's a part of love, isn't it? how can we fix problems we refuse to see? it takes maturity, sure, but i think it's past time we grew the f**k up.

Diversity in Gaming: on common responses, myths, and a broader analysis

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FYI/Troll disclaimer: if you recoil at words like "feminism" (and use words like "feminazi"), have anything sh**ty to say about queer or trans* people, or have any desire to make some kind of misogynistic "joke" whenever you see gender mentioned, you can stop reading. i'm not going to change your mind, you're not going to listen, so let's save each other some heartache... Over the past few days, a flurry of articles and blog posts have come up on Gamespot dealing with the issue of diversity in gaming - specifically regarding gender, but race and sexuality have been discussed as well. just so everyone's on the same page, i am specifically referring to these little tidbits of news that appeared on GS, as well as these fabulous blog posts by Carolyn Petit and user Lucky_Krystal in their wake. (also of interest is this and this.) while each of those opened up a mini s**t show in the GS comments, the two blog posts were a call for more diversity in gaming (including characters, story, and gameplay, though it is the character/identity piece that was most discussed) and as such, had some of the more hostile responses. reading through the threads on these articles, i found myself feeling a lot of different things, from intrigued to confused, heartened to saddened, and really, a lot of straight-up pissed off at the volume of sandwich/kitchen/fill-in-your-favorite-female-stereotype joke that i guess are par for the course when dealing with the misogynerd trolls that crawl up whenever gender is mentioned. so instead of banging my head against a wall in the comments sections, i thought i'd take an opportunity to write a more measured response here, especially since as i poured over these threads some very similar themes emerged. in browsing the comments that were in some way "against" the arguments put forth for diversifying games, i found that nearly all of them fell into one of four general categories: 1) Women aren't gamers; 2) Men game and women don't because it's natural - men and women inherently like different things; 3) Not this again! Keep your feminism out of my games! and 4) The person advocating for diversity is the REAL sexist here! lets take these one at a time, shall we? i'll share what i found under the umbrella category and address some of the myths and fallacies underpinning them. 1) Women aren't REAL gamers --this includes but is not limited to: -I've never met any -When i play online i see like maybe 1 /20 players is a woman -they only play farmville and stupid fb games according to a variety of recent stats, it's true, women do play mobile and "casual" games more often then men, but that doesn't mean they don't also play "real" games. it's estimated that women currently make up 40-42% of all gamers "casual" and "hardcore" players alike. female gamers represent 42% of all online player as well, and 48% of game purchasers. and just to weed out that women-as-casual-mobile-gamers-only argument even more, even back in 2004 (the latest study that breaks console use down by gender) women were found to be 25% of console users - and as the number of female gamers has increased overall since then, it's safe to say console use has risen at least some. hell, if 60% of female gamers play on mobile devices, that means at least 40% of them have another primary way to play games, and if that 2004 study is any clue, it's a console! not to mention the fact that many of those mobile gamers may have consoles in addition to the mobile gaming device. so... this means that with women (even 9 years ago!) representing 25% of console owners, women make up at least 1/4th of "REAL" gamers - probably closer to 1/3rd by now, as the overall number of female gamers has risen since then. 2) men game and women don't because it's natural - men and women inherently like different things. -Yes, there is a gender discrepancy, but it's right! -discrimination isn't a problem -- women choose not to game! -if women could toughen up they could game This wonderful batch is called gender essentialism -- the idea that genders are inherently different and have specific traits which are somehow biologically defined and "natural." it's the stuff that says women must be emotional (because womanhood=emotionality) and that men must be stoic. sorry to bust anyone's bubble, but nothing about gender is innate (gender identity and one's assigned sex are two different things). gender is a construction, and as such, no traits are inherent, but learned behavior. for example, boys aren't somehow born with the knowledge they are "supposed" to play with trucks and not dolls. society teaches this gender role by encouraging boys - either through modeling, media, or direct intervention - to play with trucks and redirecting or ostracizing boys when they try to play with dolls. so, if it's not some biological imperative that makes women less interested in gaming, why are women horribly underrepresented in gaming (from developers to characters to players)? because since their inception, games have been aggressively marketed as a thing "for boys" -- that'd be a big turn off right there (how many of you dudes grew up proudly buying barbies or other things marketed to girls? not many i'd wager. it's a powerful force). And when people who aren't dudes actually do break through the years of messaging that says "this isn't for you!" and pick up a controller or walk into a coding class or development studio, they get hit with things like this, and this, and this. similar things happen to queer gamers and black gamers, too. the fact is, the gaming community has made it abundantly clear that it is nothing if not hostile to anyone that isn't a straight white dude. and it. is. unsafe. It's silencing. the way the gaming community responded to even a whisper of Anita's (brilliant and much needed) plans to analyze female representation in video games had the misogynerds frothing at the moth -- while making computer games to batter Anita. this is why those of us who aren't dudes are often hesitant -- if not petrified -- to become involved in a culture so unabashedly -- so violently -- hateful toward us, and if we do, we're often forced to pretend we are dudes to avoid harassment. it's why I don't subscribe to XBL. if anyone still has any doubts about sexism and harassment in the industry and how it keeps talented women outside of gaming, take a few minutes and google #1reasonwhy. go ahead, i'll wait. 3) Not this again! Keep your feminism out of my games! -discrimination/oppression are over! -even if they're not, they have nothing to do with my games! --don't force it/it's happening TOO FAST! change will just happen NATURALLY ah, a classic. it goes something like this "video games exist in this magic bubble where the outside world doesn't effect them at all, and vice versa. therefore, bringing in political arguments and feminist agendas is just OUT OF PLACE." isn't it funny that the powerful heroes in the video game bubble so consistently look like the images of power in the real world? white, cis, straight, male? funny coincidence, huh? or not. games, like every other piece of media in the world, is not somehow in a vacuum -- it is informed by the world around it, and our world happens to be a rather racist, heterosexist, patriarchal one. by this i mean that we live in a society with vast inequalities on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. and that those inequalities are the result of years of systemic discrimination. gaming is not outside of this -- it is why we have the problem with a lack of diversity in the first place. one of the many ways that identities like white males are privileged in society is through massive over-representation in media (yes dudes, it is a privilege to open a magazine, book, newspaper, or turn on a movie or game and be all but guaranteed to see someone who shares your identity). when 95% of all games are straight white male-centric, that is a vast over-representation of those identities, meaning by definition, other identities are underrepresented. i posted a challenge on a thread a bit ago -- make me two lists, one with every game where the PC is a white male protagonist, and a list of every game in which the PC is a woman of color protagonist. or a queer or trans* protagonist. of any race. obviously, the first will be unimaginably huge, while the others will be scant to literally nothing. for a WoC fronted game, i got Mirror's Edge. that's it. (a fantastic game, btw, but it is just that - a single game.) so yes dudes, this. again. and again and again and again until games/gaming culture reflect more than just one facet of it's membership. 4) The person advocating for diversity is the REAL sexist here! three major fallacies here, and i'll try to keep it brief cause this is getting long: 1) pointing out that there is a problem (sexism, ie discrimination against women), and that there are differences between people -- and significantly, between their experiences with gaming depending on their identity -- is not somehow causing the problem. it's not like people are sitting around going like, "s**t, ya know i thought we were all the same and equal and stuff 'til i read that carolyn petit post about diversity and now all i can see is how different you are!" literally, no one has ever said that. the way of thinking that leads to this oh-so-false conclusion is called colorblindness, and while first established as a racial ideology, genderblindness has the same pitfalls. anyway. back to how pointing out sexism in games is not the same thing as saying "women are superior to men." so 2) your first clue to that should be that they are completely different sentences. and 3), even if a women were saying the latter, she still can't be a sexist. by definition, only men can be sexist because sexism is a system of discrimination which targets women. the suffix "ism" means "system" or "group of practices," so the "isms" are not only a matter of some individual's bigotry, but rather bigotry + systemic power to enforce that bigotry. systems of discrimination elevate one group by holding down another --sexism impedes women while privileging men. therefore, a man who believes women to be inferior is sexist because societal power supports his bigotry, whereas a women who believes men are inferior is merely a wrongheaded bigot -- but importantly, a wrongheaded bigot without the power to enforce her bigotry at a larger level. that's they key difference. in addition to the above main types of "critique" (i use the term lightly), there were several comments that voiced tacit support for diversity in games, but mentioned not "forcing" the issue, but rather "letting it happen naturally." well folks, change - especially change moving in the direction away from the dominant group - never just "happens naturally." Black folks and women didn't get the right to vote or have access to credit and financial institutions by waiting for white men to "let it happen naturally." progressive social change is never "natural," because the exclusion and invisiblization marginalized groups have to fight aren't natural. are my examples hyperbolic? of course they are -- but the principle is the same: social change, by its very nature, is always an uphill battle. change comes when enough people make enough noise, with their words, with their dollars, with their actions, together. Those of us pushing for more female representation need to be pushing just as hard for more PoC representation, and more queer representation, and vice versa. Writing about these issues and adding your public support is one way to help show developers, publishers, and other gamers that we want, need, and will pay for more diversity in our gaming experience. spending our gaming dollars on games which reflect this is essential -- though as options are rather limited, i don't think we can afford to just sit back and buy more selectively. these two things need to be done in tandem, and for the sake of all of our future gaming experiences, i hope there are many more of you who feel similarly. i'll leave you with the words of Ann Lemay, a Mass Effect writer from BioWare: "Creating diverse and engaging female characters or any character that isnt both white and male should not be such an issue. If we can move beyond the resistance to such characters in our games, both as non-player characters and as main protagonists, I honestly believe that well end up with richer narratives and a broader audience, and the industry ends up with a bigger and more interesting playground, it's a win win." **UPDATE 4/2/13: browsing the comments on carolyn's latest feature i found almost the exact same pattern of responses (though #3 is definitely most popular right now... two articles a week that don't directly pertain to the dominant experience?! the nerve...). that piece is also my favorite of the bunch so far, especially for it's discussion of invisible privilege.

My Top 10 (ish..) Games

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So i thought as a start here i'd try to make a list of my top ten games... obviously, this is totally subjective and greatly shaped by what i grew up with/had access too, as well as my own preferences for game types in general. for example, i know that there are a handful of really good, well produced survival horror games, but im not much for survival horror, so you won't find those here. also, i'm kinda making this up as i go along so i'm not sure i'll feel the same way tomorrow, or in a week, or when i finally get to play ACIII, but i think it still counts for something ;) here goes... 1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) _+_this game holds a special place in my heart, and may be the only thing on this list i am 100% sure of. it was the first to truly suck me in and i played until 100% completion, repeatedly (in fact, one of the few games i've ever felt compelled to do so). it's perfectly balanced mix of engrossing story, lively soundtrack, diverse open world with a pioneering degree of freedom and extras, challenging but seldom frustrating puzzles, and thoroughly satisfying gameplay are unmatched in my mind. for years after my first play through, no matter what game, my save name was often "sheik." _^_ i would love a FAITHFUL HD port, or well done reboot (think goldeneye), but i know this is probably just asking for trouble... 2) Mario Kart 64 (N64) _+_ i can't count the amount of hours i've spent playing this with various friends over the past 15 years, or by myself for that matter (and it may be depressing if i did, but hell if that doesn't point to the staying power of this title). _^_ quite simply, the game is near perfect save it's length. it's in need of some new circuits, and like ocarina, if it got a direct HD port i would be pretty thrilled. no mario kart game has quite matched the magic of this one since, though MK Wii is a good effort. 3) Resident Evil 4 - Wii Edition (Wii) _+_ while i love horror movies, i'm too d@mn anxious to actually play survival horror/super high tension games, so i guess its good RE4 goes more for action over nerves. it was lucky i tried this when i did --in need of my first good wii game and reading nothing but positive reviews -- otherwise i would have continued to overlook it. at first i tried it with the classic controller, as i've never been much for the wii motion controls, at least in shooters. after dying repeatedly however, i picked up the wand and logged 40 hours in less than 2 weeks. sh!t was not only the best wii game i'd played to date, but also the best shooter, period. _^_ RE games have only gotten worse since this gem... 4) Fallout 3 / Fallout New Vegas (X360) _+_ yeah, yeah, i'm counting them as the same, gtf over it. to be fair, i haven't spent much time in new vegas yet, but from what i can tell it's just as awesome as F3 (too soon to say if it's better, personally), so for now they're both here. i don't even know what to say... fallout 3 blew my mind again and again. the sheer amount of sh!t you can do or say is more than the content of the other games on this list put together. _^_ oh, with greatness come great glitches. i lost ALL of my stuff from my megaton house-- stuff in every. single. storage container. after over 80 hours of play. yeah. i haven't forgiven the game yet, but i know i'll be back. how could i not?? 5) Assassin's Creed II (X360) (ok, i'm dropping the plus/delta format from here on, that sh!t's way too much effort for all ten.) anyway! like with RE, i was an AC skeptic, especially after a frustrating bout with the first entry. lets just say the sequel changed all that --i'm a believer now. work of art, this one. 6) Burnout 3: Takedown (XBOX) in addition to injecting life into the all but dead arcade racing genre, this game made me remember why i used to love - and could again - simple, no frills racing (it's all relative... see MK64). though the soundtrack leaves a great deal to be desired, the brilliantly captured sense of speed, well balanced boost/nitrus mechanic and deeply satisfying crashes more than make up for it. and for the uninitiated, it must be said: do yourself a favor and turn the DJ off. 7) Super Smash Bros (N64) fracking classic. still my favorite brawler. samus 4evr. 8) Fable: The Lost Chapters (XBOX) this gorgeous and addicting fantasy adventure is one of the pioneers of what is now almost standard boilerplate RPG stuff - namely, choice and consequence. the expanded TLC version adds additional content to the first Fable, fixing its chief weakness: it's brevity. (this one time i blogged about fable and queers... among other things: http://writingtotransgress.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/intermission-episode-iv/) 9) The Walking Dead Series (X360) so much has been written about this lately that there's little i can say. believe the hype, TWD is where it's at. it presents a wholly unique type of gameplay and a focus on storytelling - on GOOD storytelling - that's seldom seen these days, but is hopefully a sign of things to come. 10) Mirror's Edge (X360) a first person free-running adventure set in a chic urban dystopian future starring a (non-stereotypical) asian (non-sexualized) woman who kicks ass to save another (non-sexualized) woman? what's not to like? oh, and the gameplay is some of the most exhilarating i've ever experienced. it's just too bad it ends about halfway before it should. (FYI, its quite far from an FPS, which it's classified as on this site for some reason... you use guns fore roughly 2% of the game, which - and i say this as a shooter fan - is very refreshing.) ***Honorable Mentions and Special Awards*** AKA sh!t that didn't make the cut but i couldn't let go... *Psychonauts and Oddworld: Strangers Wrath (XBOX) - both of these games are exceedingly original and have unique aesthetics and stories. while neither reinvented a genre (platformers and shooters, respectively), both put a wonderful twist on the formula and offered something truly inspired. the case of the FPS-3PS-sandbox hybrid Strangers Wrath is unfortunate, however, as many copies of the disc contain a game-stopping glitch during the final boss battle -- not to mention it's one of only a handful of amazing original XBOX titles that aren't backwards compatible. *Just Cause 2 (X360) - for being just plain, stupid fun. also the biggest open world game i've ever played. (points off for piss-poor --and some pretty racist--voice acting.) *Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffy Jr. (N64) - still my favorite baseball game- or any sports game, for that matter (i don't play many, 'case you couldn't tell). simple, satisfying, old-school arcade style. don't believe the h8rs.

heyy internet

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hey gamespot/internet, i'm not sure if i'll be using this blog or not, but i might pop up on the forums from time to time so i thought i'd introduce myself. i'm a white, genderqueer 20something gamer from the pacific northwest. i grew up on SNES, original GB, 16-bit sega and mostly, n64 (zelda ocarina of time will forever be my favorite game) before graduating to an original xbox. 12 years later and i just picked up an old wii and a 360 as well. after years of denying that i was a "gamer" --in spite of the fact that i most certainly loved and played video games -- i finally accepted the title, however begrudgingly. my reluctance was in large part due to the stigma of the gamer image: the offensive-in-every-way-imaginable and do-nothing-but-game-dude-bro stereotype and wanting to distance myelf from it. ironically, the reality is that i'm about as far from that image as possible --indeed i'm a target of that group in many instances -- and so that accounts for the other part of my reluctance... the fact that in general, the gaming community is really hostile towards a lot of people, myself included. so i finally signed up for an account here cause i'm sick that sh*t. i'm sick of all the cis, straight, white male BS in the gaming community and wanted to try and participate rather than just lamenting it from my couch (literally). i'm looking for others like me --the feminists, the queers, all those who also want to find gaming news, reviews, and discussions w/o the constant barrage of homophobia and misogyny (et al). i would love to see people on gaming sites talking about more than just the technical proficiency/game play of a game, but also it's narrative, it's representations (or lack thereof) and social implications. i'm really sick of this unwillingness to engage - the "keep your politics/feminism/anything that makes me have to think outside of shooting things and yelling F*G on the internet" BS. games and gaming culture don''t exist in a bubble outside of our social and political worlds, it's way passed time gamers started acting like it. so anyway, that's why i'm here. hi :)