Women And The Gaming World, also #Gamersgate

I’m not going to lie, I approached the whole gaming world with many pre-conceived notions and stereotypes of gaming culture and the very people that played these games. I pictured the overweight, late-twenties male in a stained and dirty t-shirt hidden in his parents’ basement playing games alone for hours, with the reflective glow of a screen illuminating his pasty white skin providing the only light and the quick twitch of his hands on the console being the only sign of life. My perception of the gaming world mostly came from its negative (or at least off-color and sensationalized) portrayal in the media, and specifically Brian from the film The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants (pictured below), which was one of my first introductions to gamers. One of the bloggers on here has already mentioned that the gaming world really seems like a boys-only club akin to something out of a 90s movie, and before I approached the world of gaming, I would say that I agreed 100% with that statement.

from fanpop.com
from fanpop.com

Before I started gaming, I thought my entrance into the culture would be a bombardment of ostracization in the online community. I thought the people playing games would be jerks because I wasn’t a guy; I have to say though, I have been very pleasantly surprised. Please keep in mind that my experience is limited to only a few games, but I have found that people for the most part have been very welcoming and helpful. I guess there isn’t really any way to tell outright that I am a woman, but I think that this gender neutrality is a plus of gaming. In the game, one assumes the identity of his or her avatar, and thus the gender of the gamer is kind of a moot point. Video gaming provides a unique and cool situation in which men and women can compete against each other and be on teams together in a completely equal way, which is more than one can say for most organized sports. So basically video gaming is the utopia of gender equality, right? Right?

Well… not so fast.

The gaming world, especially now, has been getting a lot of flack for a lack of diversity, ESPECIALLY with how the gaming world regards women. I’m spoiled that in LOTRO, I have the option of completely customizing my character to be whichever gender or race I want it to be, but in most games, this is far from the case. In the vast majority of games, one assigned an avatar/ protagonist character from the beginning, which would be okay if men and women characters were generally equally spread as protagonists throughout games, but that isn’t what happens. The majority of games have a male protagonist, and women characters are highly sexualized. Geek Feminism made a list of games and how women are portrayed in them, and the protagonist section is woefully low. It’s missing a few, but considering how many games there are, the message is overwhelming.

You can read their info here: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Women_Characters_in_Video_Games

Sadly, this misogamy is carrying over to the real-life world. While female playership is increasing greatly, some male players seem to be pretty mad that the “boy’s club” aspect of gaming is on the decline. You may be familiar with the “#Gamergate” situation that is currently going on, and if not, the gist is that a female game maker, Zoe Quinn, and another female game critic, Anita Sarkeesian, have been harassed and threatened by members of the gaming community to the point where they have had to flee their homes. You can read more on the situation here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/09/24/349835297/-gamergate-controversy-fuels-debate-on-women-and-video-games

This behavior is unacceptable. Gaming is not a man’s world, it’s everyone’s world, equally. I think the fact that we play using avatars speaks to this. While the characters display sexism, which needs to change, the games themselves are gender blind. The age of the damsel in distress and femme fatale is over. It is time for the gaming community at large to welcome and respect the influx of women that is helping to make it so hugely successful, both online and in the real world.

-Sparling Wilson

Enjoy this satire:

from geeksaresexy.net
from geeksaresexy.net

True Life: I’m a LOTRO Addict

I am very proud of myself… I’ve made excellent strides in the gaming world. For those of you that don’t remember, I am the newbiest of newbs (the writer who basically had only played iphone games), so when I downloaded LOTRO and was told that it would be a part of my grade for the course, I was wary at first. Initially, I struggled with the controls of the game, not realizing that the arrow keys could be used in place of the “a” “s” “d” and “w” keys for movement; not being able to move with ease was frustrating and really put a damper on my enjoyment of the game. Another issue I had at first was navigation through the game with the quests. I did not realize that one merely had to follow the glowing ring on the map to find the next part of the quest, and because of this, the going was excruciatingly slow. A silver lining the this issue was that I learned how to move before I learned how to navigate, and so I spent a long time fighting wolves in Thorin’s realm and reached a higher level by the end of the intro period that most. On the issue of navigation, I wish that staying on the epic quest line would be more self-explanatory because I’ve spent a lot of time doing side quests that I would in some cases prefer to avoid.

With that being said, these were just issues I had at the beginning of my journey. Since I’ve managed to get over these problems, I have become completely enamored with the game. If I’m waiting around, I play the game. If I’m bored, I’ll play the game. Not feeling like going out on the town? I’ll visit the Prancing Pony in Bree. I am seriously getting addicted to LOTRO!

One aspect I really love is the role playing. I love the fact that I can customize my character’s wardrobe and appearance, as well as the specific skills I can gain as an Elf Champion. I think one reason why this part of the game is so appealing is due to the fact that I am an English major and avid reader. When I am reading (especially in the Lord Of The Rings series) I can imagine myself in the protagonist’s position and wish I were apart of the action. By playing LOTRO, I am able to engage with the narrative in a way that has never been open to me before, and that helps to fulfill this desire.

Additionally, the quests provide just enough challenge to be fun and engaging, but are not difficult to the point that I want to abandon them as a lost cause. Even if my character dies, I feel like I can evaluate my performance and improve enough to give the challenge another go and ultimately be successful. While this game isn’t as strongly based on learning as the game Braid was, I still think it is an important factor here. In playing this game, you learn new strategies to help you play more efficiently and creatively.

One thing that I have learned since starting this game is that apparently Lore Masters get to have animal pets. Since I have been enjoying playing so much, I think it is time for me to create a new character of the Lore Master variety so I can acquire some of the cute and friendly creatures I’ve spotted along the way!

-Sparling Wilson

Kill Me Later



Braid seems like it was made by some guy who was slighted by love and needed a place to vent.


And…I like that. The idea of a forgiving game creates a zone of warmth and comfort that propels game exploration. Braid is an escape and an innovative game style that has the potential to inspire other games to step out of the stoic guns-bared emotionless realm and into the hearts and minds of our everyday life. After all, game making is art. Just as the writer can lament in her journal, and the painter can brood in an attic and let his heart bleed paint, so should a game maker be able to get his heart broken and then construct a platform game that makes him feel good.

Aside from my judgmental assumptions, there is more magic in this game than the narrative. The creators not only say, “to hell with un-forgiveness” but take it a step further to say “you must make mistakes to win this game.” The gamer must take the stick out of their butt and do it again, and again, and again until they figure it out, or until they so-called “cheat,” snatching that magic key and rewinding themselves to victory. This piece of fictional media opens up our minds to the different realities of life, just as every good piece of fiction should. I read an article once that challenged the idea of multiple lives and checkpoints in video games. The writer wanted to know what would happen if games became more realistic and eliminated the multiple lives syndrome that desensitized us to death.

 Well, Braid does that by going in the complete opposite direction (pun intended). Because like humans the main character continues to live only because he never died. He escapes death and failure only because, like humans, he is able to adapt and learn from mistakes.

My favorite part about this game is the integration of this method into actual gameplay, rather than just a cool “perk” of the game. I was delighted every time I faced a boss and found out that I could not manipulate him in my time-turning shenanigans. It forced me to dissect the pieces of my in-game reality and use what I could manipulate to win (maybe that sounds a little bit scarier than I intended, but, maybe I’m manipulative?) I did not, in fact, beat the game. However, challenges such as these make me feel that I can go back and play again at least a couple more times without the experience being one-noted. I can make different mistakes if I choose, I can accelerate the success of my strategies, and, I can make Tim dance back and forth and remix the music if I so well please.

Me? I’m a Gamer.

As far as words go, “play” and “game” seem pretty similar, right? Almost interchangeable? I mean, they’re nowhere near as different as, say, “giraffe” and “asparagus”. Now those are two words with very different definitions.

However, all giraffes aside, are “play” and “game” really as similar as they seem? Let’s try changing it up a bit. What about comparing “playing” versus “gaming”? “Player” versus “gamer”? Maybe you can’t pinpoint exactly why, but saying “I’ve been playing all day” doesn’t quite sound the same as “I’ve been gaming all day”. However close the words may seem, the connotations have their differences.

The word “play”, for instance, implies fun and entertainment. The word itself seems lighthearted and joyous, the very opposite of serious work requiring focus and effort. Play should be silly and fun- it’s riding your bike with friends, running around the jungle gym, or rolling the dice on your favorite board game. You play because you want to have fun, and that’s that.

How, then, does gaming differ? One can certainly “play a game”, which implies using any game, electronic or otherwise, for a source of pleasure and entertainment. However, actual “gaming” is not quite the same. As any gamer knows, games are not always purely fun. While they can certainly be used for amusement alone, when one begins “gaming”, he or she becomes immersed not just in the entertainment, but in the challenge. And the challenge…well, it’s not always fun.

You see, “to game” is to transcend the realm of play, to desire more than simple entertainment. In a way, one could compare games to books (relax, anti-gamers, I said compare, not equate). A book can certainly be a form of entertainment, yet no one says “I’m going to go play with my book.” Why? Because books, while often entertaining, provide much more than just a smile and or a laugh. Likewise, gaming provides more than that- it proves engagement, encourages immersion in another world, and spurs on ambition for success.

Think of it this way. In an MMO, if you’re merely completing the fun quests because they make you happy, then you’re playing. If you’ve been trying to defeat that one boss for an hour and you’re so frustrated and angry that you want to throw your laptop off a bridge, now you’re gaming. A gamer’s goal is not mere entertainment. A gamer desires challenge, immersion. A gamer strives for success, whether the path towards it is amusing or, at times, utterly frustrating.

So the next time you’re about to use “play” and “game” in a sentence, stop for a moment and think. Which are you, really? Are you a player?

Or are you a gamer?


-The Humblebug

It’s hard to pick just one…

When I began thinking about my favorite game, I couldn’t settle on a single one. There’s too many different, amazing types of games to choose from; from the nostalgia-inducing Super Mario 64, or the narrative wonder that is L.A. Noire, or even the game I probably play the most, Madden. I had to settle upon one game, the one that combined not only great and compelling gameplay, but a fantastic story as well. It’s a hard choice, but between my top two, I have to give the nod to Red Dead Redemption, with Mass Effect 2 coming in a close, close second. Not only does RDR bring a fast paced, open world laced with entertaining shoot em up gameplay, but it also ties together an unforgettable, heartbreaking story as well.

I was never a huge Western fan. In fact, the closest I got to experiencing the Western genre was watching “Wild Wild West”, and that movie is pretty damn bad. But a triple A title by Rockstar is usually too good to pass up, so I went over to my local Blockbuster and rented a copy of Red Dead Redemption. Needless to say that Blockbuster never saw that disk again. Besides the tragedy that was protagonist John Marston’s life, RDR hooked me on the competitve multiplayer as well. I didn’t see too many flaws with this game, and I spent my down time for a month after getting it playing it. Shooting bandits, riding horses, hunting animals, and even cheating at Liar’s Dice or Poker; this game has it all. After experiencing the 30 hour story of Red Dead Redemption, I went out and watched a bunch of Western movies, reread the Lonesome Dove book series, and did the best I could to further immerse myself into this lesser known genre.

It’s a hard choice for a gamer to pick his favorite game, but it comes down to a simple truth. To be honest it just got me, this game, and to this day another hasn’t as much as this one did.


-Spencer Smith

Coming out of the Closet

Over the past decade or so, society has become drastically more accepting.  Our community has taken huge strides towards eliminating the stigmas associated with being game.  In the Dark Ages, so to speak, it was not uncommon, and perhaps even expected, for openly game people to be beaten up and mercilessly teased just for their life style choices.  Now, however, there are gamers almost everywhere you look.  We are no longer afraid to wear clothing displaying our game pride or to discuss our culture in public.  Even the government is beginning to support us.  Long gone are the days where we gamers were forced to hide in our basements, to lie about our nature.  We have Game Pride now.  I myself am openly game.  I am or have been a member of many gamer community groups, such as LOTRO, WoW, COD, FIFA, etc.  I have gone to various gamer events.  I’m not hiding from myself, nor am I hiding from my peers.

Some people are GAME. Get over it.

However, there is one threshold I have yet to cross on my path to being completely out as a gamer.  I have yet to come fully out to my parents.  They have their suspicions.  The late nights locked up in my room, the suspicious muffled sounds, the scrambling to conceal whatever it was that I was doing moments before they walked in the door.  The truth is, my home is my favorite place to be a gamer.  Why go to all the trouble of going out when I can just bring that world into my bedroom?  This leads to some awkward confrontations with my parents, unfortunately.

“What were you just doing in there?  What was that voice I heard?”

“It was nothing, Dad.  I was just…watching YouTube.”

“Are you sure?  Because that sounded an awful lot like that Cole Phelps character.  You know how I feel about how much time you’re spending with that boy.”

“Daaaaddddd, come on.  I don’t spend that much time with him, it’s not like that.  I’m not…obsessed.  He’s just a good friend, someone I can go to when I’m feeling down or just plain bored.  He’s fun.”

A disappointed, all-too-knowing look, and he leaves me be.  To be honest, I doubt they would care that much if I told them.  They probably already know.  They’re just from a different era.  I do things outside the gamer world, I really do.  In fact, none of my friends are a part of the game life style.  But when I get some alone time, when the world slows down for an afternoon or so, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.  I love my friends, and I love the life I have on the “outside.”  There’s just something about the game community that draws me back time after time.  To be around that many like-minded people is liberating, and I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve spent there for anything.

So here goes.  Mom, Dad:  I game.  I live it, breathe it, love it.  I game, and I’m proud.  So the next time you see me shutting the shades in the family room on a sunny Saturday midmorning, don’t sigh and walk away.  Accept the fact that this is who I am.

I am a gamer.

-Deathly Hallowed

The Stereotypical Gamer?

Holed up in a dark basement somewhere.  Hasn’t showered in days.  Surrounded by empty bags of chips and cans of soda.  Afraid to go outside and see the light of day.  Held captive by a computer screen, completing tasks that have no merit in real life.  Cannot hold a conversation that isn’t via text message.  Homework taking a back seat to the game.

This is what most of my family and friends picture when they hear the word “gamer”.  And to be perfectly honest, during my first experience with LOTRO, I fit this stereotype in a way.  My roommate left our room around noon on Saturday, when I had just begun my quest.  He returned two and a half hours later to find me still playing in the complete darkness, wearing only my boxers, not showered, hadn’t eaten, and seemingly glued to my computer screen.  In fact, I’m writing this post under the same conditions.  Too much information?  Sorry.

Even though I may have been the target of some ridicule throughout the rest of the day because of this, it still did not take away from the sense of accomplishment that I got from finally reaching the stables in West Bree.  I had devoted much time and concentration to this endeavor and I was not going to let anyone discount that.  I may have missed the meeting time of 1PM, but I still got there eventually.

My family was somewhat surprised to hear that I had selected this class for my writing seminar, especially since I have never played online games before in my life.  But how bad could a class on LOTR possibly be?  I also knew that the word “gamer” to them carried somewhat of a stigma, as even my brother and I constantly playing FIFA in our spare time was sometimes frowned upon.  They believed that all my time spent playing “silly” video games could be spent doing things much more productive and beneficial to both myself and others.  And that’s probably true.  But just because I enjoy video games doesn’t mean that I don’t get my homework done and that I can’t hold a conversation, in fact on Saturday I was playing LOTRO as part of my homework!

Who am I to judge someone for doing something that they seem to enjoy so much?  And the same goes for other people.  There are plenty of other things, “guilty pleasures”, that people enjoy that do not really benefit society, such as watching reality TV.  As long as a healthy balance between work and play is found then how important is what that form of play actually is?  I have enjoyed my time spent gaming thus far and will continue to do so throughout at least the rest of the semester.

-George de Roziere