Resident Evil 5 Trailer

Can you spot what’s wrong with the trailer? Hint: it’s not the cg or the cinematography.

Via Iris forums.

ETA: For all the racist-apologist fanboys who are offended at the very thought of people engaging in criticism of their beloved Resident Evil series: criticism doesn’t equal “the only thing the game’s about is a white person killing hordes of black people!11eleven”. Criticizing the trailer doesn’t mean that we hate the game, or think that it couldn’t possibly have anything of merit in it. Nor does it mean that we won’t be buying the game. It just means that it’s being advertised in a highly problematic way that deserves criticism.

I’ve published the dissenting opinion in the comments. Further comments that say the same thing will not be published because there’s no need to rehash the same misreading of the criticism over and over again.

Something to think about

Trying to help clear out some backlog for Jade Reporting (we’re looking for volunteers, by the way), I came across these recent titles from articles on Destructoid:

New Destructoid wallpapers are hotter than your best friend’s mom
Sexy No More Heroes footage makes me feel special inside of myself
Auto Assault shuttered, ruining future for “Autoerotic Assault” jokes
Dragon Quest Swords TV ad; why is there no Sexy Slime?
WoW pedophemale fails in her quest to get a 17 year old knobbing

Not all of these are sexist; they are just the ones that jumped out at me that had unnecessary or inappropriate references to sex in the titles. Also, I don’t mean to single out Destructoid with this little exercise; it was just their bloglines that I was reading, and I know for a fact that Kotaku is worse.

But, really, with Destructoid being one of the major players in video game news and entertainment, what kind of message to titles of those send out? That the gaming industry and community is mature and worthy of respect? Please. It says to the world that gamers are immature, horny little nerd boys who are so sex starved that they have to talk about it even when it isn’t remotely relevant, and jazz it up even when it is.

Sick of the stereotypes, boys? So am I.

If you want gaming to have a better image (and from the articles, I know you do), then it all starts with you. Stop putting “humour” above clarity, and stop trying to insert sex references where they obviously don’t belong. It’s childish. It’s stupid. And it makes gamers look bad. It’s really not that hard to show a little professionalism in one’s journalism. Seriously.

Dealing with harassment isn't that easy

I recently stumbled across a post called Cuppy, aka the anti-feminist, which was written in response to Brinstar’s I Reject the ‘Big Boys’ post. There’s actually a lot in it that I disagree on, but I’m going to focus on just one of her arguments.

One of the things that Cuppycake argues is as follows:

When you play in a video game, no one cares what gender or race you are except the immature idiots who you wouldn’t want to associate or group with anyway. Learn to avoid the immaturity and the disrespectful people and familiarize yourself with the ignore button and the fact that you can always meet new friends. Quit lumping all the men into this stereotype of “asshole, hardassed, disrespectful, immature, condescending jerks” and instead find yourself embracing the differences in people in the gaming culture. Just like the real world, you have people you need to avoid and distance yourself from and others that you will want to become closer to. The glory of current MMO’s is the ability to talk in private chats, to use ignore features, to join guilds, to pick and choose who you group with, to use chat profanity filters. We really can make gaming an enjoyable experience if we choose to and put a bit of effort into it.

I think that there are too many over-simplifications in her argument, starting with the way that she represents the opposing view and ending with the way she presents personal action as the solution to the problem of harassment. Continue reading

Cerise: June 2007 and Call for Submissions

The June 2007 issue is out! The theme is “The Making of a Gamer”, and we have some great stories in our new feature “gamer stories” relating to that.

We’re currently looking for submissions for our July issue. Here’s the call for submissions:

Submission deadline: June 20, 2007
Theme: Inclusive Game Design

We often talk about what developers can do to attract women and other groups outside of the target audience to games, or discuss how bad game design can foster an environment hostile to that goal, but the nuances behind inclusive game design (beyond “give me women heroes who aren’t defined primarily by their sexuality”) don’t get as much airtime as perhaps they should.

What are the fundamentals of inclusive game design? How far have we come, or not come, since the old days of gaming? Should we give companies allowances in terms of these fundamentals, based on potential increased costs and other factors that come with inclusive design? Where do lesser talked-about issues, such as accessibility for people with disabilities, fit in? What about the more complex issues associated with inclusive design, such as using an idealized society versus a flawed one, or giving everyone equal choices versus using a certain amount of difference to create a dialogue about equality? If you have something to say about how, when, and why to strive for inclusive game design, then please consider submitting your piece for this issue.

Forcing all spaces to be privilege-oriented spaces

A lot of time my Privilege in Action posts are born out of me seeing two unrelated areas of interest facing the same exact privileged arguments. This time, it’s on the subject of women-oriented spaces, but of course it can be applied to spaces geared towards any non-privileged group.

Let me begin my post with a quote from one of the essays linked in the two threads I will be discussing [emphasis mine]:

After a while, we began organizing “chick nights,” gatherings of just the four of us and maybe some other women we knew from outside the group. For reasons that were often kind of bizarre, some of the men in the group took exception to this. They never organized nights at which we were excluded. When we pointed out that by the law of averages, a good half of the various social outings ended up being guy-only, they replied that it was not the same thing.

“Look,” I finally said to one of them, “when we get together Saturday night, we’re going to paint our nails and put goop on our faces and play with each others’ hair and watch movies with really hot guys and talk about how hot the guys are and probably talk about sex and periods and all that fun stuff. Do you really have any interest in that?

No,” he replied, “but we could do other stuff instead.

Those of us who are veterans of anti-oppression work get the point that Gillam was making, even before her explanation of why they had “chick nights” in the first place, but for people such as her male friend, the concept is foreign and seems discriminatory in nature. He is used to, by virtue of his privilege, being included in things as a default, and therefore to him the natural course is not only to be included in the nights, but to be given a voice equal, or greater, to the women in deciding what is done in those nights.

And it is with that thought in mind that I begin this post on Privilege in Action.

Please Note: Since this post is going to be long enough as it is, I would rather not explain the difference between privilege-only spaces and non-privileged spaces. For those of you who wonder what the difference is between the two, please read my post on A Deeper Look at “Minority Spaces” before continuing with this one.

I. This is our garden. We like it.

I would like to first start by discussing a series of posts on the Feminist SF blog regarding the female-dominated slash fandom. The posts, for reference, are as follows: Slash fandom and male privilege/hetero privilege (a great PiA post written by someone who isn’t me!), This is our garden. We like it., and So, why do fanboys hate fanfic, especially slash?. The common thread that I want to talk about (also addressed in So, why do fanboys hate fanfic, especially slash?) can be summed up with this quote: “The fanboy… perceived a roomful of women, talking about men, and was infuriated to find that his opinion was regarded as of no value.”

When non-privileged groups form our own spaces to talk about our issues, whether or not we welcome participation from privileged groups or not, there is always a backlash from someone who feels that their privileged opinion is not being properly respected. In addition to the examples that Yonmei listed in her posts, every single one of them had an angry man coming on to lecture her and the other commenters about his opinion on slash/fanfic in the same exact style that Yonmei was criticizing in her posts.

Yonmei sums up the problem with conflating privileged participation and privileged domination in spaces for non-privileged groups:

If you find it comfortable to play in the slash sandbox, as is, I don’t think you’ll find any female slash fans telling you you can’t. If what you want to read is slash, no one can stop you. If what you want to write is slash, slash fans will want to read it. If you want to join in metadiscussions about slash, this is also possible – so long as you do so as a slash fan, and not as a gay man arguing that you know how gay men experience the world, and this or that in a slash story isn’t it. Because then you are not trying to join in metadiscussions as just another slash fan: you are trying to distort metadiscussions about slash with male privilege.

Going back to the quote I used in the introduction, it is not that there is necessarily a problem with privileged groups wanting to participate in non-privileged spaces, but that it often comes out that they want to dominate and change those spaces so that they appeal to them in the way that all of the other kinds of spaces out there do.

II. Defining how friendly “privilege-friendly” spaces should be

I don’t put much stock in old adages, but one thing that the constant tug-of-war over defining spaces brings to mind is, “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.” I’ve been feeling that way about the woman-oriented gaming network, Iris and its child magazine Cerise that I recently created with Revena. In anti-oppression speak, I would call us a inclusive non-privileged safe space. In real terms, that means that we are a feminist/woman-oriented site that welcomes participation from men as long as they come as allies.

But most guys in the gaming blogsphere, even some who position themselves as allies or openminded, are not content with that. Take, for example, this heated exchange between myself, some other women gamers, and a male commenter on a post on New Game Plus called More reasons for a magazine for gaming women.

The exchange can be summed up as such:

Him: Why care what a guy says? Why react to the negativity? Why create a validation for them?
Me: Women need to see others sticking up for us — both within our community and without… Because It’s. Not. About. Teh. Mens. It’s about networking and safety and creating a non-toxic gaming environment.
Him: But again, why bother?… Why bother trying to convince them otherwise when you could better spend your energy living and creating the world that you want? [Insert a several paragraph diatribe about women wanting to be fetishized, that we shouldn’t “force” our view of equality on him, and that there is no problem because he doesn’t see it.] Me: Listen to what has already been said. It’s. Not. About. Teh. Mens… Men like you, who feel the need to talk over us and not listen to us, are exactly why we need a separate space in order to get our voices heard.
Him: I don’t feel the need to talk over anyone. If anything, this is a need to know. But I think I’ve learned enough.

Well, I wasn’t nearly as nice sounding in the actual exchange. But the deluge of misogyny and privilege in his 17+ paragraph argument about how we women need to just shut up and realize we’ve already achieved equality since our voices are already being heard, all being said while he was simultaneously failing to hear what had been said only one comment above about how the premise to entire argument was false did not put me in the mood to make nicey-nice.

Anyway, the point of it all is that Nic felt affronted at the very idea that there was a space out there where his voice was given less weight, and decided to rectify that fact by dominating the conversation on another woman-oriented space in order to tell us all how much we hate men, freedom of speech, and “equality” that recognizes men’s rights to silence women.

So as not to give the impression that criticism of openly women-oriented spaces is confined to only misogynists like the Kotaku commenters and concern trolls like Nic, though, it is important to point out he is not the first to have criticized the community for not properly catering to male needs. Tony Walsh of Clickable Culture wrote an entire post about how put off he was by our magazine having a tagline saying that it was for women gamers.

Both arguments boil down to: “Your community/magazine doesn’t appeal to men enough, change x, y, or z to make it appeal more.” Both of them miss that, while we welcome privileged participation and want to reach beyond the scope of our group, we are here to give voices to women and women’s issues. Why do we need a gaming magazine “for women”? Precisely because of the assumption that underlies the two arguments being made, that male needs need to be catered anytime and anywhere, those women in the gaming community and the gaming industry (not to mention those who are actually allies who want to try to understand women’s issues rather than assuming they know “what women want”) be damned!

III. Conclusion

None of the privileged people could wrap their minds around the idea that their opinions were not only not worth more than those of the non-privileged group whose space and conversation it was, but actually meant less. These men were coming into a woman-created, woman-oriented sandbox and instead of playing by the rules of the community, they were trying to force it to conform to their ideas of what the community should be!

Privilege is believing that, regardless of the purpose behind a space, any space you enter should conform to your ideas, and that the pre-existing members of that space should give your singular opinion weight equal to that their group as a whole. If someone entered a community devoted to Spiderman/Peter Parker, telling them that they should focus on Mary Jane instead is something that, I think, is universally recognized as rude and presumptuous. Why, then, is it considered acceptable to go into communities devoted to giving women a voice in a certain area (like fandom, gaming, politics, etc) and tell us that we need to change to cater to privileged groups, or listen to a privileged point of view, and otherwise change what we are doing because it is not exactly like every other privilege-oriented, excuse me, every other normal space does?

On women-oriented gaming communities

Zach over at Molten Boron became my hero for the day by posting, Kotaku Commenters Prove the Necessity of a Women’s Gaming Magazine, which debunks much of the misinformation Kotaku continues to spread about Iris and, most recently, our online magazine/journal, Cerise. More important than my squeeing over someone outside of my gaming community who actually gets it, though, the post is worth reading for its excellently made points about the culture of hostility in online gaming communities.

He ends on a note that I have thought about (and one day intend to write on), which is the separatism vs. integration argument:

I do somewhat see the argument for the anti-segregationist build-a-better-culture-from-within perspective. The problem is that I think it’s a false choice; it isn’t either be a part of the larger gaming community or be a part of the female/feminist gaming community, it’s both be a part of the larger gaming community and be a part of the female/feminist gaming community. Moreover, I don’t think the problem of women gamers being isolated from the gaming community writ large is as big a problem as the one of women gamers being alienated from the gaming community in general as a result of overt and subrosa hostility to women in gaming.

Obviously since I’m one of the founders of a feminist and female-oriented community, I ultimately agree with the points he’s making. What it comes down to, I think, is that it’s necessary for change to come both from within and without, and communities such as Iris (and new-to-me, Ludica) there won’t be anyone for women (and men) working from within to use as evidence for their arguments for change. And without that evidence, no matter how loud they try to shout they will continue to be silenced by the privileged majority.

Cerise: May 2007 and Call for Submissions

The May 2007 issue is out! The theme is getting women “out there” in gaming journalism, and we have some great articles about that.

We’re currently looking for submissions for our June issue. Here’s the call for submissions:

Submsision deadline: May 15, 2007
Theme: The Making of a Gamer

Chances are if you’re a gamer, you have a story (or three) to tell about how you got there. Whether it be playing video games with our parents, reflecting on how it felt with our first gaming group, or even looking at how we were, and sometimes still are, treated by the workers and customers in our local gaming establishments, every woman has had unique experiences that have shaped our identities as gamers.

Do you have a story to tell about an experience or two that shaped your identity as gamer? Do you want reflect on the good and bad of being a young gamer, or talk about what games helped get you into gaming, or think about the first character in a game that you really got attached to and why? If so, then this is the issue for you!

The beauty myth and character design

One of the points I constantly bring up as a barrier to gender inclusive game design is how women are hypersexualized — meaning that they are constructed to be characters whom presumably male characters would like to have sex with, they are often portrayed with exaggerated sexual characteristics (how often do you find a female character with A-cups? Or with a non-curvy figure?), and presented in a way (through costuming and posing) that is meant to show them as sexually available.

One of the most, if not the most, common rebuttal I get to this argument is to reduce my logical arguments to me saying that the only “acceptable” avatar is an “ugly” one. This, of course, is a problematic reaction on many different levels. I would first like to clear up the argument I’m actually making, then delve into an analysis why the dichotomy of “ugly” versus “pretty” used in the rebuttals is not a useful one, and finally offer suggestions for what companies can do to be more inclusive in their character design. Continue reading

"Black is an EXTRA feature… Therefore, you hav[e] to PAY for it."

Via kynn who found it via symbioid; some information on Acclaim’s new game, Dance, where the default is white. One of the users took issue with this and began a thread called, I GOTTA PAY TO BE BLACK?

This situation is, perhaps, one of the most clear-cut examples of how the privileged groups are normalized and the non-privileged groups are Othered. First of all, this game seems to be still in the development stage; they’re testing out game mechanics and the like. Just as with Fable, as I discussed in my gender-inclusive video game thread, treating a female option as an “extra” rather than an intrinsic part of a game that supposedly lets you be anything, Acclaim’s Dance treats white as the default and non-white as an extra feature. As one of the moderators on the board explains, “Black is an EXTRA feature. It makes your person look unique, so that is an EXTRA feature. Therefore, you having to PAY for it.”

A site administrator takes a different tactic from the “it’s a compliment because it’s unique” approach, by implying that this is the best way to handle things because the game structure won’t allow for anything else. The staff member says, “As an optional character upgrade, we must put this in the item shop for players to acquire. This is the only way to offer the African-American heads.” The “only way”? Really? Perhaps at this stage it would be so costly to make the necessary adjustments to the system that it seems like the only way is to make it a paying option (although, really, in that case I can’t see why they couldn’t at least make it 0 points instead of 1, but I digress), but if they had programmed from the ground up with diversity in mind instead of allowing white to be the default, then there would be no problem — hence framing it as something out of their hands reads, to me at least, more like a tactic for avoiding responsibility than the full truth.

A more detailed explanation of the moderator’s stance — non-white skin colour as unique — is as follows [emphasis mine]:

THE REASON, there is no available choice at the moment is because, being white doesn’t necessarily have to represent you color in game. To change your skin color in the game, IS a special feature. It makes you STAND OUT. Therefore, your going to have to pay for an extra feature. Maybe in full release, there will be a bit more leeway, but for now you have to stick with what you got and test the game, and don’t worry so much about your character they’re going to be wiped regardless… We didn’t mean for this to be a racial bash. But the default skin tone we have in DANCE! is white. If you want something extra your going to have to pay. Nothing in life is free.

[From I GOTTA PAY TO BE BLACK? comment by coasterguy26]

Acclaim wasn’t aiming to be racist. I would say that no successful company — at least none that want to stay in business — tries to be racist. But the whole point about privilege is that you don’t have to try to be bigoted, but you have to actively try not to be bigoted because of the way the bigoted point of view is normalized in society.

See, privilege is about not having to see yourself as the Other. The moderator quoted above — and the company he represents — don’t see the hypocrisy in saying that they didn’t “mean for this to be a racial bash” and then in the very next sentence say that “the default skin tone we have in DANCE! is white”. They don’t think of it as racist because in our society being white is “normal”, it’s the “default” and it’s certainly nothing for anyone to get worked up over.

White people, who do already have it so that the avatars “represent [their] color in game” (and in most games, movies, tv shows, comic books, books, etc), have the luxury of seeing race as an extra, as something to do to make yourself unique and stand out. People of colour, who aren’t automatically represented in this game or most other parts of society, don’t have that luxury. If they want to have their avatars represent someone like themselves — something a white person doesn’t have to think about if they don’t want to — they have to pay. They get to see themselves be Othered and then told that they should be grateful because they are seen as “unique” and something to be desired. What is a fun accessory for a white player is a necessary component for a player of colour who wants to have the same ability as the white person to allow their avatar to represent their real life self. Privilege is not having to think about how the “extras” afforded to you come at the cost of allowing non-privileged groups the same basic representation that you take for granted.

It’s certainly much easier for Acclaim to take the tactic that they have — it’s out of our hands, we’ve made it an extra feature to help make you unique (so we can’t be doing a bad thing), and, hey, we don’t mean to be racist so obviously we can’t be! — than it is for them to acknowledge that they fucked up and take the time to fix it.