Can the Gaming Community Please Grow Up?

So imagine yourself having a particularly agonizing experience with Candy Crush. You’ve got two moves left, and three Evil Jelly Packs standing in between you and Sweet Redemption. After praying for a sign, divine inspiration hits, and you complete the level with two decisive sweeps.

Feels good, bro. Now imagine a friend of yours – the one who has been watching your progress with bated breath – praising you for it. “Wow, you’re such a gamer!” Now, imagine this moment of victory interrupted by a derisive side comment from a nearby “real” geek: “As if.”

Sound familiar?

Sound familiar?

Real mature, eh? Unfortunately, many people who style themselves as “real gamers” often talk like this. It’s structured around the belief that you are only a gamer if you play console and/or PC games. Just what is a “gamer” supposed to be anyway? Is it not supposed to be someone who enjoys games enough to spend a decent amount of time on them?

 

Or not. Sigh.

Or not. Sigh.

At this point, some of you might be wondering why this is even an issue. People can always stay in their own corners and stick with the games and the gaming company that they like. Live and let live, let bygones be bygones, you keep your opinions and I’ll keep mine. In the meantime, our favorite companies will keep rolling out amazing titles, suited to our individual tastes. Everyone wins.

If only. Sigh.

Love and tolerance!

The trouble with this is that more often than not, the “tastes” of today’s gamer are pretty poor. That should be obvious in the sad proliferation of irritating stereotypes, tired rehashes of the same set of plotlines, and sloppy writing that we see on the market.

Gamers, please excuse my French: a lot of you need to grow the fuck up. We ought to look for fair gender and racial representation, well-written stories and intelligent social commentary in our video games. Most of us just don’t bother. Because most of us don’t bother, game designers are going to keep putting out the same things because they think that it’s what the majority wants. If the majority, however, had better taste… well, you get the idea.

The development of good taste means a change in attitude. Here are three traits that definitely need fixing.

Hi there Butthurt Dweller!

Hi there Butthurt Dweller!

  • A Vehement Need to Possess “Gamer Street Cred”. 

Any geek who happens to be a little left of the “normal” gamer geek (straight, male, 16-30 years old, plays console and/or PC games) has at least one story of a Close Encounter with Hardcore Geek Kind, where they have found themselves “tested” for signs of intelligent life. The criterion for “intelligent” often constitutes extensive knowledge of the trends in the gaming community, an impressive repertoire of already played games and a set idea of what constitutes for a “real” game (again: PC and console) versus what is “fake” (i.e. app games). Not fitting the bill often results in stares and judgmental comments and – in a distressingly large number of cases online – insults. Nobody gets cookies for being an asshole, guys. Just sayin’.

Buying wholesale into the idea that having “street cred” in geekdom is important is tantamount to beating a dead horse given how “geeky” practices are widely recognized as a part of mainstream culture now, and let’s not even bother going into why it’s just a stupid and immature thing to do. Exclusivity is the fastest way to kill a community, and pretty much ensures a lack of growth. If all gamers continue to think the same way (that is, stupidly), expect all games to play the same way (that is, stupidly).

  • Gamer Privilege and Delusions of Self-Importance.

A lot of gamers, especially the ones who spend more time online than they do living in the real world, feel that they ought to be catered to hand and foot by game designers. This is probably because gaming in itself requires a horrendous amount of personal investment. Of course gamers want to be rewarded for their efforts. Still, that isn’t an excuse to throw a toddleresque tantrum when a game doesn’t fit one’s standards. A game’s story doesn’t “suck” just because it did not end with your character living happily ever after (this is a common quibble about the ending of the Mass Effect series, and one of the most ridiculous complaints I have heard about the third game), nor does it suck because it has a female lead instead of a male lead, or because it has gay or lesbian characters (if you want to see a stellar example of somebody being an idiot about this, click here).

If you still don’t believe that gamers can be snot-nosed babies, go on any article that talks about topics like gender or race in relation to games and gaming. Scroll down to the comments section, and you’re sure to see a glaring lack of comments that have something meaningful to return to the discussion. Let’s not forget, as well, how unkind the internet was towards Anita Sarkessian when she attempted to analyze negative tropes against women in video games. Nuff said. Yes, our opinions matter. At the end of the day, though, they’re only opinions. Furthermore, if they are stupid ones, I hope I will not be the last one to tell you to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.

I got your geek cred right here.

I got your geek cred right here.

  • A Tendency to Settle for Less.

Tom Bissell alludes to this issue several times in his book Extra Lives. He states that video games often have sloppily written storylines in favor of pervasive gameplay, and that gamers seem to have the tendency to ignore very real flaws within their favorite titles if only because they’re content enough with the fact that they had fun playing the game. I think, though, that we should start working towards including a sense of taste as part of our criterion of fun.

Interestingly enough, this issue seems to go hand-in-hand with ridding ourselves of our need for exclusivity, and of our overblown sense of gamer’s privilege. Gamers tend to get incredibly defensive about their top picks, and reviewers have the tendency not to give incisive, critical reviews of games but choppy accounts that focus on why the game was fun for them, all on the premise of “well, it’s still fun because of blah blah blah”. We’re also too easily swayed by fanservice.

Game designers don’t need to know whether their game was “fun” or not, and simply leaving your criticism for a game at “it sucks” does not help either. They need to be told, in an intelligent fashion, what made their games good, what made them bad, and how they can improve their titles. Else, we’re going to keep seeing wonderful projects shelved all because game designers were convinced that it will not sell, or that it did not sell enough. We’re also going to keep seeing projects that had a lot of potential get ruined because their backers were afraid that the gamers would not react kindly to change.

Let me name two examples. Tomb Raider 2013, for one, is probably going to get discontinued because its developers set an incredibly unrealistic goal for its sales. Final Fantasy 12 could have been one of the only Final Fantasies with an older, edgier main character (yes, I’m referring to Basch), but Square Enix rehauled the entire game and made Vaan its new lead because they were afraid that their players would be unable to relate to an adult lead. The list goes on.

Too often do we apologize for video games, telling ourselves that as long as we had a bit of fun, we can forgive just about anything. Too often do we turn a blind eye towards the rampant stupidity within our community, convincing ourselves that it’s only on the Internet and has no real bearing on what goes on in the real world. Too often are good video game ideas scrapped because game designers are convinced that they need to cater to the wishes of the so-called majority. Why do we have to be happy with how games and gamers are now when we can push towards what games and gamers could become?

Who knows? We might just end up with better things.

achievement

Achievement unlocked!

Girls Who Game: The Alma Matter

About this series: ‘Girls Who Game’ is a monthly series on female gamer and geek profiles. Every month, we present proof of real women who play without apology. Because we are not unicorns (or more apt, mermaids?).

Alma Anonas-Carpio

Girls Who Game: Alma Anonas-Carpio
Click image for full character stats.

Alma Anonas-Carpio is pretty much Ellen Ripley, except instead of spawning aliens, she has given birth to twin girls (affectionately called the Twin Towers for the height they did not inherit from their mother) who game and geek out as much as she does. Aside from real world awards to her name (a Palanca and an Intel Excellence Award, to name a few), she is also the Literary and Tech Editor for the Philippines Graphic, and is a former president of the IT Journalists Association of the Philippines (Cyberpress). Her geek cred rolls out like a red carpet, and like Ripley, she is nerd, warrior and momma, all in one.

GIRLSGOTGAME: How is it like raising twin geek girls?

ALMA ANONAS-CARPIO: It was awesome and terrible. The Twin Towers were so intelligent as infants that most people found it scary. They took after me, so I let it bloom and encouraged their geekdom — you can never go wrong with nature plus nurture. It started in the womb, I believe. I read all my geek books to them then.

G3: What are your core geekdoms and how do they manifest? 

AAC: My main geekdoms are books (literary – poetry, fiction, pop lit), Star Trek TOS and TNG, professional writing, journalism tradecraft, physics, chemistry, health, some videogames (Diablo I-III, The Sims 1-3 and expansion packs, Counter-Strike – RPG, RTS and FPS being my favorite game types), crochet (yes, I do), Dungeons & Dragons (particularly the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance settings), cooking.

OMG, they manifest every day. In the Graphic newsroom, when I discuss literature and reportage nitty gritty with editor-in-chief Joel Salud, or when I am discussing Star Trek, Superman or Batman with associate editor Fil Elefante, or health issues with managing editor Psyche Roxas Mendoza. Also, at mealtimes with the family, because Relly  (husband), the Twin Towers and I are all geeks.

G3: Some say that girls only like geeky things because of boys. What can you say about that?

AAC: Funny, but I adored all my geekeries waaaaaay before I found boys fascinating.

G3: If you could exchange this world with a fictional universe, which would it be?

AAC: It would be a toss up between the bridge of the NCC-1701 (the Constitution-class Enterprise), or Rivendell, Middle Earth.

G3: How does one build his/her repository of geekiness? Where do you start?

AAC: I started at the age of two by learning to read the 64th edition of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, much to my mother’s shock and delight (she was an English teacher at Ateneo Grade School). Why, you start with the word “aardvark” of course.

Drink to Kill: A review of Drunk Quest

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Are you ready to drink for your life?

This is the quick and dirty guide to Drunkquest: You draw cards for character class and an ability, then play proper involves drawing a treasure or facing up to a creature at play. To battle and “hit”, you have to drink a number of shots equivalent of the creature’s HP.

Take the shot!

Take the shot!

Think it’s easy? Right.

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Low-level critter. Take 5 to take it down.

Notice the picture above: see the big red number on the upper left side? That means that it takes 5 shots to take down that monster. FIVE. And Sake is not even a mini-boss, at least. I was too tipsy when a boss was drawn, but I remember it going up to 10 HP or more.  For every creature you destroy, you take your liver down with you.

While you may co-op with other players to share the hits, the game knows how to stir up shit really fast. You may put draw or put down cards in your hand instead of facing the monster. Take note though: these cards are not co-op friendly. You either add to the monsters’ HP, force someone to drink for you, or have everyone at the table drink.

Did we win? I don’t remember. I just noticed that we had started from a bucket of five beers and two very full bottles of rum, to NONE.

What, we're done?!

I woke up, two hours passed, and I wondered, ‘Why is the world on its side?’

A great game for friends, gamers and non-gamers alike. Drink lots of water and eat a hefty burger before you adventure. Oh, and keep one friend sober. You’ll thank me later.

Co-Op Play! GMA News SciTech with Girls Got Game

GMA News Online plugs in

Girls Got Game is in a special co-op with GMA News SciTech. That means every so often, Girls Got Game news and features may be read on GMA7 News Online. How cool is that?

Check out our first co-op article with them, “The Problem with Booth Babes“, a respawn if you will, on our Women at Cons story. Includes a statement from LaroConPH.

While we have agreed to disagree with the points of LaroConPH, we are thankful for the noise it made among gamers. This one’s for you!

We heart you.

We heart you.

Are you still reading this? Read the actual article at GMA News SciTech! And don’t forget to like them on facebook!

Women at Cons: Where are we at?

As someone with some background in marketing, I wonder if Philippine gaming, toy, and comic book stores have managed to profile their buyers. Are boys and men still the leading buyer of geeky merchandise? Have the girls caught up, if not actually taken over in terms of contributing to sales? If so, shouldn’t there be official con activities that allows girls — real girls — to play?

For those who have just realized “OMG, REAL FEMALE GAMERS EXIST?!” – for reference–

girl-gamers

Now you know. Moving on.

This is from some observation – having volunteered and organized for cons over the last few years. Lights Out, later renamed Blush Con, a convention for females, have had consistently high attendance over the last few years. Geekfight, a geek trivia night I have been a part of for over a year, has an even number of males and females per teams. If on the small scale the female buying power has been proven substantial over and over again, why hasn’t it applied to bigger events – such as the public conventions?

Think I’m kidding? Toycon, one of the most popular local conventions, still had the Gosingfiao girls as one of their main attractions. A number of booths still had booth bitches. The main attraction for the up and coming Laro.Ph gaming con is an FHM model in cosplay.

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Alright, she’s hot, but does she play? Picture from the Laro Convention facebook

Con organizers, have any of you taken note of what girls do at cons? Aside from cosplay and shopping, they also conduct meet-ups with their fan groups. If you haven’t already noticed, a number of handmade fan merchandise are made by and sold by female fans, which bring in even more fans. These same girls carved out the time to go to your con, crawl down EDSA on a Mega Sale weekend, wait twenty minutes in line to pay for a ticket, and spend up to the thousands or more on fan merch. We are not the minority. We are a sizable audience.

Where are we in your event line-up?

Are you ready for a female Doctor?

Female Fourth Doctor

Since Matt Smith announced that he will not be reprising his role as the 11th Doctor after this year, fans have speculated as to who is next in line as the iconic lead of the long-running sci-fi series. At this point, anyone–anything goes.

In the 50 year span of the Doctor Who series, The Doctor has always been played by a white, male actor. Is it time to think out of the blue box by casting out of the established type and gender?

On the possibility of a female Doctor, Helena Bonham Carter and Tilda Swinton have been suggested. Award-winning actress, Helen Mirren even expressed interest in the role. Surprisingly, even female fans were quick to reject the possibility. It is, they feel, too big a change from the Doctor they have come to know and love.

By Tony Shek (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

HBC is a shoo-in: she already dresses like The Doctor.

 

In a recent BBC survey, only 2% of the respondents voted for a female doctor. “I just see The Doctor as male – he started as male, and has always been identified as male,” says Jaja Palayo, a female member of Whovian Philippines. “If equality were an issue, why not make another brand new character, a Time Lady who’s just as amazing as The Doctor?” Einez, another female from Whovian Philippines, thinks that a female Doctor for the sake of PC-ness would just be too “gimmicky”. “It’s like Batman suddenly dropping the bat signal and started using doves.”

For those who’ve thought it through, it was as simple as, “Why not?” especially with the lasting impact of female Who characters such as Rose Tyler, Donna Noble, and River Song. Male Whovian, Nikki929, makes a disconcerting observation on female fans against the idea of a female Doctor, “The Doctor has always come in to whisk someone off to an adventure. It’s the equivalent of a knight in shining armor. Make the Doctor female and you destroy that fantasy.”

Do think it’s time for a female Doctor? Who should be the next Doctor Who? Let us know in the comments.

Repackaging Done Right: Tomb Raider 2013

Pamela Punzalan takes on the origin story of Tomb Raider and comes off it with a lot of feels. 

Full disclosure: When I heard that Crystal Dynamics was teaming up with Square Enix and going to come out with a remake of Tomb Raider, I was incredibly cynical. This wasn’t because I was a fan of the original series — in fact, I never got to play it. And that might have been the problem.

Well, she had a huge, um, personality!

Well, she had a huge, um, personality!

 

My exposure of Tomb Raider was limited to boob jokes, screenshots of said boobs with the occasional boob joke attached to it, and Angelina Jolie. Going on the Internet did not help much either, especially since the crowd seemed to be divided between excitement over seeing Lara Croft gloriously rendered in third-generation console graphics, the worry over gender representation, and an unapologetic cynicism (“Oh god, not another remake!”). I think I fit into the second category.

Rare is the game that has a female protagonist that is not objectified, not a result of liking a female lead over a male lead at character creation, not part of a marketing ploy built to “reach out” to “the female demographic”, or not really a character at all because of a lack of personality. I’ve never had any real issues about not being able to play as a female lead often, but personally? It would be nice to see more digital girls kicking ass, and not being counted as the token female in a beefcake fest.

You know what we mean.

You know what we mean.

So yes, I was cynical. It took the cajoling of several trusted friends to make me pick the game up for myself and try it. Now that I finished it (or, more correctly, now that my younger brother and I finished it, because we double-team on some of our games), I have to say that Tomb Raider 2013 is a must-play for everyone, especially if you’re a girl. It’s one of the most intense gaming experiences on the market, it’s one of the finest takes on an origin story that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, and it’s solid proof that developers CAN make a female lead who can kick ass without being just another hot digital body for everyone to fawn over. Let’s tackle these experiences one by one.

Tomb Raider as Tomb Falling Down Shit/Lara Croft’s Life is Pain

The first ten minutes of gameplay can be summarized in alternating reactions of “F**k the graphics are beautiful”, “Mmm, Lara, so pretty…” and “OW OW OW WHAT THE FUCK OW!” And it doesn’t get better. To my count, there are about five different ways to die horribly at any point in the game, and the death sequences, while at times excessive mostly because of the fact that if you keep screwing up you keep seeing it, are as painful for you as they are for Lara.

It is also a case study on the many possible things that a human being could fall off of or into. The environment isn’t the only thing that’s deadly: the people populating the island that Lara’s crew gets stranded on are also out to kill them with whatever they have at their disposal. And they’ve got plenty. I feel, though, that all of this has a real, narrative purpose: it sets the stage for the story of a girl who survives against impossible odds, and starts on the kind of work that will end up defining who she is for the rest of her life.

Tomb Raider as an Origin Story

You can criticize the game for its shortness, occasional cases of game logic (i.e. a lack OF logic) and its apparent deviance from the flavor of the original series (puzzle solving over kill-kill-bang-bang). What you can’t hit it for, I feel, is the way you feel Lara Croft grow up with every step, and perhaps you, as player, growing up with her. Yes, she’s forced into an impossible situation, and–typical to video games –she manages to survive and comes out stronger because of it. But Crystal Dynamics also does an excellent job of humanizing her, reminding you, in small ways, of the fact that she feels pain, fear, doubt, loss and regret.

 

Pain, pain and more pain.

Pain, pain and more pain.

Action games have the tendency of making their main characters seem invincible: you play hopscotch on high rooftops with them, swoop down on targets with them and do superhuman feats with them, and they act like they do it all the time. With Lara, however, you’re intensely aware of how she feels about crossing a rotting log over a yawning chasm built of rocks and certain death, or how hard it is for her to kill somebody for the first time. And then you see, later in the game, how she starts fighting back, how every climb or jump becomes easier (but no less frightening), and how she refuses to roll over and die when she’s faced with a hoard of gun-toting goons out to keep her from saving her friends.

The game marries both of these sides very well, because up until the end, you can still see how human Lara as is whenever she’s alone, or standing on the brink of making a decision that could get herself killed, get someone else killed, or help her press on. The best part about it is that the plot devices they used in order to “toughen” Lara up were rather girl-friendly.

Tomb Raider as a Game for Girls

Although, Lara Croft would totally work as a unicorn.

Although, Lara Croft would totally work as a unicorn.

I understand that this is a rather sensitive topic, but I feel that it has to be said: one dangerous trend in television shows, movies and games is that tendency to emphasize how female characters can only “toughen up” through some form of sexual violation. It is almost as if girls are only interested in the usual Home Economics Triumvirate (Cooking, Cleaning, Looking Pretty), and will only learn how to defend themselves after they’ve been harassed, molested or raped. This is not to say that this motivation is invalid; I simply want to point out that the use of this device in a story happens far too often, and–for many parties–is distasteful, because it belies a lack of sensitivity towards victims of sexual abuse, and also falls back on how the female body tends to be an object that exists solely for male pleasure in media.

In Tomb Raider, you never hear unprovoked sexist slurs or spot any unapologetically misogynist moments, and the one antagonist who does attempt to molest Lara is characterized as a sadistic freak who would likely do the same to any person that he was assigned to hunt down. Furthermore, Lara’s motivation in the game is not built around fighting back because of the fear of violation, but because she wants to survive and save as many of her friends as she can. On a less sensitive note, Lara calls the shots throughout the game, for better or for worse. She is not without fault, and she’s forced on many occasions to live with the consequences of her decisions, but she is, at the end of it, a self-made character, not a damsel in distress.

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Lara Croft stands for a lot of things as a video game character. She was one of the first strong female leads in video game history, and – because of the natural flaws that came with her development – her character opened up a space for healthy discussion on girls, girls and games, and female representation in today’s media. Tomb Raider 2013 is a beautiful experience, and it does an excellent job of bringing out the best in what Lara has to offer for all of us, gamers, developers and critics alike.

 

All images link back to sources. Yay for Creative Commons!