Toxicity Within the Gaming Culture: An Outsider’s Observation

Toxicity Within the Gaming Culture: An Outsider’s Observation

Ed. Note: This post has been written over the last week or so. It’s not as cohesive as I’d like it to be, but I wanted to get it all out. Plus, I’m still getting my writing chops back, so keep that in mind as you read this post.

It’s been a horrible couple of weeks for gaming culture, and it started when the ex of an indie developer decided to air his dirty laundry publicly, accusing his ex of sleeping her (and her gender is very important here) way to some positive reviews for her game. Which, as many gamers were quick to point out, isn’t really a game, presumably because it didn’t have any guns that go PEW PEW. Soon, there was a witch hunt against this developer* and nude photos of her were spread across the web. The man she’s accused of sleeping with in order to get this juicy review (didn’t happen) has also gotten some shit, but not nearly as much as she has.

Before I tackle this and the harassment that Anita Sarkeesian** has received for her newest Tropes vs Women video, I want to take a look at gaming culture in general. You can read my prior post on what it took for me to call myself a gamer for some of the negativity I see dominating gaming culture. Some will argue that it’s just a reflection of society in general, and while I agree, I have to wonder why it’s particularly vitriolic in gaming culture. I mean, writers and directors of movies don’t get umpteen death threats if the end of the movie isn’t agreeable to the viewers, so why is this a normal thing that happens in gaming? I mean, the developers of Call of Duty got death threats when they tweaked a weapon, for fuck’s sake. What the hell is wrong with gamers that this is a common thing?

Part of the problem is the endless patching of games. A game is released, oftentimes in an unfinished/unpolished state with the knowledge that there will be patches in the future. In the Early Access program on the Steam website, developers actively ask for gamer input. I have complicated feelings about the Early Access program which shall be left for another blog post, but suffice it to say that it’s interactive nature allows gamers to give feedback to a game in a manner that actually affects the outcome of said game. Therefore, it’s not unreasonably to say that gamers are a part of the creative process, albeit a small one. So, they have a sense of entitlement, that they DESERVE the ending they want (or the gun power or whatever). Still, that doesn’t seem like enough to inspire death/rape threats, does it?
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Channeling My Inner Cyndi Lauper and Putting the Religious Right on Notice

The subject of birth control should be far from controversial. To many women, the only thing controversial about it is that we’re still fighting this battle.

I’ve loved Cyndi Lauper since I first watched her video, Girls Just Want To Have Fun. This was back in the eighties, and she was the most outrageous person I’d seen up to that point. She had obviously dyed hair cut in a punk cut, loud makeup, funky clothing, and gaudy jewelry. In addition, she had Asian women in her video. I’d never seen that before! Cyndi was unapologetically different, and she seemed so comfortable in her own skin. Plus, she could fucking SING.

Watch the video and try not to smile and sing along. You can’t do it; you simply cannot. She brought some much-needed color to my life and even though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, she was the first woman to show me that being a freak wasn’t necessarily a negative thing.

She had another song that came out in 1993 but that I didn’t hear until much later called, Sally’s Pigeons. The tone of this song is much more somber, as is Cyndi herself. It’s the story of two best friends growing up and doing the things that girls that age do. Their girlhoods are normal until the best friend, Sally, gets pregnant.

She left one night with just a nod, was lost to some back alley job.

That’s just one line, tucked in the song, but the impact is powerful. I’ve used this song when posting about this topic before because it’s one of the few songs that actually mentions the reality of life before Roe v. Wade. I’m not saying this was a true-life story of Cyndi’s though it feels authentic; I’m just saying it hit me hard because I could imagine this scenario, except with me in the role of Sally.


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Religious Freedom For Thee, But Not For Me

Religious Freedom For Thee, But Not For Me

Ed. Note: My thoughts are still jumbled on this. It’s really hard to get past incoherent rage. So, I apologize that this is going to be disjointed. It’s the best I could do. 

My reaction in reading the Hobby Lobby decision on Monday: FUCK YOU, SCOTUS, AND THE HOBBY LOBBY HORSE YOU RODE IN ON.* I was pissed off, disgusted, seething, and a whole plethora of other emotions, and I still am. But what I am the most is tired.

I’m tired of being considered a second-class citizen in this country because of my gender. Yes, I can get pregnant and give life, but that doesn’t mean that I should be forced to do so. “The fetus is a person.” Well, no. It’s potential person at best, and given that 10 – 20% of pregnancies end up in miscarriages, it’s easy to refute that truism, even if you can’t convince the person saying it. If it were true that every pregnancy should be brought to term, there would be no miscarriages. There are valid reasons for terminating a pregnancy, even if it’s not because the fetus has a genetic defect. Now, I’m going to say something heretical. Even if I were to concede that a fetus is a life (which, again, I don’t), my rejoinder would be that I am, too. I’m a living, breathing person, and I fucking matter. I matter as much as those cells hypothetically swimming around inside my body; no, I matter MORE. I wrote about this realization after Dr. Tiller’s murder. You can read my thoughts about why I matter here. And, to get even more meta about it, why it matters that I realize I matter.

Going down that road, that’s another thing that makes me tired. These religious extremists are telling me that I don’t matter as much as this potential person does. My hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions, etc., are meaningless to these assholes once I become pregnant. Then, I am nothing more than a vessel for the potential life inside of me. They are saying that anything I want for my life is moot once a sperm happens to hook up with one of my eggs, and I am having none of it. What’s ironic is that they don’t give a shit once the baby is actually born, but another post for another day.

I am tired of the anti-choice successfully dominating the narrative so that pro-choice activists have to apologize for abortion or qualify it. Yes, it’s a terrible horrible awful thing and yes the goal is zero abortions and, and, and….We’ve allowed them to define ‘good’ abortions (or rather, acceptable abortions, i.e., in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother) versus ‘bad’ abortion (unacceptable abortions, every other abortion). It’s because of this that anti-choicers can argue about the evil Slutty McSluts who are having sex all over the place and then going through the drive-thru of McDonald’s to order up their abortions for the day.
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Conscious Discrimination in Gaming as in Life

Conscious Discrimination in Gaming as in Life

Now that I’m dabbling in gaming culture, I’m seeing a common complaint by some gamers that I used to see in politics, and, indeed, in society in general. “Why do you have to bring ___________* into it? I just want to enjoy ____________** without any of that icky identity crap that goes with it!” In case you can’t guess, the people saying this are usually white guys, probably straight, and they don’t understand why they have to deal with race, gender, sexuality when all they want to do is play a damn video game! They can’t understand why we minorities have to harp on these issues. Well, let me try to explain why it’s important to us who are not in the majority.

The default for video games is to have a white, straight male as a protagonist.. Even though gamers themselves are becoming more diverse, the protagonists have remained mostly a monolith. Blah blah blah developers creativity, but as I pointed out in a previous post, if every developer churns out the same product, it’s not really creative, is it? I will say that I started gaming in the heyday of its diversity with you having the ability to choose to customize your character to varying extents in more games than ever. However, if a game gives you one protagonist, you can bet that nine out of ten times*** said protagonist would be a white male. So, those of us tired of playing straight white males are going to point this out from time to time. Not all the time as some straight, white male (SWM) gamers claim. Probably not  even half the time or a quarter, but enough to make it uncomfortable to those who wish to remain oblivious of the issues. Any discussion of an issue that one would rather not face feels like too much attention given to said issue.

If you’re a SWM in gaming, you have the luxury of not having to think about race, gender, sexual identity, etc. All the games cater to you because you are the default norm. When minorities point out the rather obvious fact that they are missing from the equation, it seems like THEY are the ones who are bringing up race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and injecting it into the conversation. The SWMs don’t see that race/gender/sexuality already play a big part because you don’t come up with that kind of uniformity by accident. No, I’m not saying it’s some kind of conspiracy – I’m saying it’s societal norm that is invisible because of its pervasiveness and acceptability.
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Quick Bites: Titanfall, AKA, STOMPY ROBOTS!!

Quick Bites: Titanfall, AKA, STOMPY ROBOTS!!

Titanfall was an Xbox One exclusive (now on PC as well) by developer, Respawn Entertainment, and it debuted with all the hype that a next-gen game usually garners. I didn’t pay much attention because I don’t have an Xbone nor did I have a computer that could run Titanfall (let alone store it. 50 GB!!). Plus, there is no single-player campaign, and I’m not a multi gal, as I may have mentioned once or ten times before. This past weekend, though, EA allowed you to play it for free for 48 hours and had it on sale at half-price. I have very shitty downloading speed and I had multiple problems with the download, so by the time I actually DL’ed it, the sale was over. Still, it was free, I had a new rig on which it would look glorious, and STOMPY ROBOTS. What could be better? Only if Idris Elba showed up. Ahem.

Still, I hesitated. I hate doing things I’m bad at, especially in front of other people. I didn’t want to be the n00b who let the team down, even though I know everyone plays that role in the beginning. I rationalized to myself that I could do the tutorial and never play a match if I so choose. Keeping that firmly in mind, I plunged in. I went through the pilot tutorial and then the titan tutorial to familiarize myself with the controls. Again, I have to mention that while I use the Dvorak typing system, my keyboard is in QWERTY, so seeing prompts in Dvorak really fucks with my brain. Besides, as you gamers know, when I have the claw hand going on, my fingers aren’t on the proper keys. So ‘K’ (which is V for you QWERTIES), which I need to press to call down my titan, isn’t easy to find in a glance. I probably will have to get a Dvorak keyboard, but it’s not easy to find a gaming Dvorak keyboard.

Anyway, much of the pilot tutorial was old ground. WASD for movement, C for melee, E using things, etc. Space for jumping, twice for jumping even higher. As a pilot, the hardest thing for me to remember was cloaking and parkouring. The titan, on the other hand – I feel as if I barely scratched the surface of what my titan could do. It wasn’t until late into my last match that I – but I get ahead of myself. As is my wont.

After completing the tutorial, I hesitantly entered a match. I didn’t notice who I was playing with or against because I was too busy trying to remember everything I’d just learned. Briefly, in the campaign, there’s a story, but you’re mostly doing the usual things you do in multi games. Capture certain points, kill as many of the opposition as possible, etc. There is a voice that talks to you from time to time, but, frankly, I paid it no attention. I chose to be an assassin the first time (you can be her or the rifleman) and had an Ogre titan. You don’t get to be in your titan all the time – at least not in the beginning. I think the newer you are, the less you get to use the titan, but that’s strictly going on my impressions during gameplay.
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Quick Bites: Cook, Serve, Delicious Review – It’s Scrumptious!

Quick Bites: Cook, Serve, Delicious Review – It’s Scrumptious!

I was aware of Cook, Serve, Delicious (which shall be known as CSD for the rest of the post) way before I ever bought it.  It was supposed to be a hardcore cooking sim, and all the reviews I read emphasized how hard it was. Now, I like my cooking games, but I like them casual. If I’m going to play a hardcore game, I’m going to be shooting things in the face. Amirite, fellas???? Then, I saw Northernlion take a look at it (twice, as it was released on Desura before Steam picked it up), and I was intrigued. Yes, it looked hard, but it also looked fun. It went on sale of Steam because of course it did, and I picked it up. It’s made by one guy, David Galindo, and published by indie devs, Vertigo Gaming.

What is it, exactly? Well, it is a cooking sim – kind of. You own a restaurant in an office building, and at the beginning, it’s a shithole. You can buy a few items, but you have limited resources, so you want to be careful with what you buy. Every item has its pros and cons, such as Unappreciated (negative) which means a customer won’t tip with the item, Menu Rot (negative) which will give your buzz a hit if you have it on your menu for more than two days, The Big Tipper (positive) which is self-explanatory, and The Health Nuts (positive) which is a health food that is ‘somehow not gross’. Oh, and buzz is how much people are talking about your restaurant, and you can have both positive and negative buzz, and obviously, you can put foods on your menu and do actions that will affect your buzz.

In the beginning, you can have up to four items on your menu (you have to have at least three) and four customers at one time. You go throughout a day serving customers by typing letters that correspond with the ingredients they want for their order. For example, the hamburger. They tell you how many patties they want (you start out with only meat and later can upgrade to meat and chicken), and you tap M in accordance to that. Later, after the burger is grilled (you have a color meter telling you when it’s cooking, when it’s done, and when it’s on fire), the customer tells you which burger s/he wants, say the Ryan Davis,* which is meat, bacon, two cheese, and tomatoes, and you quickly type M, B, CC, T. Here’s a funny note – I have a QWERTY keyboard, but I use the Dvorak keyboard system, so I can’t look at the keyboard as I’m typing. That makes for some interesting brain farts when I have to use a lesser-used key like Q. Which is the X key for the rest of you.

Anyway, I took to CSD like a duck to water, and it was my go-to game when I just wanted to relax. Yeah, it’s fast-paced, but once you know the menu items, it’s just a matter of typing and timing. I type fast, and i have a good memory, so it became fairly easy for me once I learned all the menu items. OK, some items such as soup I still avoid because it’s a bitch, but in general, most of the items became familiar to me and thus, easy to serve. Plus, the game is meditative, and I found myself getting into the CSD zone any time I played.
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Quick Bites: Nuclear Throne – A Damn Addictive Game

Quick Bites: Nuclear Throne – A Damn Addictive Game

There’s a little game that is still in Early Access on Steam that was given to me by Ian and that I didn’t touch when I first got it because it scared me. It’s called Nuclear Throne, and it took every ounce of my gaming mettle to fire up this game. I had watched Northernlion play it, and I didn’t quite see the appeal. Still, since I got it for free, and it’s a tiny game to install, why not try it out, I reasoned. There’d be no harm in playing a game or two, right?

Let me tell you about the game. it’s the brainchild of an indie developer called Vlambeer, who also did Super Crate Box and other quirky indie games.  It’s post nuclear-apocalyse, and there are nine mutant characters that you can play. Vlambeer has said they will be adding even more! You start out with a certain number of them unlocked (Vlambeer updates the game every Sunday, and I think this changed in the time I have played the game) and unlock the rest with certain achievements. The dungeons are randomly-generated, so you never get the same game twice. Be prepared to die again and again and again because though the game is simple enough to understand, it’s devilishly-hard to play. Each character has a different active ability that you use by pressing the right-click button on your mouse (you can also use a gamepad to play the game), and it would behoove you to remember which character you’re playing because the right-click abilities are very different for each. Every character has a B-skin, too, which is fun to see when they show up, which is infrequently.

I started with Fish because he’s supposedly the easiest character for newbies to play with his dodge roll ability. I didn’t like him that much and quickly moved on to other characters. I latched on to Y.V. (Yung Venuz, the star of Vlambeer’s browser-based game, Gun GODZ. Which is damn hard, by the way.) His right-click ability is called pop pop which means he shoots twice with one click. He already shoots faster than the other characters, so it’s a pretty neat ability. I tried all the other characters, and it’s been interesting to see how I switch favorites from time to time.

From the start, the game grabbed me. You race through these different settings, killing as many enemies as you can with whatever weapons you’re given/can find. You might run out of ammo. You might be outgunned or out-(wo)manned. You might get corned by, say, five purple scorpions and watch in horror as your health quickly depletes. If you’re Melting, you only have two health, so your situation is even more precarious. I sucked at it (and still do) of course, but I found myself pressing start over and over and over again. “Just one more level/game” is a gaming trope, but it’s applicable here. I’d tell myself, “Just one more game” and before I knew it, it was an hour later. Again, each game lasts roughly five to ten minutes, so that’s definitely more than just one more game.
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Intersectionality is Sometimes Bullshit

Intersectionality is Sometimes Bullshit

“My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.”

This is not a new phrase, but it’s being said with renewed vigor on social media these days. Briefly, intersectionality means that systems of oppression intersect and cannot be considered independently of each other. I agree with this. In fact, in college, I got mad at my Feminism in Philosophy prof because she said we ‘didn’t have time’ to talk about racism. As an Asian American woman (this was before I realized I was bi), this pissed me off because I knew that any talk about what it meant to be a woman for me had to include my race as well. So, yeah, I’m down with intersectionality – just not all the time. Why not? I’m glad you asked.

First of all, you can’t include everyone all the time. I know that sounds trite, but it’s true. And, if that’s the case, where do you draw the line? That’s the tricky part. Let me give you an example. Martha Plimpton hosted a charity event to benefit an abortion clinic in Texas. She called it A Night of a Thousand Vaginas. Now, the name is not the greatest, I admit, but you can bet that it caught people’s attention. Well, some people started complaining that it excluded trans*men and should be changed. I’m not even sure if it was trans*men themselves who were complaining or other people on their behalf, but to me, it was an example of letting perfect be the enemy of the good. Abortion is being systematically eradicated in Texas to the point where Roe v. Wade is de facto revoked. Martha Plimpton was doing something to change that, and instead of celebrating her involvement, some people were fixated on the title of the event instead.

In addition, you need to have a vagina (and a uterus) in order to have an abortion. If a trans*man has had an abortion, he had that equipment at that time. I’m sorry if that’s offensive, but it’s fucking true. Pointing that out is not trans*phobic – it’s reality. Calling Martha Plimpton transphobic because she refused to change the title is not doing anyone any good, and just because she disagreed about it, it doesn’t necessarily mean she was transphobic by default. I wrote another post on how shaming shuts down a conversation, which you can read here.

Which brings me to another reason I’m wary about the word intersectionality. These days, it seems that people use the word to say, “You better care about my issues, but I’m not going to give a fuck about yours.” As an Asian American woman, my issues are rarely addressed in feminist circles. So, when I see, say, some black women saying WoC when making blanket statements about white feminism, I want to point out the hypocrisy. They aren’t talking about me when they talk about intersectionality or use WoC. They mean black women, which is fine, but they use WoC to imply that they’re speaking for or are including all women of color. They aren’t.
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I’m Just a Girl…Gamer

I’m Just a Girl…Gamer

I didn’t grow up playing video games. At least that’s what I said when I first talked about them with my close friend, Ian. However, the more we talked, the more I realized I had played video games early in life. Pitfall!, Pong, Space Invaders, to name a few. Later, as a teen, whenever I was forced to hang out at the student union at the U,* I’d KILL on Ms. Pac-Man, often heading up the leaderboard. I l also played The 7th Guest with my brother around the same time.  In my late twenties, I dated a gamer, and we went to an actual arcade. I was faintly disapproving of his love of games, but I figured that since I was there, I’d play a game of Ms. Pac-Man or two. I might try another game, but  NOT a shooting game. Never. Ever. Ever. My ex (boyfriend at the time) introduced me to a game called Time Crisis II. It was a shooter, and I wanted no part of it. He coaxed me into just trying it, and the minute he placed the plastic pink gun† in my hand, I was hooked. I pumped quarter after quarter into the machine. He wandered off to play something else. When he came back to ask me how it was going, I shushed him and sent him to fetch me more quarters. He laughed, but did as he was told. Untold number of quarters later, I beat the damn game, and I was exhilarated.

Still, I considered that an anomaly and went about my merry way game-free. Kind of. I played solitaire on the computer, and I also started playing casual games. Hidden Object games, Match-3 games, Time Management games, etc. I didn’t consider that real gaming, however, as look! It’s right there in the name. Casual games. Those aren’t REAL games, no, not like Call of Duty or anything like that.  I felt vaguely guilty for playing casual games, as if I weren’t hard enough, but I enjoyed them in part because I didn’t consider them video games; I would have recoiled if you said I was a gamer.

Then, Ian and I started talking about hardcore games because he’s an enthusiastic gamer. This was early 2012, and I was intrigued as I remembered the games I had played in the past. I confessed I played casual games as if were a crime, but that I hadn’t played a true hardcore game. I was, however, curious about them and asked him to pick one I might like. He suggested Torchlight as a ‘dip your toe in the water’ hardcore game, and a hundred hours later, the rest was history. I wrote about that time of my life in a post for Ian’s gamer blog, culturegamerwhich you can read here. I explained that while I enjoyed games for a variety of reasons, I was not a gamer. Oh, and that I would never, ever, ever play a first-person shooter (FPS). Ever.‡
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Shame, Shame, Shame

Shame, Shame, Shame

No one likes to be shamed. No. One. I was fed a steady diet of shame and blame as I grew up, so I’ve become really sensitive to it. I was taught that I was responsible for other people’s emotional well-being, and I tried my best to make my mother happy – to no avail. I watched her sink into a deep depression as her marriage with my father* floundered and nearly failed. She would pour out her unhappiness to me, and I would desperately try to find a solution that would make her happy. Nothing worked. I had failed. She never said it explicitly, but I felt it deep in my bones that I should have been able to make her happy.

I still have that mentality, though to a somewhat lesser degree. I tend to put others before myself, and if I see someone hurting, I want to make it all better. I’ve come to realize that I can’t heal anyone, but it doesn’t always stop me from trying. And, when I inevitably fail (because again, I’m not that powerful. I can support people and help them help themselves, but I can’t heal them), I feel guilt and shame that I couldn’t save that person. This is one reason I’m basically a loner.

Why am I rambling about this? Because, first of all, I can. It’s my blog, and I’ll muse if I want to! Secondly, I’ve been struggling with the way issues are discussed in social media (namely, Twitter), and I was trying to figure out why I have a strong reaction to the way many on my side are framing issues. I realized that it’s because they are engaging in shaming and blaming behavior in calling out what THEY see as shaming and blaming.

I know. Very meta, but hang with me as I explain.

Let’s take a really big topic such as sexism. Now, let’s take an issue within it such as physical attractiveness. I’m going to have to talk about the issue a bit before I get to the shaming and blaming part. Fair warning. The standard feminist line is that looks don’t matter at all and we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. What matters is what’s inside of a woman, not what’s on the outside.
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