Swimming Upstream

I recently wrote a post about being an older woman who plays video games, and one of the things I mentioned was how I felt indie game developers were caught in a bind between pleasing their core community and creating a game for a broader audience. I feel that sometimes, developers listen too much to their core community to the detriment of their game, and Nuclear Throne was the example that sprung to mind. I have to redefine that thought, though, because the game has been released and there are newbies who are terrible at it, but love it. Why am I so upset about the changes of that game and not as much about the changes The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (Afterbirth) experienced? I think part of the reason is because I played NT throughout Early Access and was in on the relative ground floor. When I first started playing, it was really hard, but I could at least reach and beat the throne. Then they started upping the difficulty to the point of ridiculousness, and my interest waned. I already couldn’t play the game past the first loop, and that’s where they were putting all the neat, cool items. Then, when they buffed Lil’ Hunter to the point where I simply could not kill him, I lost all interest. I think the reason it was so upsetting to me is because besides the fact that I loved that game and played it for hours every day* was because it was moving past me. It’s like a lover who’s broken up with me and has already hooked up with a new partner while I’m like Adele and calling it a hundred times a day. To put it simply, it hurt my feelings, and I stopped playing it.

Why didn’t I feel the same way about BoI:R(A)? Because by the time I started playing it, it was already a set thing. There were no updates or new content until the Afterbirth expansion was released. I already knew going in that I wouldn’t be able to play the Lost (a character who can’t take a single hit), and I was fine with it. I 100%’ed the game except for the Lost shit, and I was fine with never making Real Platinum God. (I’m only Platinum God). When the Afterbirth expansion came out, I started to feel a bit of that, “It’s moving away from me” feeling again. There are two new characters, and on of them is even worse than the Lost (the Keeper). How you unlock him is also bullshitty, although I have become quite adept at Greed Mode (a new mode). I do not like most of the changes to the main game itself, and I think I’m reaching the end of my time with it.

I want to stress that I’m not bitter about these games moving away from me. I’m not the core community, and that’s fine. But, it’s hard, especially with NT, because I feel as if I’m stuck in the middle somehow. I’m not a newbie at it, so I’m not quite as jazzed by the beginning areas. I’ve killed Mad Mike (Big Bandit) hundreds if not thousands of times, and until Lil’ Hunter was buffed, I didn’t have much of a problem with him. So, I’m not getting that dopamine hit of, “Hey, new stuff!” as I’m playing, but since I’m not good enough to loop, I’m also not getting to see the new cool shit, either. It’s starting to be the same with Afterbirth. I’ve done about all I can do with the game, and I’m not going to be able to do the truly elite stuff, which means it’s probably time to move on. I’ll still play Afterbirth once in a while as a vanilla run of it can be very soothing to me, but I’m guessing it’ll stop being a daily thing pretty soon.

I want to segue to my thoughts on being tangentially involved in the video game community. I enjoy watching YouTubers playing video games, which is not something I thought I’d say five years ago. I also wasn’t playing hardcore games five years ago, either, so there you go. I like having them playing in the background as I’m doing other things, such as write this post, and my three favorites are Northernlion, SLEEPCYCLES, and bisnap. They are different in their styles, but one thing I like about all of them is that they aren’t constantly yelling, they’re not misogynistic in their language, and they’re pretty low-key. SLEEPCYCLES is more colorful, but that’s probably because he’s Scottish. None of them feel as if they are putting on an act (though they all are to a certain extent), which is something I appreciate. They all stream, of course, and while I may watch the vlogs of the streams later, I never watch the streams live. Why? Because chats suck balls most of the time. I’ve watched a few and even participating in one (SLEEPCYCLES), but I wasn’t comfortable at all. They weren’t mean or even bad guys, but they were definitely mostly dudes. There is a clubhouse mentality that permeates chat rooms of any streamer who has over, say, a hundred chatters, and it can be discomfiting situation.

To put it bluntly, it’s dick jokes all the way down. I’m not against dick jokes, but if you’re the only chick in a group of men, it can be uncomfortable in a way that’s difficult to explain. You either have to be the cool chick and joke with the guys, or you become the problematic chick who’s a wet blanket and no fun at all. I hasten to add that I’m a loner by nature, anyway, so crowds are not my thing. In addition, I could be the mother of many of the people in the chats, so it’s a generational thing, too. In addition, it was a Nuclear Throne stream, so everyone there was super into the game and it got pretty inside baseballery. That’s a complaint about groups in general, though. They can get pretty cliquey in a way that makes it intimidating to outsiders.

I’m OK with it, though, because it’s not for me. It’s sad that it’s not for me, but I’m pretty used to that because there are very few things that are for me. It’s one reason minorities bring up representation so much because the lack of it wears on your soul. I have to enjoy things despite the lack of representation, not because it’s something that reflects me. I’m not saying I need to be in everything–though, how great would that be–but to never see myself in anything I watch, listen to, or play, well, that’s alienating. It’s saying, “You’re tolerated because you give us money, but you’re not really one of us.” I have to make connections in ways that people in the majority don’t. Again, I’m used to it and do it on a daily basis, but I’m not going to lie and saying I’m glad to do it.

This is very evident in the gaming industry. I’ve talked about diversity in gaming before, but this time, I want to focus on the streaming/YouTube aspect of gaming. As I’ve said, I enjoy watching them, but at the same time, I’m conscious of how narrow in personality the talent is. When FromSoft (developers of Dark Souls) released their Victorian age, Gothic horror, werewolf game, Bloodborne, I wanted to play it more than anything else. Everything about it seemed to be right up my alley, but, unfortunately, it was only released on the PlayStation 4, which meant I’d never get to play it. I decided I wanted to watch playthroughs of it, instead, and I sampled dozens of YouTubers/streamers to find ones I wanted to watch. I outright dismissed half of them outright because they were too Las Vegas lounge act for me, which apparently is popular with the YouTube/Twitch set.

I checked to see if my faves were playing it, but they weren’t. Well, Northernlion did a few episodes, but stopped, and SLEEPCYCLES made it about two-thirds of the way through before ending the series. RockLeeSmile, a regular on NL’s Super Show, did stream it, and I really enjoyed his playthrough because while he’s good at Souls games, he’s not preternaturally good at them. You’re supposed to die often while playing Souls games, and it’s pretty dispiriting to watch someone breeze through a playthrough without dying more than a few times. That said, EpicNameBro is one of the best players of Souls games around. I enjoyed his Bloodborne playthrough because he’s good at finding everything in the game. He even wrote the official guide for Bloodborne. In general, though, I like watching people die when they play–it makes me feel better about my own subpar Souls skills.

Anyway, watching the videos of RockLeeSmile’s stream underscored another thing I don’t like about chat rooms, especially for these kinds of games–people want to give advice, whether you want them to or not. I think it was RLS who told people that he didn’t want spoilers at all. Some people started arguing with him about why they should be allowed to give him spoilers, and he finally had to say that it was his stream, so he didn’t have to give a reason for not wanting them. There is something about Souls-type games that make people want to tell you how to proceed as well. He had so many people telling him where to go or what to do, he got frustrated. I don’t blame him. One of the best things about these kinds of games is exploring and uncovering new things in your own way. Someone on Twitter asked if I was going to stream any of my Skyrim playthrough. I said no because it would be boring to watch, but also because I know that people would tell me where to go or what I should do, and it would be with the best of intentions, but I would be irritated, anyway. I love wandering around Skyrim, hopping from one quest to the next, checking out an area just because it’s there and not because I have any specific reason to be there.

I’ve joked that I’m going to stream me just sitting on my couch with my cats doing nothing. It’s a joke, but it’s not far from how I’d stream myself playing a game. I’d be in my ratty sweats with my hair unkempt and no makeup on,** and there would be long periods of me swearing followed by brief periods of me saying nothing. I’ve discovered that when I get into an intense part of the game–such as at the end of a big boss fight–I don’t say a word. I can be cussing up a storm through the first half of the fight, and then I’m stone silent for the rest of it. Then, when I finally win the fight, it’s an explosion of exultations and more curses. I’d love to see someone like me streaming, but the narrowness of personality is even more applicable to female streamers. I’ve watched about a dozen female streamers, and most of them are trying to out-dude the dudes. I understand why they do it, but it’s really annoying to me that they take what I consider to be the worst traits of male gamers and amplify them. Also, they’re often caught in the unenviable position of having to be pretty enough for guys to watch, but not so overtly sexual that guys accuse them of being fake gamer girls.  I saw a panel of female streamers who said that only showing your tits isn’t going to maintain your stream, but what they neglected to say is that it sure as hell will start your stream. All the more popular female streamers are attractive in a heteronormative, white American way, and upbeat/strident/perky. They tend to be the ‘cool chick’ type, and they can call you a pussy with the best of them. Again, I’m not blaming them for giving the people what they want, but it’s frustrating that in an already niche community, women are further restricted by gender expectations.

Back to Bloodborne. FromSoft recently released DLC for the game called The Old Hunters, and, of course, I wanted to watch a playthrough of it, preferably by someone who was playing the DLC for the first time. My usual suspects weren’t playing it, so I had to find new players. Correction, one of them, MrSketchead, was playing it, but he’s not even halfway done with it yet. Ally Fly is one woman I’ve found whom I enjoy watching/listening, but she abruptly stopped the series. I tried one guy whom I initially liked, but then he started to get too plentiful with the fuck you bitches, and when he talked about fisting the one female boss (as a way to kill her), I stopped completely. By the way, the female boss is my favorite boss fight in the entire game. I love her weapon, and I just love her. Anyway, the pervasiveness of sexual violence in streams is something that both frustrates me and sickens me. Pewdiepie*** is one of the most well-known and highest-paid YouTubers, and he made his bones by screaming rape at everything in his videos. He’s moved past that, but he’s still very ham-fisted and bro-y in his videos. I’ve stopped watching more than one YouTuber because of rape jokes, and while those have become less common (thankfully), the idea of fucking someone in the ass or making someone your bitch is still prevalent. The new term of the month, fuckboy, is indicative of that mentality, and it’s pretty prevalent in the gaming community.

i cannot emphasize enough that I’m not asking these streamers to change for me. It’s just that it would be nice to find a community within gaming culture that felt more welcoming to people like me. I’m not holding my breath, though.The streaming community is young and mostly male, and I’ll forever be on the outside looking in.

Here are a few more YouTubers who have done a good job with their Bloodborne content: itmeJP, Kings Ransom, VaatiVidya, I really liked Helloween4545’s Old Hunters playthrough, even though he’s freakishly good and way overpowered for it.



*I tend to play one game at a time, two at the most.

**Mostly because I don’t wear makeup.

***Not going to link to him.


Sorry, comments are closed for this post.