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Racism in Gaming: Why This Matters

Racism in Gaming: Why This Matters

pewdiepie-mental-health_750x400_acf_croppedI have to say I’ve been staring at this article about PewDiePie and his use of the n-word for a few days now, trying to formulate words to express how I feel about the situation.  Then someone in one of the comments sections said something that wasn’t unlike many others, though the lengths at which this person went to not only say it was okay because he apologized – and the apology was enough – but even continued to make him out to be the victim of slander for his previous issues.  Thus, trying to make those truly victimized by the use of this word feel pity for him instead.  

Wait?  What?  Even if we remove Pewds history of behavior from this situation, this one incident speaks loudly to a huge problem in the streaming/gaming industry. With him being one of the biggest faces of that industry, he absolutely should be held accountable.

So, here are my thoughts.  For me, it is not a debate. He absolutely could have apologized better. That better way would have been to not give an excuse as to why that word would be so readily available to his lips. “Other gamers do it” is not an acceptable reason. And I would say that about any streamer.

I talk about this subject very openly when given the chance, but I felt I could not just sit by and say nothing because this should be a dialogue we all are having about how this behavior affects a population of this industry.  I encounter racism in this industry and in regular life through multiple facets.  Streaming has, however, brought forward the most concentrated amount of racism I have ever encountered in my life.  It’s given me a unique glimpse into online harassment and though I knew it was something that I would face, it never makes it normal to just expect it and live with it.

There was no real “interpreting context” with how he said it here. It was quite clear he used the word and he used it to be derogatory.  Whether or not PewDiePie has been targeted before for his intent or misconstrued words in the past, this is not one of those instances. Though he is considered a comedian, it was not even said in a way that could even remotely be considered a joke.  He said it to hurt and that is exactly what that word has been used for for decades.  

Which brings me to another defense from various people on his part.  “Why in 2017 are people getting upset over a word?”  Um, because it is a word that came hand in hand with oppression.  If you are not a POC and continue to question this, that makes you part of the problem.  You do not get to tell a minority group still fighting for equality on so many levels a word does not hold any power.  That is not how it works.  Your view point is moot if you think that because PewDiePie most certainly knew what kind of power that word had when he so easily used it on his stream.  In his apology, he does say he used it because it was “the worst word you can think of” which means he knew the words power and still he found it justifiable “in the heat of the moment” to say.

Uhh no… that is not how that works. And the only way you see that working is if you have the privilege of never being on the receiving end of that action.

We see the trend growing. Powerful people making this kind of behavior OK for the rest. There is a fundamental problem already with these kind of actions towards all minority groups in the streaming and gaming industry and him being one of the biggest faces in it means a chunk of people will not care that he apologized but that he will get away with saying it with little to no recourse and that gives them the feeling of freedom to show their hate.

He is not the only one in the industry who does this, but he has now become one of the biggest faces of the “problem.” PewDiePie’s prior issues with the media and the like have nothing to do with this instance and the impact it does have on streamers who are people of color.  Streamers like me.  

No game play or heated moment makes using racial slurs, sexist terms or a derogatory word ever acceptable and the more people that stand up against this behavior the better.  Though when I see how many are making excuses and defending him, it becomes equally disappointing as it is frustrating. I hope for the sake of so many that it does start to change. Until then, I will speak up every chance I get and so should you.    

So how can you help?  Be an ally!  Make this behavior unacceptable and shameful again.  Speak up in game voice chat, in stream chat.  Never make it seem like it is acceptable by simply being silent. Ban slurs, derogatory terms in your streams and make it a place for all your friends and peers to be comfortable in. It may seem so simple, but the battle is a long fought one and nowhere near won when it comes to those affected by this behavior. Having allies to stand behind us makes us stronger and the community better.  

Why did I cry During the Action Scenes in Wonder Woman?

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caption: Me rn all the time

Two months ago, I had the great pleasure of watching DC’s new feature film, Wonder Woman. It was a hell of a good time, combining the best aspects of Captain America, Thor, and Xena: Warrior Princess.  There has been a lot of buzz about this movie lately: feminists love it, comic book fans love it, even some Marvel fans love it.

My family is on Team Marvel.  We are deeply loyal and have even begun indoctrinating our two-year-old daughter (ask me about her Princess Spiderman birthday party).  But we still shelled out over $30 to see Wonder Woman and boy was it worth it.  The film made me proud, unstoppable, and powerful, but the reaction that will stick with me was a sense of seeing myself on screen for the first time.

You see, I’m a Gamer Girl, and I play a tank.  ‘Tank’ in this context refers to a party-role in cooperative gaming.  In order to form a successful team, a gaming group must consist of a balance of characters with differing abilities.  At minimum, a party will typically contain a healer or support character, a damage-dealer (DPS, short for damage per second), and a tank.  The ‘tank’ is a heavily armored character capable of absorbing a lot of damage.  The tank is often the first one into the fight, aggressively drawing fire from enemies to keep his (it’s almost always a ‘his’) allies safe.

If you play a lot of games, you start to see these roles appear in fiction as well.  It can be a lot of fun to categorize characters from movies or books into roles, especially if a diverse group of characters are on an adventure together.  The thing is, when you do this, you start to notice that women fall into particular roles.  The lone female member of a team is usually the healer.  I call this the ‘why’s the girl always got to play the cleric?’ trope.

This trope plays into the stereotype of women as caring and nurturing, existing only to support the men around them.  It shows up a lot in games.  Very often, female players like me, who actually want to beat up enemy pixels, are forced to chose between a character that suits their personalities and one that matches their gender (I never got into Black Desert Online for this reason).

The girl doesn’t always have to play the cleric, though.  Sometimes she gets to play DPS.  She can be a sexy sorceress like Lulu in Final Fantasy X, or a sexy rogue like Black Widow in The Avengers.  They stay on the outskirts of battle, dealing out heavy damage to opponents, avoiding being hit and looking good doing it.  This type of character can be fun to play, but when I try I always get killed because I rush in to melee a group of enemies without the hit points or armor to stay alive.  Sometimes I manage to take the mobs down with me.  Sometimes.  But deep down, I was always meant to play a tank.

There is a scene in Wonder Woman where Diana and her sidekick, Chris Pine, are in a tavern forming an adventuring party.  Pine’s character is a rogue, and they recruit a bard, and then we learn that their next group member is engaged in a bar fight.  “At least he’s good with his fists,” says Diana as she watches a large man pummel a much smaller man.  “Oh,” say her companions.  “That’s not Charlie.  That’s Charlie,” and indicate the smaller man who at this point has fallen to the ground, unconscious.

In the next scene, we learn that Charlie is an expert marksman.  Oh, I think to myself, he’s DPS. So they have DPS and support, but where’s the tank?  

And that was the moment I realized that I’d never seen myself represented on screen before.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that the party already had a tank from the start: the only woman in the group.  It hadn’t occurred to me because I had never seen it in a movie before.

So, when the warrior princess ignores the warnings of everyone around her and strides in all her glory across the no-man’s-land between WWI trenches, deflecting bullets off of her bracers and shield, I just kept thinking, ‘It’s me.’  Or, at least the me I am when I play video games.  The me I want to be all the time.

Stories tell us who we are and who we can become.  We absorb them and they help us grow.  Generations of moviegoers have been starved for a story of a woman who is brave and strong, who protects the men around her.  That starvation is finally ending.

 

Influential Female Characters: Princess Peach

Influential Female Characters: Princess Peach

peach wink

Princess Peach is yet one more character that started out as a damsel-in-distress and has evolved into something much more. It is true that Peach has spent a lot of time locked up in the evil Bowser’s castle, waiting for Mario to save her. Nowadays, Peach tends to fight and race for herself. She does it in her signature color of pink and sometimes she even uses a parasol!

original peach

Peach first appeared in 1985 in the game Super Mario Brothers. She is a princess of the Toadstool kingdom and is often kidnapped in the earlier games which, I think, has given her a bad rep in the gaming world. As I have written about before, we seem to have this unfortunate trend that if a character is not always a fighter that they are unworthy in the eyes of the gaming community, and honestly, the greater world. Even though she has been featured more recently as a playable character, Peach seems to be undervalued by players, which is a shame.

Some of my earliest gaming memories with my mom are of trying to fight my way through these old maps to save Peach. My mom, my brother and I spent a lot of time playing those games. I never minded that we had to save Peach. I was mad that the security of her kingdom seemed to be so lax that Bowser kept taking her and that the best person to save her was a plumber and his brother. However, that could have just been my young mind overthinking the games. At the end of the day, I always liked Peach.

peach sparkle 

Part of it might have been that she was a princess. Part of that was because when she first became a playable character, she was originally the only female character to play. I always play her in Mario Kart with my friends. I like it when I have a rare win and I get to wave past in a blur of pink and sparkles.

I like that Peach has been allowed to evolve. She is still a princess. She is still “girly” in her design and mannerisms. However, now she gets to race and fight for herself. Peach has even gotten to go rescue the boys in Super Princess Peach! In a great switch, it is Mario and Luigi who are kidnapped and Peach who must save them. super peach

Peach can also be played in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, Super Mario RPG, and Super Paper Mario. Peach also appears in numerous Mario-themed sports games. She is a playable character in many of the Wii games, such as Super Smash Brawl, and even has her own remote now. Yes, it is awesome and, yes, I want one despite being terrible at Wii games.

In short, Peach is a fun character to play. She has a rich history in the world of gaming. Her design has never been compromised while she has been given room to change over the years. Sometimes you just need to play a pretty princess, particularly one who can beat people up with accessories if she so chooses.

peach kiss

Always keep sparkling!

Guest Post | The Final Station: A Review

Written by: Sage the Cosplaya

the-final-station-tips-for-the-beginners

I am a sucker for a good indie game. A nice game that can have a wonderful impact on you, unlike many mainstream games. I’m looking at you, Call of Duty. 

A few days ago, I stumbled upon The Final Station, an indie game from Tiny Build. This developer has made a good amount of solid games in the past.

So, what is this game about?

I’d love to tell you, but I don’t know myself! The story is actually the biggest issue. You are not given a prologue or any indication of what the world is like before you begin. You wake up and begin your journey to ride the worst Thomas The Tank Engine ever made.

Okay, it’s more that you travel and deliver cargo that is supposed to maybe save the world from another invasion? Along the way, you pick up rescuers, keep them alive, and drop them off. You also fight off mysterious blackened slimy creatures that were once human beings; that, too.

So what is the good in the game?

What story there is seems fascinating. It has a unique premise. One of the best levels is a mansion, which seems empty at first. You see a few hints of the story in this level. Then, once when you go underground, the real story of this house and its owner, begins. The music is beautiful; it adds the necessary ambiance that makes you feel as though this tragic world is at the end of its days.

The scenery in the train sections are great. It is pixelated art, but when you see it in terms of story for locations or events, it really leaves a impact. The mood and how it changes is done very well.

The-Final-Station-Review-6

So what is so bad about it?

As I’ve said before: THE STORY. To me, any game, regardless of graphics, can be great as long as it has a compelling story to tell. So, lets break this down.

In each level, you get scraps of paper and messages about the people in that level. That is nice, but it rarely contributes to the overall story. You do get some story-driven dialogue from the passengers on the train. This story-driven dialogue would be great to hear… but you can’t because you have to rush to feed the passengers and give them first-aid kits to prevent them from dying. Also, you have to rush to keep and maintain this train from hurting the passengers. You can not listen to all of the dialogue, which is frustrating.

Also, when you can speak to people, you don’t say anything. Instead, the game just displays, “….” and they respond to it. But not like Groot and Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, where you do get what they are saying despite them not saying anything.

There is honestly a part to the climax of the game where you have to talk to people about changing plans in order to save everyone. The exchange is bascially:

“Hey, glad you made it!”

“…”

“Really? Well, go to this place.”

“…”

“I agree. I hope this plan works.”

What plan? What was wrong with the original plan? What made you want to come up with this new plan? How can we execute this plan? EXPLAIN, GAME!

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The ending is another huge flaw (spoilers at the end). It feels rushed and, at parts, abandoned. Even after completing the game, I have watched others play and still have the same reaction. I have a lot of questions that do not get answered.

“Its the journey, not the destination,” you might say. NO! FALSE! When you spend hours getting involved in a game or in a series like LOST, you’re dedicated. The story has you. There are mysteries that you want resolved. You get to the ending and it is such a let down that it ruins the journey and you feel like you just wasted so much of your life. That is this game.

One final flaw: the money/craft system. Throughout the game, you raid bodies, lockers and bathrooms for loot and money. The loot allows you to craft ammo and first aid kits on the train, which you have to do when everyone is talking about the story. Also, if you keep the passengers alive, you get some cash or ammo as rewards. After every act, you get to a city where you can you buy food, meds, and ammo. At one point though, you go to a city and you can no longer buy anything. Ok? But afterwords you still need meds, and you still go to loot for money and crafts, which is pointless because you can not use them again, and there is not a New Game+ to use them on. It’s pointless.

Overall, I give The Final Station a 3/5 trains. It has so much potential for a good ride, but it derails and crashes.

Ending Spoilers:

Read the rest of this entry

C2E2 is Still Better than Comic Con

c2e2header

Yah, I said it.

I used to go do Wizard World Chicago every year, like a religious pilgrimage to the closest shrine of comic geekdom we had. Then, one year, everything changed and it was suddenly Comic Con Chicago. Vendor booths, artist alley tables, and dealer areas were eaten away to make room for roped off and curtained no-go zones for those who paid big bucks to get signatures from celebrities like Bruce Campbell and Patrick Stewart.

Around the second year of that, if memory serves, we also went to C2E2, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.  I believe it was their second year, and it was a small convention, but it reminded me of the early years going to Wizard World.  We had a blast and decided that would become our regular yearly stint.

A bonus was that we always had to make the choice between GenCon and Wizard World. WW always won out due to price.  With C2E2 being earlier in the year, that opened up the opportunity to start going to GenCon as well.  We went to Comic Con one more time after starting to go to C2E2 and, if possible, it was worse than the time before.  It wasn’t about comic books and artists anymore.  It was all about getting in to pay ridiculous sums just to get a glossy picture of an actor signed.

C2E2, while mostly about comics and artists, doesn’t pretend that it’s only a comic book convention.  They do dedicate most of the floor space to comic artists and vendors though.  The amazing part is that in just 7 years they’ve gone from a small show with just shy of 28,000 attendees to a juggernaut topping 80K this past year.

McCormick Place is the perfect venue as well.  Where Comic Con is limited in growth by the Rosemont’s (Donald E. Stephens Convention Center) limited space at 840,000 square feet, McCormick Place boasts 2.6 million, 1.2 of which is all on the same floor.  Just three years ago C2E2 topped New York Comic Con in size, with over 670,000 square feet of space used.  It’s safe to say if it exists in the world of geek culture and you can’t find it at C2E2, you aren’t looking hard enough.

Due to its size, I recommend any attendee go for more than a day.  One day used to be enough for us, whether it was Wizard World, Comic Con, or the early years of C2E2. After the 2015 trip though we knew that wasn’t going to be enough. We were there from opening until about an hour before the floor closed and we felt like we only saw half of it.

Even this year, with two days in Chicago, we didn’t see everything, but we ran out of spending money about lunch time on Saturday and the crowd was getting to be a bit much.  Take your time. Don’t rush; and don’t spend all your money right away.  Best practice, see everything you want to see, and if an item you saw earlier in the day is still on your mind, then go back and get it.  Better to have to backtrack than buy something early and find an item you want more later, but have spent yourself out of funds.

Here’s some other tips for anyone new to large cons:

  • Deodorant
  • Comfy shoes – the show floors are hard despite the carpet
  • Backpack with water bottle compartment – water fountains are free
  • More deodorant – halfway through the day, you’ll wish you could jump into the bathroom and refresh with a damp paper towel and application of deodorant
  • Print/poster tube – pick it up early at one of the many booths selling Dick Blick products. You’ll be glad you did if you buy any art.
  • Phone charger/backup battery – Your battery will drain fast if you use your phone for anything inside a steel and concrete building with no signal strength
  • Dress light, even if it’s cold outside – no matter the temp outside it will be hot in the hall. A short cold walk beats a long sweaty day on the show floor.

Of course, C2E2 is also an entertainment con, so it has a long list of celebrity guests, and some of them cost a lot just for one signature.  The convention does a great job of giving the celebrities space without taking away floor from the comics, artists, and vendors.

c2e2-artist-alley

Many of the celebs you meet will also vary in price for autographs from free on up to $60.  I would avoid the meet and greets, though, honestly.  My wife did a meet and greet with Wil Wheaton this year. $60 for a picture with him that he didn’t even sign.  Want that signed? Another $40… yeah, a little disappointing for a long-time fan.

Sure, you get to stand next to them for a second, maybe get a, “Hi, how are ya!” but Michael Cudlitz (Walking Dead, Band of Brothers, Southland) was doing autographs and taking a ton of selfies with fans at his table, and actually talking to people.  We watched from the line to meet Timothy Zahn and it was great to see Mr. Cudlitz treating all of his fans like friends.  He didn’t even sit behind his high table they set up for him.  He came around the side, standing right there with the fans, and it was fantastic.  Granted, Cudlitz had far fewer people in line, but damn if he didn’t show the utmost appreciation for every single one of them.

Other than all that, plan ahead.  Make sure you know what you want to see, and prioritize. You can be in line for a signing longer than anticipated, so don’t schedule anything back to back.  Look for things that aren’t at your local shop, or easily ordered cheaper on Amazon.  Really scope out the deals and find those items that you must have and are hard to find.

Make frequent trips to the car to drop off stuff, but also to get out of the crowd and noise for some fresh air.  The population of a decent-sized city descends on that convention hall and sometimes you just need to get away from it to recharge before diving back in. Above all, have fun.  Any convention you go to is ultimately about that.  Sharing your love for geekdom and having fun.  That’s what makes it all worth it.

Women in the Gaming Industry: Brenda Romero

Women in the Gaming Industry: Brenda Romero

Brenda-Romero-Courtesy-of-The-Strong-Rochester-NY

Brenda Romero is a highly lauded force in the gaming industry. She is a game developer with a diverse resume. Brenda has also worked as a creative director and consultant for various companies. She has designed many different games, including one inspired by her daughter. Her creativity has been helping to fuel the gaming industry for years.

In 1981, Brenda started to work on Wizardry, a role playing series which helped to launch her fame in the gaming industry. Since then, Brenda has been a major part of many games and worked for various game companies. Some of these companies include; Atari, Sir-tech Software and Electronic Arts. Brenda is now the Program Director of the MSc in Game Design & Development at the University of Limerick. Brenda is also the co-founder of independent game developer at Romero Games, Ltd in Galway, Ireland. 

brenda 4

Clearly Brenda has a passion for creating neat games for us to play. In addition to her work on Wizard, she has worked on Def Jam: Icon, in which the player uses beats and sound to – literally – crush their opponents with debris. Playboy: The Mansion is a game where the player helps Hugh Hefner build Playboy into the famous company that we all know today by completing different campaigns. Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes was inspired by her daughter. The Mechanic is the Message is an analog game that experiments with the word “game.”

Brenda has won many awards. So many in fact that I won’t list them. I suggest, instead, you go to the awards link on her page to read them. Brenda has also had the privilege of being a TED speaker. 

Brenda Romero is an accomplished game designer. She is a person who finds inspiration in many places. She shows us that work can be fun and that if you do the work you will be successful.

Always keep sparkling!  

Games Workshop – Sink or Swim?

GW lady

British Minis game manufacturer Games Workshop is garnering negative headlines this month as the result of a suit filed against the company in Florida by a livid game store owner. The suit filed by David Moore alleges violations of the U.S. regulations and the RICO act including but not limited to Fraud, Price Fixing, Breach of Contract, Unjust Enrichment, Restraint of Trade, Conspiracy and Antitrust Violations. Some of the major issues of contention for Moore seem to be:

– limitation of online sale (retails previously could not sell figures online and had to direct customers directly to GW for online sales) and increase of highly lucrative online exclusives not available in stores
– intellectual property theft including the name Space Marines (Moore alleges this theft was from Robert Heinlein, though the name had been used previously by Bob Olsen in a 1936s novella for Amazing Stories ), character design from FASA’s BattleTech, and Aliens design (R. Geiger)
– discontinuing Warhammer Fantasy Battle
– refusal to accept returns despite written statements to the contrary.

Moore is asking for 62.5 million dollars total in damages to be divided between himself and other affected stores as well as divesting GW of their intellectual property and trademark claims and changing the way the distribute product through their own stores.

The short, simple answer is that this suit will likely go nowhere. While perhaps breach of contract might be a legitimate issue, Mr. Moore’s wild volley of accusations range from misunderstanding IP law and RICO to being intentionally misleading regarding pricing and online sales. Also, there is some amount of irony that he dedicates at least a paragraph of his complaint professing to be only interested in upholding “a Free Enterprise & Free Market system of law” but then objecting to the company selling a product at a valuation that the market seems to be willing to bear. (And before you label Morris a miniatures-game playing Robin Hood you should know that in addition to receiving 20% of the proposed damages award, he asking that all copyrights and trademarks that Games Workshop currently owns to be conveyed to himself as well.)

All that being said, what seems to make Games Workshop the evil cackling villain of game manufacturers? When the suit originally made it into the news a forum thread on Board Game Geek veered back and forth from information on the suit to a list of grievances regarding GW. Posters left messages that read “…we all like to see GW get a bit of a kicking…”, “…GW, the company that’s reviled even by their own fans…” and “Even if they lost this crazy lawsuit, all they’d have to do to recoup costs is start making their models out of regular old clay, claim that it’s a highly-advanced space-age clay polymer, charge double for it because of that…” There’s been a good deal of negative press about GW and other stories seem to have more evidence to back their complaints.

GW

For starters, there are several documented cases of what some call trademark bullying – in particular over the term “space marines” (which, as noted above, wasn’t created by Games Workshop.) The subject of a cease and desist who had novels featuring the term pulled from Amazon  stated “I used to own a registered trademark. I understand the legal obligations of trademark holders to protect their IP. A Games Workshop trademark of the term “Adeptus Astartes” is completely understandable. But they’ve chosen instead to co-opt the legacy of science fiction writers who laid the groundwork for their success. Even more than I want to save Spots the Space Marine, I want someone to save all space marines for the genre I grew up reading. ”

Many cite Game’s Workshop’s almost non-existent customer service as another reason they dislike the company.  Richard Beddard attended a general meeting of investors in 2015. “I’ve got bad news for disenchanted gamers complaining on the Internet. The company’s attitude towards customers is as clinical as its attitude towards staff. If you don’t like what it’s selling. You’re not a customer. The company believes only a fraction of the population are potential hobbyists, and it’s not interested in the others.” There are literally dozens of threads on BGG, The Escapist, and Reddit complaining of unanswered complaints, queries met with indifference and hostility, and bait-and-switch-like tactics on the online store.

GW player

Will any this matter to Games Workshop? Its hard to say. 2015 was a challenging year for the company financially but profits almost doubled in 2016. Releasing online sales to outside stores seems to have created some goodwill between the distributor and its retailers. On the other hand, newer, less expensive minis games like Xwing are continuing to nab a larger section of the market each year.  After 40 years this phoenix seems to rise from its own ashes with regularity – we’ll see what the next decade has in store for it.