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You Can’t Please All the People All the Time

TT_NotTheFandom

Recently the developer for World of Tanks was asked, as part of a larger discussion about women in esports, whether he would do anything to make his game more appealing to female gamers.  His response was very on the nose, and highlights a couple of things I’ve noticed over the last few years with a higher demand for representation that has been logical and measured from some, and completely irrational from a few.  What he said was:

Not necessarily. I think there’s very little we can do to make photorealistic tanks appealing to females.

Now, on one hand he has a point.  World of Tanks is a very specific type of game.  It’s a wargame simulator that strives to present historically accurate battlefield scenarios involving tank combat.  That’s going to appeal to a very specific demographic.  Of course there are women out there that like historical wargames, photorealistic tanks, and combat sims.  I’m 100% sure there are.  Just as sure that there aren’t as many of them as men that like the genre, and as sure that the few women who do like it wouldn’t want it changed to reach this nebulous ‘broader demographic.’  Too often, demand is put on developers to try and make everyone happy, and many try, and fail.  We see them attacked from all sides for including this, or excluding that, or including it wrong.  We saw it with Assassin’s Creed, heavily criticized for a lame excuse for not including female characters, then criticized for including them wrong, or including them only as a marketing scheme.  It was a much-needed change to add the option, but they still got beat up.

On the other hand, I think he misses something.  Like I said, some women like World of Tanks.  The game is already appealing to those women who it was going to appeal to.  I know the developer wasn’t blindly dismissing those gamers, but it servers a larger point.  Different types of games will always appeal to a certain type of person, despite gender.  Women and men are both competitive to different degrees.  You don’t always find fewer women playing FPS games or wargames because those games don’t appeal to women.  I know a lot of women that enjoy those types of games, are competitive and love the action, violence, and chaos of those them.  Some of them don’t play them for other reasons, which can be addressed, but a lot don’t and never will.  It’s not because those games are missing some hook they need in order to play.  Some gamers, men and women, just don’t like those games.  My wife, as few games as she does play, would never be interested in Battlefield, no matter what they changed about it.

In World of Tanks’ case what could they do?  How was it even a legitimate question?  I don’t like Japanese dating sims, and there’s nothing a developer should, or could, do to make me want to play one.  In all likelihood any change they did consider would only make it worse for the current player base, and not win me over anyway.  That’s a little specific, however.  Imagine instead a romance novel publisher was asked what they planned to do to draw in more male readers.  Books in general already serve a wide market, with a plethora of genres that appeal to different demographics.  I would hate to see what someone’s idea of a romance novel that appeals to the average male would look like, but I have a feeling it would no longer appeal to the average romance novel demo.  The only logical answer is, nothing.  There’s nothing to do.

When we’re talking about wargames like this one, the women who like them will like them, and the women who don’t, won’t.  Likely any changes that anyone would consider are the same insulting, superficial changes we see often in FPS games like pink gun skins, or in this case tank skins.  No one really thinks women are avoiding this game because they can’t have a pink tank, right?

This is much bigger than a single question about one game however.  It’s a trend we’ve been seeing grow over the last few years.  Many games, and entertainment in general, can stand to diversify.  It does, however, come with a caveat that is often recognized by the vast majority.  Sadly the vast majority is usually quieter than the vocal minority.  Recently The Mary Sue published an article that, nearly in the same breath, criticizes the upcoming live-action Mulan for casting a white character, and one that is ‘too Chinese’.  That caveat is that is has to make sense.  Are we to no longer tell stories about a group of guys that go on a road trip, because we can’t tell a story about all guys anymore?  What about a sisterhood of girls with migrating pants, need a male character because it’s not diverse?  Do we shove pink, rhinestone tanks into WWII because we need to draw in the preteen female gamer, or do we stick with a little realism because they won’t like it anyway?

The moral of the story, ladies and gents, is if you’re a creator, artist, writer, developer, or whatever, don’t try to please everyone.  You can’t.  If you try, you’ll fail, and it won’t always be something you can bounce back from.  There are people out there that just can’t be happy with anything, they aren’t your audience.  I’m begging you all to stop trying.  Stop being swayed by the one person that thinks Tracer’s (Overwatch) pose is too sexy, or that Marcus Halloway (Watchdogs 2) is too ethnic.  It’s your creation, your art, and your vision.  If it’s not something people want to see, you’ll know when they don’t buy it, but at the end of the day if you just create to satisfy the vocal minority, they’ll never be enough to keep you creating.

Video Games Will Rot Your Brain, or Will They?

TT_NotTheFandom

Would you believe it was once believed that reading books would rot your brain?  Amazingly enough that was the pseudo-science of the day in the 19th century.  Even now we still hear about how watching too much TV is bad for you, though the ‘science’ of that seems to be in flux.  Heavy metal music is bad for you and playing Dungeons and Dragons will rot your soul.  We have been dealing with these grasping studies about how the things we love are bad for us, how they’ll rot our brains or souls, or send us straight to hell.

Having grown up in the 80’s and 90’s, I’m no stranger to more than one of these hysterical attempts to convince us we need to change our lifestyles to something more acceptable.  Then I became a parent, and like any logical human being I kept in mind that moderation is key, but I also had to accept that kids are going to go for the things they like.  You can’t force your kid to like playing sports, or want to go outside all the time, learn to ride a bike, or fall in love with the outdoors.  The best you can hope for is that they grow up loving something, do their best, and gather enough skills to help them as adults.  I read books like they were candy, watched TV, listened to metal, and played DnD (hells I still do those things) and I think I turned out all right.

I’m also a gamer, and over the years that has come with its own set of stigma.  Worse, I’m a male gamer and we already know what they say about those.  Recently I was shown an article that, like the person that showed it to me, got my hackles up.  “Don’t let your kids play video games for more than two hours a week, or it will make them antisocial!”  Funny, my son has been more social playing games than any other time in his young life, but what do I know.  I have been a gamer for about thirty years, and I have to say most of my friends have been met through gaming.  Whether it was my friends coming over to play Golden Eye, or Mario Kart, or getting online to play Battlefield, gaming has always been a social experience.  I don’t know if the people doing the study are gamers themselves, but I’ve personally never found gaming to be a solitary experience.  I’m sure sitting a child in a room alone sure emulates a solitary experience, but that’s just not how gaming works in the real world.

Thankfully, with every study about the things that rot our brains, or give us cancer, there’s always counter arguments and different studies.  We can count on broader views to look at things in realistic application and feel confident that our 30 or so years spent gaming did us just as well as it will do our kids.  When those kids go on to become programmers, software analysts, authors, designers, and artists they can look back at the studies done today like we look back at the hysteria over heavy metal and roleplaying.  Gaming is the largest entertainment industry in the world, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and our kids are growing up in a world vastly different from our childhood.  We have to adapt as parent, but just like our parents let us eat raw cookie dough and watch too many cartoons, we’ll do just fine.

This Month in Gaming History: September

This Month in Gaming History: September

GamingHistory-Sept

Yes, September is here. The start of my favorite time of the year. If you need something to get you more excited than the start of pumpkin flavored everything, then perhaps a look back on some games that were released in Septembers past will help.

Here is This Month in Gaming History:

Atari 2600

atari

On September 11, 1977 Atari released Atari 2600. It popularized the use of cartridges for storing games. Before then, the games had been stored in the machine, thus bringing some of us the fond memories we have of blowing into the game cartridges of our childhood.

Super Mario Bros

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Nintendo Entertainment System released a favorite game of my family’s. On September 13, 1985, Super Mario Bros was released. In this extremely successful game, the player controls Mario as he moves forward trying to avoid blocks and other obstacles.

Wing Commander

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Wing Commander is a PC game that was released on September 26, 1990. The player starts off by leaving a space station to fight in a war in space. The player must complete missions to win the game. Wing Commander has proven so successful that it has been remade.

Myst

myst

On September 24, 1993 Myst was released for Mac from Broderbund. It is a puzzle game where the players use a special book to travel to the Island of Myst. The game has multiple endings depending on the choices of the player.

Battlefield 1942

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Battlefield 1942 is a World War II first-person shooter game. It was released by Electronic Arts on September 10, 2002. This game was the beginning of a very successful franchise with multiple games and expansions.

Steam

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On September 12, 2003 a digital game software was developed that has been a huge deal for many of my gamer friends. Steam was developed by Valve Corporation. It basically provides players with a place to play and save games. Players can also use friends lists, in-voice and chat functions while playing. It has made gameplay much easier and more dependable, since you do not have to be on the same computer every time to log in and play.

Hopefully you don’t have too many blues about the end of summer. I also hope that you will have lots of fun gameplay this autumn. 

Always keep sparkling!

He said what? A male perspective on females in gaming

Women-in-GamingFirst of all I would like to thank Crymson Pleasure, and the Real Women of Gaming for the opportunity to give a male perspective on female gamers and females in gaming.  I know, that sounds strange, a male perspective.  I’ve seen arguments and debates end with a line similar to – you’re a man, what right do you have to comment on women’s issues.  I know that reaction is the extreme, but it does leave many of us standing outside the issue, not even wanting to engage, and I imagine some women feel the same way.  When you don’t agree, 100%, with the most vocal in any issue it’s easy to feel ostracized by their reaction.  However, out of respect for those same women gamers we support and love, I want to give my honest views, without the fears or PC coating.  With respect comes the realization that patronizing or condescending statements, or weak statements that commit to nothing at all, are neither honest nor respectful.

            How are female stereotypes in gaming having a positive or negative impact?  That’s tough because we first have to identify which are good or bad, but it’s unfair to do that without asking why they are there in the first place.  Stereotypes exist because someone, more likely many someones, existed that are just like that.  To tell a true and engaging story in a game you need to include ‘real’ people.  Is the trashy bimbo in the game because the story requires a trashy bimbo or because the creator wanted eye-candy?  Is she a negative stereotype, or an integral part of telling a realistic story because trashy bimbos really do exist.  Is it the creator’s responsibility to only present empowering images or is it also our responsibility as adults, parents, and gamers to teach each other and the younger generation to recognize the difference?  To me it’s a little bit of both.  You can’t have the positive without the negative.  You can’t explain why the strong, intelligent heroine is positive without the trashy, flaky eye-candy.  Hells, reverse the genders in that statement and how is it any different?  That’s part of story telling – the good and the bad, the dark and light, righteous and evil, right?  But, if the trashy bimbo is there because the marketing team wants more digitized breasts in the game then the image is completely unnecessary and we’ve delved into the realm of a harmful as well as negative stereotype that has no place in the art. Read the rest of this entry