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Top 10 Female Magic: The Gathering Players

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So, I was asked to come up with a list of Top 10 Female Magic: the Gathering players. It seems that some people are still living with the (stupid) idea that women can’t play M:tG for whatever reasons they can come up with. While it has admittedly been a long time since a woman won a major tournament (Eda Bilsel of Turkey in 2003 became M:tG’s first National Champion), there are quite a few that place within the top 8 of Grand Prix’s, and the Star City Open series. Go to any Pro Tour Qualifier (PPTQ), Grand Prix, or other tournament around the world and you will find women and girls of all ages competing.

The current youngest player at Grand Prix to ever qualify for day 2 is 12-years-old and held by a boy; however, this is being threatened by 6-year-old Dana Fisher who, at her last GP, missed qualifying by 1 win. A 6-year-old girl is out playing most of the men 2 or 3 times her age, and is getting better each time she competes. If she can keep up the trend, then in just a few years she will be making top 8’s and pushing for the big win.  So, in no particular order here, is my list of 10 Female M:tG players to watch for or just to watch as some are also streamers.

1. Dana Fisher

2. Emma Handy

3. Gaby Spartz

twitch.tv/gabyspartz

4. Jennifer Long

twitch.tv/mrs_mulligan

5. Melissa DeTora

6. Magic The Amateuring

teitch.tv/magictheamateuring (Also have a Podcast)

7. Feline Longmore

8. Athena Huey

twitch.tw/elantris

9. Jackie Lee*

10. Tifa Robles**

I have been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994 and can say I have lost more than my fair share of matches to women who played better than me. I expect it to happen again in the future as I keep going to tournaments. I look forward to it as Magic: The Gathering is something that everyone can and should enjoy to play.

*Melissa DeTora and Jackie Lee both now work for Wizards of the Coast. Jackie helped design some of the current sets, and Melissa is part of a new playtest team.

**Tifa Robles founded the Lady Planeswalkers to help get more women interested in playing Magic: The Gathering http://ladyplaneswalkers.weebly.com/

 

Xbox’s Clubs Feature, the Gender War and Games Media Profits

Xbox’s Clubs Feature, the Gender War and Games Media Profits

TT_NotTheFandom

I originally wasn’t going to write about this new feature, because it didn’t seem like such a big deal.  It’s just another social media type platform for a game system.  In a way it is no different than the clans and guilds that formed around PC games, many of which I’ve been a part of myself.  Generally a clan is a group of people who enjoy the same game, or group of games, get together on Ventrilo or Teamspeak, and chat in their own website forums.  Xbox’s clubs feature is basically that, hosted on the console’s Live platform.  It will let people form their own club, select interests and tags, moderate, chat, share game videos, and basically share their interests with other gamers.  It does also allow you to filter out the clubs you don’t want, avoid the players you want to avoid.

Unfortunately some of the games media have dropped the ball on this, with headlines like “Xbox Live Is Getting A ‘No Trash Talking’ And ‘Females Only’ Mode” from Kotaku were slightly annoying, then I saw Microsoft Wants to Make Xbox Safe for Gamers Who Aren’t White Men” from Bloomberg.  First of all, the ‘modes’ offered by this are far more complex than ‘Females Only’, which screams the opposite of inclusive.  These modes, both LFG and Clubs, will allow gamers to join groups and find games with a wide variety of criteria.  Examples from Microsoft include:

Henshaw used the example of “parents who can only game after 10 pm”, “mic required”, “gender inclusive” and so on, as examples of tags people can attach to their Club, to seek like-minded players.

While I’m not a huge fan of separating the community, I have far less issue with these new features now than I did when I first read some of the games media’s reporting on it.  My first instinct was, that’s what the mute button is for.  I mute people all the time on games I play.  Not the smack talkers, or the people taking jabs at me, but the real jerks, yah I’ll mute them.  That’s not what these features are about though, despite what the major game’s media is making it out to be.

That second headline, from Bloomberg, is what convinced me to write this.  That headline, and the article that follows, is so condescending on many levels.  First, the implication that anyone but white men are somehow less capable of dealing with the jerks online.  Are women and minorities delicate flowers that must be sheltered from mean words online?  This seems to be predicated on the idea that white men are somehow safer?  Like we don’t get harassed, insulted, and verbally abused online?  If Dina Bass did a little research, or was honest with her premise, she’d know that everyone, white men included, get harassed online.  If she doesn’t know this, or isn’t capable of the level of research it takes to find a poll related to her topic, why is she writing for Bloomberg?  If she does know, why did she dismiss it in order to write such a biased article?  In either case the media is simply dropping the ball in reporting these features from Xbox, and perpetuating a gender war in the gaming community that they continue to profit from.

Following that up, the second line of the article from Bloomberg says:

The company is creating safe spaces for people who’ve felt uncomfortable or endured abuse at the hands of other gamers online.

This is not what Microsoft is doing, though it is a result of what is being done.  One result among many.  It’s more honest to say that the company is creating a way for gamers to interact specifically with groups that share their own interests.  They are creating a way for everyone to pick who they want to play with, not just ‘people who’ve felt uncomfortable or endured abuse’, but then again knowing that everyone has felt uncomfortable or endured abuse, maybe Dina is correct without knowing it.

The problem now is the popular games media has created this environment where everything has to be about gender, and a perfectly benign and inclusive feature (that helps people segregate themselves, yah strange I know) is now tied to this constant gender issue the media is pushing.  It’s creating rifts in the community that don’t need to be there, and isn’t helping heal the ones already here.  It keeps people on one side of the fence or the other, with many caught in the middle just wanting gamers to game.

Like I said, when I first read these headlines I thought they were actually creating a mode that was going to be called ‘females only’.  The misinformation in the media made me not want discuss this because it seemed so asinine that it wasn’t worth my time.  Then I went to Microsoft’s site, read about the feature from the original source, and realized I should have done that first.  It’s a difficult habit to break, to ignore the media and go to the source.  Even as a writer and journalist it’s something I have to consciously do, so I know how easy it is for people to take everything they read in the media as factual.

Yes, there are assholes online.  I run into them on a regular basis when I play FPS games.  It’s nice to be able to mute the ones that get out of hand.  I’m told that the Xbox community can be worse than the PC players, though I personally have no frame of reference.  If people want to be able to separate themselves into smaller cliques based on interest, more power to them.  It’s not going to solve the issue of assholes online, and it won’t make the community better, it will just split us into smaller groups.  I do know for sure, however, that the media is only making things worse and that’s a sad state of things.

We gamers really need to do more ourselves to keep our community growing, getting better.  It’s become more clear over the last few years that the major games media has no interest in actually helping.  Like the news organizations beating the political drums of one side or the other, the games media is only interested in keeping the drama going so we’ll keep on clicking and fighting.  We must stop reading their headlines and believing everything they post.  We have to stop letting them divide us into classes and groups, we’re better than that.  Gaming has always been a great community, and it can keep getting better if we stop paying attention to the drama profiteers who only want to make a buck.

The Flip-side of the Harassment Coin: Being Too Eager

The Flip-side of the Harassment Coin: Being Too Eager

TT_NotTheFandom

TooEager

Click to Enlarge

I came across this image in my Twitter feed and it got me to thinking: I see this thing a lot.  Usually from over-eager guys that want to be allies, or support women who game.  Some people like to point and laugh at the obvious awkwardness of it, or call it desperate or whatever, but I rolled it around in my head for a bit and wanted to write something to show that there’s a part of this that is an issue for the gaming community and how we move forward as we continue to grow and more people get into gaming.

No one really denies that harassment happens.  It happens to men and women all the time online.  The type of harassment and extent/severity can vary depending on the community, platform, gender, age, and countless other variables.  It’s a shitty fact of life that we wish would go away, accept that it won’t, and do everything we can to help improve for everyone.  On the flip-side of that, to me, are people who are way too eager to please.  They want to be some sort of counter-balance to the negative, and in my opinion wind up just being another negative.

First, before we get into the meat of it though, I just want to touch on the last bit.  We don’t know Brian’s last name, and while I saw a picture of him with this image I left it out.  No need for us to identify Brian, but Brian, dude, you gotta relax with the ladies.  I find that the women in our community, the gamers and geeks, they tend to be very nice folks.  You don’t have to sell yourself, or say things like ‘Don’t be intimidated’ (which some of them might find an insulting assumption).  You don’t have to say you’re not stereotypical, you’re not setting up a date here.  Just be you, they’ll find out who you are that way.  Don’t assume they’re going to assume anything about you, whether it be your stance on the kitchen or your level of intimidation.  And, Brian, I hate to break it to you but while you say you aren’t a stereotypical guy, you kinda are here.  You’re the stereotype of the awkward geek guy who doesn’t know how to talk to girls.  Just relax and be you, man.

So, all that aside that wasn’t my real problem with this but it did come up when I started asking around to make sure it wasn’t just me that saw this as a bit of a issue.  I’m a guy, and while I can empathize, if I’m going to write an article I want to make sure I’m not assuming how this comes off to the women in the community.  I could guess, based on what I’ve read in the past, but it’s always best not to guess.  What I’ve found is women in our community that I talk to want to be accepted for their skill, how fun they are to game with, and the love of gaming.  Saying “I added you because you’re a female gamer” seemed to me to be almost as insulting as “I’m not going to play with you because you’re a female gamer”.  If you’re gaming and find out one of your squadmates, teammates, or someone else in game is a woman she most likely doesn’t want you to take notice because of that.  I know it’s still not that common to come across women in some genres, like FPS games, but fairly common in RPGs and MMOs.  Even then the last thing that they want to hear on voice is “Oh, it’s a girl! Yay, look everyone it’s a girl!”  They probably want to hear things like “Nice shot,” “Thanks for the assist,” and “Move your butt, we’re dying over here,” just like every other gamer.

While the reaction pictured above isn’t harassment, it’s the other swing of that pendulum that doesn’t help move us down the road.  Most of the gamers I know, men and women, want the community to be a place for everyone and anyone that wants to be a part of it.  I’ve often said, more games, with more gamers to play them with.  Just like women often don’t ‘come out’ in-game, or use voice because of harassment, I know some who would also feel just as uncomfortable with a reaction like the one above. I asked around just to make sure that I wasn’t making any assumptions, and not only do the women who game want to be taken more seriously than the image above, they also have a great sense of humor about the whole thing.

And two quotes from the Facebook group I brought this up in where I asked if it was just me or did the image come off as too much, and just as bad as looking down on female gamers because of their gender:

Ugh. “Don’t be intimidated”? Rude. Definitely not just you.

And:

Eh it’s 50/50. I’ve seen guys that are so extremely supportive of female gamers they go overboard with it. It’s happened to me a lot. They just want to make up for the rest of the community. Also hearing girls talk during matches is rare. It gets mistaken for intimidation but it’s typically just removing yourself from a potential situation due to pay experience. The kitchen comment might be am awkward nerds way of trying to be smooth. Open mouth, out falls dumb.

I could also be wrong

So guys, be supportive of the women who game, don’t look down on them because of their gender, but also don’t go so overboard that you become the other extreme.  They are gamers first, and the vast majority want to be treated just like every other gamer.  Don’t be jerks to anyone really, but also don’t treat them like they’re special unicorns that are only seen under a full moon.  You’re not helping any more than the guy that laughs at the idea that girls game.

Representation in Video Games, A Male Perspective

TT_NotTheFandom

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I was pointed to this post on tumblr recently and asked if I’d throw in my 2.346 cents (Canadian).  The entire thing, both parties, touch on exactly the sort of problems with having this type discussion about representation.  Both are using emotional responses to support their argument, and both are using analogies that are flat out wrong.  Let me preface the rest of this article by saying that I think it’s great when developers want to add more characters, male, female, trans, gay, straight, black, white, asian or anything in between.  I also support devs that don’t; that want to keep their period-accurate middle Europe game true to the time it’s set in, and I do not condone people who pressure developers and artists to change just to fit some notion of morally acceptable art.  That’s really the bottom line here, games are art, and artists do try to balance what the market needs and wants with their creative vision.  I don’t think there’s some nefarious plot to keep women out of video games, or make games just for guys.  I don’t think there are meetings where developers discuss how best to make sure an entire demographic is offended, but I do think meetings happen where a list of ‘requirements’ are looked over and boxes are checked just to fill some quota in hopes that they can avoid the drama that could make or break a game.  That, to me, is the worst way to go about any creative process.  But, back to the example above.

I’m an old gamer, compared to many who might be reading this.  I started on an Atari 5200 and I remember when the biggest games at the arcade were Tron and Galaga.  I was getting started as a gamer when computers weren’t even in homes yet for the most part, so when I see examples like the one above, both of them, it makes me tear my hair out.  No, video games are not like a department store that only has men’s clothing, and is suddenly being asked to make women’s clothing, and no, it’s not like a department store that only has lingerie and bikinis in the women’s section.  Gaming used to be quite genderless, and commercials featured whole families, mom, dad, brother and sister sitting around to play Defender, or Pong.  Arcade ads featured young men and women both enjoying Pac-Man or Space Invaders.  Back then the popular games were not male or female oriented, my mom loved Centipede, and my favorite game on the Atari was Super Breakout.  Gaming is like a department store that started out making very generic clothing that anyone could wear, and putting out commercials that tried to get everyone in the door.

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Representation in Video Games, a Female Perspective

People complain that feminists call “misogyny!” about everything. The truth is, misogyny and sexism are so systemically ingrained in our culture that both men and women actively participate in patriarchal values, without realization or intention. Many people either don’t see it or they simply disregard it as “the way things are” and make no move to change it. That is why I wholeheartedly agree with the second argument in the image below:

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The analogy rings quite true. As a female gamer myself, it is often extremely difficult to find representation in the gaming world. And, to be quite honest, representation is actually extremely important. Not only is a lack of female characters telling me that my demographic isn’t important enough to warrant thought, but it is also depriving young girls and other minorities of role models they can relate to. When children are growing up, they choose people to look up to. If they are constantly seeing characters who look like them being excluded or portrayed as inferior, they start to feel inferior and thus internalize misogyny (or other forms of bigotry like racism and homophobia), which can sometimes be more dangerous to their well being than external discrimination.

In the current market, the majority of video game role models are white male characters. Do only white males play video games? No. So why do video games and consoles continue to be marketed almost exclusively to them?

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The Big Question

*Trigger Warning*

So, I was following a rather misogynistic comment on a friends Facebook page when a mutual friend commented about her daughter being very excited about an awesome looking weapon she got in a game and her son was more worried about raiding. I responded back that I am always excited about the awesome looking gear I get AND the prospect of raiding, which I never have.

However, this lead to a bit more and I was asked something interesting: As girl gamers, other than the oddly represented female characters, what would you change about games? Or is it more a marketing problem? Or the attitude of male gamers towards female gamers?

I told her that I dedicated a group and a website to those very questions, but as I thought about it more, I realized: I, myself, have never answered those questions directly. I am sure they have been asked of me a million times over and I know that I answer them, but not directly. I will tell people I created RWoG (Real Women of Gaming) for that reason, but isn’t that dodging the question? Yes, yes it is. It’s a non-answer and if I’m going to be the Captain of this particular ship, I had better answer some questions and these are the biggest.

Let’s start from the beginning. This may shock you, but I wouldn’t change very much about games. The changes I would ask for might not even be noticed by other gamers. I don’t have an issue with a male protagonist and have happily played many a male protagonist (for one I LOVE Ezio in Assassin’s Creed), but I would like some female protagonist games also. The amount of female protagonist games are on the rise, with titles like Lara Croft, Life is Strange and Final Fantasy in your AAA title games and The Ritual on Weylyn Island, The Park and Fran Bow as some of the indie games, also you have your options in Fable 3, Mass Effect, Fallout and Destiny.

However, games are a vast majority of male protagonists and when there is a female protagonist (even the female characters, from party members to NPC), they are treated like crap. Let’s go back to Lara Croft, one of the most well known females in gaming history. She started out with the shortest shorts possible and unreasonably large breasts because that’s what archeologist look like? It was obvious that she wasn’t built to attract the female gamer, even if the marketing department said otherwise. Speaking of popular female gaming icons, Princess Peach and Zelda were constantly getting kidnapped and hauled off to be rescued. Yes, Zelda recently got a badass makeover, but it only took 20+ years? People had a fit when it was revealed that Samus of Metroid was a girl! Our 8-bit badass Goddess was rewarded for that hard work with an absurd costume change in Metroid: Other M with the Zero Suit to show girls that you, too, can save the galaxy with a skin tight suit on so that we still know you’re a female. That’s what is most important here. I’m not even going to mention the heels. Lastly I’ll pull out Quiet from Metal Gear Solid. Are you kidding me? I’m honestly shocked she isn’t in heels. She is a feared assassin in fishnets. What makes this worse is they actually tried to explain her lack of clothing. She can only breathe through her skin following a parasite treatment needed after serious injuries. I’ve heard 1st graders make more sense.

That little rant was just about clothes and appearance. I’m not talking about the fact that their back stories suffer drastically for lack of substance and are filled with trite nonsense (like a deep desire to be a supermodel or an actress). Worse, when they aren’t filled with meaningless crap, they put in abuse or rape (even multiple ones) to spice up a backstory when the comparable male character is revered as hero and a man’s man. Cause little girls grow up with a burning desire to play rape victims in video games, you know cause that shit isn’t real.

I want women and men to be treated equally. I wouldn’t notice as much if I encountered a male with a backstory of wanting to be an actor or supermodel as much as I do women or even a male who suffers abuse and rape in their backstory as much as they do so with women. Equal.

Also, if you are going to do multiplayer, make sure you have some female options *clears throat*AC:Unity*cough cough* It isn’t hard. You want four options, two of them can be female. HELL, ONE COULD BE FEMALE! That is an improvement. In watching my husband play Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 I can’t tell you how shocked I was to see two females, not exaggerated. Like legit women. This is me, floored and with much respect.

That was a long answer for one question, but I could go on and on about it. It isn’t asking a lot.

grrm on women

Now, the other two questions are a bit more simple.

Is it a marketing problem? YES! It is a huge perpetuation of gender bias. When video games were starting to be marketed they had to pick a section to go in. The boys toys or the girls toys because this was a toy meant for kids. They picked boys and marketed for boys and that never stopped. Tastes changed so they changed with the taste and we all know that sex sells.

Marketing to males, they made the women as sexy as possible and, at the time, you didn’t market for both genders. Yes, there were ‘girl games,’ but they were very few and very far between and plus, only boys played.

Now with the gaming population being around 50% of each sex, they are stuck in old ways and are too stubborn to change (to quickly) and don’t want to risk pissing off who they think are their core market (males). Specifically, with reactions to GamerGate and Girl Gamers. They pay attention.

Recently, I had a long time fan post a picture on our Facebook wall. It was of two twitch feeds. The top one was featuring a full screen of a game, then a small block was of the webcam pointing at the guy playing. The second half was of a full screen of a webcam pointed at a female and a smaller block was the game she was playing. The fact that it confuses anyone why that angers me only angers me more. His followers are watching the game, her followers are WATCHING HER! She is the entertainment, not the game! Yes, as streamers/YouTubers, we have to be entertaining, but that isn’t what’s going on here. Of course, it only happens because we have a society where women are objects for entertainment, BUT we as women need to collectively put our foot down to stop that. Fear of harassment online can lead women to do a lot of different things, including objectifying themselves for the sake of their male viewers or not show themselves on screen at all. We, as women, need to put that fear aside and do what it is we want to do. We have to understand that there will always be trolls/harassers/perverts, but we can’t feed them by giving them what they want.

That leads into the last question. Is the attitude of male gamers towards female gamer a problem? Sometimes.

I say sometimes because it isn’t ALWAYS bad. It isn’t always great either. I’d like to say that I am treated with respect, and I am, but I realized something important. I’ve closed myself off to the open world. I can see you are confused, so let me explain.

I play online often and I love it. I play with people. I play with a specific group of people and I don’t open myself up to talk to people. When I do talk, I don’t do so verbally most of the time. I type. If I play online multiplayer, say Halo, I play in a party chat with W1k3d_0n3. No one else in that battleground knows with 100% certainty that I am female. I don’t make it hard to figure out, but I don’t have to hear it when they do. Why do I hide? Because I’ve heard it all already and I don’t want to hear it again. I’m afraid if I let that wall drop for even a second, it will start. Now, when I do get brave and do so, I’m usually ready for a fight or trash talk and I will mute someone and even report them. I do so often; it is why we have the report feature. It can be hell to go through. I’ve been harassed online to the point of wondering if I should call the cops because I was afraid. That is a horrific feeling. The person who harassed me was male and was timid when other men challenged him, but I was a female so he would attack me and continued to do so for a long time.

Online harassment and bullying are, unfortunately, much bigger than we are willing to acknowledge. There needs to be a better solution than hiding.

This conversation ended with a startling thought: she is more a casual gamer that happens to be a woman than a woman gamer, after looking at the site. It made me a bit sad and I sat here and thought about it.

A gamer is a gamer. There are different types. Some will call themselves hardcore; there are professional gamers and casual is one I hear often. Woman gamer… I don’t want anyone to think that you have to identify by your gender. I’m a gamer. I’m not a gamer girl (oh, hells no); I’m a gamer that happens to be a woman, so what? Being a woman gamer doesn’t mean you have to be on some crusade to fix everything wrong with gaming. Be who you want, what you want, why you want. Don’t let other people define something you are. Hell, don’t define yourself if you don’t want to. You want to casually game, then go for it. I will crusade (so to speak) and we can both be gamers, simple as that.