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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!  

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.

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.

Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day

Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day

If you read last week’s post, then you know that I’m a recent convert to Team Felicia Day. One of the reasons why is her memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).

What’s it about?
This book is a collection of anecdotes from Felicia Day’s life that lead up to her current status as “Queen of the Geeks.” It starts with stories about her family: home schooling, attempts at “socialization,” moving around to different military bases, gaming. She moves on to talk about college, moving to Los Angeles, The Guild, Geek & Sundry, etc.

What did I think?
This book is very well written. Felicia Day’s prose reads in a way that you feel as though she’s talking to you directly. The writing is funny at times, moving at others and downright inspirational.

The anecdotes within are entertaining, to say the very least. They’re interesting and keep you engaged through the whole thing, making you laugh and cry (or cry from laughing too hard) respectively. She makes it all sound so easy. I could hardly put this book down.

The scary thing about picking up a memoir or an autobiography is that you never know if the subject’s life is going to be boring. Felicia Day, however, has led a very interesting and inspirational life thus far. She grew up in a unique, hippie family from the South, started college at 16 years old, then forged her own way in Hollywood, despite dealing with high anxiety and a gaming addiction.

Being a gamer myself with high anxiety and a dream of making a living in the creative arts, I identified very strongly with this book. It makes me feel as though I can make my dreams come true, despite my mental and emotional roadblocks. Because of this book, I’m more inspired than ever to do what I set out to do.

Thanks, Felicia Day.

Do I recommend it?
What other answer can I say other than yes? Go get this book and read it, then go follow your dreams. DO IT.

-Vanri the Rogue

Be your own block button

Hi, I’m Mike Knapp. Some of you know me as KarlDark or Hida Kenshiro. Crymson Pleasure asked me to write a guest piece for the Real Women of Gaming… and i forgot about it after two weeks of trying to figure out what i could write that hasn’t already been written. She recently pressed me again to finish the piece. She asked me, “Do you think women are treated equally when it comes to gaming in general?” My answer was, “No. Not very often. When they are main characters, they are all too often unrealistic boobtacular badasses that never evoke emotions other than lust or envy. Then, when they aren’t the protagonist, they are plot devices. True, every story needs a plot device and, while i dislike the ‘woman in refrigerator’ syndrome, it would be nice to see women simply exist in a game.”

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Thia the Bard interview with Frags and Beer

Thia the Bard, role player, gamer and singer shares her love of games.