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Posts Tagged ‘Gaming’

Now, I don’t want to pretend that I’m NOT constantly bickering with TV commercials, like an irate budgie having words with the mirror in his cage, but if there’s an ad that’s really seizing my contraband at the moment, it’s the one for Xbox Kinect’s Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.

Oh, you know the one. Smug girl makes eyes at herself in the mirror*, asks boyfriend-type “Can you tell I’ve been playing on The X Box? Maybe you should play some X Box?”, pronouncing Xbox like it’s part of an elocution exam where mispronunciation of brand names results in waterboarding. This buffoonery-in-diction is entirely deliberate. The Xbox-owner in the ad is barely comfortable with how to pronounce its name, and yet she’s reaping the benefits of her investment! It’s an invitation for non-gamers to spend a zillion euro on kitting out their sitting rooms, a warm hug for clueless types easily convinced that motion-capture technology is the new 100 metre sprint. I get that. I really do. But as a female gamer, I’m very easily offended by the stereotype that women are but airhead nunkies bent on commandeering their boyfriends’ consoles for narcissistic and fluffy purposes. Pah! A pox on your vain stereotypes, Kinect ad execs! I’ll take ye on! I’ll take ye all on!

Look! Tai Chi! Exercise for girls!

The sad truth is that being a gamer who owns rather than covets boobs has turned me into something rather too easily offended. There is no reasonable reason for this. Why should the banal typecasting of fluffy airheads offend me? I don’t get offended on behalf of elderly gamers when cuddly representatives of their generation appear, leppin’ about the place in ads for Nintendo’s Wii. I don’t get offended on behalf of six-year-old Mario Kart veterans when other smallies star in ads for V-Tech toy laptops. But gosh, the depiction of female gamers as fashion-obsessed mouthbreathers really gets on my nerves. “I’d bate their arses in Goldeneye!” I huff, loudly, to anyone in hearing distance, which is a very telling action indeed. If I was truly comfortable with my gaming, I wouldn’t need applause for my gaming, now would I? There’s a bit of the “See how well I’m doing here! Did you know I’m a GIRL?” to the whole thing. It’s a tragic tale of gormless self-mockery, really.

Not so long ago, I went game shopping for a couple of titles I was after. One was for my PS2, the other for my 360. The shop assistant looked concerned and said, “You do realise these are for two different platforms, don’t you?” whereupon I became sorely offended. I don’t remember the exact response I gave, but it was probably something sneery and along the lines of Naaaaaaaaw, I’m that stupid, where’s my GH-fucking-D so I can heat my likkle brain up? Although I knew full well that the clerk was probably pointing out the same thing to many customers buying multiple titles, out of the goodness of his heart, out of nothing but benevolence directed towards confused Irish Mammies buying Grand Theft Auto for their eight-year-old sons. Oh, how I sniped at the poor man! I feel very bad about it – he was but a Good Samaritan after all – but that doesn’t stop me regurgitating the anecdote when I’m banging on about being a gamer and being a girl. “Condescending asshole!” I harrumph, though I’m secretly talking about myself.

It could be that I’m seeking kudos for being a girl gamer because I’m fully aware that there just aren’t as many of us. Out of my own social circle, the majority of the fellas are gamers, either on PC or console. The majority of the girleens don’t play video games at all, and those that do are more likely to have a Nintendo DS to train their brains on than a PS3. When it comes down to it, I don’t actually like the majority of games out there. I can’t stand First-Person Shooters. I can’t stand playing online. No matter how selective it is, I demand congratulations for my habit, all the same. It’s as if I’m standing up for the Little Gal, even though evidence suggests she exists in no great numbers at all.

It’s good to have a hobby.

*Oh no! I mentioned mirrors twice in three sentences! Please don’t tell the Literature Police.

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I’m a nerd, a geek, a dork, whatever you want to call it; I was there when perms, leggings and glasses made you a social outcast, not a demigod. I’m old school with added old, I floundered through the early nineties on a diet of snickers and speed metal and could name the cast members from Deep Space Nine and Xena whilst dreaming of settling down in Sunnydale. Nerd-dom has seen me get my eyes lasered only to return to glasses within a year as I missed being… me. It seems that the bit of me that I spent so long trying to distance myself from was actually the awesome part; I would be huge in Japan.

Part of this identity that I’m both stuck with, and in love with, is gaming. My early days of gaming  were the seriously geeky – Doom and Wolfenstein – I was a girl that liked tech, which should have made me cool but instead it made me the ‘go-to’ person when the photocopier broke. Even so, it wasn’t until the arrival of my other half a few years ago that my game playing moved up a notch. If games have now become an addiction, then he was most certainly my pimp, feeding me a steady diet of Xbox until I craved a few hours of furious button mashing more than an alcohol-soaked night on the town. Before him gaming was a hit and miss affair, suffering from the twin evils of buying games because I liked the cover art or buying them because they were cheap, both these sins I now atone for. I have seen the light – it’s ‘how it plays’ not just what it plays.

Take the word ‘Games’: it’s full of connotations like hopscotch, tag and immaturity; it’s a child’s world and as adults we are supposed to leave the ‘games’ behind. More troublesome is the absence of suitable language to describe what gaming has become. Its more than playground tactics, it’s a rich tapestry that is getting progressively nearer the artistic experience it aspires to be. We are being submerged in new worlds where, while building an army, we may actually rebuild ourselves; where instant feedback reminds us how good we are or how great.

While most literature on gaming and women seems woefully out of date, the same themes raise their heads time after time:

It’s sexist: women are set dressing or damsels to be rescued and they’re digitally enhanced to the point of being unable to tie their own shoe laces.

I have to question the gaming experiences of people who make these statements. Most new games offer the chance to modify gender, looks and attributes of characters, allowing the player to project themselves into the game. We have gone beyond the stock female character with set ‘womanly ways’. It’s a clever investment with over 45% of gamers in the US now female, it’s the way of the future. I played through Dragon Age as a female character who was, just as if I had played as a male, capable of having sexual relationships with any of the male or female characters within the game, a point missed out on by the hysterical Luddites usually so willing to bash gaming as a sort of morality drain. In terms of bodies, male characters have traditionally been over-enhanced, so when females are, I fail to see a clear delineation – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. As games move from mere point scorers to interactive pieces – where your decisions impact on the game itself – there is also development of more believable characters, better scripts and serious narratives. Gaming is breaking out; it’s becoming mainstream. Even Lara Croft has received a ‘down-sizing’ . I’ve happily spent nights snuggled up with himself blowing the heads off zombies in Resident Evil. I remember how proud I was overhearing my kid and his friends playing mutli-player on Left 4 Dead, the auto shuffle left my son as the female “Ha, ha, you’re the girl” said one of his less progressive mates, to which my son replied ‘Zoe kicks more ass than any of the fellas, she’s class, I’m glad I got her’ . In the battle of the sexes games are a new playground, one where both characters have equal ability, strength and stamina.

They are excessively violent and breed aggression

As somebody who spends at least an hour in traffic every day there is no difference between my frustration and aggression levels either before or since gaming. I am a self-confessed light touch who cries over Lyons Tea adverts at Christmas, but I break out a huge grin when sniping yanks from a watchtower in Halo Reach. I am an animal lover with a wardrobe full of clothing covered in dog and cat hair to prove it, who killed all the buffalo on the range in Red Dead Redemption just to earn an achievement; I kick chickens in Fable just to see them soar.

I also have to deal with the consequences of those actions within each game: good or evil you will eventually have to pay for your wrong doing. Shooting civilians, whipping your horse too much, stealing or debauchery will eventually earn you a payback, it’s a game after all and not all decisions are winning ones – short term gains usually cost in the long term. Contrast this with films where you are a passive viewer and unable to act one way or another to change what you’re forced to watch, a game comes with consequences. After a billion hours spent in one game I was left with the penultimate dilemma to save humanity or my dog…. my choice haunted me for days.

Games involve imagined characters, they may be semi-realistic but they are not real, they involve you, sometimes scare you and most certainly stir emotions. By involving the player, they are not merely a gore fest to be feasted upon. They force you to overcome, to survive and most importantly, to come back for more. They teach you persistence and all for those little rewards, a level cleared, a boss killed, a little noise of an achievement earned. For those still shaking their heads reading this, I’m an adult; I have a choice in what I want to do with my spare time. These games I speak of are not designed for children, they are made for adults by adults, the majority of games are made for the 15+ age group, so unless you want to tell me that every film made for an adult audience should also be censored; there’s no point in being upset that I like killing virtual stuff, with katanas and rocket launchers.

They are a waste of time…

While I have thus far avoided the crack cocaine of gaming that is World of Warcraft I can attest to the addictive nature of good games. I sometimes find my mind wandering back to a character and wishing I could play some more with them, there just wasn’t enough cake,  I ate it all. I don’t have a TV in my house,  and I don’t miss it. Games come along every few months and there’s spike in the electricity bill but I am never at the mercy of advertisers because I’m never sold anything in a game.  I can play as Lara Croft and for a while I AM Lara croft, I’m not just buying into her image, I’m actually her, for she without me is just a doll, an empty being, I complete her and she allows me to complete one handed wall climbs over flaming pits of molten lava. It’s it’s a win-win situation. So I will continue to play games, I may tut-tut at pink Nintendo or games dressed up as benign time wasters like Farmville but really, they just giving women and girls an ‘in’. The more girls on board the better games will be, I want to play Assassin’s Creed with a female lead; I want my gamer score to exceed that of my son; I want to go over to a  female friend’s house have a two player rampage in Modern Warfare 2. All this is not far off and the only question left is whether you have pre-ordered your copy?

The Barbarian knows the power of steel but will often use spellcheck as an effective way of vanquishing foes. The Barbarian has raised a male heir on her own but is currently accepting underwear on her bathroom floor from another member of that gender. The Barbarian uses frequent bouts bad language which embarrass her mother, superiors and son to articulate her thoughts about many things. The Barbarian has no time for people who talk about themselves in the third person. She blogs at www.thebarbariangoesforth.blogspot.com and is on Twitter: @dabarbarian.

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