Back when I wrote my short Gender in Gaming series, I lamented the lack of good-quality academic papers on gaming freely available on the internet. Thanks to scholar Christina Hoff Sommers’ Twitter feed, I’ve just learned of a new journal, Press Start, that seeks to remedy that. At first I was pleased with this development, until I read the journal’s call for papers for a special issue called “Negotiating Gamer Identities.” Then I reminisced about my old, horrible college honors seminars, cried over my Milton textbook for about an hour, and decided I needed to go through this, piece-by-piece. Continue reading How Not To Investigate Gamer Identities
Note: All quotes from the game taken from Shotgunnova’s Script FAQ.
Warning: This post is going to devote a lot of time to analyzing a theory about Final Fantasy VIII, a game that is now 17 years old, in incredible detail. This is probably going to seem pointless and obsessive, because it is pointless and obsessive, but I’m going ahead with it anyway for two reasons:
- I love Final Fantasy VIII. Always have, always will.
- The way said theory is typically discussed in FF fandom is to me indicative of a larger issue within the gaming community, which is that– despite the leaps and bounds the medium has made in garnering critical attention– most gamers still have no use for anything that resembles literary criticism. I think that’s a bit of a shame.
One night, my water broke while I was watching my husband play Disgaea 5. At the time, he was playing a map that involved killing dozens of versions of the same character, Asagi, in order to level up his units. I don’t know what Ms. Asagi could have possibly done to deserve this, but apparently killing her indefinitely is the best way to level up your characters in Disgaea 5, until they have stats higher than the number of protons in the universe. I can’t be sure, because while I had my own save in D5 as well, I was not yet up to the Asagi-genocide portion.
We do this a lot lately. I sit on the couch and sip tea while Wilson plays through games, and only if I really like them do I bother to do an entire playthrough myself. Maybe this makes me less of a gamer, but it’s a pretty relaxing way to spend the odd weeknight. Besides, this way I get to make snide comments about the game without being distracted by the chore of actually having to play it. Wilson is kind enough to pretend my contributions are witty; this may be why I am currently having his children. Continue reading On Disgaea and Giving Birth
Confession Time: This installment is late because I changed gears. Originally, I wanted to do an overview of the current academic research regarding gender in video games, but it didn’t work out. Many of the papers are stuck behind academic paywalls I don’t have access to (which I should have surmised, but was in denial about), and the few papers openly available on the internet…are kind of awful? I can’t say so with authority, since I’m not any kind of an expert on social science research, but it seems like there are gaping flaws in the methodology of these studies that even a newbie can see: suspiciously small sample sizes, strongly opinionated language in the abstract that makes it seem like the conclusions were chosen before the study was even started, etc.
That said, there could be great research about gender as portrayed in video games out there, somewhere; I’m just not currently in a position to find it. However, for someone currently involved in academic research who has access to all these scholarly databases, I think this presents an intriguing area for study; look at all the papers on this topic, and see which ones pass muster as proper research, and which are fluff designed to bolster specific preconceived ideas. Once again, I can only speculate, but I would bet money that a lot of these studies will turn out to be light and inconsequential as a feather.*
So instead of delving into academic research, which I’m clearly ill-equipped to do, I’m going to try something else: talk about how we can analyze video games as though we were doing it from scratch. Before any serious data collection about gender representation can be done, I think there are some very basic questions that need to be addressed, yet are rarely mentioned.
When I wrote my “journalist’s take” on GamerGate a month or so back, my main point was that many games writers for sites like Kotaku and Polygon are just plain bad at their jobs; I didn’t think they were necessarily unethical, no matter what many gamers were saying. Since then, lots of new information has come to light and I’ve changed my mind about that: many of these people are seriously unethical. In a way, it’s not even their fault, since they’ve apparently never been held to journalistic standards before and thus don’t really understand what they’re doing wrong, but going into that is probably best saved for another day. Continue reading Do Video Game Reviews Matter?
Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about how we need to have a discussion about gender in gaming:* how men and women are portrayed, and why that might matter. It’s a nice idea, but frankly, I haven’t been seeing much discussion; I’ve been seeing multiple opposing camps that talk past each other (when not going for each other’s throats outright). Maybe I’ve just been hanging out in all the wrong places online, but if thoughtful, meaningful discussion on this topic is taking place, I haven’t been lucky enough to run across it.**
So my plan here, with this series of posts, is to attempt to have that discussion…or at least a small part of it. I don’t want it to be adversarial; there’s no “versus” anywhere. For what it’s worth, I’m also coming into it with an open mind, because I have to; I honestly don’t know yet the full extent of the differences between male and female portrayals in games as a whole, why those differences exist, how much they matter (and to whom), and what any of this means, if anything, the moment we turn off the game. One of my hopes in writing this is that I can puzzle out answers to some of those questions for myself. Continue reading Gender in Gaming 1: What Do We Want to See?
Yesterday, Jason Schreier of Kotaku tweeted the following:
Nobody at Kotaku has ever claimed or will ever claim to be objective. “Objectivity” is a silly thing to strive for.
I would link to the original tweet, but I can’t seem to find it; I don’t know if he deleted it, or I just fail at Twitter today. Nevertheless, the tweet sparked some discussion on the value of objectivity in journalism in general.
To be fair to Schreier, he’s right that no one can ever truly be objective; we all have our biases, no matter how we try to minimize them. However, to go so far as to claim that striving for objectivity is “silly,” well…I have some real problems with that. Continue reading Why Striving for Objectivity in Journalism is Good
I can already sense the irritation from the #GamerGate tag on Twitter. “Why are you mentioning ZQ? It’s not about ZQ! Stop bringing up ZQ!” I know, guys. I see your point, believe me I do; I wouldn’t be going down this road if I didn’t think it was important.
But if you will, indulge me in a little free-writing exercise. Let’s say that about a month ago, a scandal broke about a male game developer named Zach Quest. Continue reading GamerGate: The Zach Quest Story