It’s Monday Again: Tuesday Edition

A girl leans her legs up against a wall and smokes.

It might not be Monday now, but that’s not a problem.

The beginning of the year, also known as last week, was fairly auspicious in that I wrote not one but two pieces on the blog. I hope to maintain that kind of entropy for the rest of the year but much like my desire to cut out junk food, I doubt it will happen.

My summation of 2014 (with appropriately vague title) really should have included relevant links to my own work, as that seems to be the standard fashion but I ended up not caring much about re-directing people to pieces I was proud of, just yet. I might need to marinate on that a little more. I did do some good writing last year, but it’s hard to feel like you’ve really accomplished much as a mostly amateur writer. It was a lot more fun to highlight the best of some of my friends’ and peers’ work, as well as try to encapsulate just how last year was to both myself and to games at large (okay and awful, respectively.)

The second piece I did was a personal, poetic unraveling relating to my feelings about The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo. I’ve come back to that game a few times, poking and prodding about why it was so good but I finally sat down and hammered that post out in one go, feeling satisfied that I held something important in my hands for at least a moment. I am still shocked that Michael Lutz managed to capture something important to me, even if a lot of it I brought to the game myself. Having a game at least provide that kind of petri dish for emotional culture growth is rare.

I also read a really awesome article about Shadow of Mordor (prompting me to pick up the game, finally) by my partner-in-crime Tzufit. She talks about accessing a relatable power dynamic that’s different than other games, like Bayonetta 2, as well as what it is like to play a woman, who for all intents and purposes, is treated like a man. I can’t help but agree with Tzufit’s desires to engage with a power fantasy that is not related to sexuality, as that is sometimes off-putting in games for me as well.

Last but not least, last week was our Justies/GOTY episode on Justice Points, and I suspect you’ll want to check it out. We didn’t go into it looking for consensus and I think the show is much more entertaining and amusing for it. You be the judge.

 

 

 

 

It’s Monday Again: Attention and Fantasies

A sketch of a woman sitting alone at a bar.

I did a lot of stuff last week so I decided to once again shamelessly steal an idea from Leigh Alexander and update you on all of the places I was doing things around the Internet.

Last week’s episode of Justice Points featured Lulu, otherwise known as BlueSweatshirt, talking about her indie witch simulator  Fantastic Witch Collective. We asked her a lot of questions about the gay witch aesthetic, as well as poked at issues of diversity, decorum in e-sports as well as Far Cry 4. It was a lot of fun.

I have had a lot of issues lately sleeping and so I’m often up very early in the morning and that is a good time to play video games without being interrupted. One such morning saw me playing Borderlands and I had a very odd experience with killing a skag. Goes to show though, how little I know about the mechanics of some of my favorite games and instead choose to barrel into fights without any outside knowledge about how it should work. Still, it was weird feeling that emotional about a fictional animal that would tear my face off.

A lot of interesting digging has been going on about The Hashtag That Shan’t Be Named lately, specifically in a sociological vein. I read A Man in Black’s Storify about their perceptions of Goobergate from the perspective of how 4Chan culture operates and felt inspired to go on a tweet rant  about the larger forces at work that inform said culture. This also lead to an interesting tangent about why I hate the phrase “attention whore,” because Goobers seem to be using terrorist tactics towards any woman who dares to be successful. You can read the Storify on all of this here. Thanks for WarrenIsDead for collating all of it.

Finally, my first published piece of game writing went up over at Paste Games! It is my thoughts on the intersection of how millennials have been living and why so many of us love life sims for this reason, including the newly popular Fantasy Life. I was really excited that Paste picked up my pitch and it is a subject that I consider pretty close to my heart as someone who’s had to move around and live fairly austerely; gaming has been a huge savior in my life even when I have fallen on hard times.

If you like this feature, let me know in the comments section!

Ninja Pizza Girl and The Thorny Tangle of Girlhood

As far as indie games go, Ninja Pizza Girl has been on my radar for a while. I saw a video with the creators a while back and it seemed quirky, in a fun sort of way. The idea of an entire family starting their own indie development house is cute, especially with the father’s daughters pitching in to help with story and art. So when Polygon had an op-ed from the creator about the game, I took notice.

The crux of it is Jason Stark, the head of Disparity Games, relating precisely how and why Ninja Pizza Girl came to be. He talks about how the concept came straight from his childrens’ mouths but more importantly he  also describes the stumbles in his own assumptions about not only game design but also about his daughters’ growing vulnerability as they move into teen-hood and beyond. It was a bit of insight that I found intriguing, not so much as a gamer, but rather as a woman. It’s incredibly commonplace that men in the world, even ones closest to us, do not realize that women have these hidden narratives that they’ve never stopped to consider. It never occurs to them that our lives are in any way unique or different from theirs. The idea of relating this back to game design and story development is a smart one. Video games are one of the avenues of interactive media that could do so much better at peeking into the kinds of stories women navigate and centralizing them as important. We’ve seen so much discussion lately about the lack of women protagonists in games as well as a lack of women in the game industry. Allowing more women to be game creators as well as seeing ourselves represented not only reinforces the notion that we are human to the world, but lifts the veil on how our experiences might differ.

It is in this vein that I welcome Ninja Pizza Girl into the world – I believe that teen girls are one of the pockets of womanhood most needing of stories to be told (though I still feel the market is only making baby steps and still trends towards white, affluent and the like). It’s the father’s own admission of fault in taking his wife and children for granted and not listening enough that reminds me of the interview that we did on Justice Points with Fullbright Company’s Steve Gaynor and Karla Zimonja. Steve said that one of the things he took the most care to do when crafting Gone Home‘s narrative was interviewing queer women about being teens, as it was not something he had personal experience with. Jason not taking this tactic from the start is something he admits fault to and through the course of the article, outlines his own steps to rectify this. This is good – men realizing that they need to listen to the women in their lives in order to actually understand them.

It was this listening that informed Jason’s decision to turn the enemy of the story from rival pizza ninjas that you kill to something far scarier – other teens working for a pizza corporation that would tease and humiliate you. The bullying and how you deal with it is what determines how much of the game you spend in a more gray, colorless world of your own depression or in a world full of joy and brighter hues. I find this mechanic, as well as some of the ways the game rewards you for handling it (running away is definitely an option) really interesting. As someone who was very viciously bullied from middle school onward, the idea of centering a game around bullying as not only a narrative struggle but a combat mechanic seems a very unexplored but necessary “hook.” What really woke me up to the fact that being a teen girl now was significantly different than my experience was the mention of the protagonist, Gemma, having to fend off bullies phone-cam recording one of her ultimate embarrassing moments. The cultural touchstone of recording video with your phone is not lost on me, but it shook me out of my own reminiscing. I never, ever had to deal with other people, people who were seeking to hurt me, recording things without my knowledge and distributing them to a very, very large audience. With the recent news of Jada and looking back to something like Steubenville, it’s on my mind that teen girls being brutalized is aided and immortalized by the advent of digital technology. It was literally not something I had to deal with when I was a teen. It feels like more so now than ever, we need to start seeing young women as people and less as props for tormenting.

It was these types of things, along with the story of a parent humiliating a teen girl to suicide on Facebook, that hung around my head as I read. I was wondering if Stark would talk about mens’ role in being both abusers and harassers to teen girls, especially given the opening anecdote, but it never came. It seems the idea of bullies in the game (as well as the article) stops at a generic “other teens” but specifically mentions his own daughters dealing with the politics of other teen girls. This quote specifically jumped out at me:

Little girls start learning psychological games at the age of eight and master them by the age of fifteen.

It specifically refers to his youngest daughter losing some of her female friends due to internal politics, something I think a lot of us can relate to, but Jason lacking an understanding that many of us have now. It was this quote in particular that made me somewhat skeptical of his ability to grasp the subject matter that he was building his game upon.  While he may recognize that the things his daughters are going through actually happen, the larger context for them is missing. It’s a pretty common narrative that women are intensely catty, psychological torturers and “girl bullying” is a phrase I’ve oft heard over the years. With the aid of the Internet, there’s been a lot of scare stories about a bunch of girls smearing the reputation of another girl for some real or imagined slight. What I never heard was recognition of is why this stuff happens; to truly understand why girls bullying each other, you have to admit that sexism is real and is internalized in women from a very early age. When girls hit puberty,  we suck the light out of them. They lose enthusiasm for math, science and just about anything else. They have the world’s sexual expectations thrust upon them without being asked if they want it or understand it. Girls become increasingly hostile and political among each other but it’s for reasons that Stark didn’t note, which implied a well-worn narrative. Girls tear each other down due to internalizing the messages that we as a society tell them every day from the moment we decide they are girls: that they suck. Not only that, but that every other girl is an enemy because there is a valuable and finite resource called “men’s attention.” We reinforce notions that women are catty, will steal your “man” and cause you not to trust them. We teach them to be docile, to not speak up and that their problems aren’t worth hearing about, let alone resolving in a straightforward or assertive manner.  We break them apart because it keeps them compliant and without a support network.

All of these things are why, despite chipping into Ninja Pizza Girl‘s funding, I will be keeping a close eye on how the game will play. Because for all of the things I think it could do right, Jason Stark’s good intentions but ultimate lack of experience with the narrative of growing up as a girl still will be lingering there. I don’t think ill of him for this, but it makes me wonder how this could have been done by someone who had to jump and fly away from her own bullies way back when.

 

New Podcast – Justice Points!

In case you don’t follow me religiously on Twitter (and who does), last week myself and Tzufit of Tree Heals Go Woosh! announced that we would be collaborating on a project together. That project is a podcast! We’ve named it “Justice Points” as it is a show that features World of Warcraft from a more social justice perspective. It’ll be our trials, tribulations and jokes about WoW with a little feminism thrown in.

Our first episode is up on at http://www.justicepoints.com and we should be posting an episode a week if you want to join us for the fun.

You can also follow the podcast on Twitter at @justicepoints.

Thanks for listening!