This article explores how video games may be a “cure” anti-LBGT bullying. It questions whether video games as stress relievers can have help bullied LBGT gamers cope. That’s..kind of a claim? The article ties stress relief as an method for coping with bullying, but I have to ask: isn’t that only treating the symptoms?
But don’t take it from me:
“I have been bullied quite a bit up until I reached the end of high school,” says Matt Conn, cofounder of Gaymer X, an LBGT gaming conference happening this August in San Francisco. “I wished I could have just been myself and honest about being a queer geek. … Games were my only escape for me. They allowed me to live in another world … having a team with me as we stormed Booster’s Castle in Super Mario RPG or defeating the evil Porky in Earthbound … really was magical.”
Video games certainly have stress relieving qualities (Have you played Flowers? SERENITY), and wanting to get into another state of mind is certainly a viable option for anyone having a hard day.
But I have to ask: Are video games any more stress relieving than other mediums? Books? Tv? The internet? The article isn’t claiming they are, but it’s not asking the question either. In fact, as the article points out video game communities and multiplayer games are often riddled with homophobic comments and bullying as well. These certainly aren’t issues in the other mediums mentioned, or at least not as prevalent.
Likewise, the article questions if video games can “cure” Anti-Bullying without really talking about changing the mindset of those doing the bullying. That’s….hard to do. But that’s not to subtract from what they do: Video games allow for LBGT youths to escape for a moment, and that’s certainly something positive.
With number of LBGT gamers in the video game community making a place for themselves more and more LBGT youths have outlets to be and express themselves on the internet and in games. In time, perhaps Video games may be able to change the mindset of people taking part in bullying of LGBT, but unfortunately it’s a slow uphill march towards acceptance.
“I want to be the very best, that no one ever was!”
It’s not all links and sadness here at the Sociology of Video Games, there’s also deep personal analysis about what Pokemon means to me. No, that’s not true either. However, I did think it would be fun and worthwhile to take the opportunity to examine some popular video game franchises for their messages about the social world. What better place to start than 2nd most popular gaming franchise of all time: Little Masters.
..No, wait. Sorry. That’s the Iphone’s bastard ripoff. I mean of course:
Pokemon is by far one of the definitive games of the 90s, with it being one of the best selling and most popular franchises of all time. 15 years (That makes me feel old) later and the franchise is still white hot, like that Misty’s Sweet short shorts (or Brocks..awesome vest. For the ladies..). For any kid growing up in the last decade, Pokemon may have played an important part in developing their frame of mind when viewing various aspects of the social world. But what are these messages and lessons about social world that Pokemon is teaching our kids? Are they good messages? Is pokemon only teaching our kids to trap animals in balls, and only let them out once and awhile to fight other animals? This isn’t a PETA analysis of Pokemon, but let’s play: Here are some themes and concepts Pokemon is teaching kids all over the world.
One of the more predominant themes that seem to be underlying the Pokemon is Capitalism. Now obviously the game isn’t teaching kids to accumulate wealth (Though there’s a lot of exchange of cash for kids battling bugs in the forest), but the goal of the Pokemon world isn’t that far from the goal of capitalism: Be the best, have the most. Now, one could theoretically go through the game without acquiring a lot of pokemon, but the game inevitably pushes you to catch multiple pokemon to succeed. That’s not a bad message, as it certainly teaches kids to be fiscally motivated (An issue we saw was lacking in games aimed at female gamers: See below)), but it also makes living creatures essentially into commodities. So..That’s bad. Not to mention you’re essentially an intern for Professor Oak; doing all his work for him while you get paid peanuts.
But like Capitalism, there’s never an end accumulation. With new games come new pokemon and the world is seemingly always expanding. Can one really catch them all? Yes…until there’s more. Gamefreak is teaching us to never be satisfied with what you’ve caught. Being Goal oriented isn’t bad though…most of the time.
Once you start thinking of monetary values in Pokemon, you probably will need to take a break from the franchise.
Like the theme that I still hum to myself to get me pumped up for any event ever, the goal of pokemon is to be the very best. Pokemon is all about competition. Every battle is teaching kids to outwit, overpower, and outdo their opponents. There can only be one pokemon master and if you’re not him or her, ya suck.
There’s not much you do in the Pokemon world that isn’t a means to an end: You raise a pokemon for it to be stronger, you trade with your friends to acquire what you need, and battling is the only worthwhile way to be the best. But hey, that’s not necessarily bad- some competition is healthy, and games like Pokemon build confidence and challenge kids to think about their actions. Kids today can become in powered by video games; if you’re the pokemon master in the Pokemon world, adding and subtracting fractions aint shit.
Ok. Ok. You may think is stupid, but Pokemon certainly has a caste system. Not all Pokemon are created equal my friend. In a world filled with thousands of Pidgeys and only a handful of Zapdos, there clearly some Pokemon that are better than others. Now some might argue with me and say “IT’S HOW U TRAIN THEM. MY LEVEL 100 PIDGEY IS THE BEST”, and I’m not going to pretend to know the stat balancing factors in the games, but it’s pretty clear that some pokemon are overpowered. In fact, most multiplayer/tournament rules prohibit certain Pokemon from being used because they are considered overpowered. Yes, it’s silly: Any video game you play will have some characters that are stronger than others, but does that lessen the message at all? Who knows. But certainly the game makes kids think of classifications and place certain pokemon in classes accordingly: These pokemon are strong, these are weak. Likewise, the very nature of game classifies pokemon into types- Fire, water, dragon, bug, etc. But hey, classifications help children learn, so it’s not all that bad.
It’s only when you start making Pokemon HM Slaves that you’re crossing the line and making a pokemon a second class citizen.
You Gotta be Social!
Pokemon was created to be a social game, even back when the gameboy wasn’t the most social things. Most gameboy connector cables were bought specifically for Pokemon, in fact how many mulitplayer games on the gameboy can you even think of? Yeah, ok I can think of quite a few. That said, Pokemon makes you be social, because without being social you can’t fulfill the one main task of the game: catching them all. Version exclusive pokemon and Pokemon that only were available through trading ensured that you were interacting with at least one other game. Gamefreak brilliantly made two versions of the game so that players had to either own both, or trade with someone else. Even if you owned both versions of the game (Which many of us did) you still had to have two gameboys to connect (which many of us did), so really the most efficient and cost effective way to obtain all the pokemon is to have friends. Recent Pokemon games have enabled players to go online and trade, battle, and interact with people all over the world, so Pokemon has really become a global community.
Why there hasn’t been a Pokemon MMO is ridiculous. Nintendo, you monsters. (Official MMOs. Sorry fan mades)
Other Quick Social lessons Pokemon has to Teach
All Animals, regardless of power, control over time and space, or size, can be shoved into a single ball after a series of attacks and coaxing.
We should probably check other parts of the world before we claim there’s only 151 of them.
Some animals are more racially insensitive than others
As a child, you’re very safe going out into the world on your own as long as you have some sort of animal at your side.
Don’t ever walk into tall grass. Things will attack you.
If someone attacks you and beats you, you’ll just black out and wind up in a hospital in the last city you visited.
Healthcare is free, but bottled waters are wicked expensive.
The world is kind of based on you, and people will more or less stand in the same place forever- even after you have interacted with them.
Sailing alongside islands makes crazy things happen.
So that’s that. There’s more Pokemon has to say about the social world, but I’ll leave it at this. Does Pokemon actually convey these messages that I brought up? Maybe, but no one is really being shaped all that much by the games in the manner. In the end, they’re just fun games with tons of replay value and things to do. Just make sure your starters a good one. Charmander for life.
Please let me know if you enjoyed this article by either liking, sharing or commenting. I may do some more in the future. Who knows. Who cares.
This is just a bit of great and funny news. A post that originated on “The Hawkeye Initiative”(which if you haven’t already gone and checked out you should do immediately) from a anonymous female employee of a gaming developer that was unhappy with a prominently displayed poster in their office shows how bringing to light issues of sexism can both be positive and fun (YEAH TALKING ABOUT SEXISM IS GREAT!).
The poster in question:
Our CEO loves this picture. It is to all appearances his favorite piece of comic art for the game. He had it blown up poster-sized, framed, and displayed on the out-facing wall of his office. There, it looms over the front room like a ship’s figurehead. It is the first thing workers and visitors see when they enter the building and the last thing they see when they leave. This little lady’s undermeats have been the open- and close- parens to my work world for the last six months.
To give a little background, the “Hawkeye Initiative” is a an internet movement to replace female comic book characters in impossible or provocative poses with the very masculine and alluring Hawkeye to comment on the depiction and representation of females in comic books. Essentially, they’re taking Powergirl’s skimpy poses and replacing them with bulging Hawkeye (Oh my!)
Thus, in keeping with the Hawkeye Initiative’s message, the employee got together with one of the developer’s artists and made this poster:
After replacing the posters, the CEO of the company had this to say to the employee:
“That was a brilliant prank. You called me on exactly the bullshit I need to be called on. I put up pictures of half-naked girls around the office all the time and I never think about it. I’m taking you and Sam to lunch. And after that, we’re going to hang both prints, side by side.”
Hey, that worked out. That was nice. The mastermind of this all also shared some insightful things that she learned from this experience:
This wonderful experience has taught me two things that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and in gaming. It taught me this:
Lots of men (like Sam) are already sympathetic to the stupid, constant crap women put up with in gaming/STEM, and they are ready and willing to call that crap onto the carpet.
And, most importantly, many of the guys who are behind that stupid, constant crap are totally decent, open-minded human beings who just don’t realize they’re doing it. You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you and your girlfriend are talking about shoes or menstruation until some dude walks into the room? Well sometimes guys don’t realize how much they’re talking about titties.
We just haven’t been around enough for them to notice.
So what does this teach us? Nothing? That we should replace pictures of things we dislike with things we like? It just goes to show that Sexism doesn’t have to be a silently fought issue. While no one is suggesting that all bosses/ceos/ people in charge are going to react like this great boss, one has avenues to breach these matters. And it’s true, the gaming industry is filled with more progressive minded individuals than you would think, so perhaps it’s time for men in the gaming industry to wise up a little more to the junk that their female co-workers have to deal with.
Should we have a Hawkeye initiative for the video game industry? Nathan Drake taking on the poses of Lara Croft per chance? Ryu striking the same poses of his female counterparts? As I type this, I wish I had the drawing ability to make these so.
(Caution, main picture on the article is a little on the NSFW side)
Here’s an article that was posted on the NYTimes Live site. To be honest, it’s not the greatest article, but it brings about a good point and is worth questioning. The author’s main argument is that objectification in video games is hurting games and the industry. I this true? Is he wrong? Should we care? Are there any horse socks? Is anyone even listening?
The author contends that female characters are typically objectified to the point of them being nothing more than objects to save; the quest isn’t about saving an individual, it’s about retrieving an object.The article uses the example of Princess Peach to exemplify this objectification, not as a object of of sex appeal, but as a character who represents the nothingness of many created female characters. It’s true, what do we know about Peach besides the fact that she gets kidnapped a lot, likes to bake cakes, and is occasionally not in the castle she’s supposed to be in? Then again, Mario Characters (Or even Nintendo characters in general) probably aren’t the best example of fleshed out characters. But it’s true, a lot of female characters in video games tend to be fairly one dimensional (NOT 2D EVEN. HARDY HAR HAR) and stereotype based. You needn’t look further than most Japanese RPGs to prove this. Without a doubt, these one-sided characters are hurting the representation of females in gaming, and not providing accurate role models and representations to gamers, but that’s not really the point the author is making.
The author is making the argument that this objectification of females in gaming is hurting developers where they care the most: the wallet.
We see a cover with a woman dressed in something that would give a stripper doubts, we automatically think “well that’s probably crap” and don’t buy it. This is a fairly big chunk of how women are portrayed on game covers, so publishers look at it and think the problem is women, not the portrayal of women.
HEY, THANKS FOR THAT QUOTE. Is this true of most gamers? I don’t I think it is. If we’ve learned anything from the media, it’s that sex sells. Would Dead Or Alive be as popular of a franchise without the complete objectification of women? Probably not. Hell, there’s even complete MMOs out there that were created on the idea “LET’S MAKE AN GAME WITH A BUNCH OF NAKED CHICKS”. Likewise, with a good portion of the gaming populace being teenage boys, it’s hard not to say that this gaming philosophy is working.
Speaking for myself, I agree with the author: games with large amount of “boob exposure” on the cover typically sway me away from looking further into them. Take Lollipop Chainsaw for example- a over the top, over-sexualized, ridiculous hack-in-slash that supposed to be decent
I will happily buy a game with such bad box art. I mean, sexiness aside, it’s still really ugly. Needless to say, not all games have women sexualized to this degree, and the game itself is a tad bit of a parody. However most gamers won’t know that, but will that sway them not buying the game? That wasn’t really the issue with this particular game, but it’s debatable.
So what should be done? Should sex appeal be removed from games all together? No. I wouldn’t say that. It has it’s place. Done correctly, a game that deals with themes of sexuality and objectification can actually be great.
Take for example Catherine on the PS3/360, a game where the cheating main character must make a decision between choosing his long term, less exciting girlfriend, or a very sexualized younger girl he has a one night stand with. Amongst many other themes, the game deals with subjects of infidelity, relationships, and objectification.It does it with great storytelling, consequences for your action, and interesting perspectives.
Unfortunately most games aren’t Catherine, and most developers are content with merely painting one dimensional characters with little remorse for the consequences. This isn’t an issue with female characters only, we should be asking more from our developers out of characters in general. Deeper characters = deeper experiences. That said, we should also be weary of games that are simply using sex to sell us a product.
So whether you agree with the author or not about whether objectification is hurting gaming developers, it certainly remains an issue in gaming and media in general.
Oh boy. This is a strange one. This week Nintendo released a patch for their popular life simulator 3DS title “Tomodachi Collection” that fixes bug that allows for same-sex relationships. Tomodachi is a Japanese life simulator title for the 3DS in which players can use their Wii/3DS Created Miis to interact, fall in love, and socialize with other characters (Think Animal Crossing or the Sims). The patch supposedly fixes a bug in the game that allows for two male Miis to fall in love, get married, and even have kids. I use the word bug, because it seems that Nintendo did not initially intend for same-sex couples in this game at all ( In fact, the bug does not work for 2 female Miis). The bug only works when a Mii is transferred over using the 3DS’ Mii Transfer system.
The patch, according to Nintendo, fixes “Human relations that become strange”. What Nintendo deems strange is unknown, as there’s plenty of relationships that become strange without having anything to do with same-sex coupling (It’s highly unlikely that the game will fix the hundreds of Hitler Miis out there hooking up with Miis of elderly women).
So we have to ask the question: Is patching the game to not allow same-sex relationships the right thing to do? It’s a tough one, especially for Nintendo. Tomodachi Collection wouldn’t be the first life simulator to allow for same-sex relationships, as games like “The Sims” have already allowed for Same-sex sims to fall in love, get married, and even do the nasty together. That said, Tomodachi Collection is a game primarily aimed at kids (Although it’s odd that a life simulator is aimed at a group of people whom, you know, just started life) and having two males conceive a baby together is less than natural (Granted, no more odd than consuming a leaf and turning into a raccoon that can fly). Although one could make the argument that they could simply fix the males getting pregnant aspect and not the relationship aspect. But should they? Nintendo never intended to take a stance on the issue to begin with, and patching the game does not necessarily mean that they are taking a stance. Nintendo isn’t exactly the company you expect to be shaking things up, so it’s only natural for them to be playing it safe with this. Then again, many fans of the game are already disappointed that the game has been patched, eliminating their ability to choose their relationships in the game.
Nintendo is certainly taking the cautious route with this one, but we have to ask: “should our game developers be promoting progressive social issues and social causes?”. Video games are a great tool of socialization, and in making games with progressive social issues is certainly one way of slowing inching towards social change. Perhaps games like Tomodachi Collection can be tools of change.
Then again, Nintendo hasn’t even developed a perfect system for me to play with my friends over the internet, do I really want to them taking the reigns on social issues that don’t have to do with Turtle/lizard creatures being second class citizens? Probably not.
These two articles came out in the last few days, and they examine how children’s gaming is gendered, and ask the question “what are games teaching or not teaching our daughters”. The authors ask how video games can be used to teach young girls the attributes and qualities that young women often lack (like the drive to be the financial breadwinner) that young men seemingly gain. They evaluate video games as tools of socialization that are instilling these qualities in boys, and not girls.
Super Princess Peach teaches young girls to save the day by using their emotions.
Media at large paints women as the damsel in distress much more often than as a strong female lead, and video games are no different. The princess role is as old as writing itself, and characters like Peach and Zelda are certainly only modern interpretation. Even though we’ve seen Peach take the reigns in games like Super Princess Peach, Super Paper Mario, and every Mario Sports title ever (SHE CHEATS IN MARIO STRIKERS. YOU KNOW IT. I KNOW IT), lead female roles in video games are still rare. Certain franchises have been more progressive than others, enabling players to choose between genders (See Mass Effect, Pokemon, etc) but the majority of story driven games are often centered around males; there’s some, but not too many. Likewise, games with female main characters tend to have their protagonist silent (see Metroid, Portal 2)
Final Fantasy XIII Prominently features Lightning as the main character…A lot of male gamers..didn’t like her (Then again they hated everyone in the game)
But is their hypothesis true? Can video games be used to make young girls more ambitious? Certainly. Why not. Hey, ok. Video games are inevitably a tool of socialization in today’s world; young boys and girls are learning lessons and characters from their on screen personas ( I learned how to be a battle toad from Battle Toads). Thus, it’s important that young girls have strong role models in their games, rather than merely pushing gender roles upon our young. Likewise, it’s up to us to monitor and know about the games our kids our playing and to choose games and stories that reflect the ideas and attributes we want to instill in our kids.
Some awesome games with strong female characters:
Beyond Good and Evil
Tomb Raider (Eh)
Metroid Prime Triology
Please comment or share your thoughts, favorite games with female leads, or anything!
This interesting article hit the web last week. It chronicles one female’s gamers struggle towards acceptance in both her online communities and her real world gaming community.
“A lot of ‘gamer’ guys just never respected my opinions,” she said. “I’ll be talking about games with my friends, and there would be this one guy who always thought my taste in games were too girly and childish […] He said I wasn’t a ‘real gamer.’” Even so close to home, female gamers are met with hostility for expressing their interest in video games.
This unfortunate story tells a truth about the gaming industry: it’s kinda sexist. Well, maybe not kinda, maybe REALLY sexist. Female gamers, whom make up a healthy population of the gaming world (coming in at 47%) are often still disregarded as casual on non-gamers. That’s not to mention that the majority of video game being developed are specifically aimed at young males, rather than their female counterparts.
Cooking Mama’s not part of the problem, right? OH NO!
Where’s this hostility coming from? Well, I don’t know if I need to say this, but: YOUNG MEN ARE STUPID, HORMONE DRIVEN, ASSHOLES. That is to say, place a young male gamer on the internet and let them loose with pure anonymity as their dark side comes out. You needn’t look further than a message board flame war for this (OH GOD, THE WARS I’VE SEEN!). With the veil of the internet, young male oppress and harass female gamers in ways they’d never do in person. However, as this article contends, the harassment and oppression doesn’t end online- female gamers are often disregarded and marginalized by their peers, dismissed as non-gamers or casual gamers. The picture of a “hardcore gamer” in the eyes of many males game is only one gender.
So what can we do? This isn’t a karate movie in which Hilary Swank is going to train and prove her worth to boys (No one makes The Next Karate Kid references, and for good reason..). We as gamers need to realize that we have to play nicely. Gaming is no longer the introverted activity it once was, and that your gaming world is all of our gaming world. We also need to examine what makes a gamer; is it the type of games we play, or the people we are? Likewise, developers need to keep in check the messages and images they conveying, and putting forth. Through acknowledgement and acceptance, marginalization in the gaming world will one day disappear.