Feminist gaming blog with a heaping dash of science and politics

Tag Archives: Sexism in Gaming

PAX Prime 2013: A review in bullet points

I’ve got so many words to write about PAX and only so few fingers to type. So I’m going to do away with the flowery prose of getting from point A to B to C and just do, well, points A, B, and C. Maybe even all the way to Z. We’ll see. (Is it just me or is this oddly rhyming as well?)


Also your IT lady and the whole of accounting and HR. Basically all your nerds are here and having way more fun than y’all folk stuck in the office.

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Et tu PAX?

Angry CatSo let’s talk about what went down in the waning hours of PAX Prime this year and all the other concomitant issues that surround the creators of Penny Arcade and PAX, Gabe and Tycho. Well mostly Gabe, but Tycho’s is complicit in it all as well. Yes, we’re talking about the Dickwolves again. I’m only going to do a quick overview because a lot more people have said a lot more intelligent things about it and have kept a lot more tabs on the whole mess than I have or ever could: Read more of this post

Sexual Dimorphism, Multimorphism, or Omnimorphism? – Character Design in MMOs Part 3

Previously we talked about the not-actually-real gender binary and how it’s represented in MMOs, with a particular interest in gender identity. ¬†Today we’re going to talk more about this false binary but with a concentration on the genre’s insistence on extreme sexual dimorphism between male and female characters of a given race. Some games are notorious for the drastic differences between male and female characters and some games have races that flip the script or avoid it altogether. However, confining ourselves to two body types is, by definition, keeping us stuck in binary thinking. What are our options for breaking out of the boring binary and have any games attempted something like this before?

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Breaking the Binary – Character Design in MMOs Part 2

The really beautiful thing about science fiction and fantasy is that it lets us explore ideas and circumstances different from our every day realities. They let us explore new places, meet new people, and live lives we could only dream of. It also lets us play with and push back on the ideas and values that our own society instills in us with heroic stories and epic sagas. And these stories are always at their absolute best when they make the alien familiar and the familiar alien to us, reflecting and refracting what we think we know. Our imagination is literally the limit when it comes to these kinds of story-telling.

So why then, in the vast majority of MMOs, the ultimate in interactive science fiction and fantasy story-telling, do we find ourselves meeting again and again races that are restricted to a gender and sex binary? And why is it always the same binary gender and sex system no matter if they are inter-galactic aliens, elves, dwarves, or beast races? Especially when we humans aren’t actually a binary species either?

Such tasty learning!

Such tasty learning!

This lovely little gingerbread denizen is a wonderful way to illustrate just how non-binary humans are with respect to both sex and gender. And even more so how sex, gender identity, and gender expression are not necessarily all tied together. Humans come in all shapes, identities, and modes of expressing themselves. That this is not a more commonly known concept is not because its rare for humans to fall outside of the “masculine man in a male body” and “feminine woman in a female body” circles, but because the mainstream culture does not do a good job of representing anybody but those who fall squarely into those circles. And this lack of media representation is very harmful. It makes their plights easier to ignore, their existence easier to gloss over, and their humanity easier to attack. Which is exactly why interactive science fiction and fantasy games, like MMOs, should be pushing the boundaries of what we can collectively imagine as ourselves being. If we can create and relate to goblins and wolf-people and zombies, we can and should be able to create and relate to non-binary characters as well.

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Depicting Gender: Character design in MMOs – Part 1

With the announcement of Everquest Next this weekend, I have been thinking a lot about how MMOs handle gender presentation in their character designs. Not that I don’t think a lot about this anyways, but I have been thinking about it in the context of how I really want to see a next gen MMO handle character design and customization. Character customization in games has always run the gamut from single player games like God of War with a single protagonist with a defined appearance and personality playing through a predetermined story line to games like SPORE where the player literally creates the character by taking them through the evolutionary path from single celled organisms to inter stellar system civilizations. For MMOs though, it’s all about creating you, or at least an avatar or character you dreamt up, and playing them within the world the game designers have built. That’s their bread and butter. All the raids, gear drops, quests, and class balancing that they’re always going on about are all just in service to that one idea: getting you, or the character you want to play, into their game world.

Everquest Next Concept Art

They said they were going to give you the choice between bikini armor and full coverage armor and maybe they will. But experience from every other game says this will not end well.

But what happens when the game design limits the player on who they’re allowed to be?

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