Marinaisgo: None of my drafts are interesting, and I have no idea what to write about instead. Twitter, what should tomorrow’s blog be about? lthrchris89: @Marinaisgo the careful balancing act of proper learning curves, why some games rock and some games fail at grabbing the casual gamer
mechtroid: @Marinaisgo Why people value difficulty in the games they play and jobs they do.
Ok. That’s freaky. You guys should hang out. Actually, besides this question I don’t think there are any two of my twitter followers that could be more different from each other.
Anyway, this is like that part in the Matrix where somebody tells Neo that the first world the machines made was perfect, but it didn’t work because people kept killing themselves, or rejecting the alternate reality or something. In fact, I was just having a conversation about difficulty levels this morning with my sweet boyfriend while we walked out awesome dog. I told him that, per capita, the rate of mental illness in the first world far outstrips the third world, but now that I’m writing this, I can’t find any articles to support my claim. At least they seem to be happier in the third world, which is really what I’m getting at anyway. Ease without skill, money without work, possessions without substance will always lead a person headlong into ennui. That’s one of the reasons I get so much joy out of this blog. Meaningful work is a major mood stabilizer for me.
You should probably try not to consider what kind of universe I live in where cracking jokes about Snoop Dogg’s Partnership with Hot Pockets is meaningful work. Let’s just say it’s magical and leave it at that.
For the most part, recreation is very much the same as the rest of our lives. We want to be engaged, we want to be challenged in small ways that allow us to repeatedly feel the sense of accomplishment we get from a job done right. Games present this, or at least try to. They are accomplishment machines. Put in a little time, master the (hopefully) relatively simple learning curve and all of a sudden you’re saving the galaxy, getting the ladies (or dudes), and being fucking awesome. All from the comfort of your personal naked time. I think, more than the story, graphics or gameplay, the learning curve is what has put me off most of the games I’ve ever been put off of. Too slow, and I get bored, too fast and I get frustrated. And, unlike life, where you just have to bend over and take that learning curve up your ass and out your throat, games can be rage quit. And frequently are, if you’re like me. Actually, since I made a conscious decision to stay the fuck away from Grand Theft Auto games, I have yet to rage-quit a game. Oh wait, that’s not true. I rage-quit the rotating spike pillars of death in God of War. Ben actually had to complete that level for me as I paced back and forth and yelled at the TV behind him.
That whole level was mega brutal:
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, how much that Hades level in God of War fucking SUCKED. I still love that game, though. You my boy, Kratos!
Do you ever read something back and think “Someday, I’m going to sound really smart.” Probably when this language is obsolete. People will think I’m Shakespeare. I mean, look at what they think about Shakespeare. Half his jokes are fart jokes, and nobody even knows it.
Why yes I did just write that addendum so I could use an adorable GIF I found on tumblr, how sweet of you to notice.
A comment on my Tomb Raider article from last week has got me thinking in broader terms about “rape culture” in video games. Geared for Gamers reader Poco Puffs asked me what I thought about the Hitman trailer, which had been getting a lot of negative attention for Hitman beating the ever-living crap out of some extremely sexualized bondage nuns. Having absolutely no familiarity with Hitman whatsoever, I went and read a couple of other people’s articles on the trailer, and I responded in my own comment. However, I think that my answer wasn’t long enough to articulate what I really wanted to say, not just about Hitman and Lara Croft, but about sex, violence and video games in general. So, here is my current opinion on rape culture in video games, to the best of my ability, with the resources available to me at this time.
I want to start out with two disclaimers. First, we’re going to be acknowledging that rape exists and I’m going to use the word rape… a lot. Second, I’m a feminist, but I’m not a very good one. I basically operate off the principle that men and women should be treated as equals and that’s kind of it. Then again, I think that this is the way most people operate when they identify with a doctrine that’s as massive and varied as feminism is. Not all democrats think Bill Clinton is amazing, not all Christians think homosexuality is a sin, and not all feminists cry ‘rape culture’ whenever a female character gets injured in a piece of media.
If you want to see what a professional feminist thinks about women in videogames, watch this space. Aside from being a little bit of a hard-on (by which I mean that she can sometimes come off as self-righteous and condescending to men without acknowledging women’s roles in our own oppression), Anita Sarkeesian is basically the best voice the Internet has right now on feminism and pop culture. I am massively interested in what her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series will bring us, but until then, here’s what I have to say on the subject.
First of all, I want to talk about rape culture. Rape culture is basically any cultural practice or feature that makes it easier for people to rape other people and get away with it. Different people have different views on what specific factors create rape culture. For example, most reasonable people would agree at this point that telling a person who has just been brutally attacked that they brought it on themselves, either through their dress of their actions creates a hostile environment for victims and probably contributes to victim silence, which in turn contributes to rapist freedom. And yet, that still happens with surprising frequency.
On the other hand, some feminist scholars have made arguments that pornography reinforces rape culture. Ostensibly, the idea, as far as I can tell is this: Men are the majority of porn viewers, as well as the majority of rapists, and both porn and rape involve sex. Therefore porno leads to rape. Again, a concept most reasonable people would find ridiculous. Saying pornography leads to rape is like saying that cooking shows lead to cannibalism.
Sexually objectified characters are rarely more than two-dimensional eye candy, it’s true. The argument against misogynistic portrayals of women and the argument against tacky, sensationalist media can frequently be one in the same. As much as I love video games, female characters are largely absent, and when they are present, they tend not to be heroes, only prizes or window dressing.
One of the things I said in my comment in regard to the Hitman trailer, is that they had a perfect opportunity to sexualize him at the beginning when he’s cleaning the blood off himself. Sadly, the game developers didn’t recognize that opportunity, which makes the objectification of the nuns at the end of the trailer seem more out of place than it really needs to be. The failure isn’t that they’re sexualizing these women as they get beat to bits, it’s that they’re not sexualizing Hitman as he beats them to bits. If Hitman is going to be a no-holds barred gore and whore-fest, make it an equitable one. Let’s not pretend that we’re so socially evolved that most of us no longer enjoy a little bit of baseless debauchery.
No one, and I mean no one, turns on the private browsing feature in order to abuse themselves to eloquent descriptions of someone’s glowing personality. We all participate in some level of objectification in our daily lives. Shaming people for our interest in sexy images is like shaming people for our love of processed sugars. The reason those products are successful is because they operate on supply lines we’re evolutionarily bound to respond to. Pretending that we as a society don’t appreciate sex and violence is disavowing about 80% of both our literature and our history. And pretending that only men enjoy sex and violence is almost as misogynistic as pretending that women can’t make good heroes.
Now that I’ve told all the boys and girls at home that it’s alright to get tight-pantsy about the Hitman bondage nuns, does that mean that rape culture isn’t relevant in gaming? Hardly. The games we play are inextricably linked to the culture we created them in. We still live in a culture where rapists are protected and victims are punished. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it still kind of sucks.
“Against our Will: Men, Women and Rape” by Susan Brownmiller was published in 1975 and is considered by some to be the origin of the term rape culture, although Brownmiller’s phrase was actually “rape-supportive culture.” At the time, the majority of Americans didn’t believe that rape, sexual assault, and sexual molestation were common crimes. The extremely low level of awareness allowed sexual predators to operate largely undisturbed. It’s only because of the consciousness raising work that feminists have done in the ensuing decades that we have the kind of society where people wax academic over Lara Croft and Hitman ‘contributing to rape culture,’ or ‘objectifying women.’
But the journey from raising awareness about rape and rape culture, to debating what is and is not rape culture, or where and how rape culture develops has had some side effects that aren’t altogether helpful. For example, in emphasizing how frequently (1 in 5, according to some studies) women are the victims of rape or molestation, we now consciously live in a society where a woman is more likely to be a rape victim than almost any other thing. We’ve started to exist in a continuum of those who have already been raped and those that still might be. Which, while productive in raising awareness, also hangs a sword of Damocles over our collective heads.
Suddenly, all of our actions become suspect/dangerous. A woman riding the bus, going to the store, or jogging in her neighborhood alone is a potential victim. As is any girl who drank too much at a party, any female under the age of 12 more than 10 feet from a guardian or any woman anywhere. After all, 1 in 5 of us will be or have been. It’s starting to get to the point where we get that women are rape victims. What we don’t get is that women, in addition to whatever their personal history, are also bus riders, and consumers, and exercise freaks. We’re drunks, and little girls and we have the potential to be any damn thing we want, despite the fact that we still live in a rape culture. Just because rape exists, and just because 91% of rape victims are female doesn’t mean that women have any less agency in our day to day existence. Sometimes we lose sight of that fact.
Which is how some of us can look at the Hitman trailer, see that the nuns outnumber Hitman 8 to 1, and are clearly carrying superior weaponry, and still consider them the victims. If gender roles had been reversed, and we caught sight of a scarred and bleeding female character being charged by 8 guys armed with submachine guns, who use an RPG to reduce her hotel to flaming ashes, the feminist bloggers would be going crazy about that too. But our preconceptions of women as victims or potential victims is coloring our experience of the trailer.
Earlier I said that my feminist convictions are basically that women and men are equal, and that they should be treated as such. In a perfect world, nobody would be bothered by Hitman because he’d be just as likely to be an ass-kicking woman as he would be an ass-kicking man, as would his or her opponents and allies. We wouldn’t have to tell little girls that they can be anything little boys can be, and Legos and Barbies would be just as appropriate a present for a girl or a boy dependent, not on gender, but on the personal preferences of each child.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where little girls get books on make-up tips and BFF bracelet makers while boys get building tools and books on snake-bite safety. Where you’re so unlikely to see a female in a video game or an action movie that people actually wrote blogs thanking Marvel Studios for having women in the background of their hot-dude sausage-fest, The Avengers (not that I’m complaining, it’s more than anybody else is doing.) If striving for a future where women really are equal to men, then we have to be able to inhabit every space our brothers inhabit, regardless of propriety or morality. Which means that, not only can we be bad guys, but we should be bad guys. Women can and should have every bit as much inclination to take a pop at Hitman as men do, and Hitman should have every right to dispatch them as summarily as he dispatches his male opponents. We can not be equal to men if we are continually casting ourselves as the victims.
The problem I had with the Tomb Raider trailer isn’t that Lara Croft is chased by men, or that she is harmed by men, or that she is harmed at all. It’s that the whole time this is happening, her fear-responses are almost pornographic. The shuddering whimpers, the wide-eyed gasping, the pitiful crying are all pathetic. The heavily armed, adult women in the Hitman trailer are active participants in their own gory destruction. Lara Croft, on the other hand, is a scared child fleeing and fighting for her life. Lara truly is a victim, a role I personally am tired of seeing women cast in. Compared to yet another rabbit-scared lady, hiding in the shadows, Hitman’s nuns were a breath of fresh air.
I imported my comments from GearedforGamers.com
I admit I’m not familiar with the Hitman games. I assume you’re referring to the nun trailer, and not the one where he kills all those dudes to get to the woman in the shower who should probably have significance, but who I don’t know at all.
I see there’s been some guff about the game ‘normalizing violence against women,’ and I don’t go in for that at all. I think it’s an unfair world we’re building where bad guys have to be guys. Hitman (as the name implies) kills people. So to have a trailer where he helps little old ladies across the street and kisses kittens on the top of their furry widdle heads would be ridiculous.
The women in the Hitman trailer are 1) bad guys 2) adults 3) seriously armed 4) not the player character. I don’t have a problem with Hitman pulling a Neo on a crowd of sexy, armed, evil, bitches. Bad guys get slaughtered. That’s point of most games.
In her article Michelle Starr (http://www.cnet.com.au/how-hitman-is-insulting-us-all-339338883.htm) talks about how “we’re supposed to be turned on by their brutal murder” and that the game is attracting “the kinds of people who get off on hurting women.” I think that statements like this are an oversimplification.
As if anytime a woman gets injured we should all weep tears of blood for her brutalization. It’s not the injury, or the duress, or the blood I have a problem with in the Tomb Raider trailer, it’s something more nuanced and difficult to articulate. It’s her helpless whimpering and her doe-eyed terror, her lack of power and her pathetic crying. None of which are present in the Hitman trailer.
And can we take a break from being morally superior here and just acknowledge that violence and sex are very close together in our brains and in our lives? You find me a human who’s never had one violent sexual thought and I’ll show you a human who’s never had sexual thoughts at all. I personally loved watching Hitman slaughter those ladies. I thought it was sexy. I have a feeling a lot of other people did too, that doesn’t mean we’re bad people.
Not to say that Hitman trailer is a shining beacon of equality. I think it is a failure that the Hitman character is not as equally portrayed in the shots of him cleaning the blood off himself before the nun fight. I say, if you’re going blue, go all the way. Have sexy nuns and a sexy Hitman sexily murdering each other, if that’s what you’re going for.
In response to someone who said that focusing on the rape and ignoring the murder was counter intuitive.
I play games to straight up murder dudes. In God of War 3 when Kratos totally beats Zeus to death and you can see it through his increasingly blood filled eyes, I was overjoyed. I have absolutely no moral ground to stand on in regard to violence in games. However, there’s about a million miles of bullshit between me wanting to snipe guys heads off and watch them explode like melons, and me wanting to watch my own character get raped. And I know that she doesn’t actually get raped, but it’s still bullshit. And shoveling rape and murder into the same category doesn’t work for me. Rape is such a different, more terrible crime than just shooting someone. People I know have served in wars, where they killed people, and everybody understands that they were doing their duty to serve their country. If we suddenly found out they were raping people in addition to killing them, I have a feeling the majority of us would no longer be their friends.
So my amazing boyfriend is going to be stuck at work pretty much every waking for the next month, and I’m pretty bummed about that. He’s already been working a lot of overtime and coming home really late for the last month, but it’s about to get worse. At least I’ll get conjugal visits on the weekends.
So, to cheer myself up, I decided to make a list of things I could do while he’s a work to keep myself occupied and my mind out of the sad sack.
Go to the movies
Being a former film student, Ben hates the movies. He’ll tell you he doesn’t, but he never wants to go, unless it’s a super hero movie. As a former English student, I reserve all my hatred for novels and totally love the movies. So while he’s working, I can go to the movies by myself, which is something I’ve always really liked to do.
Clean the house
He’s slaving away at work, I might as well be a little bit productive over here on my end, right?
Practice my ukulele
My hipstrument has been sorely neglected. I like playing simple chords and singing familiar songs, especially when there’s no one around to be disturbed by the terrible racket of me trying to play and sing at the same time.
Get back on top of the blog
I like to have at least 5 blog posts in the can and ready to auto-publish on any given day. Currently, I have one (this one.) I’d like to rectify that
Get back into regular exercise
It seems like this year has just been a string of reasons to not go for my jogs, or do any regular exercise beyond a simple walk around the block at work. Foremost of which are sickness and stress. Lately when I get home from work I’m just too tired to imagine doing anything. I finally went back to the gym Friday and Monday, only to get an epic sore throat that lasted all day Tuesday and Wednesday, and is only starting to feel less unendingly terrible as I type this on Wednesday night.
Get back on a regular sleep schedule
Since Ben’s been getting home late, I’ve been waiting up for him to get home at around 10 p.m., having dinner with him at around 11 p.m. and getting to bed at around midnight, after which I tend to have insomnia the entire night while he snores away peacefully at my side. If he won’t be getting home till even later than that, I won’t be able to wait up for him and I can set a more reasonable bed time and hopefully sleep through the night. Although getting to sleep without him and also not waking up when he does come home are both pretty tall orders.
Eat boatloads of raw fruits and veggies
Ben cooks all our food because I am a culinary disaster zone. One of the things I can do is cut up fruit, veggies, and cheese. So when he’s not making the food, that’ll be my diet, which I quite like. Although I’ll have to go buy something if I want meat, since that requires heat.
Play Hip Hop and Hardcore Over the Speakers
What can I say, my boyfriend’s a Weezer fan.
Finish playing Mass Effect 3 with my two other Shepards
The only Shep I’ve played through all the way is my first Shep, who I call Black Shep because she’s black. White Shep and Gay Shep (also obvious reasons) are still at various stages in ME2 and 3. At first, I was going SPOILER: use each one of the Sheps for each one of the three endings, but now that I have subscribed to Indoctrination Theory, I’ll be destroying all synthetics and winning the game right. I can see that the spoiler highlight didn’t really do anything to hide what I just wrote. Sorry, I don’t know how to fix that.
Take a class (this is a link, click on it)
Actually, the classes going on right now are not interesting to me at all, and the classes I did sign up for both start after he’s back on a regular schedule, but I thought this was really cool, so I wanted to include it in case you guys were interested in free ivy league classes.
What other by-myself stuff can I do? What do you do when your SO is gone for a period of time?
I play all my games on easy because I have a saying: Life is hard, videogames should not be. I also have another saying: Life is boring, videogames should not be.Trials Evolution is neither boring, nor difficult…at first. It never gets boring, but it also happens to get insanely difficult, and sort of in the way where you can hear the developer laughing at you from the ether as you crash face first into an oil barrel, a stone fist, a shipping container, and so on. Really, when you buy Trials Evo, you’re getting two games: a fun, visually stunning, self aware motocross game, and a serious platformer with an outpouring of creativity and depth behind it. Even if you only appreciate one of those things, this game will be good to you.
First off, let’s get to the basics. Every course shows three medals that you can get: bronze, silver and gold. I’ve read that if you do insanely well, you can get a platinum medal, although there’s no spot for it on the stats page, and of course I’m not about to bring my 45 second run down to 25 before this review is out the door. Just completing a course will get you a bronze medal, everybody gets that. Silver, gold and platinum are doled out when you make a certain time. The game won’t tell you what that time is, but it does offer a handy little yellow dot with your name on it to show you where your best time racer would be if you were racing yourself. It also shows you handy white dots with your friends’ names on them so you can not only see who’s kicking the pants off you, but also glean how they’re doing that. If they hang back on a jump you gun it on, and end up face planting at the end of, you can get an idea of what to do next time. But even if you do crash, it’s usually a good time because the rider will fall out ragdoll style, much to everyone’s amusement. If you don’t get to see your rider crash, you get a treat anyway because at the end of every race, the rider is usually exploded, or dropped, or catapulted to his death in a rather graphic way, which is awesome and funny.
Trials Evolution has four basic sections separated by four different tutorial levels, or license tests. Licenses D and C have one level each, licenses B and A have two. The levels have anywhere from 5 to 12 courses in them for you to ride. In order to get to the next license test level, you must earn a certain amount of medals. This is always more medals than you can earn by simply completing each course, which is a good thing. At first, I was annoyed by the repetition of courses, as I am always annoyed by having to repeat anything at all ever (pet peeve). But my annoyance was diminished by the fact that these courses are beautiful and fun, and the better you are at riding them, the more you can take in the course while you go, and the more delightful it is when you don’t keep crashing all over the place. Besides, Trials isn’t really a game you want to blow through. If I hadn’t been writing this review, I would have moved a lot slower through the levels.
The License D beginner level is called Walk in the Park is exactly what it says on the tin: No rough stuff, above the belt, over the clothes and all that. In License C’s Fuel for the Flames, it gets a little more exciting as you can do more complex tricks with your bike, so you get more interesting courses to ride.
License B is where the game starts to take a turn. The goal is still to complete the race in good time, but instead of racing through and trying not to fall, the player will notice that speed is not really their friend. These courses have a lot of jumping the bike, stalling it at just the right moment, and taking advantage of weight shifting in order to manipulate the machine to cover varied and unpredictable terrain. The first of the B license levels, Terminal Velocity, isn’t really that bad: It’s interesting to shift gears and try something new. I’ve always been a fan of platformers, so this is definitely fun. Although difficult, it’s rewarding to coax the bike into new and different feats of agility. The second level, Cutting Edge, is where they lost me. This tedious, concept album of a level feels like it’s basically a collection of all the courses the developers made when they were messing around after work. There’s a completely black and white course with the camera fixed at a panorama in which you have to navigate moving gears as a feature. There’s also a seemingly never ending course where the respawn points are as far away from each other as the length of some other courses in their entirety. Someone on my friends list managed to finish it in 14 minutes, earning them a bronze medal. I spent thirty minutes in the same position, gritting my teeth trying to get through this course before the game decided I was finished for me. My feet, legs, butt and trigger finger all went numb and I got nothing.
Needless to say, I was unable to make it to the A license test. If you play the game at a leisurely pace, unlike myself, your skill level will increase naturally over time, and I have a feeling that you’ll appreciate the insanely hard upper levels as you continue to play.
Not being a big fan of getting cussed at by 12 year olds, I don’t find myself on live that often, but as this is a review, I played a couple of rounds. Live play is really simple. There are 3 or 4 players on a track, your name is colored a nice green and trails out behind you as you ride, and the tracks are from the game so you’ll be familiar with them. Everyone was younger than me and better than me, so that’s nothing new. At-home multiplayer is more fun, in my opinion. Multiplayer supports 2 to 4 players, names in white, familiar tracks except modified for 4 people. If you crash or fall behind, the game kindly respawns you at a future point in the course so the screen doesn’t pan out too much. Points in multiplayer are calculated in an obscure way and frequently the person who finished first is not the real winner. I think this may have something to do with respawns and tricks, although I wasn’t really able to figure that out completely.
I liked that bike and rider customizations carry over into multiplayer both at home and on live. I often have trouble telling my track from that of the other player, even if my name is sticking out of my head the whole time. Something about there being more than one person on the screen always makes me look at the other person’s character. Customization in this instance can be invaluable. Besides, I was always the kind of kid that dressed her barbies up and then threw them back in the box, so you know my biker is fab-u-las. Also, he keeps me from trying to drive another player’s bike, which usually results in me crashed and flailing around for several seconds while my eyeline follows someone else’s rider off the screen.
Speaking of customization, I also tried the level maker. Having only ever dealt with the level maker from Little Big Planet, I can honestly say this is the easiest, most intuitive and helpful level maker I’ve ever used. Ever. There are two different kinds of level maker: easy for the casual creator and pro for those with broader talents. Unlike in Trials HD, the predecessor to this game, you can share your levels with every other user, and download levels to play yourself. Let me just say that people have been busy. There are already a ton of different levels to choose from. Most of the higher rated levels are homages to other games or movies. I played a recreation of the Terminator 2 LA River chase scene by one suttonleo2 that was rather awesome. Of course, fan made levels won’t have the smoothness of finished game tracks, but what they lose in catchiness, they make up for in creativity. The semi truck in the terminator course was made entirely out of gameplay materials, none of which is a semi truck.
Overall, I highly recommend Trials Evolution. For 1200 microsoft points, or roughly 15 American dollars, this game is a great one to have around the house. It’s fun to play with friends, it’s fun to play for a wind-down, it’s even fun to play on Live. There are tons of hours of entertainment packed into this thing, and for only $15 it’s a hell of a deal. Yeah, I got frustrated with the higher levels, but those aren’t there for someone who’s only had the game a week. This is the kind of game you go back to over and over again. This is the game you pull out when your mom wants to know why xbox is so fun, this is the game you sit your little cousins in front of on Thanksgiving, this is the game you tool around on when you’ve got no plans and the television sucks. The price is right, the game is fun, I’d buy it for you if I liked you enough. What are you waiting for? Get this game!
For every guy that has a “friendzone” story, there’s a girl out there who has a story about “the friend guy.” The friend guy is a guy who pretends to be your friend in the hopes that you will sleep with him. He’s not just a nice guy, or a polite guy, or an actual friend who wouldn’t mind sleeping with you, because I’ve had those as well and none of them are The Friend Guy. TFG is a guy who says things like “you know I’m here for you” when you tell him you had a hard day at work, and it’s not even serious, the printer just jammed it’s not like your mom died but he wants to take you for coffee and “cheer you up” when anybody who actually knew you would know that “a hard day at work” means I’m turning off the lights and hacking / shooting my enemies heads off for at least 3 hours while I imagine that each one is the printer that wronged me. TFG says things like “I know you” when he DOES NOT KNOW YOU AT ALL and probably never will, because whenever you talk to him all you can see in his eyes is a running calculation of how much more of your shit he has to take until boobs. Which is a completely horrible basis for a friendship as well as a crap active listening technique.
Kind and polite women will do things like say “oh I never could, we’re too good of friends” when TFG says inappropriately sexual shit in an awkward and skeevy way. What they’re really saying is “stop talking to me, I will not have sex with you and I suspect the delusion that I eventually will do is the reason you’re still calling me.” The reason women with any kind of social graces whatsoever will not say the second version and save themselves and everyone a lot of creepy trouble is the chance we might be wrong. The first time I kissed my boyfriend, I thought he was just being friendly, because hot guys that I like never like me back, so his tongue in my mouth must be some fun little thing Oregonians do.. Kurt Cobain kissed a lot of people, he was from the Pacific Northwest, wasn’t he? People are wrong about people all the time, and they do stupid things about that and it’s awkward and tragic.
Why am I writing about friendzoning on a video game website? Because of “kindness coins.” On Wednesday April 4 at 10 after 7 p.m., Aeryn Walker tweeted “Friendzoning is bullshit because girls are not machines that you put Kindness Coins into until sex falls out.” And about 5 days later, Balimund the blacksmith in Riftin comma Skyrim wants my gay Orc ass because I gave him 10 fire salts. For 500 gold worth of magically flavored spice, this man would give me his life, and move to my crap house in Whiterun and make me food while my dumb followers hang around and get in the way. Of course, I said yes, because that’s how love works. I got my own real life boyfriend to come live with me by giving him.. oh wait, that’s totally not how love works, although I can see how some people might get confused.
Social interaction is needlessly complicated and tedious and awkward. If there was a friendship Sim on the market, no one would play it. We have enough trouble making true friends in real life as it is. Video games are for killing dudes, driving fast and picking up easy bed mates. And yet, the correlation between the way TFG calculates convo to boob ratios, and the way I got a husband in Skyrim, upwards of 20 wives and husbands in Fable, and kissed a pile of my classmates in Bully (remember that game? So underrated!) is totally completely by inserting kindness coins until kisses and husbands and ‘fade to black’ cut scenes fell out.
Are we teaching children that relationships are like any other market exchange by reinforcing that idea through gameplay? Probably not, but my article isn’t done, so let’s say MAYBE! Yes, it’s true that being nice to people will help you make friends, but randomly doing nice things for people, like running all over the realm and picking up spices when you don’t know them from Adam and being casually proposed to right after that happens is odd, not nice. If you think the world works like this, you may have boundary issues.
Real friendships come from really boring shit like listening to somebody whine about their mother, or cancer, or their mother’s cancer. Except it’s not boring when you’re real friends because you care about that person, and you want to know what’s up with them. Depending on the level of care, you might even want to know what they had for lunch today, or what they did at work,or what they really think of your new dress. And friendships are formed on more than just favors, there’s the issue of common interest, common experience, common personality. I once knew a girl who I agreed with on every important issue, or at least every issue I thought was important at that time in my life. And yet, she was a dud. Despite the fact that any biographer would consider us perfect for each other, we were not friends no matter what we did. It was an issue of personality. She had none (no, really she’s a fine girl, we just had nothing of actual importance in common, which is when I learned that the issues I thought were important were actually just window dressing.)
There’s really nothing you can say or do to make yourself a friend. Humans just sort of grow together like the malicious earth-destroying fungus we really are inside. The way we learn this process is by doing, by trying to be friends, by breaking up and starting over again. By learning boundaries: how to set them, how to respect them and why.
No game can teach that. But on the same token, no game can unteach that. I doubt that a lifetime of proper socialization can be wiped out in one, or three or a million different versions of the fire salts for marriage exchange that my Orc committed in Skyrim. The gaming community has already had this conversation a thousand times vis-a-vis gaming and murder, and since we’ve well established that Grand Theft Auto turned none of us into Miami Vice bad guys, or Russian immigrant mobsters – at least none of us who weren’t already going to be Miami Vice bad guys or Russian immigrant mobsters, we can probably bet that the same rules apply to monetizing relationships.
Are there people out there (let’s not pretend that sociopathy is an affliction that only targets men) who think that friends, are friend / sex / stuff machines that you put kindness coins into until friendship / sex / stuff falls out? Of course! Are video games making them worse? I don’t think so. More awkward? Maybe, but there’s a difference between being awkward and lacking a basic understanding of the use and nature of adult relationships and partnerships. And I think as gameplay gets more sophisticated, we’re going to see a move away from the missions for mammaries exchange. The friendship/relationship systems in Bioware games are definitely a step in the right direction. Yeah, the exchange has gone from pointless grocery gathering to picking the right response at the right time with no regard to your own moral compass (Garrus hates rules: “fuck it, we LIVE ON THE EDGE!” Ashley hates aliens: “Yeah, they skeeve me out too [totally hook up with Liara anyway.]“) So now we’re moving away from outright bartering and more towards a duplicitous chameleon situation, but it’s a step in the more complex direction, and I think the right one. Will game friends ever replace real friends, no that would be terrible. Will gaming sims ever really duplicate friendship? No that would be boring.
If you find yourself wondering where I’ve been lately, maybe you should be asking who I’ve been lately.
Mass Effect three is as amazing as I thought it would be. It’s a struggle to not call off everything in my life so I can stay home and play. I’ve never been the type of person who thinks that there is one book everyone should read, or one movie everyone should see, but Mass Effect is the one videogame trilogy that everyone should play.
I will forever hold all other games to its standard. It can do no wrong in my eyes.
I feel that I’m a somewhat unexpected video game fan. I never played video games growing up, I didn’t get into them in high school, I really had no interest in them until college, when I started dating my amazing boyfriend, who is an avid computer and video game player.
For the uninitiated video gamer, there is definitely a learning curve. This can ruin the game experience for a spoilsport like myself. However, when you’re young, broke and without cable, the siren song of an adjacent xbox can really be compelling. Keep in mind that college is a special time in a young person’s life when an xbox isn’t hard to come by, but money for a matinee or a dinner not wrapped in paper is an extravagance too far.
Having acquired access to this new toy, and a library of games through the process of sexual conquest, I began my xboxing rather tentatively, but before long I was hooked. I’ve always been the kind of person that has difficulty watching television without something in my hands. All those years of knitting in front of the TV, bored out of my mind and I could have been playing video games. If only I hadn’t been so damn poor.
Video games solved all of TVs boringness problems by being completely better than TV in basically every way. No more watching helplessly as the protagonist does stupid tricks for my entertainment dollar. Now I’m the one doing stupid tricks, and loving every moment of it! Don’t like something? Shoot it. Can’t shoot things in this game? Then what the hell is it doing in this house?!
One of the best things about video gaming is that this is a completely new form of entertainment. Having born witness to the changes in the industry just since I started gaming is amazing. Everyone points to graphics and player interface as being the main things, but I think that we discount the writing at our own peril. Gamers are more likely to care about a story these days, and I don’t think it’s because we all suddenly discovered our feminine side.
The stories in games are becoming tangible in a way they’ve never been before. This isn’t Mario saving the princess, it’s not even the princess saving Mario. Game developers like BioWare (“Mass Effect,” “Dragon Age”) are taking games to a literary level, creating whole worlds and universes that you can save or destroy at your whim. We’re all familiar with the concept of a reader, a listener or a viewer, but the player is a new breed of media consumer. And as games become increasingly refined, many of us who never expected to will be adding that to our list of consumer credentials.