Archive for May 31, 2011

A break from the Series for…

Posted: May 31, 2011 in Personal

A medical update.  First shot today.  To be truthful, it did not hurt, but it did make me feel “oogy” and uncomfortable and odd…nothing freakin’ natural about that dang spinal epidural process, let me tell ya.  Still feel oogy and off from it.  In theory, in a few days my back should feel a bit better, and doc figures I will need one, maybe two more of these things…small price to pay for a fixed back though.  I go back to see him in about a month for an x-ray and perhaps round 2.

I remember once upon a time I was sitting in a college dorm room with the rest of the crew that constituted my D&D group (2 women, myself and my roomie, 4 men) and one of the fellows was thumbing through a Dragon Magazine and started laughing hysterically.  Of course, we all inquired about the cause of the laughter, and he passed us the magazine which featured a cartoon.  The cartoon depicted a “woman warrior”, a babe in a chainmail bikini and Wonder Woman style bracers.  She had various arrows stuck in the “protective armor” over her boobs and on her bracers and the caption was “Good thing I was wearing my armor!”

 And it was funny, but eye roll worthy as well.  It also very well illustrates what I am about to talk about now:  Sexism as Part of the Gaming Industry.  You see, part of the problem with sexism in the world of gaming?  It’s right there in the products.  It seems that fantasy games tend to be guiltier of this than other types of games….but yep, all of them have a least a little.  But the biggest offender of them all is also the granddaddy of them all: Dungeons & Dragons and every other wanna be D&D game that has come on down the line.

 Now, I will admit it, I have just about every D&D book there is from second edition on down the line, even some of the earlier ones, and while I like some of the art, by in large, it is all pretty sexist stuff.   Women warriors are often drawn in silly armor period, in and out of D&D…hell Lisa has complained before about the stupid armor they give women characters in WoW, but let’s leave the armor out of it for moment.  There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of half naked women in D&D…be they clerics, monsters, elves, wizards, whatever.  Lots of T&A in the very core rule books themselves, and lots of women as weak and in need of saving there too.  Also, consider the ONE matriarchal society in the world of D&D.  The Drow (aka dark elves)…evil as HELL (and black skinned, but that’s a whole different story).  Are they powerful and advanced and feared and all that good stuff, yes, they certainly are…but they are flat out pure evil…and the women are usually shown…not wearing much.  And while other games and even D&D itself has moved away from this attitude & art somewhat…it was the forerunner of them all, and it did set the tone…hey, I have seen how those female elves dance in WoW, and they really should be getting money stuffed in their…armor?

 But you see, there is and was baseline sexism in D&D, and every other game or gaming book, from Magic The Gathering to Cyberpunk, since then has at least to some extent grabbed on to the idea that hot fantasy women in almost nothing sells.  Heck, I draw a lot of fantasy art myself, I do.  And I have submitted some to these kinds of games, but I tend to draw women in actual armor…now, it could be they just think my art sucks and I would accept that, but sometimes I wonder if it’s because the women I draw are wearing the same sorta gear you’d put a male character of the same class in.  Now, I will discuss in my next post, “Fantasy vs. Reality” how this is such a drag for women gamers, but the basic fact is…

 This is what the gaming industry and fantasy genre think of women and what they should be in fantasy gaming:

 So we’re starting off at a point of disadvantage from the get go due to the very source materials themselves.  Yes, some games have come a long way in options and versatility for female characters as well as players.  For instance, in City of Heroes, one can make a female character in full armor or tactical gear….but the option is still there to make her wearing almost nothing- but you can do that to the men too.  The basis, basics, and baseline however is that there is inherent sexism in the very gaming products themselves, both in the way women are depicted visually and as characters, and those sorts of depictions have set a tone for gaming and gamers period.  I have walked into D&D games and had some snarky asshole male gamer ask me where my chainmail bikini was, or give me shit for wanting to play a fighter rather than a cleric or a mage, but that sort of thing will be discussed more in “Fantasy vs. Reality” , but the simple fact is, the world of gaming is set against us from the get go due to the way fictional women are depicted in it. 

*For the record, I do not now nor have I ever actually owned a chainmail bikini!

Before we get any further into our Quest to Discuss Sexism in Gaming (N00Bs welcome), there are two basic fundamentals that must be looked and evaluated before we continue on:  One is the sexist attitude and sexist products put out by the gaming industry itself, and the other is nature of gamers themselves.  I will be doing the nature of gamers themselves first.  One, because I want to, and two, the Gaming Industry is made up of both gamers and people who wish to sell products to gamers, and thus keep them in mind when making those products. 

 So yes, gamers then.  There is the stereotype of course:  The geeky, often over weight and poorly groomed, perhaps unhygienic fellow who was always a social outcast, had no luck with girls, was usually picked on by everyone from those girls, to jocks, to everybody else who was reasonably normal.  He may or may not also be a nerd, but being an actual nerd is not required.  Physically inept,  socially stunted, and all around mess of a human being.

 Now, that is the stereotype.  But, sadly enough, the stereotype exists for a reason.  Yes, there are plenty of gamers who are not that guy, but there are plenty who flat out are, or have enough of his less than enduring qualities that it warrants mentioning.  Women gamers may also have a similar traits, and I may very well get to women gamers at some point, but right now, we are talking about the men…and see, people say the men never get discussed!

 But yes, so there it is…sure enough, on one or more levels, a great many male gamers, both boys and adult ones, are socially and physically awkward in various ways and on various levels.  Often they are outcasts, or mocked, or even tormented (or have been).  Part of the draw for many people who spend time gaming in fantasy worlds is to, for whatever reason, get out of the real one for awhile and be something that in real life you just aren’t.  And in these worlds, well, these guys can be whatever they want in whatever genre of game it is they are playing:  a brilliant general, a dashing pirate, a Machiavellian schemer, all kinds of things, but almost universally, these characters they play are powerful, successful, and often needed, wanted or popular- things gamers many not be in any way in real life.  They also via gaming meet “their own kind”, other people, often male (for while there are women gamers, overall, the activity is still definitely male dominated), who share many of their own problems and traits…and it is there that they get their socialization, that pecking orders are established, friendships made, acceptable behavior defined, and bonds made.

 Often, for the first time in their lives, these fellows have bonds with a peer group, and one with common goals, interests, and sense of identity.  Just like in any group, a code of conduct is- if not defined- somewhat formulated at least in the minds of the group’s members.  Its own method of ranking via popularity and skill develops.  Routine is established, and it functions like other groups of people, but in this case, the group is often made up of outcasts and the somewhat to very socially inept or mistreated.

 This is problematic for women gamers in a few ways: 

One: their presence can be seen as a threat or disruption to the overall sense of (male) community. 

 Two:  they-while they may be socially awkward themselves- are often now dealing with socially awkward men who have been germinating with their own kind for quite some time. 

 Three, they are treading on and infringing upon territory which these men can be quite territorial about and often their investment in and status amid the group is a huge part of their ego…for instance, if an “alpha male” gamer is bested in some manner by a woman…his reaction will probably not be all that different from a High School Star Quarterback who has a woman walk out onto the field and throw for a touchdown better than he does.  Yes, sure enough, the activities are entirely different, but they are both male dominated, and loosing to a girl is still loosing to a girl- be it on a football field or a having some woman come along and yank a Princedom out from underneath him in a Vampire game.  In fact, the male gamers reaction or out lash can be even worse, because often he lacks success and status in other areas.

Four:  Many male gamers have not always had the best luck with- or even treatment by- women, and thusly, they may not be inclinded to treat women nicely in return.  

Five:  Overall, the presence of women- a fair amount of them- in gaming- at all- is still fairly new.  Yes, there have always been women gamers, but not at the numbers there are now, and while gaming is still over all dominated by men, the influx of women is, to various extents, changing it- and the decorum that is to be expected- and just like any time an old boys club gets busted up by those pesky women, there will be people who resent it and will try to drive them out using the most cruel, sleazy and vulgar of tactics.  The world of gaming is no different.

Heck, I am sure I even missed some, but yes, there are but a few reasons!

 And I do think in part to the very nature of gamers themselves, many male ones in this case, does in fact contribute mightily to the overall problem of sexism in gaming.   It is true indeed that sexism exists everywhere, but I think due in part to the over-all “geekiness” of gamers, it can be far more blatant, juvenile, crass, encouraged and even flat out cheered as the norm and women who dare to tread in gamer land are just expected to put up with it and get shouted down or harassed when they don’t because well, Geeks Will Be Geeks and Who Invited Those Bitches Anyway?  A simple truth is poorly socialized men and sexism makes for a volatile mix- and In Gaming, it is often far more the norm and the reality than merely a stereotype or a joke…

 So yes, one of the huge problems when it comes to Sexism in Gaming is the Gamers Themselves.*

 After all, sometimes the Stereotypes exist for a very good reason.

 *Ah yes, there are women gamers who do not help with this problem at all, but that will end up being a later post in the series!