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PAX East: Gaming like a Girl

April 1, 2013

Dear Readers,

This is Flaminrain, Stubborn’s other half.  He’s asked me to write on the “You Game Like a Girl” Panel at PAX 2013.  I think some really interesting things were said during the panel, like the completely absurd tweets that people posted such as that “No one will come to this panel.”  Needless to say there is a reason for these types of panels—to have a conversation about how women are treated when they play games.  One question from an audience member was why she was not rezzed in online shooters when she told people she was a she.  This really happens; women are treated differently.  So I would like to talk about three things: the discrimination I’ve experienced being female, a larger discussion of women in games, and this idea of white knights.

Playing as a girl, I’ve had less discrimination than most, but still some.  I don’t play XBOX Live, so I am not in that community.  But I have experienced discrimination in WOW.  I actually created a character named “Genuine” because I was genuinely female.  I tried to create a character that looked like me, except of course I’m not that tall and I don’t wear revealing armor.  I created this character because I was surprised at the amount of comments that I would get asking if I was a girl and addressing the trolling in general chat that girls don’t play WOW.  Most of the time I did not have a problem; guys would ask weird questions—anonymity and no consequences does that—like bra size and are you sure you’re a girl.  There are other times in dungeons that people would refer to me as dude or guy, and I would correct them and say that I am a girl—for real.  Other than that, I did not frequently reveal that I was female, though sometimes I wanted to say: You were just healed by a Chick.  The two other times that I think there has been some weird discrimination is in a guild.  Typically when we enter guilds, Stubborn does the research and we apply and then join.  We always do it together, so I’m typically known as Stubborn’s wife.  (It’s a little weird since in the real world he is often referred to as Mr. my last name, since we have different last names.)  So, at times that feels discriminatory; I’m not just Stubborn’s wife, I AM MY OWN PERSON.  While Stubborn and I have similar qualities in some areas we absolutely DO NOT in others.  Why didn’t people say “oh he’s Flaminrain’s husband?”  Why not just treat us like separate people, not that one owns the other.  This isn’t due to anything Stubborn’s doing, just the way other people handle us as a couple.

The other major issue that I had was when I came into a raid late because they needed someone to DPS; funnily enough I came on Genuine.  I came into vent, but the Guild Leader was apologizing and explaining that actually I couldn’t go because I did not have the correct item level (which I actually did), and thought that I would not put out enough DPS, which wasn’t true; as the raid went on, I was not at the bottom of the DPS charts.  In the end, I later found out that it was that the Guild Leader didn’t think I could cut it BECAUSE I WAS FEMALE.  What the What?  So he was apologizing because he didn’t think that I could live up to the Guild’s needs in a raid even though I met the item level, was available, and knew the fights.  What nonsense.  Later, I was a regular raider and a consistent healer in that guild and knew that I could hold my own.  I constantly sought to improve, asked questions of our amazing paladin healer, and went on raid nights.  Thinking back, if I could have done it differently, I would have confronted the Guild Leader and said I can play just as well as the guys.  If you are just bringing me along because my husband is playing, that’s bullstankity.

Another aspect of the discussion of women in games is that women are playing games now more than ever.  And we do it well.  There is a reason some of the best fighter pilots in the world are women; we are calculating, precise, and work for it.  It sucks that women have to work harder to play a game because we know that we will be judged because we are women.  Why can’t I just play?  I have to work my butt off to be perceived as playing and being better than guys, just to prove that I can play the game, which is again bullstankity.

Another idea that was brought up about women in games was Costume Play (dressing up like your favorite characters).  Now, to be honest I had some reservations about this discussion because I believe that some of those outfits are very racy and I question why a woman would wear that (this include the picture with the girl in the chain mail bikini, see picture two posts below).  The panel gave me a different perspective that these women work very hard on their costumes or spend a lot of money to have their costumes made; they do it because they enjoy it, and they want to represent badass women in games.  I respect all of those reasons.  I thought that they were originally doing it to stand out, be sexy, and get attention, but the panel helped change my opinion.  Now that I have a new perspective on why people Cosplay, I don’t think that I will be as critical as I was before.  However there are some things that I would like to bring up in regards to Cosplay nonetheless.

Female characters are unrealistically drawn: giant breasts, tiny waists, unrealistic armor.  To be clear, women with tiny waists do not have breasts like that; their spines would snap in half.  If I was going into battle or attempting to destroy a giant red dragon, I’d like as much armor as possible to protect myself, but not so much that I can’t run away.  Form fitting armor is silly.  I think I need my vital organs protected instead of a plate mail bikini.  But this is a larger discussion that women are drawn by men (typically); for all those female artists, please work on changing the culture.  I don’t look like that and neither does any other female that I have ever met.  So let me say, I want more realistically drawn female characters and armor.  Others may disagree, I can see that why people like playing their favorite character may be to feel sexy.  Feeling sexy is awesome, but is sexy a quality I want on the field of battle?

Lastly, I wanted to talk about White Knights.  The Panel was discussing trolls and white knights.  White knights are the guys who speak up for women and with women telling others that their discrimination is wrong.  But there is a question about whether or not that is patronizing.  I’m a chick, I can speak up for myself.  I believe the real difference is that when a white knight is speaking up for women and therefore drowns out what the woman herself is trying to say.  We want discrimination to stop, I think the balance is white knights are you speaking up for the women or with the women?  Speak up with me and support me, don’t speak over me for me.  We are not princesses to rescue but are warriors who fight with you to save the world.

Sincerely,

Flaminrain (not Mrs. Stubborn)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tellah permalink
    April 2, 2013 10:14 am

    1) BULLSTANKITY! Haven’t seen that word for the longest.
    2) Reading this post made me think about how I introduced my wife online at the Minecraft server I had been playing on. I introduced her as my wife. It wasn’t intended as a slight against her. It was introducing her and explaining the connection between the two of us, letting both her and the others on the server have a…this isn’t a precise term, but it’s the best I can come up with off the top of my head…have a place to scaffold from. She came in three weeks after I did to the server, so I already had some relationships in place. On a different server, where I was coming onto a server that she’d been playing on for a while, she introduced me as her husband and people inserted me into their thinking as Blu3′s husband. Never really thought about it.
    3) Re: Cosplay. While I appreciate the time and effort that people put into cosplay, they’re doing it for the attention or to stand out. Perception is reality for most people, and the perception is that they are looking for the attention that comes with dressing up. I think that they’re looking for the adulation, they’re looking for the attention, for the encouragement. Whatever floats the boat is okay with me, it’s not my boat (which is why I’ll never cosplay as the Blob, for example). And I get to appreciate beauty/creativity, which I do enjoy.
    4) The whole reason I started this was to thank you for finally giving me a functional definition of when I’m being supportive versus when I’m being a white knight. I think that it’s an overlooked and important part of the conversation, because there are plenty of sensitive, socially awkward guys like myself that need, if not a clearly defined line, then at least a starting point to know when the support goes redline.
    5) Okay, I’m done. :) Ain’t that some bullstankity?

    • April 5, 2013 9:37 pm

      I was going to have Bobbi reply, but as a college department chair who’s simultaneously having some personal troubles due to her roller derby team, I just don’t think she’s going to find time for it any time soon.

      1) I know; I actually told her maybe she should take that out, it being so weird. I’m glad she didn’t, now!
      2) Yeah. I didn’t edit Bob’s post at all, and I felt that upon her reflection I was inadvertently creating part of the problem. It’s something we can both be conscious of in the future, I guess, when we’re jacked into the Matrix and learning iKung Fu from Amazon.
      3) I don’t know. One of the presenters was a “famous” cosplayer (I don’t know any of them, so take that as it is), and she was pretty eloquent about why she did what she did. I thought she made a good case, but I’ll honestly admit that I can’t do so nearly as well as she did. I can get you her twitter name if you’d like to ask her about it; she was quite well spoken and friendly.
      4) Yeah, I feel exactly the same way. Read the comment to Syl above to see the two questions I asked them on Twitter and the responses I got regarding White Knights.
      5) Not at all. Thanks for the comment!

  2. April 2, 2013 9:35 pm

    I don’t believe in the label White Knight and don’t like it very much. in my eyes it’s one more perfidious way how anti-feminists sabotage and undermine any form of male support of feminism and hence feminism as a whole. if I hear it acknowledged in related posts by women, it saddens me to see that these forces have managed their cause.

    Men have every right to support feminism and lend a voice to greater equality or against discrimination, in whatever way they want. frankly, women need allies on all sides (whether some like it or not). asking men to rethink some of their many undeserved privileges and at the same time discouraging them from acting out support for what they believe is just, is absurd and contradictory to say the least. of course, women have to fight for their own rights in order to gain any real acceptance but as long as it’s not a level play field, that seems to be a bit of a cynical argument. in the end it was men who voted for women’s right to vote….and it will take women and men to fight for equal rights, as they impact on both (even if many men don’t realize it’s affecting them negatively too).

    I will never tell a guy to stop ‘white-knighting’; I find it highly destructive and frankly offensive. if I feel patronized, there are better ways to clear things up. although I must say I have yet to meet such an enthusiastic male individual loudly speaking up on my behalf…

    • April 5, 2013 9:34 pm

      I was going to have my wife reply, but as a college department chair who’s simultaneously having some personal troubles due to her roller derby team, I just don’t think she’s going to find time for it any time soon.

      That’s basically what the panel said, too, and I think that’s what my wife meant, though she means it within limits, as in that if she’s currently defending herself, she doesn’t want someone to step in and try to do it for her. I feel exactly as you do and was relieved that the panel basically echoed my thoughts. I sent in two tweets to ask questions, though neither were explicitly answered until much later on Twitter.

      I asked, “How should men who feel that evil thrives when good people fail to act respond to observed discrimination?” and “Where is the line – if there is one – between being an ally and being a white knight?” Her replies were, “Men should speak out on women’s issues, so long as they’re not blocking or ignoring the voices of women,” and “Call out bad behavior when you see it, and be an ally. Just make sure you’re not stepping on or ignoring women’s voices,” both of which I think are pretty fair.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment!

    • April 6, 2013 9:27 am

      Absolutely! that’s how I understood the article – I was more raging generally as the label white knight! :) speaking of which, you might also wanna check out this latest article on RPS: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/06/misogyny-sexism-and-why-rps-isnt-shutting-up/

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