Friday, December 3

Women talking about games

If you also follow my main blog, you will have realized by now that I do post in a couple of forums. Mostly it used to be the MangaSzene forum (which isn’t used a lot these days, so I’ve stopped checking daily), I also post at the forum of Big Fish Games, but I spent most time at the Diving Bell Adventure Pub at the moment. Not much of a surprise – I’m a moderator there.

The Pub, as it is known to its members, is a nice place, but sometimes also a strange one. All five administrative people in the Pub (owner, two administrators, two moderators) are women. And all people in the Pub have one thing in common: they like computer games. And quite a lot of them are women…

What does that tell us? Well, if you’re buying that ‘women and technology don’t go together’ prejudice, you’re in deep trouble here, from both sides. Five women manage a forum about gaming and most of the members are women, too. Technology on both sides, even though the games in many cases are restricted to what the casual games market offers. But here’s the catch: by hanging out at the forum, some women who have only played casual games before discovered the joy of other types of games like adventures and RPGs (Role Playing Games).

We’re not just discussing casual games and we’re not just discussing games from one portal (like they do it at the forum over at Big Fish Games). We’re discussing computer games. That includes ‘serious’ RPGs like “Dragon Age: Origins” or “Diablo,” classic and new adventure games (like the “Monkey Island” series or “Lost Horizon” – the first very old, the second pretty new), sometimes even FPS (First Person Shooters, in this case mostly “Serious Sam HD”). Sure, action games aren’t discussed there a lot, but given the rather unimaginative background of most modern FPS games (modern war, modern war and … modern war), that’s not much of a loss. (Although I would have liked to share some experiences I’ve had lately with “Burnout Paradise,” an arcade racing game, and “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II,” an action-adventure, with some of the other Pubsters.)

And one more thing has become clear since the pub was founded (about 6 months ago, we have a bit over 200 members by now): being around other mostly female gamers is good for one’s knowledge about games – and pretty bad for one’s bank account. By sharing our thoughts about games, by telling each other which portal carries which new game, by helping each other out when someone has a problem with a game (gameplay or technical side), we have all grown. People who have only discovered the joy of gaming recently (quite some of our members are 50+) and never thought they could master anything bigger than an average HOG or TM game have felt inspired to try their wits at adventures or their clicking speed at RPG games instead of TMs. People who weren’t even aware they were other portals than one (usually BFG) around, suddenly find portals and games they have never heard of before (and would never have discovered, had they stayed in the Pond – the BFG forum). We are in touch with some developers as well.

And, as all forums, it doesn’t stop with the games, the main topic of the forum. Of course there’s always some social space around as well. Jokes (sometimes quite hilarious and sometimes not suited for the underaged), book recommendations, family and pet stories, rants and raves, all have their place in the forum, too. That’s normal for a forum.

Still, mostly women, mostly older people, but from all walks of life. We have accountants and lawyers, workers and housewives. We have people from all over the world, too. That’s the good thing about the internet, after all: where you are doesn’t matter as long as you have a connection. People from different sides of the earth can discuss things online. (Or take over a job, I’m currently stepping in for one of the administrators who needed some time off, doing the daily list of new games at the portals – that’s quite a bit of work, believe me.)

Women talking about games is just as normal these days (or even more normal) as women talking about cooking, housework or handicrafts. And in the future, I hope, it will even be more normal than now.

Tuesday, August 17

Wordl Art

I was a bit bored yesterday, so I went to the Wordl site and got one for every blog I have. This one is for this site:

Interesting collection of words, isn’t it?

Women and Computer Games 2010

Women and computer games are another recurring topic – for me, at least. As the GamesCon, the most renown computer games convention in Germany has just begun, an article mentioned that computer games weren’t doing all that great at the moment – and that the percentage of women playing games has declined (from over 30 percent to about 25 percent). And this even though the publishers want women to play games!

Well, they want women to play games, but they don’t take them seriously. This, at least, is what it looks like to me. I am not the average woman playing games, as I have been a gamer ever since 1993, when I had the first computer you actually could play games on. I have been playing games from most genres – at least once. I am not very good at flight simulators (well, I do get down, but not in a condition that would allow me to take off again…). I have never had much interest in other simulators (we’ve had loads of those lately, including farm machines, busses and whatnot). My forte are adventures (a dying breed for a while, but I’ve not lost hope yet), RPGs (revived by Diablo and later on Baldur’s Gate) and games in which you build things up (The Settlers, Anno and suchlike – something German publishers and creators are good at). I do sometimes play first person shooters (but not very often, even though I’ve played quite some of the big names). Still, my horizon when it comes to games is much wider than that of most women who have started playing recently. It goes far beyond casual games and “The Sims” (although I love that game and can spent whole days with it).

And, unfortunately, this is exactly where most companies seem to see women. In the small niche occupied by casual games and “The Sims”. Therefore, a lot of casual games seem to be ‘tailored to fit’ women. Romance is a big topic in casual games – even though most of them are not about romance (I’m making amends here for the “Dream Day”, series as it centres around weddings and what comes after that, and for “Wedding Dash” which also centres around this time in a woman’s … or man’s … life). On the good side, so are women who can do things on their own.

But how do things look for women in ‘non-casual’ games? Not very good. I’ve stopped playing first person shooters for two reasons: it never was my favourite genre anyway and I can’t stand the fixation on war. Admittedly, first person shooters are never something for pacifists, but I find it highly enraging that today I either have to play a soldier in WWII or modern days or some kind of alternate reality. I have been playing Unreal (and most Unreal Tournament installations over the years, including “Unreal Tournament 3”) and liked them. But that kind of fps (and the Star Wars fps’ that first aroused my interest – “Dark Forces” and “Jedi Knight”) has long since disappeared in a way (unless for multiplayer gaming, as UT always was). I do not like playing a soldier, so I don’t buy games like “Crysis”, “Modern Warfare” or whatever. The current choice in RPGs also leaves something to be desired, but at least some of them are good (and I’m not going to rant about “Alpha Protocol” here – a game with a control scheme that makes it next to impossible for me to get out of the first building I’m in). Adventures are rare (if you’re not looking at TellTale with their adventure episodes – waiting for the last episode of the third “Sam & Max” season), good action adventures are as well. I do not play online if I can play a game offline, so some of the last games I’ve been waiting for are out of the picture: “Assassin’s Creed 2”, “The Settlers 7”, “StarCraft 2”. I know other gamers (male and female) feel the same way about this.

Casual games have been something of a saviour for me this year. HOGs (hidden objects games) and IHOGs (interactive hidden objects games) aren’t adventures (and the adventures you can buy on the casual sites usually are quite old), but I can make do with them. Then there’s a time management game every now and then and sometimes the odd strategy or puzzle game. Still, it’s not the same. And then there’s the recurring ‘Romance’ topic which I find rather boring (I’ve never been one for romances in games, movies, novels etc.). But there are ‘dark’ and ‘spooky’ games as well.

Why are there less women playing computer games (or at least less women among the gamers)? Maybe because nobody ever took the time to find out what women really want to play? Not all women are that hyped up about romance. Not all women want a love story with every game they play. And some of us like ‘real’ games (as opposed to casual games), but don’t like all that testosterone-driven ‘war stuff’ currently around. Give us first person shooters with a story, for god’s sake, without all that WWII and Special Ops stuff. (Give us a ‘I’ve just woken up in a crashed space ship and a monster is on the other side of the door’ moment like in the first “Unreal”.)

If you want women to play computer games, listen to them. Create believable characters, women with a ‘hands on’ attitude like Flo or her friend from the “Dash” games (“Diner Dash”, “Wedding Dash”, “Parking Dash” etc.). Create more strong women (yes, like Lara Croft, a woman who can kick butt – you can make them good-looking for the boys out there, too). Create games that go far beyond romance and interior design (someone rightfully described “The Sims” as a house building simulation with simulated life as an obstacle). Give us a credit for also being resourceful and able to get along without a strong guy for the rescue. Stop depicting women as the helpless Damsel in Distress in games (it’s bad enough they still do that in movies), give them a main role and let them save the guy for a change.

You want more women playing computer games? Create games they want to play. And listen to gamers telling you ‘we want to play offline’ (while I’m just at it…).

Friday, August 6

Sexual Harassment - a recurring topic

What kind of light does it shed on men when sexual harassment still is a recurring topic after years of feminism? Why do men find it so hard to understand that certain behaviour, as much as they like it, is degrading and humiliating to women?

First of all I have to point out that I myself have never been subjected to sexual harassment (up till now, nobody knows what the future might bring). The reason for this might be that I do not look sexy, being overweight. Another reason might be that I do not emit the air of a helpless victim – for whatever reason. But I’m more exception than rule and I know it.

After decades of feminism and female emancipation one should think that men have finally understood that certain behaviour towards women, including touching a woman’s breasts, behind or putting a hand between her legs, are definitely a no-go.

How would they (the men, that is) like it if it were the other way around? I sometimes think it would be a good cure for some people who do sexual harassing, if someone came along and harassed them for a change. Imagine the looks on their faces if a woman just walked by, grabbed their ass and then walked on. Or if she sat next to them in a public transport and simply but her hand between their legs – just to check out the package, you know. Or imagine a group of women whistling and catcalling when they passed them by. I know chances are small that is ever going to happen, but it is fun to imagine it for a change.

And when it comes to rape, a lot of people still seem to think ‘it’s all the woman’s fault’. They seem to forget that rape is, above all, a violation. It’s not a man ‘taking’ a woman, because he thinks she’s so sexy and he just can’t stop himself. It’s a way to dominate, humiliate and degrade a person, man or woman alike (and yes, there are male victims of rape).

In short: There’s no excuse at all for touching a woman (especially at or around the primary or secondary sexual parts) without her permission. There’s no such thing as ‘it’s her fault’ when it comes to rape, either. A no is a no, no matter how the woman looks, what she wears (or doesn’t wear) or how she behaved before.

Saturday, June 26

Wish for children - natural?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Is it ‘natural’ for women to want children? This would mean every woman who doesn’t want children (if she can have them or not, maybe due to some medical reason, is another question entirely) is an unnatural monster.

I was watching a talk show on TV dealing with the topic. Some women (young ones, usually) were stating they didn’t want children. One even stated she wanted her ovaries removed, because she was so sure she would never want them. Then there were the usual ‘you’ll see it different in a few years’ people around. And there was one women who had two daughters, but could completely understand everyone who didn’t want them. She even said she was not going to babysit the children of her older daughter, because she had done her job already when raising her own children.

Again and again the underlying theme of the show was ‘every woman wants children sooner or later’. (Some even want them a bit too soon, like the daughter of one of the guests who had her first child at the age of 13.)

When I was a teenager (quite some time ago, I’m turning 36 this year), I already knew I didn’t want a family or children. I could not (and still can’t) imagine myself being a good mother. I’m simply not good with children, I make no emotional connection with them. I see them as something good as a such, yes, but not as something that will feature into my own life.

My relatives (not so much my parents, but aunts and uncles) all said the same thing to me that has been said to the women in the talk show: “Sooner or later you will change and then you will want children.” (“Just as every woman,” because that’s what is always there in between the lines in those discussions.) Well, I’m about to leave the time when I can safely have children (medically speaking), I still don’t want any children. My decision never changed. But I also know I’m part of a minority, most women want children.

Still, the question remains unanswered. Is it only ‘natural’ for women to want children? Is every woman who doesn’t want them by definition unnatural, then? And are humans still bound by their ‘nature’ today?