Closing down comments

Hi, folks. Wundergeek here.

So remember how I said how I planned on turning this blog into a book? Still true. And how I plan to occasionally blog about my adventures in said transformation? Also true. However, all of that’s going to have to wait until the new year, and there are some changes that can’t really wait until then.

Since I’ve stopped writing new material, I’ve observed that pretty much the only new comments that have come in have been from people who at best could be described as disagreeing with the premise of this blog and at worst could be described as trolls. And while I think it’s insanely amusing that no less than TWO professional industry artists have come here and insulted me AFTER I STOPPED WRITING ABOUT THEM, the fact of the matter is that I don’t really want to have to keep an eye on comments here anymore.

The folks who supported what I was doing here have drifted on to other things, as one might expect, and dealing with nothing but trolls is just tiring. (Although, I’ll admit that Echo Chernik telling me that I have mental health issues and that she pities my sad, rage-filled existence does make me glad I didn’t close down comments earlier. That did give me a lot of laughs. A lot of angry, bile-filled, murderous laughs that gave me no joy AT ALL.)

(Ahem.)

So I’m shutting down comments on all posts older than 2 weeks. For now, that means comments will be dead on pretty much everything. I realize that it means I will be harder to contact, but there’s always email and twitter. And this is something I need to do so that I can continue to free up mental bandwidth for other things.

WHERE TO START

[Note: this is a work in progress. Don’t be surprised if you see this changed/expanded in the next little while.]

Hi, there. If you’ve found your way here, it’s probable that you fit into one of two categories; either you were linked to this blog somewhere , or you’re someone looking for material to address a certain point regarding sexism in gaming. Since the two cases are pretty different, I’ll address them separately.

If you identify as a feminist or ally, great! Welcome! Please read this guide here that will help you find your way around.

If you don’t feel you identify as a feminist or ally, that’s great, too! You can read this post right here addressing possibilities for why you were linked here. It’ll also give you some good directions for where to get started even if you weren’t linked here and are just curious.

Before we start: this isn’t about you

There are a lot of popular misconceptions out there regarding sexism in the gaming world. A lot of the time, it can be hard to confront the reality that something we love can be sexist, because that might mean that we are sexist for liking it, right? So let me be clear that this blog isn’t about judging people for their individual tastes. It’s about judging people who systematically stereotype and dehumanize women for personal gain and profit – the devs, the game studios, the game artists, and even the game journalists. This blog isn’t about judging you. That would be useless and counter-productive, to say the least.

Now let’s move on…

Before we move on to anything else, you should really read the original article that I wrote looking at unequal depictions of women in game art of all kinds. The article clearly lays out how women are consistently under-represented, depicted in more sexualized outfits, and depicted in more passive and less combat-able roles in game art from all areas of gaming. This includes an exhaustive number of numbers, charts, and a clear description of my methodology and reasoning should anyone wish to try to reproduce my results.

It might be that you find yourself having disagreements with things set out in the article. And that’s cool. I suggest reading this post here, which responds to the most common arguments I received against the results I set out.

Other categories that might interest you could include…

numbers:

Once you’ve read the initial article, you might be interested in reading follow-up posts that use the same methods applied to other areas of gaming. To that end, any of my posts tagged as numbers will help you out, but here’s a list of specific posts for those of you looking for something in particular:

doing it wrong

One of the biggest issues that plagues women in game art is the way in which they are frequently distorted beyond what is anatomically possible in order to emphasize their sexy bits so as to appeal to a presumed straight male viewer. The reason this is problematic is because video game men get anatomy+ – anatomy in which certain characteristics are emphasized and exaggerated in order to make them heroic. But video game women get anatomy-, literally becoming less human in order to be read as heroic.

These depictions become so ubiquitous that we often have trouble seeing just how inhuman a lot of these video game women have become. So one of the things that I make a point of doing here is using my knowledge of anatomy to analyze game art and illustrate just how impossibly distorted video game women are and explain the many reasons why they simply couldn’t exist in real life.

gender swap

Something else you might find helpful in learning about the unequal depictions of women in game art are posts in which I took female video game characters in sexualized poses and costumes and swapped their gender to turn them into men. I could write 10,000 words about why the things we take for granted in our depictions of women are actually pretty ridiculous, but this is an instance where a picture is worth (at least) 1000 words.

Other excellent places to start

Here are some other miscellaneous posts that can serve as a good jumping-off point for understanding common gaming-related gender fails:

HOW TO USE THIS BLOG: FEMINISTS AND ALLIES

[Note: This is a work in progress, folks. Don’t be surprised if you see this expanded, added to, or changed]

Hi, there. If you’ve found your way here, it’s probable that you fit into one of two categories; either you were linked to this blog somewhere , or you’re someone looking for material to address a certain point regarding sexism in gaming. Since the two cases are pretty different, I’ll address them separately. If you don’t feel you identify as a feminist or ally, please be sure to read this post addressing possibilities for why you were linked here.

User’s Guide: feminists or allies looking for posts about a specific issue

Maybe you’re having an argument with someone about some crappy aspect of gaming that is sexist. Reactions that you’ll typically get might fall into one of three categories: 1) you can’t get the other person to believe you (‘facts or it didn’t happen’) 2) they flail defensively at strawmen 3) they try to justify the sexism as not being a big deal.

If you’re dealing with numbers 2 or 3, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a lost cause. You’re welcome to look for pertinent rebuttals here, but don’t expect too much. You’re much more likely to have success with gamers who don’t agree that sexism in gaming doesn’t exist because they’re not personally aware of it. And that’s okay. Hopefully they can be persuaded to at least see your point of view.

Categories that will be the most helpful:

numbers:

If you’re looking for hard numbers on “this is how women compare to men in game art”, any of my posts tagged as numbers will help you out, but here’s a list of specific posts for those of you looking for something in particular:

doing it wrong

This is a bit more general of a tag, mostly applied to anatomy of game art but also applied to anything spectacularly fail worthy concerning the bodies of women in games and/or game art. If you’re looking for a more general post about gaming and anatomy fail, “doing it wrong” will help you out. If you’re looking for one of my posts in which I actually draw over fail-worthy game art and correct the anatomy, then you can see one of these posts:

On a semi-related note, you might also be interested in these posts about famous game artists that I hate:

blogosphere

One of my most general tags, this pretty much covers “shit that happens on the internet”. There’s a lot of stuff tagged as “blogosphere” worth reading, but some people in particular on the internet I have singled out as worthy of criticism, if not outright scorn. Here are some internet-famous people I have criticized here on my blog:

gender swap

They say a picture is worth 1000 words. Posts tagged as “gender swap” are those in which I took female video game characters in sexualized poses and costumes and swapped their gender to turn them into men in order to illustrate how what we take for granted in our depictions of women is actually pretty ridiculous:

You might also be looking for…

It might be that you’re looking for something that doesn’t fit into one of these categories. Here are some other frequently-linked posts that are harder to categorize:

INTRODUCTION

The genesis of this blog came from an article that I wrote for See Page XX examining prevalence of sexist depictions of women in different areas of gaming. Before you read anything else here, you should really go read the article. (Yes it’s important enough to link twice.) If you find yourself wanting to argue with the article, please read this post here elucidating common arguments against my findings and clarifying some points regarding my criteria and methods.

My goal is to make this a place you can point people to regarding specific issues pertaining to sexism in gaming.

If this is your first time visiting my blog, welcome! If you don’t want to read chronologically, consider checking out this guide on how to use this blog. If you’re a feminist or ally looking for a specific post to use as a reference, then visit this guide here.

A Year of GMMaS: Where do we go from here?

So it’s been a year. (Okay, a little more than a year now.) 131 posts and a whopping 5579 comments later, here we are. In the past year, I’ve written about tabletop RPGs, CCGs, console games, PC games, board games, MMOs, gaming blogs… Let’s just say I’ve managed to cover a lot of ground. So much so that I’ve been starting to feel as if I’m running out of things to say.

You may have noticed recently that my posting frequency has been dropping off. Part of that is because, as I have mentioned previously, I (apparently) hate free time. But a larger portion has been the fact that I’ve been struggling to find new things to say. Being visual artist, it’s no surprise that my main focus here would be art and design-based. While I’ll happily get diverted into dealing with other related issues such as fail in the gaming blogosphere, talking about sexism in game art and character design is always what I come back to because that’s my background and it will always inform how I approach games.

But the fact is, there’s only so many different ways you can mock badly drawn breasts. There’s only so many ways you can mock chest TARDISes, or ninja lingerie, or armor with inexplicable boob holes. The truth is that the well just runs dry after a certain point.

Does that mean that I think that feminism’s work with regard to gaming is done? That sexism has been solved now and forever in gaming? Oh fuck no. There have been some positive things I’ve seen in the last year – the explosion of readership I’ve enjoyed here being a very large reason for hope in particular. But there’s reasons for concern too – not the least of which is the increase in imports of Korean MMOs that make North American games look like bastions of feminism. No, gaming still has a long way to go before it even catches up with the base levels of misogyny in mainstream society, let alone before it becomes a place that might be seriously able to call itself female-friendly.

But the truth of the matter is that I never considered this blog to be something without a fixed endpoint. My goal was to highlight the sheer amount of bullshit sexism that pervades game art, game culture, and game design. And I feel pretty good about my success in doing that. I could continue re-hashing old ideas, but that would be tiresome and frankly not all that rewarding. And the truth of the matter is that it’s time for me to move on to other things.

See, I have things I want to do. I have that fantasy novel that I’ve been wanting to write. I haven’t even touched it in two months, because every time I have time to write I feel obligated to post here instead of writing more of the novel. Not to mention that comic project that I am so excited about oh my god but which, yeah, has been playing second fiddle to this blog as well. (And I promise when I can talk about it, I’ll post about it here because – seriously, peeps. You’ll love it so much.) I regret the fact that I don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to do it all. But at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve said everything that I need to say. And I feel pretty good about that.

Where do we go from here?

Heh. Stupid Buffy jokes rule.

1. Redesign this blog.

I’m going to redesign this blog to be a handy reference tool for those of you looking to maybe get your friends to reexamine why some of the stuff they like in gaming might be kind of bullshit. My goal is to model it on Finally Feminism 101 in making it an easy-to-use resource. So you might see the layout change inexplicably in the next little bit. If the site winds up breaking for a little while, don’t panic. I plan on changing the theme, and that will probably involve monkeying around with the layout. Along with the re-design, I’ll post new stickies and an introduction explaining what this was all about.

2. Look into writing that book after all

The irony is that I started this blog as a way to avoid writing the book that I didn’t want to write about sexism and gaming. And by now, I’ve written more on the subject than I would have if I had just given in and written and the damn book in the first place. I’d like to look into turning Go Make Me a Sandwich into a book. I’m not confident that it will succeed – a lot of what I do here would be… um… challenging, as far as intellectual property is concerned, in book format. But I’d like to try.

I’m not terribly confident that such a book would have a large audience. But I honestly never thought that this blog would acquire such a large audience either. So that’s something I’ll be looking into, and if I happen to make any progress I’ll post about that here as well.

Thanks for your support

To everyone who has read and commented in the last year, thank you. You made this whole crazy journey worth it, and I never would have come this far without you.

Looking back at a year of GMMaS: Trolls (Part 2)

Thought the first: on trolls and free speech

Writing this blog, I’ve learned a lot about trolls – how they operate, how they think, how to deal with them or not deal with them as the case may be. Despite my dyed-in-the-wool cynicism, I really thought at the outset that I would be able to maintain a policy of not moderating comments. One of the main goals, after all, of this blog was to reach out to gamers who maybe didn’t identify as feminists and illustrate just why the way gaming treats women is fucked up. I make a point of avoiding feminist theory past the ultra-basics and the tone I take here is decidedly non-academic. I was hoping that would make this blog an accessible place and that when trolls did pop up, people could ignore them and move on with their lives. Most of all, I was tired of anti-feminists claiming that “feminazis” who moderated other feminists blogs hated free speech and I wanted to see if I could counteract that.

…wow was that a huge mistake.

See, there were two things that I wasn’t prepared for: the level of vitriol that would be hurled at me and the sheer volume of troll comments I would come to get.

The level of vitriol was hardest to adjust to in the beginning. What helped me the most in dealing with bile-filled troll comments was when I started to see how similar they all are – like they were all reading from the same script. Despite the personal attacks they all resort to – saying that I’m fat, ugly, slutty, stupid, crazy, have a radical agenda, whatever – they weren’t attacking me. They were attacking the radical notion that women are people. That perspective was helpful for me in dealing with these attacks, but not so helpful for other people coming here to comment that had to see this shit as well.

Eventually, however, the volume proved to be even more overwhelming than the bile. For the first few months, I had relatively lower traffic and far fewer commenters. It was manageable at the beginning when I was averaging 100 views per day. By the time I got to the point where I was averaging 1,000 views a day things were getting rapidly unmanageable. It got to the point where I got emails from people who wanted to comment on something they’d seen on my blog but didn’t want to get dog-piled in the comments. That was when I started to question the wisdom of not moderating comments.

My friends, who are much smarter than I am, had reached this point well before me. They’d be all like OMG JUST MODERATE COMMENTS ALREADY WTF ARE YOU DOING TO YOURSELF? And I’d flail around guiltily with ARG BUT THEN IT’S LIKE I HATE FREEDOM OR SUMTHING WHAT DO I DOOOOOOO. And then they’d roll their eyes and say WE JUST TOLD YOU.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I received my first comment saying that I should go kill myself. That was the moment when I said to myself, “you know what, fuck free speech”. And the difference since doing that has been wonderful. I didn’t really realize until after I started moderating comments just how much oxygen the trolls had been sucking out of the conversation. I can’t moderate 24/7, so I can’t promise that this will be a completely safe space, but it’s wonderful having my blog feel like my space again. (Though I will say that I appreciate the irony of the fact that the post that announced the new comment policy was one of the most aggressively trolled posts I’ve done in the last few months. You know, because saying I’m not going to tolerate people telling me to lie in front of a train is super-controversial. /eyeroll)

So lesson learned. Other feminist bloggers were smarter than me. Trolls don’t have an inalienable right to free speech in feminist spaces.

Thought the second: most trolls are reading from the same script

There’s a shocking lack of originality in most troll comments. (Well, that and attention to proper spelling and grammar.) The vast majority of them seem to fit into a few fixed categories:

  • hurr hurr you’re ugly
  • it’s just a game/it’s just fantasy
  • I’m a woman and I’m not bothered by it
  • It’s just a joke/satire you stupid humorless feminist
  • you aren’t qualified to criticize [whatever I happen to be criticizing]
  • you feminist bitches are so silly
  • you’re a fascist/nazi/pink commie
  • you’re making this all about you
  • the female body is art
  • nonsensical slurs
  • games are for men
  • talking about discrimination is stupid and makes people feel bad
  • omg ur biased for not showing that dudes in games are just as bad

A few times I’ve responded in a general sort of way to these sorts of things. Most of the time it’s just not worth the hassle. Occasionally a troll comment manages to rise above the masses to the point where it becomes humorous – or at least it does in retrospect once the initial rush of anger goes away. My personal favorite is a comment that started: “So, another interesting thought. Riddle me this, Aderp Titler, Furor[sic] of the feminazi’s…”

Of course there are also plenty of comments that still rankle well after the fact, like the person who found one of the few photos of me on the interbutts and said ‘well no wonder she’s a feminist’. (Ouch.) There’s far too many to quote here, but if you’re curious, the following posts are worth checking out:

discussions of trolling

unusually aggressive/offensive trolling in the comments

Thought the third: exercise caution when following trackback links

I have mixed feelings about trackback links. I’ve found some really interesting stuff thanks to them and have added a few blogs to my RSS feed that way. But just as often, I’ve encountered people saying really depressing and horrible stuff about me, my blog, my appearance, my politics, or my agenda. Over time, I’ve observed some patterns that have been useful in helping to avoid the worst bile out there:

1) Don’t ever follow links back to Reddit. OMG, just dont. The absolute worst comments do tend to get deleted by moderators after a while, but that doesn’t keep you from seeing them. Any place where I get called an “ignorant judgemental cunt” (on the /r/GirlGamers subreddit no less!!) is a place I don’t need to go to. I’ve washed my hands of Reddit and accepted that it’s a lost cause.

2) Don’t ever follow links back to forums on major gaming sites or to forums specifically devoted to one particular fan community. ESPECIALLY never follow links back to the BioWare forums. There’s a few people who will link to my posts there actually appreciating what I’m saying, but they always get dogpiled by the legions of rabid BioWare fans who tell them to OMG SHUT UP THOSE FEMINIST BITCHES BE SO CRAZY. So much as I love BioWare’s games, their official fan community can go jump in a lake as far as I’m concerned.

3) Similar to number 2, but slightly different. On occasion there have been some columns on the really big gaming sites like IGN that have cited my blog. And those are great to read, so long as you never ever read the comments. Resist the temptation. All they’re good for is raising your blood pressure.

Of course, sometimes I do something stupid and follow a link to Reddit when I know I shouldn’t. But at least this way I can avoid most of the worst bile being said about me.

Thought the fourth: occasionally, positive things can come out of engaging with trolls

…but that’s the exception that proves the rule. I can only think of one instance where engaging with a troll led to a positive outcome, and one where it led to a neutral outcome. In the first instance, some podcaster found my blog and tweeted that I must be ugly. His podcasting buddies then had a “discussion of sexism” that was really just slamming me for half an hour without actually reading any of my blog. I took down their comments pretty harshly in a response here. But afterward I offered to come on their podcast if they wanted to talk to me and not about me, and we actually had a pretty positive conversation. I won’t say that I totally converted them, but I at least was able to present the feminist perspective in a rational and not crazy light. So that was a win.

The other was when I received a very long, very condescending comment from a publisher who makes 3rd party Pathfinder products. I responded with, um, a little bile. (Okay a lot of bile.) Because I was angry, there was a bit of splash damage onto Paizo as well and Erik Mona came and posted some surprisingly calm comments in the comment thread. Nothing really came of it: Erik Mona was still pretty entrenched in his position after our brief conversation in the comments. But I at least appreciated that he was polite about it after I said some harsh stuff about Paizo that was maybe a little unwarranted. Also, that comment thread gave me the phrase “leathery nipple trainwrecks”, which still amuses me.

Thought the last: there are always people who will try to judge your feminism

That’s one of the harder things to deal with. I was pretty new to feminism when I started this blog and I said some stuff that was wrong-headed. And I acknowledge that it was wrong-headed, and apologized and mostly mended fences with the people who rightly took me to task. But there are still people out there who view my early wrong-headed statements as proof that I Am Not and Will Never Be a Real Feminist. (There’s one former commenter in particular who has said nasty stuff about me Not Being A Real Feminist in a variety of places outside of this blog.)

Hell, there are people who have seen more recent stuff that I’ve wrote in which I bent over backwards to make sure I was on the correct side of social justice who came and told me that “MY FEMINISM IS RIGHT AND YOURS IS WRONG, WRONG, WRONG”. And other people might disagree, but I’m going to call this trolling as well. Feminism is a big movement, and contrary to popular belief we aren’t a hive mind. There’s going to be disagreements. But I think it’s dangerous to judge other people’s feminism as “wrong”, because who knows – maybe you’re the one who’s wrong and are too entrenched in your position to be open to that.

And that’s all I have to say about that