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Archive for the ‘WIG 2009’ Category

Ben’s talk was explained as looking at the representations of LGBT within the gaming world. His intention was to look at the theory and raise some of the issues of this representation.

Ben had been studying a site known as Gaydar, a large dating site designed to assist men in finding other men, which he described as making money from gay men a niche market. In this, he described, there are certain tensions in classification and representation. At this point we were shown a chart of how many gay men used hair straighteners in comparison to the number of straight men who did the same. This kind of study is designed to reinforce stereotypes and representations of people.

Ben moved on to how LGBT individuals are represented in games. http://www.GayGamer.net has a list titled ‘Top 20 Gayest Video Game Characters’. This interested Ben because it showed how people connected with games beyond the intention of the designer and also beyond play. He referenced Jenson and de Castell (2008) and the requirement for a rethink of gender assumptions with relation to games. He then moved on to list some of the games and characters that LGBT people identify with and some games that have included LGBT content.

SingStar Anthems was labelled ‘queer edition’ due to the perceived identification of the LGBT community with certain tracks. Ben also described the box art, whereby it seems that one of the men is looking at the other, and the same with the women. Ben stated his surprise when he realised just how much LGBT content there was to find. This included a playable ‘camp’ character by the name of Ash from Streets of Rage 3 who was removed from play in the US version of the game, and the developing relationship between two female characters in Fear Effect 2 which was later said to be revealed to be included for teenage boys who wanted to see such things. Ben questioned why such content would be included in games and answered himself with a statement about “commodification of difference”. Further examples cited included Bully: Scholarship Edition, in which one can kiss girls and boys and even gain points for homosexual encounters. The Temple of Elemental Evil, Fable, and Fallout included the serious possibility of gay marriage. Ben stated that developers claim to aim for a more rounded experience in games with such content.

Cho Aniki is a game involving a sexual relationship between two men. Ben described said title as being filled with hypermasculinity and highly sexualised content (such as using sperm as a weapon). He also stated that some individuals considered the characters of Dance Summit 2001 as drag queens, which brought him to what I considered as perhaps his most central point of the talk. Ben pointed out that it doesn’t actually matter with these characters whether they are LGBT or not, it’s the case that if someone has thought that way about them then it is important. This brought with it further examples, including the infamous Tingle character from the Zelda series (incidentally, this character made #1 on the GayGamer.net aforementioned top twenty). This character is important, states Ben, because of the on- and offline commentary regarding the character and how that interacts with itself. These are, Ben says, contested characters.

As a final two examples of content in games, Ben cited games in which one must run away from gay characters or, more alarmingly, kill them. The final example mentioned was what is apparently considered to be a bug, in which one could partner and even have children with someone of the same sex.

To conclude, Ben stated that there is much content in games intended to make humourous statements, or to be homophobic and hetero-normative. However, there is also an inter-textual element in which characters are hidden, and the idea of guessing on contested subjects. Ben will be working ethnographically in future with the game SingStar and the LGBT networks forming within that community. He wanted to observe the ‘gaymers’ versus ‘gamers’ divide and the idea that individuals play games because they want to play them, not simply because they are LGBT. Finally, Ben urged us to look at pre-determinism and stated that perhaps women only play certain games because that is what they are comfortable doing, and not because of their sex.

Ben received a number of questions and spoke about the situation of inclusion of content and whether it can become more political, the interest (or lack thereof) of content being directed towards LGBT gamers, and the discourse of men playing the SingStar games.

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Tanya began her talk by emphasising the notions of the popular press with regards to the threat of games and the ill-effects these are perceived as having. She expressed this as a concern, whereby human sexuality is essentially reduced when it’s actually extremely complex. The questions Tanya asked us throughout the talk regarded exactly how to define sex and its appearance in games, and indeed what is really happening in the games we play. She drew attention to Floyd and Braithwaite’s statement that there is, in fact, actually very little sex within games if we look at games historically. However, Tanya engaged us with the idea that perhaps our notions of what pertains to be sex or sexuality in games should be more flexible. She stated that there is little explicit sex in titles perhaps because of the production costs relating to this, the limited input of games devices for producing this, regulatory bodies, and the already-abundant cyber sex opportunities. She also stated that, although there has been little sex in games, the places where it has been used should be examined.

From here, Tanya’s talk was split into three sections: representations, sex as a game mechanic, and libidinal economies in games. The latter of these received less attention due to time constraints. In the ‘representations’ section, Tanya showed us two clips in which, she explained, one could clearly see the cinematic conventions of representing nudity that had clearly been borrowed by the games industry. The first clip was from Beowulf, in which smoke and cleverly angled shots hide the genitalia during a fight sequence. Something that struck me about this scene was that the warped body this man was fighting was not given any of the same allowances. Indeed, said body received maximum exposure, in stark contrast with the fighter. Tanya described the hiding of the genitalia as ironic and related it back to Lacan and the hiding of the phallus.

The second clip was from The Simpsons and showed Bart nude, riding his skateboard. This scene follows the same cinematic conventions in which rear shots and everyday objects are lifted to the correct level in order to hide the genitalia. It subverts this convention in the middle, however, when Bart rides on the other side of the hedge which happens to have a gap at the right level, thus exposing the genitalia for a moment before the conventions return. Tanya discussed that many of these cinematic conventions are utilised by games, especially in cutscenes where they can draw upon the cinematics in order to render sexuality. An example of this would be Mass Effect whereby the scenario of the sex act depends upon which characters one chooses to interact with throughout the game. In Viva Pinata, a more family-oriented title, the creatures were shown to dance around, followed by a baby arriving.

Tanya went on to describe sex in terms of a game mechanic, in which she also drew reference upon games in which the sex is built into the game itself: Seven Sins and Playboy: the Mansion. Sex in these games is noted as a means to an end. Japanese ‘ero’ or dating games will reward the player with a sex scene at the end providing specific criteria are met. Yet, there are also games which hide the sex: Warcraft was stated as an example where, in creating a building the units appear, albeit with no suggestion of the sexual act. Tanya stated that perhaps the reason why games with cyber sex content are not particularly popular is perhaps because of internet chatrooms and Massively Multiplayer titles, where players already have room to express these desires.

Finally, Tanya pointed out that perhaps we are looking for sex in games in the wrong places. She showed us a clip from Assassin’s Creed where the main character was stated to have erotic charge in the way he moved and dispatched of enemies.  The game The Path (http://thepath-game.com/) was also referenced with relation to this. Tanya’s final point was perhaps the most pertinent: where should we be looking for sex in games?

In questions, Tanya made reference to the notions of sex and sensuality, libidinal desire, Deleuzian thinking on desire as being read in what you do, and crossovers between real life and the game world in multi- and single-player titles. With reference to the Assassin’s Creed clip, one final point was made: whose position of desire is it spoken from?

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By popular demand, here is a PDF version of the keynote PowerPoint presentation from the WIG strand of DiGRA 2009.

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Women in Games are thrilled to welcome Catherine Woolley as this year’s guest blogger for our involvement with this year’s Develop in July and DiGRA in September. In return for free passes to the events she will be representing the WiG network and live blogging both events for this site.

Catherine has just graduated from The University of Wales, Newport with a 1st Class Honours degree in Computer Games Design.

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*** NEWS FLASH ***

Women in Games are in need of a UK-based student blogger to cover this year’s events at both Develop 2009 in Brighton in July and DiGRA 2009 at Brunel in September. In return for live blogging, photographing and general networking at both these events, the WiG steering committee are able to offer free student passes to both events. In order to apply for this unique opportunity please email enquiries@womeningames.com asap (i.e. before June 28th) with a 250-word reason why we should choose you.

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Please forward to interested colleagues and related networks..

In partnership with DIGRA 2009, Women in Games are honoured to issue a
general call for papers to be presented at this year’s DIGRA event at
Brunel. All information about submission available at
http://digra2009.newport.ac.uk.

Women in Games 2009 @ DIGRA 2009
Call for Abstracts
Submission deadline: Friday April 3rd 2009

Currently in its fifth year, Women in Games (http://www.womeningames.com) is
an annual conference with the distinct aim of highlighting the most recent,
groundbreaking work in computer game research and development to both
academic and industrial worlds. WiG has consistently addressed the
empowerment and professional development of women working in, and
researching into, games and the games industry. In 2009 with the objective
of widening the audience and reach of the initiative WiG is running a series
of activities in parallel with key games events, both academic and industry,
to deliver focussed work to the wider community.

To date the themes addressed by feminist game studies can be broadly themed
in work on gendered activity in digital games and feminine preference in
play style and game characteristics. Other key studies look to gender equity
in game making and to the wider context of access to games. From Brenda
Laurel’s work in the early 90s onwards (long pre-dating any such thing as
games studies); critics, commentators and the academy have offered theories
and observations on the difference in play habits, styles and consumption of
digital gaming exhibited by women and girls. Yet well into our second decade
of work in this area what can we say we have learnt?

We believe that the time is ripe to return to core values in discussions
around histories, difference and generation in game space.

For more information please contact enquiries@womeningames.com.

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