As the gaming industry matures and becomes an increasingly important form of cultural communication akin to painting or film, work created by both genders becomes ever more important. The Game Center, under the chairship of Frank Lantz, views their mission as primarily cultural and not strictly technical.
It’s easy to see why Undertale spoke to so many people. It’s rare to find a game that so thoroughly embraces nonviolence not just in mechanics but integral themes (though of course there are plenty of games with pacifist routes, from indie offerings like Iji to big fish like Metal Gear Solid). It’s a truly special game. And yes, I know the wave of praise for this game and the ensuing backlash have already both come and gone. Most people have not only heard of it but either played it or seen all the salient spoilers. As much as I liked it, I’d stopped thinking much about it months ago.
Even at that young age, I was crying myself to sleep, praying to wake up as a girl, with no memory of being a boy. Outwardly, I was just your typical roughhousing little boy, I didn’t ask to play with Barbies, I didn’t insist on being called a girl, I didn’t demand girl’ clothes. Those things were much much too scary to ask for at the time. The only way someone would be able to tell something was amiss was if they paid close attention to the way I used to play Super Mario Bros. 2. I used Princess Peach obsessively. I still have muscle memory for her floaty jumps and the longer length of time to pull up turnips, even to this day.
Perfect Woman’s main mechanic is body-bending. Standing in front of the Xbox One Kinect, players sync their arms and legs with the poses of a woman on-screen—at one point, a street kid leading a gang, at another, a belly dance teacher. The life choices you make, and how well you sync yourself with their demands, can impede or further new ambitions you have as you age. For example, when a life choice is more difficult, the poses on-screen change more rapidly. It’s fairly exhausting, and quite embarrassing to play, for example, in front of colleagues.
Instead of using a braille writer to create bumps on paper that spell out words, kids with a set of Braille Bricks can spell them out on a baseplate, which also means they can easily make corrections if they’ve made a spelling mistake. And the Braille Bricks can be stacked and assembled to build other objects, so they double as a genuine toy.
Slaying a few mindless kobolds is one thing, but D&D violence can assume much more imaginative and sinister forms. Take an example, from my own history of D&D campaigning: my character (Shamir, a 3200-year-old Chaotic Evil character) was, along with his party members, attempting to locate a map within a local inn. When the innkeeper refused to reveal the map’s whereabouts, Shamir began cutting off the innkeeper’s fingers, then hit the innkeeper’s wife, and then, when it was revealed that the map was actually hidden inside a different inn, he burned the inn down for good measure. (He later forced an orc to hold a crystal that induced uncontrollable psychic agony and vomiting.) Why did Shamir, or rather, I do it? Because it felt like the right thing to do at that moment.
Now recovered, she’s just released an autobiographical game called Ohmygod are you alright about her experience—of the injury, the hospital, and the additional challenges treatment poses for a low-income trans woman, as well as the sense of aloneness she experienced after the accident. She calls it a “direct sequel” to dys4ia, her popular piece about going through hormone replacement therapy. Since its release in 2012, dys4ia’s been celebrated in the press as an “empathy game”, as it seemed to allow people to feel for Anna in a circumstance that many of the players would never experience themselves. By playing Anna’s autobiographical story, players learned more about the experience of transition and dysphoria, and said they felt empathy for her.
The Baining believe, quite correctly, that play is the natural activity of children, and precisely for that reason they do what they can to discourage or prevent it. They refer to children’s play as “splashing in the mud,” an activity of pigs, not appropriate for humans. They do not allow infants to crawl and explore on their own. When one tries to do so an adult picks it up and restrains it. Beyond infancy, children are encouraged or coerced to spend their days working and are often punished—sometimes by such harsh means as shoving the child’s hand into the fire—for playing. On those occasions when Fajans did get an adult to talk about his or her childhood, the narrative was typically about the challenge of embracing work and overcoming the shameful desire to play. Part of the reason the Baining are reluctant to talk about themselves, apparently, derives from their strong sense of shame about their natural drives and desires.
To give you an idea about how bad publisher influence can be, consider this: during production meetings, publishing execs often have someone—often the developer—“drive” a game so they can see how it is coming together. The publishing people all watch and then make passive, aesthetic appraisals of active, functional aspects of a game. This is because the bulk of execs can’t and don’t want to play or understand how games work. They don’t want to play. This would be akin to editors in literary publishing being unable to read or write.The relative ignorance of people in game publishing has been called out before. As Gabe Newell put it, gamers/consumers have a much better understanding of games than the management at publishers. It’s entirely and utterly true.
Every woman I know in games right now is really tired. Careful: That is “every woman I know,” not “every woman.” You must be very careful. It’s the kind of fatigue that isn’t so easily explained by our fist-shaking male colleagues who earnestly empathize across their social media platforms with how “we get harassed a lot”. Some of us get harassed a lot and some of us don’t. Sometimes it upsets me when people bring up the harassment: comments like I have no idea how you put up with all the shit you put up with or gee, you sure have a lot of haters, because honestly I am usually trying to ignore that part and, well, a lot of people like and support my work too, thank you.