Geek Life Recap

The last couple months have been pretty full.  I finished up the school year, and as I was a co-advisor to the graduating class, I had a great deal of things to help plan and implement.  I’ve also been planning and implementing my wedding, which is in two and a half weeks.  We’re working on the details of getting me moved into Bard’s house, along with our three furbabies.

I also went to PortCon Maine, a 2,000-ish attended con in southern Maine at the end of June.  I presented on games and mythology: how games use old myths, and also create new ones.  It was really interesting to put together.  I got the idea from the mythology class I taught second semester.  I was fortunate to have many gamers in my class, all of whom began talking about how they saw their favorite games utilize elements of mythology.  Some inherited existing creatures and deities, while others used the tenets of mythology to create something new and original.  It was my first time going to PortCon, and hence also my first time presenting there.  I had some technical difficulties; for one, I made a Prezi, rather than the usual PowerPoint.  I’d seen Prezi in action at a PAX East presentation, and thought it would be more technological and visually appealing than PowerPoint.  Well, it is if you can access your Prezi on the internet, which I couldn’t do.  We were going to have our friend set up his phone as a hotspot, and then I found the Prezi app on my iPhone and presented from my iPhone.  It was not idea, but it did in a pinch.  And the crowd was pretty wonderful, adding a lot to the discussion that I will be able to file away and use in next year’s classes.

My bridal shower went very well, and I did a meadery tour and tasting for my bachelorette party.  There was also dinner, karaoke, and Cards Against Humanity!

This weekend coming up, I head down to Burlington, Massachusetts for ReaderCon.  ReaderCon has fast become one of my favorite points in the year.  It’s not quite up there with PAX East, but I definitely look forward to it.  It’s low-key in that there are no costumes, and the dealer’s floor is all books.  But it’s very intellectual, and I love going to panels and getting more insight into speculative fiction.  Last year I went to one about Frankenstein, and one about language acquisition and reading and how it affects the teaching and appreciation of speculative fiction.  This year’s schedule is looking very promising, and what’s more, Eden Paradox, my best friend, is joining this year!

In between these things I’ve been bringing my things over to Bard’s as we get things sorted for my move.  This week I’ll be doing some work to help prepare things for our new home together.  When I can’t do things there, I’m packing here, and when I can’t pack, I’m usually gaming.  I’m working on achievements in Skyrim, my AU Dragon Age fanfic, and browsing courses on coursera.org.  I took a class on gamification through them, and it’s going to really help my teaching strategies.  I did some experimentation at the end of last year, and while I didn’t collect hard data, I noticed a great improvement in achieving target behaviors from even my toughest students!  The next class I’m taking through there is about MMOs as a new form of narrative, and my homework is playing Lord of the Rings Online.  Ouch, not sure I can handle that! 😉

That’s the geek life recap for now… while I hang out I should blog more about more things.  Maybe some more about gamification, or what Eden Paradox calls “geek fallacies” in friend circles.  Or any requests.  So… any requests?  Put it in the comments, and prepare for a cynical response!

PAX East Day 3

This was my third year at PAX East, but it was the first time I’d been able to stay for all three days.  The first year I had a three day pass, but commuted and was exhausted by Sunday.  Last year we only had Friday and Saturday passes, and Sunday was Easter anyway.  This year we had a nearby hotel and three day passes and believe me, we took full advantage of it!

MLHawke’s husband drove down to meet us, and brought along Bard’s sister.  I didn’t do a cosplay, but after two full days in costume it felt nice to wear jeans and a t-shirt (and my snazzy new N7 jacket) and just my normal hair and makeup!

Bard and I met up with his sister; MLHawke was in line for the Elder Scrolls Online demo, but from the point she was at, it was a 3 hour wait.  She wound up getting out of line, and she and her husband went to wait for the Education Gamification panel (since he’s a teacher, and her job involves a lot of classroom/curriculum work).  I wandered around with Bard and his sister for a bit, then joined MLHawke for the panel.  I’d gone to the games and education panel on Friday, and this one was also awesome.  It gave me some incredible ideas and links for resources.  I left inspired to roll out an experimental learning model to my classes.  More on that later though.

Sunday’s panels were a little sparse for me; I didn’t really have much I wanted to do.  Bard and I knew we wanted to paint miniatures again, so we put our names on the 2-hour waitlist, then headed to a panel done by OC Remix.  He and his sister are really into them, so it was nice to see them really enjoy the panel.  I found it interesting for certain; I love when things are mixed up and done in different genres and such.  We got back and did our mini painting.  Bard, myself, and his sister all painted minis of our current D&D characters.  My bard, Indiana Jenn, is a human and an archer who occasionally pulls out a rapier, so I picked the archer figurine (even though it looked a touch elven).  Bard’s a fighter and his sister is a sorceress.  MLHawke, her husband, and one of our friends came over, but the wait was another two hours and by then it was nearly four o’clock.

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Most of the last couple hours was spent in classic console, chilling with our friend Ted and charging my phone.  The day wasn’t quite over, but I was already starting to feel withdrawal symptoms.  I kept trying to think about my new ideas to roll out at school the next day, rather than the drive home, or the amount of laundry I was going to have to do.  The last day was relaxing, but at the same time it was a slight downer because there was none of the crazy excitement of the first two days.  No, that won’t be my incentive to make three separate cosplays for next year, however.  I think it was the knowing it was ending; we’d had two days full days of complete awesomeness.  This day was also awesome, but there was the knowledge that we would have to be leaving.

However, when we did go to leave, we found that though we were done with PAX, it wasn’t done with us!  My car battery was dead!  We ended up being delayed about 45 minutes while we waited for AAA and let my engine run and recharge the battery.  By the time we finally got back home it was about 9 and we were exhausted.  Neither of us (nor our companions for the weekend) took Monday off, so collapsing into bed was met with the knowledge that the alarm was going off in mere hours, marking our return to the real world.

Of course, the return to the “real world” means the onset of post-PAX withdrawal.  Withdrawal is pretty common after any con, from what I’ve heard (and felt after things like PAX and ICON).  You go nearly nonstop for a whole weekend, set apart in a world of people who mostly think like you and have the same interests as you.  You see amazing things and make new friends.  You learn new information.  You want to burst with excitement from it all… and then it’s back to jobs and classes and people who don’t always feel the same way about these things.  Oh, and the con-cold.  I’ve kind of been fighting something off since the Sunday of PAX, but thanks to vitamin C, rest, and fluids, it’s not really turning into much.  Still, it’s a reminder that I had such an awesome weekend my body wants to punish me.  Hehe.

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While Day 3 was a lot more relaxed and low-key, and there was much more sitting around, it was still a good day.  I got that one last day to wander aimlessly and see the show floor and experience it with Bard’s sister at her first ever PAX.  She really had a good time, which is awesome.  Our PAX contingent is growing!  And the nice thing is I left not only with some great merchandise and awesome swag, but also with knowledge of a new model for my classroom.

The event may have ended on Sunday, but the lessons from this year’s PAX East will carry through for far longer.  Now it’s onto thinking about next year’s PAX East.  And of course, the costumes!

PAX East Day 2: or, on being a fan

PAX East is always awesome; from the demos to the panels, and everything else, it’s just awesome to be a fan of gaming surrounded by thousands of other similarly-minded individuals.  Day 2 of this year’s PAX, however, truly drove home how awesome it is to be a fan who is deeply passionate about something.

First off, today was the day of the BioWare costume contest, so Bard and I donned our matching Jowan and Lily (from the mage origin in Dragon Age Origins) cosplays:

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We wanted to head over to see PopCap as well; they’d just released the mobile Solitaire Blitz app, and it was the one year “splashy-versary” of the game, so we wanted to show off our Otis the worm plushie.

I was initially going to go to a panel about showing off your love of gaming in real life.  But… I already do that.  A lot.  So instead I headed down to the show floor to meet up with MLHawke, who was in line with our friend Amanda for Assassin’s Creed 4. I wasn’t too interested in seeing it, but the booth did have a free photo stage.  Chantry sister plus coffee plus pirate gun equals a little crazy!  Next I was going to hit a panel about geeks and crafting, but since I do a lot of that anyway, I decided I’d go to the BioWare panel about The World of Thedas.

It was a good talk, and makes me even more excited to get the book; Dragon Age has such a deep, richly detailed world that something like this was a long time coming.  I’ve done my share of scouring lore and codex entries and writing my own analytical pieces about it, so having a definitive work from the developers themselves will be an excellent resource.  And it’s only volume 1!  When the panel was over I hung out a little talking with some other fans, and got to meet and speak with Sheila of the cosplay duo Aicosu. Her tutorials on makeup and wigs were extremely helpful, particularly with Day 1’s Serana costume.  She was extremely nice, and after viewing and admiring her cosplays it was awesome to stop and say hello.  Plus, her Dishonored cosplays were incredible.

Bard and I had time to kill, so we headed back to the show floor with Otis.  The PopCap carnival booth was in full swing, but we found a marketing person who loved Otis and actually called out the Solitaire Blitz community manager!  Tara came out to see Otis and absolutely LOVED him!  We explained how we loved how cute he is in all his little outfits, and how we were hoping to have a chance to show him off.  And yes, we’d downloaded the app the previous day!  She took pictures of him to show at the office, then handed us Solitaire Blitz card decks and Energy Eel energy shots.  Later on we found out she’d told people it was the highlight of her weekend.  That made me so happy to hear, because I’d really enjoyed making Otis back in the summer, and being able to bring him by the PopCap station was a lot of fun.

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We headed back to the hotel for some light costume repair, then it was over to the BioWare base for the Dragon Age signings and costume contest! We weren’t too far back in line, but as we were waiting, Chris Priestly, a community manager, spied our DA costumes and invited us to jump the line and go in early.  I love how much BioWare understands its fanbase, and appreciates things like cosplays.  We hung out for a bit; I was able to get a signed postcard from Raphael Sbarge, who voiced Kaiden Alenko in Mass Effect.

When the DA developers came back, I got in line to get my DA2 game signed (got DA:O ultimate edition signed last year) and scored a hard copy of “Asunder”, last year’s DA novel.  They commented on my Chantry outfit, and I was able to explain how, because of DA, Bard and I met.  (Long story short, I played DA, got obsessed, joined a Facebook community, met MLHawke, who then introduced me to Bard).  It was nice to be able to share with them what the game meant, not just as a game, but as something that helped as a catalyst for the most important thing in my life.

The costume contest started a short while later.  Let me tell you, there are some VERY talented people out there!  What they are able to accomplish, and how they are able to bring the game to life, is amazing.  I was and still am impressed by how many people make the Shepard N7 armor from Mass Effect; it’s a difficult costume to pull off, requires a lot of material, and is multipart.  And that’s just the armor; never mind if you want to add on weapons, which most do for accuracy.  LOTS of amazing Shepards were there, as were quite a few Asari!  I’m also an admirer of Asari cosplayers, because not only do you have the armor issue (if you’re going that route) but then you have the headpieces and makeup.

There weren’t many Dragon Age cosplayers; maybe only four of us or so.  There was me and Bard of course, but then two Wardens in the blue armor uniform introduced in DA2.  One was my friend Gabby, whose armor is amazing!  The scale work, hand riveting on the shrug, and overall attention to details is great (even down to a leather belt case for her iPhone!) And she even had the rose from Alistair.   She looked like she could have just stepped right out of the game.

When it got to us we got to tell the judges (and a room full of people) that we’d met through a friend I’d only met because of DA, and that we were getting married in four months.  And yes, we’d turn out better than Jowan and Lily did!  We got lots of applause and commentary on our costumes (including a note on the paisley fabric I’d found for Jowan’s sleeves) and then went on our way to see the rest of the cosplay.  We scored N7 jackets from Mass Effect for our participation!  THAT was awesome.  Then came the judging.

In a room full of such excellent, well-crafted costumes made by so many talented people (and I will tell you that most all of them make these things themselves) I didn’t expect to win anything, which was fine.  Being in the contest and having the new jacket was awesome enough.  But BioWare took it a step further.  Before announcing the winners they called up the “Dragon Age couple”.  They gave us the two hardcover comics, a deck of Dragon Age cards, and a Flemeth dragon statue as “an early wedding present from BioWare”!  I was floored!  We went to show our appreciation for their games, and then they turned it around for us.  We got pictures with Chris Priestly at the photobooth, who then tweeted them immediately; when I tweeted a thank you for making our day so special he replied!  They truly know how to treat fans and make us feel appreciated; there are so many things they don’t have to do, but do anyway, so thank you BioWare again for making our day beyond special; Amanda later said that it was “transcendent”.  And to top it all off, there was a four-way tie for the contest, but Gabby’s Warden armor took the grand prize!

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Then it was back to the hotel to get changed; after two days in costume it felt good to kick back in jeans and a t-shirt, and my new jacket of course! Bard was in the Tetris Attack tournament, defending his gold medal from last year.  It was a smaller group, and missing some of the guys from last year, but Ted was there attacking away.  The first few rounds went as expected, but toward the end things got intense.  Ted wound up losing to someone, and Bard lost two matches because his opponent psyched him out.  He got back on track though, and won his match, then went up against Ted’s defeater.  It was intensive, but in the end Bard pulled off another victory and got another gold medal to clank against the one he got last year.

When all was said and done, it was almost a dreamlike day at PAX East.  If a day could be perfect, day 2 may have been it.  It was extremely validating as a crafter, cosplayer, and all around fan.  PopCap and BioWare made my weekend, and I was glad I got to share it with Bard, MLHawke, and Amanda (for whom it was a first PAX experience).  Up next, Day 3, or how everything I know about doing my job is about to change!

PAX East 2013, Part 1

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This was my third time at PAX East.  Each year it’s different for me: in 2011 I drove down each day, I was singlemost , and went alone because hey, PAX East, why not!  I loved it and it was amazing, and I was excited to go the following year.  In 2012 it fell on Easter weekend, so I only went Friday and Saturday; I had a boyfriend, we had a hotel, and it was across Boston from the convention center so we had to pay double in parking because we had to drive.  It was also my first year cosplaying, and I learned a lot about the process of costume making and the aftermath of it all.

This year I have a fiance, we went for three days, and we scored a hotel across the street from the convention center, making things extremely convenient.  I had people I met last year and got to meet up with and share our love of gaming.  And I did two costumes for myself.  All in all this year’s PAX may have been the best yet, as this and the next couple posts will likely show.

I came to the decision that I need PAX East.  I look forward to it like most people look forward to a Disney vacation.  There is something exhilarating about being surrounded by 20,000 other gamers; not to mention the bright colors, bright lights, swag, costumes, demos… the list goes on.  And this year I was able to, unlike in past years, truly experience the joy of being a fan.  But more on that later.

So first off: Friday.  Bard and I left the house a little after 7:30am, in costume and me in costume and full makeup for my first cosplay of the weekend, Serana from the Dawnguard DLC for Skyrim:

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(Funny enough, I got a Facebook message later that day from a friend whose wife was pretty sure she’d seen me stopping for coffee, but the black wig confused her!)

We were making good time in light traffic until about Winchester, which is only a few miles outside Boston, when we hit the crawling traffic.  From Winchester to the top of the exit 23 ramp, it took us a full hour of stop and go, inching along traffic.  Good thing we weren’t planning on attending much of anything at 10am!  I’d thought of trying out the Con Cosplay Survival panel, but I’d read a lot on good preparation and such for costuming, and felt fine missing it.  Bard and I found the parking garage for our hotel, and a friend who was,  staying with us met up to stow his gear in my car.  I finished up putting on my costume, we clipped on our badges, and we were off to the BCEC!

When we got inside we met up with MLHawke, checked our mutual schedules (MLHawke, Bard and myself all used the Guidebook App–VERY handy for scheduling, mapping, and figuring things out!) and decided to meet back up later in the afternoon to check out the Elder Scrolls Online food truck.  Hey, free lunch provided by #ESO?  Yes please!

My first panel was about education and gaming.  The speaker, Steve Swink, is a gamer, game designer, and educator who really knew his stuff, and was very passionate about where we have things wrong as far as education in this country goes.  We treat our students like flashdrives.  They sit down (plug in), we load them with knowledge that sometimes seems randomized and is often impersonal, then expect we can just get that info back later on in the form of a test.  The issue is that they’re not flashdrives.  Flashdrives process information the same way whether they’re 4GB or 64GB; students are people who process differently.  Swink’s presentation dealt with how we can use games to reach students, and now they don’t have to just be supplementary to the curriculum, but could even be the curriculum itself!  It’s a great idea, though I’m not sure that the district I work in will ever embrace it (or at least get the technology for it) during my time there.  We’ll see.  At least it gave me some ideas to go off of.

Then we all met up and hit the #ESOFoodtruck for lunch.  It was located on Congress Street.  We started walking, all happily discussing our mornings.  It was a bit farther away than I’d thought or expected, and MLHawke and Bard were FREEZING by the time we arrived!  Luckily Serana is a multi-part costume with a lot of layers, so I didn’t do too badly in that regard.  Lunch was good, and they had a photo station with a green screen, where I got the greatest picture of my cosplay:

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We headed back to the hotel after that, and Bard changed out of his costume because he was super cold in it.  Silly wind.  I fixed my makeup and my wig, then it was back to the BCEC.  I went to a panel on parents as characters in video games, on which Mike Laidlaw of Dragon Age sat.  It was interesting, and it has made me more aware of the changing role of parents in games, and given me stuff to work with in class with the books we read.  Bard and I met up again and I saw our friend Ted, a Tetris Attack beast, and caught up on life since last year.  My final panel of the night was on curing chemicals and special effects cosplay, which was interesting.  While I know that some of that will improve my cosplays immensely in the future, it’s a little daunting.  There’s a lot of prep work and measuring involved, but anything worth doing comes with some difficulties, so who knows.  Maybe I will attempt it at some point, just out of curiosity!

Then it was back to the hotel for the evening to make myself human again (sort of literally, since Serana is a vampire after all!).  The night was spent debriefing about our day’s experiences, and plans for the next.

Tomorrow’s recap will cover Saturday, with cosplay number two, and the awesomeness that is BioWare!

30 Days of Video Games: Day 20, Favorite Genre

I’ve never been one of those types to have a favorite genre; I look at my bookshelves and see an equal spread of classic literature, fantasy, and general fiction and nonfiction.  I look at my DVDs and see action/adventure, fantasy, comedy, animated… all sorts of films.  So when I have to think about my favorite game genre, I naturally look to my game shelf and see shooters, RPGs, and action/adventure games.  I don’t prefer any one type over the other, so choosing a favorite genre is a bit difficult for me.

I could say I like the involvement that shooters give.  When I play Halo, I am Master Chief or Noble 6, slaughtering the Covenant forces and loving every minute of it.  When I play Left 4 Dead, I’m constantly on the move for fear of more undead rushing out of the shadows and killing me.  With BioShock, which is a combination shooter/RPG, I’m actually there, in Rapture.

But when I play something like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, my choices are having a direct effect on the storyline.  In effect, I’m creating the story as I go.  The protagonist is my character, and I’m guiding him or her through this strange land trying to unite different races against one common enemy.  When I’m playing Skyrim I’m immersed in the world of Skyrim and helping to shape the future of that land one dragon soul at a time.  There’s something very gratifying about that.

So I think in the end, really, my favorite genre comes down to what I’m in the mood to play and the kind of experience I want.  Each genre serves a different purpose, so I can’t really narrow down what I like best.  So in the interest of brevity, I simply won’t try to do it.  I will stick to playing the games I like because I like them, not because they’re the latest shooter/RPG/survival-horror/whathaveyou.  I know there are people out there who have favorite genres and will play any RPG or whatnot they can get their hands on, but I think for me personally I can’t really narrow it down.

And all it takes is one look at my bookshelves or DVD shelves to prove that to be true.

Next: Day 21, Game with the best story.

30 Days of Video Games: Day 11, Game System of Choice

I’ve always played primarily console games from the time I was young.  I had the NES, then the Sega Genesis.  In college I had a roommate with a Nintendo 64.  When I graduated college and then started working and had the money, I bought myself a new console.  I went with the GameCube, so I could play Metroid Prime, since I was on a Metroid kick.  I also got a GameBoy Advance SP so I could play Metroid Fusion; and then I got a GameBoy Player so I could link the two!  My brother left me his PS2 when he moved to California and I played a lot on that, but my history was largely Nintendo-based.

But two years ago I found the need to get a current-generation console.  I did some research.  The Wii was fun, but I didn’t care for the game selection.  There weren’t a lot of third-party-developed games.  The PS3 seemed like a good choice, but I didn’t see anything certain about backwards compatibility.  I had quite a few PS2 games, and would have liked to be able to play them on a new system, especially since I’d be trading in the old one.  But a lot of my friends had the xbox 360.  I researched its capabilities and its games.  There were some first party games I liked, and a lot of third party developed games that looked good as well.  Most of my friends had it, so we could play together and communicate.  I settled on purchasing the xbox 360.

When I got it, I also purchased a gold xbox Live! membership.  With that membership I had access to streaming Netflix and streaming radio, among other things.  I saw it as more of an investment than expenditure, because of all I could do with it.  I’ve had my 360 for two years now and still love what it can do.  Lately I haven’t had much time to game, but its capabilities as a DVD player and a Netflix streamer have been awesome.  The game selection is one that I’m happy with, and there have been very few games coming out that I’ve seen and wanted but weren’t available on the 360.

As the 360’s capabilities increase, with the Kinect and so forth, I’m sure I’ll need to upgrade eventually.  But for now, the xbox 360 is my game system of choice.

The Shame Game

I really hope this doesn’t turn into a tl;dr for some people.  This is something that really hit me hard after the high of PAX and I felt I really needed to get out.

As a female gamer I’m constantly aware of the way women are presented in games.  One of my favorite panels at PAX East 2011 was about the portrayal of women in games, whether it’s as the helpless damsel in distress or the kickass heroine; the taut and toned adventure-seeker or the super-sexy femme fatale.  It was interesting, and brought up a whole lot of food for thought.  The year passed, and then this year’s PAX East got me thinking more, particularly with the aftermath of some photos posted by BioWare.  So many comments came up about how many “fatties” were at the convention, and how all the “fat gamers” needed to get off their asses or at least get a Wii Fit or something.  And it got me thinking more.

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Women Gamers, Women in Games: Statistic vs. Stereotype

I just read a list on Cracked.com about being a gamer.  Some of the things it had to say were right on, and some things tended to pertain to a small portion of the gamer demographic.  But it had some interesting things to say about female gamers.  I know this issue is talked to death, and I know I’ll probably offend some people, and probably miss some points of discussion.  But 1.)it’s my blog and I haven’t talked it to death, 2.)if you’re offended at least you think about things (and give me the opportunity to learn more about others’ perspectives) and 3.)this is such a huge topic that I’m bound to miss things, and accept that.  So: what does it mean for me pesonally to be a female gamer, and what do I think about women in games?

Interestingly enough, current statistics show that nearly 2/3 of online gamers are women.  Normally I like to defy the statistics in my ongoing quest for individuality.  However, this is one case where I’m proud to be part of the statistics, and a member of the majority.  I’ve been gaming in earnest since I was young, and owe much of that to Samus Aran of Metroid fame.  Growing up I was used to the idea that the Princess was in another castle.  So imagine my delight when the end of Metroid revealed that the badass bounty hunter I’d taken all over Zebes was a woman!

I’ve never been one of those female gamers that complains much about the portrayal of women in games.  I’m happy to see more and more female characters taking the lead and going out to kick arse and take names, and when I play online (mostly Halo: Reach) I play as my female Spartan.  But what was troubling to me was that I recently read that many women prefer to play online as males.  Granted the study is nearly four years old, but conversely, I was having a conversation with a friend once about males and females online and he said that sometimes he intentionally plays as a female character because people underestimate him.

Now that got me thinking.  Around this time last year, Halo: Reach launched the weekly challenge of 77 online matches in seven days.  Luckily we had two snow days and one delay that week, because I spent my time playing online Halo matches.  I played as my female Spartan, but I kept my mic off mostly because I find in-game chatting distracting for me.  Normally it isn’t an issue, but during one match I got a kill, but then fell and my character made a noise.  The chat got very quiet, and then I heard one person say to the other, “I think there’s a girl playing.”  I had to ask myself, “Why does it matter?”  I can guarantee that if I was playing as a male Spartan it wouldn’t have been an issue; with my mic off, I would just be an anonymous male Spartan trying to kill everyone while they all tried to kill me.  But because I played as a female it started question and discussion.

Usually statistics go hand in hand with developing stereotypes.  However, the Female Gamer is not one such case.  66% of online gamers are women, and yet people are surprised to learn that they’re playing in a match with a female.  Is it because the stereotypical female gamer plays a different sort of game?  Or behaves in a different sort of way?  For me, when I go into a match as an openly female character, I don’t expect to be treated any differently, and I don’t behave any differently.  For me, we’re all gamers and we all have an objective, and it usually involves killing everyone else.  Why should gender matter in that objective?

It also seems to me that the perception is that stereotypical female gamers also will spend time complaining about the oversexualization and objectification of women in games.  I went to a panel at PAX East last year about female characters, and the focus wasn’t on the necessarily overly sexualized characters, but the ones that were portrayed either as realistic in terms of build or personality (Morrigan from Dragon Age stood out, which I remember because I picked up Dragon Age for the first time about a week later); or the ones who were portrayed not as overly sexual, but as helpless.  The princess in another castle, if you will.

For me, I’m less worried about female characters being objectified sexually, and more concerned about them being written as more passive, damsel-in-distress types of characters.  People may voice opinions about Lara Croft’s bust size, but at least she’s out there being proactive.  Kat, in Reach, would kick your arse if you suggested she was attractive in any way.  The stereotye of a female character as overly sexual overshadows the reality of passive DiD sorts of characters.  And since the focus is more on how women are objectified sexually, there’s no real look at how they’re objectified through being passive.

Princess Toadstool was always in another castle; theobjectof Super Mario Bros. was to save her.  Thank the gaming gods for Samus, coming along and blasting her way through Zebes!  Even after she was revealed as a female, she was still blowing up planets like it was her job.  Then in 2002, Metroid: Fusion came out.  Samus was stalked around a deserted space station by an over-powered clone of herself, and had to rely on the guidance of a computer AI, who reminded her of her dead Commanding Officer if she were to survive.  It was a different sort of game, and it portrayed Samus as slightly more vulnerable than in the past.  Coming at it from my perspective, where I enjoy character depth and whatnot, it was very interesting to see a new side to her. 

The Metroid formula changed some as the technology did, and with it, Samus changed.  The lone bounty hunter got teammates in Metroid Prime: Hunters for the DS, and in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Wii.  In Corruption, Samus wound up having to kill her team when they attacked her; while it followed the boss fight formula, it was interesting because Samus had worked with these people earlier in the game, and become more of a character defined by those around her as a result.  And then came Metroid: Other M.  I don’t have a Wii, but even if I did, and even as much as I love Metroid, I wouldn’t play it because of this article.  As someone who’s been in an emotionally abusive relationship, these things resonate with me to begin with; but then seeing Samus, who started out so strong and competent and capable and unapologetic reduced to that?  To see her written as a lost little girl, when she left that behind with the Chozo long ago?  Her strength was something that defined her and made her different.  To take that away demeans her not as a woman, but as a character in general.

Not all characters have gone that way.  Zelda went from the kidnapped prisoner in Ganon’s dungeon to Shiek, a highly trained fighter.  And Dragon Age: Origins has Queen Anora, who will even stand up to her father in spite of the fact that he’s one of Ferelden’s most celebrated generals.  She knows what she wants and what she has to do to get it.  And most of all, she’ll do that if it means achieving her endgame.

And that’s where I feel I am now as a woman who is a gamer.  I’m sure I’ll raise some hackles with all I’ve said, and that’s okay.  This is a difficult issue, where even people on the same side will have different reasons for why they’re on the same side.  But one thing is clear: the statistic and the stereotype don’t always match up, either in the case of the games’ characters, or the gamers themselves.  I may fit a statistic, but I’m not steretypical.  And you shouldn’t be, either.