They are the 48 Percent: A Look into Gaming Sexism

Misogyny in videogames and their corresponding communities is something of a volatile topic at the moment. From Anita Sarkeesian falling victim to an online hate campaign, to Australian games journalist Rae Johnston having her gaming credibility personally questioned by a stranger; there are plenty of examples of sexism and misogyny to find. Evidence of this can be found in the 2012 online Twitter campaign called #1reasonwhy that showed just how widespread misogyny really is in the video game industry, community and culture.

https://twitter.com/lilyorit/statuses/273207118465740800

https://twitter.com/lilyorit/statuses/273215762607534080

The #1reasonwhy movement bears multiple similarities to the #mencallmethings movement, which served to empower women by giving them an online platform to share their hardships, voice their concerns and support one another (Evans 2011). The hashtag itself is supposed to be answering a question posed in a tweet by pen-and-paper RPG designer Luke Crane (2012), “Why are there so few lady game creators?” (in Hern 2012). Yare (2012) identifies a number of recurring issues the tweets raise, such as the attitude that women land their roles in the industry based on their appearance, that the female audience is often overlooked in regards to game design, and simply that men are hostile or dismissive towards women in the industry. In fact there are any number of examples of Twitter users who joined in the discussion only to dispute, dismiss and make light of the issues being raised in it.

What the #1reasonwhy movement does is remind us of a broader troubling trend we are seeing online; that women who are seen to be challenging or participating in “men’s spaces” can expect aggression, abuse or may just simply be dismissed as unimportant (Filipovic 2007). According to the latest ESA (2014) statistics, 48% of gamers are now female, so the issues raised by the #1reasonwhy movement are only going to become more significant as the games industry and community negotiate to create a more inclusive space for everyone.

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References

Evans, K 2011, ‘Men call me things: It’s not as romantic as it sounds’, The Drum, 11 November, viewed 11 May 2014 http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3659712.html

Hern, A 2012, ‘One reason why there’s so few women in games. And another. And another…’, New Statesman, 27 November, viewed 11 May 2014 http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2012/11/one-reason-why-theres-so-few-women-games-and-another-and-another

Yare, B 2012, ‘1 Reason Why: Twitter Examines the Stunning Lack of Female Game Designers’, Feminspire, viewed 11 May 2014 http://feminspire.com/1-reason-why-twitter-examines-the-stunning-lack-of-female-game-designers/

Filipovic, J 2007, ‘Blogging while female: How internet misogyny parallels ‘real-world’ harrassment’, Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, p.295-304

Entertainment Software Association 2014, ‘Game Player Data’, ESA Entertainment Software Association, viewed 11 May 2014 http://www.theesa.com/facts/gameplayer.asp

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All Things Created Miiqual

The soon-to-be-localised 3DS game Tomodachi Life has been gathering some attention outside of Japan lately, but not necessarily the type that the developer, Nintendo would have wanted. The game itself is a “virtual life” style of game with an emphasis on social interaction and relationship building and features the ability to marry and have children (Schreier 2014). But to the disappointment of many, such relationships, and therefore gameplay features, are only available to heterosexual couples. This is where the #Miiquality movement steps in, spearheaded by 23-year-old Tye Marini (Kincaid 2014).

Utilizing the “Miiquality” hashtag on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, people are encouraged to voice their objections and feelings about the heteronormative elements of Tomodachi Life in the hopes of reaching Nintendo and influencing them to either patch same-sex marriages into the upcoming title or implement this feature for any potential sequels (Marini, in Schreier 2014). What we’re seeing in this movement is a form of what Jenkins (2012) refers to as participatory politics; where the voices of a diverse range of individuals are attempting to influence issues of public concern.

image sourced from here

image sourced from here

But what of the implications and results of this movement? Well Nintendo have publically acknowledged the movement, apologised for the disappointment felt by their audience, and stated that although they are unable to patch a correction into this game they will strive to make a more inclusive experience in any future games in the series (Kincaid 2014). By the criteria outlined by Marini the Miiquality movement has been a success. But the movement has arguably become much more than the simple goals put forward by movement founder Tye Marini. As the Miiquality (2014) tumblr blog has acknowledged, the Miiquality hashtag and social media groups will continue to operate as a hub for those members of the LGBTQIA community who consider themselves Nintendo fans.

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References

Jenkins, H 2012, ‘The new political commons’, Options Politiques, November, pp. 110-112

Kincaid, H 2014, Miiquality? Tomodachi Life’s Gay Marriage Controversy, MCM Buzz, viewed 10 May 2014, http://www.mcmbuzz.com/2014/05/09/miiquality-tomodachi-lifes-gay-marriage-controversy/

Schreier, J 2014, Fighting For Gay Marriage In A Nintendo Game, Kotaku, viewed 10 May 2014, http://kotaku.com/fighting-for-gay-marriage-in-a-nintendo-game-1572026032

Miiquality, 2014, “#Miiquality has succeeded in its primary goal…”, Miiquality (tumblr blog), viewed 10 May 2014, http://miiquality.tumblr.com/post/85270218230/miiquality-has-succeeded-in-its-primary-goal-to

Thank you, Mario. But our Princess Doesn’t Need Saving.

Earlier this month downloadable Nintendo game NES Remix 2 was released on the Wii U eshop. The game features a selection of classic Nintendo games that have been remixed and mashed-up to create a range of new experiences and challenges. Andrew Whelan (2013) argues that the “remix” allows for intervention in the flow of culture and ideologies through the use of technology. But can we see this kind of intervention at work in video game remixes?

Danielle Riendeau (2014) comments that not only does NES Remix 2 give us a chance to re-live and discover classic games, but it also helps to examine how and why these classic gameplay mechanics and designs worked so well in the first place. By swapping characters with different play-styles into levels from different games, Nintendo have allowed the player to consider the implications of subtle design choices made in the original (Whelan 2013).

A gender-role remix. Image sourced from here

A gender-role remix. Image sourced from here

But the remix can offer more to gaming than an opportunity for the industry to make new products from old; it also offers an opportunity for the audience themselves to get creative and engage in amateur development (Lessig 2008). This kind of hobbyist programming can be seen in a fan-modified version of The Legend of Zelda that allows for Zelda to be the player controlled hero of the game, rather than the damsel in distress that the player must rescue (Strapagiel 2013). By the simple act of swapping art assets the modified game takes on a whole new meaning; exposing and questioning the naturalized gender roles that the original was built upon (Whelan 2013). Interestingly, the much more recent NES Remix 2 features a similarly subversive, gender-swap example whereby the player controls Princess Peach and is tasked with saving herself from danger (Riendeau 2014). Whether or not these two examples are directly related, it seems that the remix allows the audience and the industry to exchange ideas that could potentially benefit both.

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References

Whelan, A 2013, bcm112 rmx 1: Why we’re talking about remix, video lecture, 25 April, YouTube, viewed 30 April 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvCySRpwmTE&list=PLS44p8p8uZZd5PwlkV_SaF-9E3Vyfnr51

Riendeau, D 2014, NES Remix 2 review: playing with power, Polygon, viewed 30 April 2014 http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/29/5662536/nes-remix-2-review-playing-with-power

Lessig, L 2008, Remix: making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy, Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp. 23-31

Strapagiel, L 2013, ‘Zelda Starring Zelda: Hack makes princess, not Link, the hero in ‘Legend Of Zelda’ video game (VIDEO)‘, The Huffington Post Canada, viewed 30 April 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/18/legend-of-zelda-hacked_n_2902625.html

TransMiiverse Storytelling

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has said that unlike Facebook and Twitter, he considers Miiverse to be an “experience sharing network” (Sato, 2013). Dr. Tom Abba and Hazel Grian (2014) argue that for writers and designers of transmedia stories it is useful to consider your role as “experience design.” So by tying an experience sharing service to various apps and games, does the Miiverse allow for meaningful contributions to a transmedia narrative?

A few weeks back I examined how Miiverse was implemented in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. A similar in-game (or in-universe) implementation of Miiverse was seen more recently in the Wii U game Super Mario 3D World. While playing, Mii avatars can be seen repeating Miiverse posts in the game over world, and level specific posts cycle on screen after each successful level completion. This allows users to flesh out and understand the expansive Mario universe within an actual Mario “text”. As a videogame character, Mario is one of the most prolific (Funk 2010). Via the connections between Miiverse and Super Mario 3D World we can begin to see how fans have been permitted to contribute to, perform and elaborate on this growing, encyclopaedically vast fictional universe (Jenkins, 2007). As gameplay rewards, players can earn “stamps” of characters and items from the game that can be used in picture posts, allowing players to play a small part in building the world of Mario (Jenkins, 2007: Plunkett, 2013, para 7).

Image sourced from here

Image sourced from here

But is this sort of contribution meaningful? The problem with Miiverse is that although comments are grouped under specific game communities, it’s hard for content to be coordinated or sorted much further than that. So any posts that link to or build upon each other are lost in different parts of the Miiverse architecture, which can be hard to navigate across. It should be noted Nintendo have been updating Miiverse in order to improve how posts are connected and filtered (Whitehead, 2014). The potential is there for Miiverse to grow as a meaningful transmedia channel if connectivity, accessibility and filtering can be improved.

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References

Jenkins, H. (2007) ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’, Confessions of an aca-fan: The official weblog of Henry Jenkins, 22 March, viewed on 18 April 2014 http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html

Sato (2013), ‘“Once Miiverse Hits 3DS, It Will Be Huge” Says Nintendo President Iwata’, Siliconera, 16 January, viewed on 18 April 2014 http://www.siliconera.com/2013/01/16/once-miiverse-hits-3ds-it-will-be-huge-says-nintendo-president-iwata/

Abba, T. and Grian, H. (2014), ‘Transmedia storytelling 101’, BBC Academy, viewed on 18 April 2014 http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/production/article/art20130702112135506

Plunkett, L. (2013), ‘Super Mario 3D World: The Kotaku review’, Kotaku, 22 November, viewed on 18 April 2014 http://kotaku.com/super-mario-3d-world-the-kotaku-review-1467128494

Funk, J. (2010), ‘Mario’s ten best Guinness World Records’, The Escapist, 22 May, viewed 18 April 2014 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100814-Marios-Ten-Best-Guinness-World-Records

Whitehead, T. (2014), ‘Miiverse gets a fresh update for Wii U and 3DS’, NintendoLife, 20 March, viewed on 18 April 2014 http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2014/03/miiverse_gets_a_fresh_update_for_wii_u_and_3ds

Miiverse or Beeverse?

The bee is a small, simple insect that is only capable of a small amount of labour. As a sigular entity the bee isn’t capable of much. But as a part of a hive bees act as produsers, collaborating and continually working for the good of the community, whilst continually consuming the products of their collective labour (Bruns, 2007). Today we ask ourselves an important question: is the Miiverse like a beehive?

Image sourced from here

Image sourced from here

Bruns (2007) idetifies four characteristics as key to produsage; and the two that are most visibly active within the Miiverse are the shift towards broad communities of participants and the continuous production of the artifacts within it. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Miiverse is subdivided into communities that are each dedicated to a game or a piece of software (eg. YouTube) into which people can post text, screen grabs and digital art relating to that game or software. The addition of tags allows posts to be filtered according to a number of criteria, including Question, Accomplishment and Players Wanted, which allows for collaborative filtering in order to enable users to find the most types of information that best suit their personal needs (Latshaw, 2013; Bruns, 2007). Users can also respond directly to posts,so questions can be answered and knowledge can be collaboratively built upon. Because of it’s focus on community and sharing, the Miiverse as a product will never reach a completed state. As long as there are people using it, it is constantly changing and evolving to meet the dynamic needs of the communities. Everyone who uses Miiverse is also building Miiverse.

But Miiverse isn’t entirely produser friendly. According to Bruns (2007) there are another two key characteristics of produsage; permissive regimes of engagement and a fluid movement between roles as leaders, participants and users. Miiverse does these aspects less well. The presence of verified accounds lends an authority to certain approved users that is unattainable to the average user (Skrebels 2014) and the inflexible moderators often serve to hinder engagement rather than permit it (Zinger 2013). So while still far from becoming the perfect hive, as a work-in-progress the Miiverse still manages to buzz with produser activity.

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References

Bruns, A 2007, ‘Produsage: Towards a broader famework for user-led content creation’. In Proceedings Creativity & Cognition 6, Washington, DC.

Latshaw, T 2013, ‘Miiverse update adds tags to post’, NintendoLife, 31 July, Accessed 10 April 2014 http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2013/07/miiverse_update_adds_tags_to_posts

Skrebels, J 2014, ‘Miiverse update adds a verified user list’, Official Nintendo Magazine, 19 March, Accessed 10 April 2014 http://www.officialnintendomagazine.co.uk/57407/miiverse-update-adds-a-verified-user-list/

Zinger 2013, ‘Nintendo’s Miiverse Moderators Need To Cool Off’, Rustyshell, 1 March, accessed 10 April 2014 http://rustyshell.com/?p=3997