Thursday, 28 August 2014

What Does it Mean to be a "Girl Gamer"?

This week's guest post is right on track with a topic that keeps coming up during the making of She Got Game. A lot of people ask me "who qualifies as a girl gamer?" (as if it's up to me to be the judge of that! Whaaaaaaaat?) They want to know how many hours you spend playing, how many games you play, how much you need to know about it in general to be considered a "real girl gamer." A lot of people have also asked me if the term "girl gamer" has some kind of special meaning they don't know about. Well, rather than trying to compile some kind of generalization on girl gamers, I want to share this fantastic piece by Kirara Koneko, a self-identified gamer girl who's here to help explain what that means from a personal stand point. Her blog can be found here if you're interested in honor of her "three loves, Japan, Video Games and Life."



What does it mean to be a "girl gamer"? This isn't really a question that I ask myself, I don't really ever even think about that question. Until I see the look on people's faces when they find out I play games. For me, and I would assume for most of us "girl gamers," we don't think about it, because this is just the way that we are. 

I am female, an adult, and I like, no dare I say, LOVE video games! I am just like the men/boy gamers of the world. So why are we seen so differently? For some reason females in gaming are seen as this elusive species, a legend, an urban myth, a unicorn. So let me let you in on a little secret, we exist! We are out there, you walk by us every day, you talk to us, you interact with us, in some cases we might even be your boss. And just in case nobody noticed there are females in the gaming industry working hard to create these games we have all dedicated countless hours to, and guess what...they are doing it right alongside the men!

So why am I asking this question now? I don't think most people realize what women take on when they find themselves drawn to what, from an outsider (and even some insiders) feel, is a boys club. Most of the time we are dismissed, and it is automatically assumed that we can't play or that all we play are Hello Kitty and Disney games (absolutely nothing wrong with that) but there is so much more to us. We don't all get into gaming because our brothers or boyfriends taught us too. Most of us found ourselves attracted by the amazing worlds that opened up literally at our fingertips. Most of us taught ourselves how to play with countless hours of sometimes frustrating gameplay, and for most of us years later, we still love it!

So let me share with you the story of one such "girl gamer." I was young and completely unaware of the video game world. I had seen my uncle play with an Atari, but I was never allowed to play, because of course... I was a girl. One day I happened to find myself staring wide eyed at a Sega Genesis, I still remember what it felt like. I was just walking by, minding my own business at the local toy store, and all of the sudden behind this glass cabinet was this amazing shiny black box that literally screamed out my name. It was indescribable, I had to 
have it! It looked beautiful, and the worlds it promised, I literally stood there enthralled. I pressed my little face up to the glass hoping that somehow magically through osmosis I could just touch it. Fortunately the gods were smiling down on me, and my mom decided I had been a good enough little girl to warrant such a gift. 

You see I am the oldest of four--the only girl--and she was about to have my first of three younger brothers. So really, I think she was just trying to butter me up for permanent baby sitter availability. This one moment is what started it all, and from that moment on I was hooked. I spent hours completely immersed in so many games that to this day I still absolutely love. Fortunately some of them have even been remade, Castle of Illusion being one of those games I loved, and after having a chance to play it again recently it is still amazing. I have to say my only regret of those early gaming days is never having beat Ecco the Dolphin (those were definitely my first nerd rage moments). As I continued to grow and my desire for games increased I discovered Nintendo, and let's just say they stole my heart. 

Throughout the years there have been so many games that I have enjoyed and I literally own every gaming console and handheld, in some case multiples that have come out since the Genesis (except a Neo Geo Pocket that was stolen and never replaced). But for some reason there is no other that speaks to my heart the way Nintendo does. There is a small exception to that, Gears of War, and I don't know what it is about that series that touched me but I actually cried more than once as I played through the trilogy (I say that because I didn't play the last one, a slight boycott since Cliff Blezinski had nothing to do with it). So many years and so many games, but one thing remains the same I am a gamer!

I wait with baited breath for word on the latest releases from my favorite developers. I subscribe to numerous gaming magazines. I follow news online about the goings on of the gaming world. I have even been known to cosplay now and again. It's no secret to those that know me that if you just but peaked inside my bag you would surely find my 3DS XL. My little friend and I have only been parted twice, once for surgery, and once because it was stolen, the latter a very sad experience as not only did I not have my little friend but OH MY GOD, my save data!

It is also no secret that I'd rather spend quality time at home playing my latest game on a day off than wasting it at the mall or some other place that us girls are supposed to go. I strategically organize my schedule to ensure that I have the release day and a couple of days off after the launch to make the most of my gaming time (can't wait for the Destiny launch and 3 days off). My most recent acquisition was Diablo III Ultimate (not enough games like this). I find myself wanting to jump out of my comfort zone and try games that I might not be as great at but where I am drawn by the world. I will even share another little secret with you... I am a damn good sniper!

So you see, we are not all that different from all the other gamers you know. So I ask you, in the end aren't we all just gamers that love, hate, and dive in to these vast universes time and time again to experience and enjoy the possibilities at our fingertips?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Laughing at Gamer Girls: Portrayals in Comic Culture

I decided to continue comic-hunting this week and I thought we could share a few laughs over the English version of "Living with Hipster Girl and Gamer Girl." As you can imagine, this comic has gotten the full range of reader commentary from raving reviews to scathing complaints, maybe stemming from the fact that the girls are sexy and the author is a man. Anyway, these may not jive with everyone's sense of humo(u)r but I thought I'd post them as food-for-thought on the public image of gamer girls.

Funny or not? Accurate or not? The main question I'm interested in today is: what kind of portrayal is worth getting upset about? What kind of image are women gamers trying to make or break? Where do we draw the line when it comes to "gamer humor"? And when do we think things are just plain funny, without worrying about whether or not they're PC? Let me know what you think!

(Sexual content, just to warn you if you're at work or anything...also, I apologize about the different image sizes which I couldn't fix using this blog template. Luckily all of the originals can be found on the website above!)

Quick intro: The redhead is the hipster, the brunette is the gamer and the guy with the black hair is the self-declared non-emo roommate. Each character gets made fun of throughout the series but each one has some slick one-liners too.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Awkward Zombie: Something that'll make your day!


In light of still being on the road, I decided that this week should be a fun "vacation from blogging" week. Whether you're secretly reading this at work, or on your phone on the bus, or just at home in your living room, I want to wish you a happy Thursday by sharing my favourite excerpts form Awkward Zombie!!!

Last month I met Katie Tiedrich, the fantastic auteur behind the comics, at ConBravo in Hamilton. I found her very charming and easy to talk to. She has a totally laid back and macabre-but-cute sense of humour which I'm quite in to. AND a lot of her in-jokes are Nintendo-related which is just great. 

So enjoy! And definitely check out the rest of Katie's work. If you love it, post it on your friend's wall! Or even better, ORDER SWEET PRINTS! Ok now for the comics.

Katie commented: 

"The original female vampire costume in Bravely Default was actually considered TOO SEXY for American eyeballs, so the localized version of the game threw some more layers on there! I guess it's still supposed to be way hot, but I thought it was funny that it was also the class that mimics gross monster attacks like barf jets."

How you feel when you're playing Fallout:

No caption necessary!

...and 2 Zelda ones since I'm doing the picking:

That's it for today! Enjoy your Thursday and don't forget to tell the world about Awkward Zombie!!!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

So I'm in Japan! ...and Madly Hoping Google is Wrong About Japanese Women Gamers

Hey, how's it going? 

Good, good. I'm doing pretty well myself. Currently lying on a nice comfy futon with a belly full of tempura and sashimi enjoying the air conditioning after spending a fun 35-degree day in my beloved Japan! For anyone I haven't told already, I lived in Japan for two years after my undergrad working as an English teacher in a public junior high. I was living in Yamagata, which is a beautiful, rural, mountainous area in the north of the main island. I can't explain what that experience meant to me, but it's something that'll probably stay with me forever.

Since I started working on She Got Game, a lot of people have asked me whether living in Japan really got me into gaming. In fact, the thought never really occurred to me. Of course Japan is a total gaming mecca, but I never heard a single word about gaming the whole time I was living here. Seriously (Ok--maybe one of my students mentioned Pokemon once or twice cause they were all like 12 years old, but that was about it.) I never once met anyone who identified as a "gamer" or who was really into the fan culture. I was living in an area that still used blackboards and fax needless to say it wasn't rocking out in the technology department.

Anyway, this summer my boyfriend and I decided to come back not only to visit everyone and to explore, but also to do a little research for this project. It's actually been tricky to find any personal content--you know like blogs, vlogs and articles by Japanese women gamers. If I were to only rely on English Google, here's what I'd get when searching "Japanese Girl Gamer":

First we've got Otome Games which I find pretty fascinating. For those of you who aren't familiar, they're like interactive visual novels which are targeted at women by giving the main character some racy, romantic encounters with the hot guys in the story. Something like this scenario:

Now maybe this isn't your cup of tea, but the interesting thing is it's totally consistent with other aspects of the culture which cater specifically to women's romantic fantasies. Hell I once found myself in a Butler Cafe with a friend of mine where everything I said was met with, "Yes, my Princess." Never have I ever been so embarrassed in my life. Moving on.

Anyway, whether or not the women in these games match up with our idea of great female characters, there is something to be said for the fact that there's a distinct market devoted to what we all supposedly, secretly want. 

Next on the Google list is this thread on Where to Find a Gamer Girl, which doesn't say anything about Japanese women, but which says:

"If your looking for places to find girl gamers, your best options (from what ive learned) are A: Japanese produced games. Harvest Moon is almost a chick magnet. Everyone female gamer ive met has played, and enjoyed a Harvest Moon game. I think its because of how much more adorable and fun Japanese games can be. (Im not saying women ARNT into hardcore gaming, im just saying its slightly less likely from my own experience.)"

Harvest Moon, ladies and gents:

One of the only thoughtful articles I read on the subject was written by Jacqueline Cottrell who was working for the Jace Hall Show. She interviewed Ryako Asumi, a close friend and avid gamer, to find out what it's like to be a girl gamer in Japan.

According to Ryako, "In Japan, women who game, or just the average otaku woman in general, can be looked down upon by both men and women." She also mentions that, "being a woman in Japan who games is kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull: If I were to announce I’m a gamer in a crowded room of men, maybe 90% of them would try and have sex with me."

WOW. Sounds just fabulous, doesn't it? I actually messaged Jacqueline about the article and she said she'd pass on the word to Ryako. With any luck, I'll be able to meet her in person while I'm here and talk about these issues in more detail.REST ASSURED there's got to be way more to Japanese women gamers than the internet lets on. From my experience of living here, personal introductions make all the difference. I'm hoping that my visit here will help to flesh out the paltry image that dominates the web.

Wish me luck on my hunt for interviews!