Category Archives: ugh

on max temkin

cards against humanity co-creator max temkin has been accused of rape and written a post in response where he A) tries to side-step the accusation by positioning himself as a “feminist” and an ally and B) makes new threats at the person accusing him. you can read a post by temkin’s accuser here and a summary / response to temkin’s own post here.

my partner and i heard the news about temkin’s accusation while staying in a hotel room that was paid for by him. cards against humanity is one of the sponsors of the queer games convention gaymerx, and they had chosen my game TRIAD as one of a bunch of games they wanted to exhibit. i’ve never been comfortable with a game designed to encourage jokes about date rape, trans women and sex workers, but a twentieth-story hotel room in san francisco isn’t a luxury i can often afford as a queer artist, and so i accepted. if they want to redistribute some of cards against humanity’s money to a bunch of poor queers, by all means.

you can imagine my partner and i were not thrilled to discover that our sponsor was essentially using us as a means of excusing himself from a rape accusation – trying to purchase allyship so that he can use it as a shield against having to be held accountable for what he’s done. i feel pretty fucked up over it. i feel used.

i want to point out that the representatives of cards against humanities i interacted with at gaymerx (i never met or interacted with max temkin, to my knowledge) were great and super helpful. though i can’t help but feel really weird, in light of temkin’s accusation, that he seems to only employ women and sponsored mostly women to travel to gaymerx for his games curation.

as an added bonus, here’s a card that was given away as part of a complimentary “rejected cards” pack in the cards against humanity room at gaymerx, a queer safe space (the same room my game was displayed in). it says “my dick in your mouth.”

how not to make a game about female masturbation

happyplaytime is / will be a gamification of “female masturbation,” in the tradition of jane mcgonigal’s idea that no one will want to go for a jog unless they get points for it. (the effect that this actually has, of course, is to disenfranchise us of our own ability to decide the value of the activities we enjoy in our own lives.) the intention of the game is to remove the shame associated with being a girl / woman and masturbating by “rebrand[ing] the entire concept of female masturbation through education and light-hearted games” and by teaching “female anatomy.” the game has a happy anime-vulva mascot, and players are taught masturbation techniques by touching her in various ways.

there’s a lot of shame in our culture associated with being a woman who masturbates, yeah. a lot of women & girls don’t feel as comfortable with their bodies as i’d want them to. but i don’t think gamifying masturbation is the solution. our society already gamifies sex, and it already creates ridiculous expectations for us and our bodies. a scary part of this is the idea that men’s sexuality is normative, and if women aren’t masturbating as much as men, something’s wrong with them.

look through the infographics on the game’s page. look at how masturbation is being framed. “46.6% of women masturbate less than once a month every year. gals, you can do better!” the way to overcome shame is definitely not to shame women for what they don’t do with their bodies. there’s this unfortunate idea of “sex positivity” i encounter all the time that essentially just shames people for not having enough sex and pressures them into doing it more. making masturbation into a universal competition is going to achieve only that: people are going to get pressured into using their bodies in the ways that are arbitrarily defined as normative.

and don’t get me started on the cissexism of reducing “female masturbation” to learning how to stimulate a vulva. let me put this in caps so it’ll be clear: NOT ALL WOMEN HAVE VULVAS / VAGINAS. (as a corollary, not all people with vaginas are women.) i’m a trans woman, i have a cock and i need a hitachi vibrator to get off most of the time. it’s not something i can do (or desire to do) very often.  i spent a long time feeling guilty about the fact that i can’t / don’t really want to get off during sex with my partners most of the time. “sex positivity” shouldn’t mean making people feel guilty for not having sex. who defines what “sex” means anyway?

people’s bodies are all different and have different needs. any attempt to define what the one way to masturbate is is inherently reductivist. sex is NOT a “one size fits all” thing, as my friend lillian eloquently put it. in a sex-phobic patriarchal society, we’re taught to feel a lot of shame and confusion about our bodies. the solution is not to put the blame for that on women.

how not to write about a transgendered person

on february 15, kotaku ran a “feature” on dani bunten. i’m not linking it – you can find it pretty easily if you want – because it’s disrespectful in a way that, as a transgendered woman, makes me cringe. the article, written by luke plunkett, perpetuates a misinformed attitude about trans people that is downright dangerous in a culture in which we’re already as marginalized as we are.

specifically, the kotaku article is rooted in the idea that a transgendered woman lives a dual-gender identity, that she “was male” prior to her transition. the article opens with a photo of a trans game designer pre-transition, and goes on to refer to her by her given (birth) name and male pronouns. halfway through the article, it springs her gender identity upon the reader like a plot twist, finally showing us a picture of her post-transition and using her chosen name and pronouns. if a feature on me called me by my birth name and had a picture of me with a beard, i would shit myself and then the author.

as a transgendered woman, let me DISPEL SOME MYTHS.

transition is not some BEFORE / AFTER DIET PILL AD. a transgender woman isn’t a man before she A) chooses to identify as a woman or B) has her genitals operated on. and the latter is in fact irrelevant to the former: i identify as a woman, but i have no plans for surgery. when you are born into this society, you’re assigned a gender. i was assigned “male.” but though i spent many years struggling to fit myself into a male identity that doesn’t mean i consider myself to ever have been a boy or man. i had not yet come to terms with my identity as a woman.

identity is a complicated thing, one that every person, trans or otherwise, experiences differently, and i can’t claim to speak on the late dani bunten’s behalf. but i can speak as a trans woman who deals with transphobia on a daily basis, especially in spaces related to videogames. and i can tell you on authority: if someone identifies as a woman, you call her a woman. if she internalizes female pronouns, you use female pronouns to refer to her. if she tells you her name, you use that name and not one that was chosen without her consent. oh, she expressed regret once about leaping into surgery she might not have needed to get? doesn’t invalidate her identity.

transphobia is rampant in games culture: it’s dangerous to all transgendered people and all women. it’s dangerous to everyone who participates in this culture. i remember a tigsource thread on “girl game designers” where someone said: “if you go on a blind date with a female indie game designer, you have a 50% chance of ending with a dick in your a**” (i think the word the poster dared not type is supposed to be “ass.”) to perpetuate incorrect myths about trans people and our identities is grossly irresponsible for a site like kotaku.

i posted on twitter about the article this morning, angrily, because I WAS FUCKING ANGRY. stephen totilo, who currently runs kotaku, reacted defensively, calling the article an “earnest tribute” and that he thought the “word choice” was “valid.” he didn’t say this to me, of course. i don’t know whether he blocked me or was simply ignoring me, but he refused to engage me, tweeting his responses to my concerns at courtney stanton, who i think was retweeting my tweets so that he could see them. while i was writing this post he finally buckled under the pressure of piles of tweets from trans people and allies, and changed the pronouns in the article and announced plans to change the top photo, but that doesn’t address the fact that the article – whose title includes the words “transgender video gaming pioneer” – is more about the novelty of bunten’s transition (“the narrative,” as totilo put it) than her actual contributions to videogames.

so let me tell you about dani bunten and how much we all owe her. she was one of the earliest voices in games to recognize that videogames were becoming solitary experiences, and that they had tremendous potential as interpersonal, social experiences that they were failing to actualize. “no one ever said on their deathbed, ‘gee, i wish I had spent more time alone with my computer,'” is the quote most often attributed to her. her digital game design was strongly informed by that of board games, which has been really good at this interpersonal dynamic thing for quite a while – her best-known game, m.u.l.e., adapts a number of traditional board game ideas, like auctions, to videogame contexts. and if you can’t see how this is relevant to my work in 2012, you haven’t been reading my blog.

an open letter to destructoid on jim sterling’s misogyny

Editors at Destructoid:

This may have already been brought to your attention, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of an exchange that happened on Twitter Tuesday night between Jim Sterling, whom you employ to write and produce videos, and my girlfriend, Daphny (Twitter account “daphaknee”). Here is a brief list of things Jim Sterling called my girlfriend during that exchange:

a cunt
“sweetcheeks”
an attention-seeking little bitch
an embarrassment to her gender
a “feminazi slut”

He also told her to ask her “husband for permission” before using the computer, which I, as her girlfriend, find kind of funny. For reference, here are some screenshots taken by various Twitter users of some of Jim Sterling’s tweets:

http://www.dessgeega.com/jimsterling_1.png
http://www.dessgeega.com/jimsterling_2.png
http://www.bettween.com/jimsterling/daphaknee/desc

At some point after the exchange, Jim changed his Twitter bio to read, “My Tweets are MINE and do not reflect the opinions of my contractors.” Perhaps this satisfies you. It shouldn’t.

There’s an obvious misogynist tone to Jim’s interactions with my girl: “cunt,” “attention-seeking bitch,” “feminazi slut,” “ask your husband for permission” – these are all GENDERED insults that bespeak Jim’s attitude towards women as a man of privilege in a culture (gaming culture) where open hostility, name-calling and slut-shaming of women is not only the norm but is flagrantly practiced by its most public figures. Immediately after and during the exchange, in fact, a number of Jim’s Twitter followers began tweeting at Daphny and searching her blog for material for personal attacks. Many of them called her a “faux-feminist” or “feminazi,” a label that Jim applied to her in his tweets – she never identified herself as a feminist.

I’m asking you, as a fellow journalist and as a woman, to say that it’s not okay to perpetrate those attitudes which keep women feeling unsafe within the community and culture of games. I’m asking you not to give a platform to a man who casually calls women “attention-seeking bitches” and “feminazi sluts.”

Jim will argue, if he hasn’t already, that Daphny provoked him. She certainly did. But are you comfortable giving space on your website to a man who, when threatened by a woman, turns to misogynist name-calling? Is Destructoid happy with a gaming status quo where women are treated with hostility and antagonism?

I’m not.

Sincerely,
anna anthropy
auntiepixelante.com

how to deal with difficult players

the following was sent out in the december 17 newsletter of gamecrush.com, a videogame escort service. it’s a site where male players can pay money to arrange “playdates” of online games with woman players (users who posted on the site’s forums at the time of its launch suggesting the possibility of queer match-ups were banned). originally, “players” could request that their playmates be either “flirty” or “dirty”; now it seems as though these choices have been replaced with four “zones,” the fourth of which, “the edge,” sports a handcuff icon and the description, “this could get interesting. not for the faint of heart.” this advice column on dealing with “difficult players” is credited to an author named “lovelylisa”; i bolded the section i found the most problematic.

Talking to new Players is an important experience. They are checking out the site, deciding if they click with PlayDates and maybe they want to spend a little money. I know we all want them to come into our chat room with fistfuls of money! The ones who want to chat incessantly may get on our nerves, but if you take a deep breath and treat them well, you may just end up with a new regular! The rude & pushy Players can be hard to deal with as well, but there’s always a way to keep it positive. Here are some tips to handle the chatters & rude Players, as well as when it’s a good time to use the handy-dandy block feature:

1) Have patience, put yourself in the Player’s shoes. It’s a brand new site, and the Player might be on a tight budget or just isn’t sure about how much to spend, but still wants to talk to the bevy of beautiful and fun gamers GameCrush has to offer (can you blame them?!). Get to know the Players first by asking about their favorite games, favorite consoles, or what they do for fun. After all the niceties are out of the way, ask if they have played on the site before, or if they are new, make them feel welcome, and share about what the site has to offer. Set your own time limits for chatting. For some PlayDates it may be 30 minutes…for some, an hour. It’s whatever you’re comfortable with. Be creative, but try to afford anything resembling “gtfo”. Tempting, yes…but treat them well and you may have just found yourself a new GameCrush friend!

2) Try to handle rude Players by staying positive. I’ve found it to be very helpful if I avoid just saying the word “No” and address situations where I am uncomfortable in a more positive way. Negativity will only ruin the experience for everyone! Try to find creative ways to say no. For example, if a Player asks to see your boobs, say something like “I’m sorry, I don’t strip on cam, but I do love to spank…as in, I will spank you in Black Ops. Care to try to beat me?”. You can always suggest that Players check out the other three zones, or refer them to The Edge if they are being especially pushy: “I’m on here to have a great time and game with other cool gamers, but I think The Edge might be more to your liking. I hope you find the type of PlayDate you’re looking for!” I realize getting rude with rude Players can be hard NOT to do, but we are all representatives of GameCrush, and we want Players to love the site and to spend their credits playing games with us. Put a smile on your face (even if it IS through gritted teeth) and do your best to keep the experience positive.

3) Should I block a Player? First, if the Player’s attitude is more than you can tolerate, is out of your comfort zone, or if the Player just won’t leave, you should go ahead and block the Player and problem solved. Second, if Players says they will not be purchasing credits on GameCrush, or calls the site stupid, pointless, or a waste of money, and if you’ve tried your best to get the Player to move along in a nice way, use the block feature. Third, when Players come into your room & troll you by name-calling, IM bombing, or harassing other Players, blocking is the best solution. However, don’t get TOO block-happy! The feature is there to be used when a Player is too much to deal with and not a substitute for just asking them to leave. Hopefully the above tips will help you to stay focused on giving Players who visit the best experience possible, even when some can be difficult to deal with. Keep a smile on your face, stay as positive as positive, & focus on being your awesome self and the watch the credits start rolling in!

Hopefully the above tips will help you to stay focused on giving your Player the best experience possible, even when he’s difficult to deal with. Keep a smile on your face, stay as positive as possible, & focus on being your awesome self, so that you can create regulars and keep the credits rolling in!

CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO TRANSCRIPTION

How to al with Difficult Players by LovelyLisa Talking to new Players is an important experience. They are checking out the site, deciding if they click with PlayDates and maybe they want to spend a little money. I know we all want them to come into our chat room with fistfuls of money! The ones who want to chat incessantly may get on our nerves, but if you take a deep breath and treat them well, you may just end up with a new regular! The rude & pushy Players can be hard to deal with as well, but there’s always a way to keep it positive. Here are some tips to handle the chatters & rude Players, as well as when it’s a good time to use the handy-dandy block feature: 1) Have patience, put yourself in the Player’s shoes. It’s a brand new site, and the Player might be on a tight budget or just isn’t sure about how much to spend, but still wants to talk to the bevy of beautiful and fun gamers GameCrush has to offer (can you blame them?!). Get to know the Players first by asking about their favorite games, favorite consoles, or what they do for fun. After all the niceties are out of the way, ask if they have played on the site before, or if they are new, make them feel welcome, and share about what the site has to offer. Set your own time limits for chatting. For some PlayDates it may be 30 minutes…for some, an hour. It’s whatever you’re comfortable with. Be creative, but try to afford anything resembling “gtfo”. Tempting, yes…but treat them well and you may have just found yourself a new GameCrush friend!2) Try to handle rude Players by staying positive. I’ve found it to be very helpful if I avoid just saying the word “No” and address situations where I am uncomfortable in a more positive way. Negativity will only ruin the experience for everyone! Try to find creative ways to say no. For example, if a Player asks to see your boobs, say something like “I’m sorry, I don’t strip on cam, but I do love to spank…as in, I will spank you in Black Ops. Care to try to beat me?”. You can always suggest that Players check out the other three zones, or refer them to The Edge if they are being especially pushy: “I’m on here to have a great time and game with other cool gamers, but I think The Edge might be more to your liking. I hope you find the type of PlayDate you’re looking for!” I realize getting rude with rude Players can be hard NOT to do, but we are all representatives of GameCrush, and we want Players to love the site and to spend their credits playing games with us. Put a smile on your face (even if it IS through gritted teeth) and do your best to keep the experience positive.3) Should I block a Player? First, if the Player’s attitude is more than you can tolerate, is out of your comfort zone, or if the Player just won’t leave, you should go ahead and block the Player and problem solved. Second, if Players says they will not be purchasing credits on GameCrush, or calls the site stupid, pointless, or a waste of money, and if you’ve tried your best to get the Player to move along in a nice way, use the block feature. Third, when Players come into your room & troll you by name-calling, IM bombing, or harassing other Players, blocking is the best solution. However, don’t get TOO block-happy! The feature is there to be used when a Player is too much to deal with and not a substitute for just asking them to leave. Hopefully the above tips will help you to stay focused on giving Players who visit the best experience possible, even when some can be difficult to deal with. Keep a smile on your face, stay as positive as positive, & focus on being your awesome self and the watch the credits start rolling in!Hopefully the above tips will help you to stay focused on giving your Player the best experience possible, even when he’s difficult to deal with. Keep a smile on your face, stay as positive as possible, & focus on being your awesome self, so that you can create regulars and keep the credits rolling in! 

the igf judged

i judged the igf this year. it was a frustrating experience. i’m going to try and identify the biggest problems with the igf process and suggest some solutions. that’s if the igf is interesting in actually “rewarding innovation in indie games” (its claim) instead of simply being a press spectacle. the competition seems perfectly happy, at present, being a press spectacle.

discussion

when you, the judge, click on a game in the igf judge’s website, the first thing you see is a field in which to enter your scores for the game. below that is a screenshot of the game, the names of the people who worked on the game, the author’s personal description of the game, and a pile of serial numbers (in the case of commercial games) for judges to play the game. underneath all this, tucked at the very bottom of the web page, are the “judge notes”: the only avenue the igf provides for discussion of a game’s merits and value among judges. note, first of all, that this means a judge can score a game without even seeing what other judges thought of it.

there’s a link at the top of the page to the judge notes, yes. it says, “game doesn’t work? please leave a noe about it before scoring. we’ll check it out!” the judge notes are presented as, AND ARE USED BY MOST JUDGES AS, a way to report technical problems that keep the game from running correctly. this is a valuable function, and it’s important to have this function when fair judging is dependent on games actually working on a judge’s hardware, but the far more important function that these notes should be serving is to allow discussion to take place between judges so that a game’s values, merits and strengths can be assessed, argued, and some kind of consensus among judges can take place. the judge notes section of the site is MISCHARACTERIZED.

what i’d do: put the “judge notes” at the very top of the page, the first thing a judge sees upon clicking on a game. don’t call it “judge notes,” call it DISCUSSION. make it mandatory for a judge to post there at least once before voting. don’t open voting until a week before scores are due. force judges to actually participate in the process. don’t make it easy for them to shirk their duty.

exclusivity

i was assigned, at random, fourteen games entered into the competition to play and score. all the other games, though i was permitted to download them, play them, and leave judge notes (and i’ve explained how effective those are – often mine were the first, sometimes the only, notes on games i wasn’t assigned), i was not allowed to contribute to the score that decides their final standing in the igf. which means that whatever shmuck decided super meat boy is a more amazing and revelatory use of audio than AUDITORIUM i had no way of telling “no, you’re totally incorrect.”

there’s no reason to limit the number of eyes that look at a game. the games that are scoring the highest, in fact, are the ones that should be most scrutinized. and if i find value in a game that would otherwise be ignored by the judges, i should be able to express that value in the game’s overall score, rather than it being stoned to death for having drawn the wrong straw. if i think don’t shit your pants is a valuable piece of satire (certainly at least as much as that game about burning a rope that made finalist last year) or want to point out that, hey, edmund mcmillen (though he is a good friend bless his heart) has ALREADY WON the igf, my only avenue is to leave notes to the mystery judges who were randomly selected to judge those games (and which will probably be ignored).

i understand why judges have games assigned to them at random: so that each game is guaranteed to have at least a few judges look at it, instead of the most well-marketed games getting all the votes. but the ludum dare competition has a similiar system that works a lot better: games are randomly assigned to judges so that each game is guaranteed to have at least a few people play it, but judges are free BEYOND THAT to score any and every game other game in the competition that they play. then again, ludum dare has an advantage in that its judges actually care about the competition and its entries.

categories

igf entries are rated in categories such as: excellence in audio. excellence in visual art. technical excellence. (remember when the categories were “innovation in” rather than “excellence in”? maybe they felt they were being dishonest.) why, as far outside of the big games industry and the enthusiast press as we supposedly are, are we still partitioning games like they do, as though a game’s graphics could be judged seperately from its worth as a whole? this is the independent games festival: are graphics and sound really the areas in which small creative authors and developers have the most to contribute?

true, there’s the “nuovo” award, the latest hasty attempt to patch the igf so that interesting games can actually have a place in a competition that claims to be about innovation (what was last year’s? the introduction of the “excellence in design” award?). why should a special case need to be created just so interesting games can compete on their own terms in a competition that ought to contain only interesting games? suggestion: expand the nuovo award to ten or so finalists. rename it “the igf.”

what if judges scored games in terms of actually being interesting instead of having the coolest graphics or gnarliest music? “how provocative is this game?” “how elegant is its design?” “how effective is it at telling its story?” “how well does it facilitate an experience between the players?” (yes, imagine that! an award exclusively for games for more than one player!) this is supposed to be the INDEPENDENT games festival. we can do this! why not? who are we beholden to?

perspectives

the igf needs more perspectives. NOT more judges – more perspectives. it needs more people who do not share the same mindset. why even have more than one judge if every judge will value the same done-already physics game (joe danger) or bland, polished commercial title (cogs) the highest? why even have a competition?

to the igf’s credit, they asked me to recommend people for judges in the hopes of having a more diverse panel. against their credit, they failed to contact any of them. i recommended people like anne-marie schleiner, artist and activist, charles pratt, game design lecturer at nyu, librarian of their games library, and host of the another castle podcast, and scott nicholson, founder of syracuse university’s library game lab and published board game designer (and if you’re responding that board games have nothing to do with videogames then you’ve missed the point entirely). these are people with both academic backgrounds and design experience – imagine what they’d bring to the independent games festival.

independent games should have value not just to scene nerds, not just to gamers, but to people and players as a whole. why reward games based on how well they pander to their audience’s expectations when we should strive to reward them based on how much they have to contribute to the body and the study of games as a whole? why not? again, to whom are we beholden? what’s keeping us from making richer choices?

unfinished games

recognizing, of course, that many games live well after their first release and are continually added to, refined and readjusted based on the experience of their players. they’re living works. but if you’ve never released your game at all, i don’t think you have a place in the igf. the igf shouldn’t be a place for commercial titles to find publishers or to build their pre-release hype machines. as a judge, i refused to give any unreleased game i played over 75 points out of a hundred (knowing full well as i did that limbo would get in regardless).

the igf is a press event where we trot out our most mainstream creations in an attempt to get the mainstream press excited about them and, by extension, (in theory) about independent games as a whole. i would argue that that doesn’t happen, that the press only gets excited about super meat boy, and that the whole event exists only to serve those developers who are already entrenched in the business / marketing cycle. if the organizers of the igf are content with it being this way, then the only problem is that they’re dishonest about it, and that’s why i was so angry last year.

but my real anger, my frustration with the igf, is that it could be so much more than what it is. a celebration of the diversity of people who make games outside the big industry and outside of the mainstream. confront the people from the offices next door with genuinely interesting, provocative games and ask what’s taking them so long to catch up. we could prove, with the right selection of games, the value of our work for now and ever. but we don’t. if we’re truly independent, why do we settle for mediocrity?