Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blog Revision 2

Metrocon 2008. My very first convention. Wide-eyed, I wandered in, dressed as a Pikachu in a dress, not knowing what to expect, and not expecting what I’d find. During this exposure to one of the geekiest things to annually happen in Tampa, Florida, I had a realization: there are more lady geeks than I had believed.

I was always a bit of a ‘quiet geek.’ Hardly anyone knew of my video gaming habits, I hesitated before wearing Pokemon shirts to school, and I didn’t own a single piece of Zelda paraphernalia. In fact, my only ‘geeky’ quality was the fact that I was a flute player in the band. Was I ashamed of my geek background? Absolutely not, but for females it’s typically farther from our minds than our male counterparts. This could be why women would only consider gaming a hobby rather than a career trajectory—but we’ll get back to that in a second.

Besides the girls who were getting paid to ‘geek it up’ in their often-revealing costumes and those who were there to keep their boyfriends’ eyes appropriately in their skulls at every peripheral image of cleavage, there was a fairly decent amount of girls there for the same reason I was: they enjoyed the culture. My boyfriend had always told me that men generally perceived girls like us (us being we convention-going, video-gaming, anime-watching, Pokemon cosplaying lasses) to be a myth, or at the very least, as hard to find as a needle in a haystack. To me, however, that wasn’t the case. At that convention, there were many girls who could tell you the difference between a D20 and a D12, and some of them even fit into the realm of conventional attractiveness! And they exist out of conventions too, as I’ve learned from personal experience.

Last semester, I met a girl who was the pinnacle of the perfect lady geek: she was intelligent, well-read, pretty, and had loads of nerdy interests. I met her after muttering something under my breath about Star Wars and hearing her whispered response. This shocked me more than anything else: here, in the midst of a bunch of people who I didn’t want to bother knowing, was someone with whom I could become great friends! Discoveries like these lead me to wonder: where are the real life lady geeks hiding—the women behind the controllers, so to speak?

Wailin Wong apparently wondered the same thing in an article written for the Chicago Tribune entitled: “Women missing from the video game development work force.” According to the article, men are the majority of gamers—but just barely. As of 2010, women make up a whopping 40 percent of all gamers, which is up 2 percent from 2006, according to the Entertainment Software Association. After seeing so many female gamers and geeks alike, I can safely say I have seen this statistic come alive. Why, then, does gender discrimination continue to pervade our video gaming experiences? When a girl plays Xbox 360 Live, she often either gets heckled or hit on. A professor of game design at the University of Southern California reiterated this point: “If you let anyone know you’re a girl, you’re going to get hit on or picked on.” And as for the game development process, few females are employed anywhere in any of the areas that have to do with creating video games.

As Wong’s article explains, women typically consider gaming a hobby rather than a potential career choice. When women do work in the gaming industry, it’s usually in the path of marketing rather than actual design or production of the games themselves. It boggles the mind that there should be so few women behind the video games when there are obviously so many purchasing them. One would think that the female demographic seems like an untapped goldmine to game designers.

They’re obviously not stupid. Video game designers often take the some of the same courses during their university years as computer scientists and engineers. They simply direct their energy elsewhere. Therefore, they’ve definitely noticed the money-making potential from designing games that cater to women. This in itself seems to be a huge problem, for how can the designers know what women want when there are so few in their ranks?

That would explain why I see these horribly sexist games on the shelves of my local Gamestops or Play-and-Trades. While games such as Metal Gear Solid, Gears of War, Halo, and the like are obviously intended for a male audience, what games exist primarily for the ladies? Games geared towards girls (such as the “Imagine” series from Ubisoft) seem to have themes based on pets, cooking, fashion, and scarily enough, childcare. What’s even scarier than that is the fact that these games are not only geared towards females, but female children. Are game designers reinforcing negative social roles in the heads of our youngsters?

As a Secondary English Education major, I can draw similarities between video games and books. As I learned in Adolescent Literature, books written to appeal to a male audience ends up appealing to both genders, while books written for females seem to fail miserably with boys. It’s the same story for video games. Gender neutral games such as the Mario series or Zelda appeal to both genders, despite the main characters being male and the main females being a weak ‘damsel in distress’ figure.

This topic is one that I find important for our society. The media is so influential on our patterns of thinking, whether it's perfectly shaped models convincing women and men that they're inadequate if they're not similar in shape or letting women believe they are only useful as sex symbols or are completely helpless. These articles will address those issues and elaborate the negative (and some positive) portrayals video games have of women.

Overall I'm particularly proud of this initial article; I found that it was one of my more well-written works. I did notice that the end I just sort of "gave up" and moved on to do other things in my life, so I went back and revised the last paragraph to more aptly state what I had originally wanted to get across: the purpose of this blog and a very tiny introduction to the issues present.

Blog Revision number 1

The Great Debate: Peach vs. Zelda, and How They Represent Women

Introducing Princess Zelda and Princess Peach, the royal figureheads of the kingdom that is Nintendo. Though many video game ladies have come and gone, Peach and Zelda have been around for over 20 years. While other games have females that could be easily cut out of the story without hindering the game, either princess's removal would destroy almost every game in each of their series. After all, their storylines are at the bare minimum, “Save the princess!” If pitted against each other, however, who would win?

According to a survey found at GameSpy, Princess Zelda received 76% of the votes, while Peach only received 24%. Despite Zelda's whopping overkill of a win in this survey and others, though, Peach is more broadly known among non-gamers. Her triumph in popularity is easy to understand: a survey taken by Koichi Iwabuchi in the 1990s revealed that Mario was more recognizable to children than even Mickey Mouse. Disregarding popularity though, these two women share an amount of similarities and very stark differences in the way they represent women. Let's start with my own personal favorite, Princess Zelda.

Personality: Princess Zelda maintains an elegant and graceful appearance throughout her series, but there are various differences in her personality depending on her age. As a youngster in Ocarina of Time, a Gossip Stone says about her: "They say that, contrary to her elegant image, Princess Zelda of Hyrule Castle is actually a tomboy!" This is evidenced in other games, as well. In games such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, for instance, she is spunky and not very elegant at all. In her more serious roles of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, however, she is serious and has an appearance "as if she’s wondering about something" (as her illustrator, Yusuke Nakano attempted to portray). Despite her demeanor, Zelda is always both intelligent and powerful; she has inherited the Hylian Royal Family's power, after all, as well as the Triforce of Wisdom.

Abilities: As a result of her powers bestowed upon her by her royal lineage, Princess Zelda has a broad spectrum of powers. In each game, she possesses the Triforce of Wisdom , which grants her additional powers. These powers include but are not limited to: prophetic abilities, banishing evil to other dimensions, opening barriers sealed by dark magic, providing others with a protective magical barrier, possessing Phantoms, creating and wielding Light Arrows, teleportation, telepathy, precognition, and communicating with spirits and dieties. Can you believe this woman has to be rescued every game?

Zelda's Alter Egos:

Tetra. Tetra is a pirate who debuts in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. She helps Link throughout his quest by allowing him to use her pirate ship and suggesting ideas on how to progress in his adventure. Later, her identity is revealed to be Princess Zelda, a secret even she knew nothing of.
Sheik. Sheik's only appearances are in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Smash Bros., but that doesn't discount his/her importance. Sheik guides Link on his quest by suggesting what temples to visit and teaching him songs that will help him teleport wherever he needs to go. Sheik has the ability to play the harp and teleport.

Now that we've discussed Zelda's contributions to her series, we may examine Princess Peach.

Personality: Princess Peach (also known as Princess Toadstool) has a very sweet nature. GameDaily described her as an “ideal woman that's as sweet as can be". However, she is also quite weak, as she is constantly targeted and kidnapped by Bowser, who uses her to lure in Mario, his arch nemesis.

Abilities: Most of her appearances seem to demonstrate Peach as having very little ability, except for an uncanny knack of being kidnapped. She does have a few special powers that appear in other Nintendo games outside of the Mario series. In Super Smash Bros., she can use her dress to fly. She also utilizes household weapons such as umbrellas or cooking pans to swat her enemies. However, Gamespy seems to differ on the opinion of Peach's usefulness. They claim in their article, Princess Peach: The Worst Woman in Videogames,that Peach has a very wide array of things she could do both to prevent herself from being kidnapped and to escape her confinement, but go on to say that "The woman is perfectly capable of defending herself.
But she doesn't. Because she's a lazy bum who won't do anything to protect herself except scream, 'Mario!' Why do something for yourself when there's a man waiting to do it? That wouldn't be very ladylike." However, in Super Princess Peach, she has a wider variety of absolutely adorable attacks and abilities that she uses to get through the world. This is the only instance, though, where she seems to be able to do much for herself.

So what do each have that the other doesn’t? Ganondorf, Zelda’s baddie, seems to have a stronger motive for kidnapping: he wishes to possess Zelda’s Triforce of Wisdom in order to create a dominion over the land of Hyrule. Bowser, however, kidnaps Peach just for fun or to taunt Mario. Both are elegant and refined, but Zelda helps more in Link’s mission than Peach does for Mario. While Peach lures Mario into her castle with a note (“I baked you a cake!”), Zelda is a more accurate portrayal of royalty and allows a messenger to pass the message to Link that she wishes to discuss something with him. Peach isn’t present in her castle, and there’s not a single cake in the entire game; Zelda gives Link the basis for his mission and the entire game. There’s hardly comparison at this point!

How do both of these ladies represent women? To an extent, both females are portraying a certain type of woman: sweet, refined, and elegant, which is an inaccurate representation of modern women, leading to them being unrelated to the females regarding them. Zelda, at the very least, has a certain wisdom and strength that would make her a positive role model. Though she is repeatedly kidnapped or turned to stone, she does what she can to help Link on his mission to save her and also the land of Hyrule in the process. As for Peach, the only positive thing about her that I can find is her positive demeanor. Other than that, her helplessness is an unhealthy portrayal of women—it gives little girls a weak role model to strive towards and little boys inaccurate ideas of what women are like. Therefore, my assessment on these ladies is as follows: Zelda, good; Peach, bad.

This was my least favorite of the blogs I'd written. I found it rushed and disorganized, but didn't know what to do to make it work. When I revised it, I took out some information that I deemed unnecessary, then added in more information at other parts to tie everything in together. That "togetherness" was something that I found this post originally lacked. I also changed grammar and sentence structure here or there, making it more readable and presentable.