Category Archives: Gaming

Watch This: Women vs. Tropes in Video Games

If you’re into gaming and on social media at all, you’ve probably heard of Anita Sarkeesian’s Women vs. Tropes in Video Games series, if only for the huge swath of angry gamers it leaves in its wake. See, Sarkeesian dares to suggest that a vast majority of video games, beloved and otherwise, are quite, shall we say, problematic in the way they treat women, and she uses example after example from game after game – Mario to Watch Dogs and everything in between. While for many people this seems pretty obvious, and even more so once she’s drawn our eyes to it, it enrages a certain segment of gamers who like their games as they are. I won’t go into the entire controversy, because it’s been raging since Sarkeesian’s kickstarter several years ago. This is a great rundown of it and why it’s so toxic (language warning).

Anyway, the latest iteration of the Women vs. Tropes in Video Games series came out yesterday, and it’s one of the best (and most difficult to watch) of the series. It’s part 2 of a miniseries on Women as Background Decoration, which basically looks at the way women are often treated as disposable in action games – there merely to be attacked, beaten, raped, and killed, and often depicted in a sexualized manner. It’s important to note, as always, that Sarkeesian enjoys gaming herself, often including the games she uses as negative examples in her videos. I personally am a huge fan of Red Dead Redemption, which gets called out numerous times in the segment. The point is not that these negative elements necessarily mean it’s a bad game, but just how pervasive these storytelling elements are in gaming, to the point that they pop up when there’s literally no reason for them to be there. This is a difficult episode to watch, and it carries a serious trigger warning for violence against women.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, this is the first one, which focuses on the storytelling trope of the Damsel in Distress. They’re all worth watching.

Note: I don’t moderate comments for disagreement or discussion, but I will be deleting comments with hate speech or slurs.

E3 ID@Xbox Trailer: Cuphead

I promise not to post a bunch of E3 stuff, even though I’m watching coverage almost 24/7 this week. But this little indie showcased as part of the ID@Xbox sizzle reel is totally a classic film-type thing, too. It’s like the flowers from Disney’s Flowers and Trees short are coming to life and attacking you! In other words, awesome. No idea when this is coming out for Xbox One and Steam (more specifically than 2014), but I’m pretty much guaranteed to get it.

For more ID@Xbox game trailers, Destructoid has a good initial roundup.

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The Roundup: August 20

My top flips into my Flipboard magazines this week, whether the articles are new or old. Read more of my magazines at my Flipboard profile.

Current Film

You Can Do Anything: Must Every Kids’ Movie Reinforce the Cult of Self-Esteem? by Luke Epplin at The Atlantic

I find the fact that so many kids movies have a super-obvious and condescending message irritating in the first place, but that so many have the same message with no counterpoint is really getting old. It’s one thing to encourage kids to dream, but another to set unrealistic expectations without helping them learn contentment.

In addition to disparaging routine labor, these films discount the hard work that enables individuals to reach the top of their professions. Turbo and Dusty don’t need to hone their craft for years in minor-league circuits like their racing peers presumably did. It’s enough for them simply to show up with no experience at the world’s most competitive races, dig deep within themselves, and out-believe their opponents. They are, in many ways, the perfect role models for a generation weaned on instant gratification.

Why Kick-Ass 2 Creator Mark Millar’s Rape Comments Have So Many People Angry by Kristy Puchko at Cinemablend

Response to the Mark Millar story I included in last week’s roundup.

Secondly, rape and decapitation are not the same. Both are horrible acts of violence, sure. But the latter is not one that causes people to ask, “Well, what was she wearing when she got decapitated?” There’s no victim blaming inherent in decapitation, but more to the point decapitation is not a thing that people fear in their day-to-day life the way that many women fear rape.

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The Roundup: August 12

At long last and much frantic feedreading in an attempt to get something near caught up, I’m going to attempt to bring back The Roundup of favorite posts and articles. I’m doing it a bit differently, though – this post won’t be quite as comprehensive as it used to be, because I’m now using Flipboard to curate my favorite links throughout the week. What’s Flipboard? I’m glad you asked. It’s a lovely magazine-style newsreader, originally for iPad but now multiplatform, that also allows users to create and curate their own magazines on any topic they want. So I’ve created magazines about current film, classic film, television, gaming, etc., which can all be read through the app or via a browser at my Flipboard profile. What I post here each week will be my favorite flips of the past week, but if you like my taste in reading, you can find many more good reads by flipping through the full magazines.

Since it’s been a while and I literally just caught up on about a month of posts over the past several days, not all of these will be from the past week, and there are more of them than there likely will be in the future. People kept writing more good stuff while I was working on this post.

Current Film

Stop Blaming Jaws! by Heather Havrilesky of the New York Times

Couldn’t agree more with this – Jaws has great characters and pacing that lets you breathe and build up dread, rather than simply escalating action to the point of exhaustion. See following article with Lindelof interview for comparison.

“As a business model, Jaws may well have upended the movie industry. Creatively, though, it’s increasingly strange to blame Jaws for spawning the modern blockbuster, given how little Steven Spielberg’s esoteric, character-driven story has in common with today’s action extravaganzas. Compared with movies like Pacific Rim, World War Z and White House Down, Jaws is an art-house film. And a very good one: the film built suspense by focusing on what you couldn’t see more than on what you could. The young swimmer, up to her shoulders in murky water. A boy’s dangling legs, viewed from under the water. A swaying fishing boat, creaking eerily in the darkness.”

Damon Lindelof on Blockbuster Screenwriting by Scott Brown of Vulture Magazine

It’s somewhat disingenuous coming from Lindelof, since he’s the crafter of many of Hollywood’s current blockbusters (including Star Trek: Into Darkness, which falls prey to the very escalation he mentions in the paragraph before the one I pulled), but it’s an interesting insight into the Hollywood mindset.

But Hollywood’s gigantism, Lindelof points out, is practically algorithmic—and the effect tendrils all the way down to the storytelling level. When ever-larger sums are spent to make and market ever-fewer, ever-bigger movies, and those movies are aimed at Imax screens, then world-­shattering comic-book I.P. and gigantic special effects are expected, with larger-than-life characters wielding those effects. No one necessarily asks for it; it just kind of happens. It’s what Lindelof calls Story Gravity, and dealing with it—whether that means resisting it or simply surfing it skillfully—is the great challenge of writing this new breed of tentpole blockbuster. The question used to be: How do we top ourselves? The new one seems to be: How do we stop ourselves?

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