Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Games and Gender Rant of the Day

After being so starved for interesting gender ‘n games topics that I stooped so low as to talk about celebrities behaving badly, finally someone has written something interesting.

I think this guy is onto something. I’ve certainly ranted enough in this blog about the “lowest common denominator” men that engage in some very bad behavior.

I’ve also mentioned a few women who fit the category he terms “Man Seeking Missile.”

And for all intents and purposes, the lowest common denominator men and the MSM women are more similar to each other than they are to the majority of male AND female gamers. Because both of them use their sexuality as a tool for stirring up drama.

Anyway, the author of this piece, who reminds me of a couple of my guildies and a few of my cousins (yes, there’s a Mormon branch to my family, or maybe “forest” would be more accurate than branch because there’s a lot of them), is bending over backwards not to be sexist, even though no doubt some will feel that he is. And he offers the following premises:

* Women are often not taken as seriously as men;
* Women are often not considered as good as men;
* Women are often seen as sex objects, even in a cohesive guild;
* Women have to work harder than men to be accepted and viewed as equals.

I think that he speaks the truth. Note that he uses the word “often” rather than “always” or “sometimes.”

For the first count, not being taken seriously. The writer gives an example of a woman giving correct information on how to get through an instance and being ignored, with the group later listening to the information once it came from a man.

Recently, as more devoted readers might recall, I decided to grind reputation in order to get a kewl space opera looking blaster gun for my blood elf (because she is only exiled in this backwards galaxy while her new sci fi MMO is being built). I looked up the reputation in question at thottbot.com, the premier WoW information site and one that I use constantly.

I’m almost going into perfectionist mode here and linking the search page, along with a statistical breakdown of the advice/comments posted there, but I’m not going to get that intense, although if you want to look for it, the reputation in question is Consortium, and while you’re there check out the Consortium blaster, which I now own (*dances around gleefully*).

Although several other methods are listed, it basically comes down to hunting the ogres or the zaxxis, and some people prefer either one. I checked out the comments, then farmed a little of both and discovered I like the ogres better, mainly because I could also get Mag’har reputation and netherweave cloth from them, in addition to these Halaa crystals that I wound up swapping for a 18 slot bag. Also the ogres live in a lovely grassy valley, and the Zaxxis live in a barren rocky wasteland, so I found the ogre valley more aesthetically soothing. And while I was beating up on ogres I could also help nearby guildies doing quests, and slay the nearby beasts for their leather.

Now there’s this guildie of mine, Tweak (he insists it’s not a drug reference because it’s spelled with an A and according to him, only the version with two E’s is a drug reference; I suggested he go listen to the Primus album with Tommy the Cat on it, but anyway, he’s an argumentative guy).

The other day someone asked the best way to farm Consortium and I piped up expressing affection for the ogres, at which point Tweak comes in and insists he looked at THREE websites before concluding that Zaxxis are better and I’m just wrong. Never mind that I tried them both.

But then again, I’m not so sure that this kind of thing results from me being female as it does from the fact that Tweak is that kind of guy. Last night he was in fine form, complaining about the expansion, which (according to Tweak) will not be any fun, and death knights are really just necromancers, and everybody will play a necromancer, and it will suck, and so on. He also likes to give out health advice, because he has read ten (10) books about health. One day he tried to tell me that migraines were caused by not drinking enough water. He wouldn’t tell me where he went to medical school when I asked, though.

I don’t dislike Tweak, and I’ve been through some instances with him. He’s a very serious gamer and knowing a lot about the game is important to him. He might be complainy and critical and negative and overbearing but he’s also knowledgeable and reliable and occasionally lots of fun. And when I have a serious issue with anything he says, I can discuss it with him. He’s also taken offense at some of the rotten things I say, such as the time I made fun of him for using one of those XP calculator mods to calculate the time it would take him to reach his next level.

So while I can’t verify that Tweak might do that to a male or a female gamer, I have had it happen in the past and it sucks. A lot of guys just ignore information coming from a woman. When I find them I make a point of not gaming with them.

Point two: Women are often considered not as good as men. Again, not by the people I hang out with. In fact, when gamer boys get a little too arrogant about their manual dexterity I invite them to put up an ad asking for people who can type 100 wpm accurately and then do a gender breakdown on the response.

In the gamerverse, however, yes, you do frequently encounter little boys who have major difficulty with spelling insisting that girls aren’t as good as button mashing.

Point three: Women are often seen as sex objects, even in a cohesive guild.

I’d say this is true in one of the four guilds I’ve been in. In the other 75%, claiming that the female members are there for your sexual entertainment would probably make you the butt of jokes for months, assuming everyone was in a good mood and wanted to play with you before kicking you out.

Women, if you don’t like your guild, quit! I don’t care if your boyfriend and your whole family are in there, just go find one of the thousands of better ones.

And finally, women often have to work harder than men to be accepted and viewed as equals.
I think that’s behind the reason I made sure I was the first level 70 in the guild. And yes, I did get some sour grapes from the guy I, uh, left twitching beside the road to choke on my dust. But it’s hard to tell if he’d have taken it any better if I were male. He left the guild soon afterwards anyway.


But yes, I think we do often have to put in more effort sometimes. And I’ve got the consolation of knowing I can trump just about any guild argument with my leveling prowess. Especially now that I’ve got TWO level 70s. And a level 27 warrior who’s well along the way to 70-hood.

Now, with respect to my guild dynamics – I’m going to get a little multilayered here, so bear with me.

My guildleader, Terr, celebrates his birthday on the day after my birthday. Maybe astrology is to blame. Either way, we seem to have a similar strategic outlook in many regards. In our previous game we would have been enemies, and well matched opponents at that.

When I first joined, we had sort of a discussion about where things were headed, and we both agreed that we are playing to Win. In preBC WoW, the Win came from having the raid guild that could score you the best equipment, but postBC WoW changed everything. The raid stuff is no longer the best. In fact, many feel that the whole raiding end game has been changed or ruined or improved or whatever. I’m fine with this change because from what I heard about preBC WoW, raiding was the addictive and aggravating part.

We also had other Win conditions. One of Terr's is to have the biggest and best guild on the server, and this goal fits in perfectly with my Win goals so I will help. For me, making it to 70 first was a Win. Then having two 70s was another Win. I've become sort of the poster kid for fast leveling. Great, as long as I've got the Win on something I am happy, especially being surrounded by other winners who excell at meeting their own victory conditions, whether they involve money or reputation or battlegrounds or being the best dressed blood elf around.

As I kept on playing and learning the game, it struck me that a lot of the preBC strategy had been overruled by the new game, and I wanted to play and learn the game in its current state, not listen to the old timers drone on about how it used to be. I think such things as repetitive instance runs, for example, are part of the Old Game, because just about everything you get in the post expansion lands is far better.

Now after getting my hunter to 70 I decided to get a priest there. I figured a priest, while useful in raids or battlegrounds, would be best for instances, and I was assuming that the instances were where the good things could be found. That was true for SWG when its final expansion came out. So I was basing my strategy on what worked in SWG.

After a recent and very lengthy server outage, Terr did some research, and after the server was back up he informed me of the results: the best gear of all is now available from: battlegrounds.

A lot of guildies have been obsessively running battlegrounds for the gear, and I was going to send my priest that way after topping off her crafted equipment. But you know, I don’t really like battlegrounds, which are instances for balanced team fights. I used to complain on the SWG forums demanding them because the PVP over there was so terribly imbalanced, but after trying one, I was sort of unimpressed.

So I replied to Terr that the battleground stuff was going to be obsolete in four or five months anyway given the new expansion, and who knew what was going to be the new “most uber of all” after that.

Terr, who had wasted much time in battlegrounds, tended to agree. I told him I was going to devote myself to grinding then, so that when the new expansion came out I’d have an arsenal of healer, tank or damage/crowd control characters depending on the situation. In the months before the expansion I can easily top out the warrior and get all of them some good gear, and maybe mess around with the other classes too, to see if there’s one I like best.

After all, if we DO end up in a world of death knights, they’re going to need at least one healer to rez them, and maybe a dedicated tank or a damage machine (with a shiny Consortium blaster) too. And I’ve got a pretty good feeling that my death knight will end up being my main anyway.

Which means I’m not going to invest a whole lot of time making my other characters as strong as they can get. I learned that lesson well from getting whopped upside the head with the NGE stick in my last game.

Now here’s some other metagaming trivia. When I joined, I was almost certain that Terr and Rose were a RL couple. They had good chemistry and were always off grinding together. Later, I found out a little more (from each of them, separately). They had a flirtatious thing going, then the guy Rose is engaged to had a health crisis which resulted in them getting back together. So there was tension between them because they’re good folks and I think they did have some affection for each other. And Rose is by no means a MSM, and Terr is by no means a sexist harassing pig.

Both of them have no doubt felt that I took the other’s “side.” And I do hang out with Rose a lot. And I’d rather go play SWG while wearing mittens than go try and slay something with both Rose and Terr, because the interpersonal chemistry isn’t the greatest, and they both tend to be easily offended by each other, which is totally understandable.

And finally, as the first 70 in the group, I didn’t rely on the guild at all to get there, although I appreciated being guilded and got a lot of help in other ways. Mainly I did the difficult things with non-guildies that I met while hanging around the upper level areas. I had one partner, Vyra, that I did most of Nagrand with, and haven’t seen her since.

Right now, the other level 70's in the guild are doing similar to get keys for the difficult instances and farm reputation and other difficult tasks.

So since maxing out my priest I’ve been “invited” to a total of two instances, and I have even logged into vent and stayed up past bedtime for them. I could, I suppose, claim this is due to sexism, if I were the kind of emo whiner whose mind worked that way. But there are other considerations. First, I could probably just come out and ask “hey, you guys wanna do an instance? Anyone need a priest for a level 70 instance? I want to get a key from that instance, are you guys going to be available to do that any time this week?” I could even go hang around the instance in question spamming in the looking for group channel and making connections, the way I did to get to 70 and the way they are doing now.

But nah, that’s no fun, I’m having more fun grinding my little deadite warrior.

There’s also the Terr and Rose dynamic. Maybe Terr’s not calling me because I’m buddies with Rose. Well, if that were the case (which I don’t think it is, Terr’s not that immature) I could actually sort of understand. I can even understand if he wants to avoid female gamers for a bit.

Then there’s this “calling me” nonsense, like I’m some sweet 16 year old waiting for football players to call and ask me out. Not hardly. If I were the type of person that waited to be asked I’d have a thick coating of dust on me, and I don’t. If I want to instance with the guild I have no doubts that if I were to make it known, they’d instance with me.

And finally, I’m kind of a private player most of the time. I keep to myself and grind, and chat with my friends, and with people I run into while grinding, and sometimes I even get distracted by phone calls or whatever and wander away from the keyboard for extended periods of time. Yeah, I’m bad that way. I had a very young guildie once in my last guild that accused me of deliberately snubbing him because often he would try to talk to me in guildchat and I didn’t reply. No, I just wander AFK a lot. Maybe I’ll alt tab to check something in thottbot and get all distracted and before I know it I’ve been surfing the net for an hour, or I’m emailing someone I forgot to email, or ordering groceries online, or playing with my pets or something.

As such I tend to turn down invitations to do anything unless I know I’m going to be physically and mentally present, without distractions, for the next two or three hours.

So any of that could be a better reason than sexism why I don’t log in to fifty requests for help with instances after I start up the game, or why I’m not doing instances with the level 70s every night despite working hard on getting a maxed out priest.

Anyway, I like this guy’s take on game sexism. I think he’s right in that a small minority of male and female players trying to use their sexuality as bait or blunt weapon or other unintended purposes give all the rest of us a bad name. We reasonable people need to team up against these unfortunate sexually maladjusted people and let them go bother each other, or make therapists rich, or do what they do somewhere else. Like Second Life. I’ve heard that’s a great game for people who’d rather engage in kink and manipulation than killing pixels. I think that because there are more male players than female ones at this time the bad female behavior will probably be more noticed, and a good way to counter that is to be visible, female, and highly competent.

And I think the way to get around all this gamer sexism is to take the same path I’ve been taking. Be female. Game. Win. If guys are offensive, say something about it. If you want to do something and your fellow gamers aren’t cooperating, find more cooperative ones. If your guild is full of drooling idiots, leave. Find a great one, like the one I’m in. Don’t be afraid to cross the finish line first. To say “excuse me, that’s wrong.” To seek out people that will encourage you to run fast and avoid people who only love you if you hold back. You can get attention by flirting, sure, and you can also get attention by spraypainting political slogans your butt and running naked through downtown during the lunch rush, but it probably won’t be the kind of attention that will ultimately make you happy.

And don’t take all criticism as bias, even though quite a lot of it is nonsensical crap put forth by intimidated guys trying to establish dominance in the relationship. Sometimes it’s a step towards fixing the problems.

I think the guy who wrote today’s rant is making an honest step in that direction.

And he saved me from having to write about zombie cleavage today but don’t worry, I’ll probably get to that tomorrow.


Kenshu Ani said...

Huh. I find it interesting that the Mayo Clinic website doesn't list dehydration as a cause of migraines. A symptom of dehydration is a headache, but that isn't the same.

As for the dexterity issue raised, holding a typewriting competition isn't a great way to show differences in genders. I took a typing class in jr. high, I was the only boy and switched electives because of the whole social bully issue. This is a situation that has been amplified over the years as everyone knows that only women become secretaries (btw, I'm just a glorified secretary now). Hmm, I think I just discovered my next blog topic, but I'll just make a mental note of it now.

Easter Durni said...

I had a similar experience in high school electronics class. A+ in theory but nobody wanted to solder boards with me, lol.

As far as secretaries, I think offices have changed in the past few years and secretaries do more coordinating and scheduling than typing (and a lot of their bosses can keyboard just fine, having had to learn in order to turn in their papers and graduate). And more guys are indeed getting into the field, although they're still kind of rare. In my experience hanging out in offices though, the ones who can turn out blindingly fast typo-free text are nearly always female.

Just trying to make a point that manual dexterity isn't an exclusively male province by any stretch of the imagination, despite the fact that guys tend to predominate in games. I tend to take brags about gaming prowess from those who think "anyone" is spelled "ne1" with a truckload of salt. They can come back and try to impress me after they finish getting high scores in Mavis Beacon. Noobs.