Checked Out / Checked In

Checked Out:


I didn't have a chance to watch part 2, so this DVD is staying with me for a little while longer. Part 1 was pretty slow and put Zeph to sleep (literally), so I am hoping that part 2 will be better.

Checked In:
This DVD gave a good overview of the history of The People's Temple, as well as some background on Jones himself. I really liked how they incorporated the impact the Temple had on San Francisco, including San Francisco politics. Although it wasn't the topic of the DVD, it might have been interesting to add in a short bit on the connection between the Jonestown deaths and the homicide of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk.

Much better than the last travel DVD I checked out. This one was up-to-date, and had the added bonus of a few episodes on basic travel skills. I learned a lot about Germany, and a lot about packing and train travel. This DVD seems to have all of Germany covered (including the Rhine, Munich, and Berlin), so don't bother checking out any other ones.

I didn't even watch this DVD, so I can't comment on it. The Black Forest and Cologne were covered in the other movie I checked out.

P.S. The links in this post should work. How come nobody told me all of the links in the previous post were broken?!

Getting Girls to Game

“So do you think the game was designed for men, women, or both?” I asked Victoria. It was how I usually ended my interviews for my senior thesis, which is on women who play World of Warcraft.

“I think it was designed for men,” she answered. “I think they did a decent job with throwing in some female aspects, but I think in general it was designed for men.” Her answer is not atypical of the other women I interviewed. None of them thought that the game was designed for women, though they agree that there are aspects that appeal to the female gamer.

Ok, I am sure you guys are getting sick and tired of being told how chauvinistic gaming is, and how gaming makes teenagers kill people, and how games are ruining the world. I'll put you at ease right away as I staunchly disagree with the latter two statements, though the first has some truth to it. But, I promise that the purpose of this piece is not to berate male gamers for their sexist ways (but the girls I interviewed did complain about the sexism in WoW, so knock it off!). I am here to help you, gents, by showing how you can tap into one of the few markets yet unclaimed by the industry: women.

Why even bother to convince you that women should be actively designed for in the mainstream gaming industry? We, the women, need the experience that gaming offers. Gaming offers a chance to become acquainted with computers – with use of software, with installation of software, and, as anybody who has changed a graphics card to improve the look of an Epic Flying Mount can attest to, with hardware. In an industry where women are still grossly underrepresented we need all the help we can get, and games will be a big help.

And what does the industry gain from this relationship? Money. Plain and simple. The market of boys young and old who buy video games is pretty much tapped out. I promise you there isn't some guy somewhere who one day is going to stumble into Target and say, “Play Station? What's that? What have I been missing out on?!” Plus, do you guys know how much a pair of Manolo Blahnik costs? What if you could convince an entire market share with plenty of disposable income to buy the latest console game – hell, to buy the console itself – instead of spending that money on a pair of shoes? I promise it can happen.

What you need to do is this: incorporate more flowers, puppies, and rainbows into your games. Oh, and pink, lots of pink. Just kidding! The Purple Moon company already tried that, and it seriously flopped. Girls don't necessarily want games with flowers and puppies and rainbows. I've played those games, and they generally suck.

The true solution is even simpler than skewing the color spectrum of the game toward pink hues. All you need to do is offer the chance to play female avatars. (Ok, that's not all, but I'll save my attack on game packaging with nearly-naked women for another article.)

“But we have published games with female characters!” you say. Right. For first person shooters there's Samus and there's Lara Croft, one girl who is only revealed to be female in the final cinematic, and one who wears her guns in holsters around her thighs, people. Her thighs! It's not exactly a great start. Role playing games are a little better at including women, but they are still a minority of the characters available. And if anybody says “Chung Lee” I will round-house kick you faster than you can say, “cultural appropriation.”

So, to expand on the first point, we don't need the chance to play a female character every once in a while. We need it in every game. That is all (again, see the note re: packaging for the disclaimer).

I am sure more than one designer is laughing at me right now. “That's all, she says?!” No, I am not a designer, but it seems to me that it should be easier than you think. The designers for Mass Effect did it, so you can too. Take the same gameplay, the same storyline, and just rearrange the polygons to form a female body instead of a male one. Throw in a screen in the beginning of the game to give the player of which version to play, and you're good to go.

“But the story changes in Mass Effect based on which gender you choose.” Yeah, you got me there. The love interest options for your character does change based on whether your character is male or female. But there's an easy solution for that, too: give the player a choice to become romantically involved with any of the characters. In Mass Effect the male Captain Shepard can become romantically involved with Ashley Williams, the female Captain Shepard with Kaidan Alenko, and they can both become involved with the Liara T'Soni. Why not just make it a romantic free-for-all, with the option to be gay, straight, or one who loves a genderless alien? Makes sense to me. Hell, if the developers of Harvest Moon were able to code the game to recognize which of the five girls in town you were courting, I think modern-day designers can handle three love interest options.

“You want us to make gay characters?” Not necessarily gay, but definitely bisexual. Equally open to a relationship with anybody of any gender, or even a lack of gender. You don't seem to have a problem with the super hot girl-on-alien kiss that slipped its way into Mass Effect, and I am sure the extra press attention helped sales of the game. Make the first game where the protagonist can be a super ass-kicking dude who kisses other super ass-kicking dudes, and I promise you will get tons of free publicity.

“But Mass Effect is an RPG. What about FPSs?”First person shooters do pose their own problems, but none that can't be overcome. There can be a Doomgal, a Gordina Freewoman, a Mistress Chief. Well, I probably wouldn't call her “mistress,” but you get the point. The main aspect to consider with FPSs is that they don't offer the same choices that RPGs; instead of player actions moving the story, there is a set storyline that every player will experience. Again, I think it is rather simple to create two nearly identical cinematics, one with a male protagonist and one with a female. The story can be consistent between the two, unless there is some instance where the male protagonist does something with his penis. And at that point, you really might want to rethink your storyline. Seriously. No storylines where a penis is pivotal to the progression.

“But don't girls want different gameplay?” Oh jeez, come on guys. Girls aren't that different from boys. We like most of the same stuff. Of the women I interviewed for my thesis, not one of them said, “I really like the cats you buy from the crazy cat lady!” when I asked about their favorite part of the game. They liked to raid, they liked to run instances, and they liked to PVP. In other words, they liked to kick some ass, and I am sure they have all kicked yours at some point. Sure, some of them liked to roleplay, but the founder of roleplay was a man! (RIP, Gygax) And I am sure there are boys out there who would rather play Spider Solitaire than Grand Theft Auto. My point is that there are differences in game preferences, but those differences are not necessarily gendered. Some girls may not like a particular game, but there will be some boys who don't like it either.

“So that's really all we have to do? Then girls will play our games?” I can't make any promises, but it sure will help. And, like I mentioned before, the advertising strategy will probably have to move away from using big busty women. But with girls to play in every game and a sexism-free advertising strategy I think the industry will be ready to accept a female audience. With that and a plug from somebody like Paris Hilton, you guys should be pretty much good to go. (Somebody has to make video games “Hot!”)

“Ummm... I'm out of questions.” Good, because I think I am done answering them. Like I said, the formula is simple:

+Female Characters
– Sexism
+ Paris Hilton endorsement
= Lots of Sales to Women

Why don't you go run the math and get back to me?

(This piece was originally part of my final project for my Sociology of Culture Class and is a spin-off of my senior thesis)

CA Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

In case you haven't heard already, the California Supreme Court ruled today that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE! To make things even better, as I was surfing the Chronicle's website to find an article to use, I stumbled across this one, which is an interview with my aunt and her fiancee. SQUEEEEEE again! I am so happy for you, Auntie Paula and Julie! It is a great day when all of my relatives can share equal access to marriage.


Lady in the black blazer: My Aunt Paula
Lady in the white plaid plaid shirt (behind Paula): My Aunt Julie
Head of the lady in the white t-shirt (behind Julie): My mommy
Source: NY Times

Checked Out / Checked In

Checked Out: Germany's Black Forest and Cologne, Germany, Swiss Alps & travel skills, Jonestown: the life and death of People's Temple, and The Mormons.

Checked In: Germany, Austria & Switzerland.
Rating: 3 stars
Review: This travel DVD was decently informative, but I don't think I can jet to Germany after watching it. The main drawback is that it is close to 20 years old (post-Berlin wall, but pre-Euro). I'll know how accurate the information is once I watch some of the newer Rick Steves DVDs. Oh, and after I read one of his books. I do need to check out a book from the library eventually. :-)

A Milestone

created at

Today is the last day of the Davies Forum. After what I am sure will be a grueling class session at NoPa, the class will disperse and go our separate ways, hopefully keeping in touch through the media we have used throughout the course.

As a final post, we were all asked to TagCrowd our blogs, and then reflect on what we see. So I found a url that shows all of my posts on the same page, plugged it into TagCrowd, fiddled with the settings, and hit enter.

I am not sure what I expected, but I don't think I would have guessed my most-used word in a million years: People.

What a fitting note to the end (not forever, just for now) of an academic career focused on the study of, well, groups of people.

Phillip Thurtle

Philip Thurtle

Last week the Davies Forum hosted its last speaker of the semester: Phillip Thurtle. As a Sociology student (soon to be graduate!), his talk was fascinating.

Phillip argues that we can explore both the present and the future in comic books. Comics show us what we fear as a society, and it also shows us how society could one day be.

Although I agree with his latter point, it is the first one I am more immediately interested in. Sociologists study the crap out of everything in order to learn what the norms, values, and ideologies are of a society, and fear is an important part of this. One of the more omnipresent fears is that of new technology; society feared the radio, the television, and now it fears the Internet. And I am sure at some point we feared the book, which is now the most holy form of media and the only one that schools spend an inordinate amount of time promoting. Ah society, how constantly you change...

But back to comic books! So what exactly does Phillip argue we fear? Technology and the industrial age. Spider man had his radioactive bite, Superman was spurred on by organized urban crime, and the X-Men (and women, really X-People) are all products of overexposure to radiation. As a group, we are worried that technology is going to change us all into weird people, mutant people, half people. We fear that technology is going to replace our humanity.

Ok, so you don't have to read comics to find out that society is freaked out by technology - just turn on your local news. This is where the second piece of the beauty of comics comes in. The news will tell us what is happening today, but comics can tell us what can happen tomorrow. They can speculate as to what our future will be.

I like to focus on the optimistic futures found in comics. Rather than worry about the Magnetos of the future world, I hope we will be like the X-Men (seriously, the gender bias has got to go): one big, happy, fucked-up family.

Checked Out

I just got a library card!

After living in San Francisco for almost 4 years, I finally registered with the San Francisco Public Library, and it was fairly painless. I filled out an online application, printed my form (at USF's library), and walked it down to the Park Branch. The only drawback is that my residential address doesn't match the address on my driver's license (the DMV needs to find a way to accommodate nomads), so my card is currently "provisional." But as soon as I show up with a piece of mail that has my name and address on it I will be free to check out materials to my heart's content.

SFPL's website could use some redesign work (some stuff is just hard to navigate), but it is user-friendly enough that I can pull information from it to blog for you fine people. And thus this is the first of what I hope will be many posts.

Just checked out: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (a Rick Steves travel DVD)

Kevin Epps

Kevin Epps
Kevin Epps gave a Davies Forum talk ages ago, but there is one thing he said that I have been mulling over since then, and I still don't have a complete answer to my own question.

Kevin appeared a tad nervous during his talk, and he quickly opened the floor for a Q&A free-for-all. It was pretty amazing. What better way to address what your audience wants you to than to just ask them? He discussed copyright issues (especially for young media makers who haven't made a name for themselves yet), gentrification of the Bayview/Hunter's Point area, and how he uses media to serve his community.

Which is where my question comes in.

In countless media studies and Sociology classes, we have analyzed how the media portrays African Americans, and the portrayals are very rarely positive. The media teaches society, especially white society, to be afraid of African Americans. Who are the people getting busted on Cops? Black people. Who is getting busted for crime on shows ranging from the nightly news to CSI? Black people. What is take-home message from all of this media? Be afraid of black people.

I promise I'll get to my question eventually.

Before he gave his talk, I watched Kevin's documentary Straight Outta' Hunter's Point. While it was one of the first films of its kind that has documented what it is like growing up and living in a black ghetto, I found myself coming away with the same message that I get from all other media: The ghetto is scary, if you go to the ghetto there is a high chance you will be harmed, and don't forget to be afraid of black people.

"How do you work to portray your neighborhood in a truthful way without perpetuating white people's fears of African Americans?" (I told you I would get there eventually)

His off-the-cuff answer was one I did not expect. "Well, some of the people from the neighborhood would probably be glad if you were afraid to go there. Then you wouldn't move in and try and gentrify the place!"

I am sure he said more than that, but that comment is what has stuck with me. Part of me agrees with him - gentrification is pushing more and more people of color out of San Francisco on a routine basis. Anything that combats that should be a good thing.

But, on the other hand, racism is not going to go away if white people continue to be in fear of African Americans. Can't we find a way to avoid gentrification without perpetuating fear of an entire group of people based on their skin color?

I struggle between two sides of the argument, between those who argue for integration and those who argue for segregation. There are people of all races on both sides (and some in the middle), who defend their cases based on a variety of arguments, some of which I agree with, some of which I do not.

I still haven't reached a definitive answer as to what my actions, as a white ally, should be. Instead of sitting here and pondering what the residents of the neighborhood would prefer, maybe I should come down from the mountain of academia and do as Kevin did: Ask.