Tag Archives: video games

Diversity in Games: What We’re NOT Seeing at E3

Remember Me developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Capcom

With E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in full force as of yesterday, everyone’s talking about what they hope to see from the major studios – more games, new sequels, lower prices. And more than once hopes have been dashed and the disappointments decried on Twitter.

Here at Geek Outsider, we had hopes of our own…

Diversity has never been a strong suit of video games, neither in the games themselves nor in the studios behind them. But it’s 2013 and progress has been made in independent studios and games, and even at some major studios. For example, Crystal Dynamics had a strong female creative team behind it’s more feminist reboot of the female-led game Tomb Raider this year, and Capcom and Dontnod Entertainment just recently put out Remember Me which features a mixed-ethnicity female as the game’s protagonist.

So one might see why we have reason to hope for at least a little diversity on the stage or at least on screen at this year’s E3.

Those high hopes have not been totally completely dashed…

While the game presenters and protagonists have been mostly the standard white male face that we associate with the industry, there has been at least one gem in the mix… DICE Studio‘s Mirror’s Edge 2, with its ass-kicking ethnic woman lead:

And then Bioware went and got our hopes up by showing Dragon Age 1‘s Morrigan at the end of their Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer, making us wonder if we might get a chance to play the new game as the goddess herself!

Happily, one thing we haven’t seen a lot of at this year, even in the male-dominated games, is half-naked weepy women needing saving or being trophies. Huzzah! Progress-ish!

This smidgen of gender & ethnic diversity is great… but a pretty poor showing. One look at the diversity of the E3 feeds that have taken over Twitter will show just how diverse the gaming audience is today. And the argument that female-led or minority-led games don’t sell has been proven wrong a couple times this year alone. It’s high time the world of gaming got more diverse in every way. That means behind the scenes too…

So, though we’ll likely find ourselves disappointed, here’s hoping the next three days of geeky gamer news out of E3 will be more inclusive/representative/diverse/awesome…

And more importantly here’s to all the indie developers and orgs out there working to bring a little color and equality to the gaming industry!

Update!

Nintendo bust out (the ever-controversial)  Bayonetta 2! And she got a hair cut…

Update!

We got two more ladies and one of them is a soldier/spy!

French developer Quantic Dream will be coming out with BEYOND: Two Souls featuring a female lead in Jodie Holmes.  The character is voiced and designed after actress Ellen Page

And Supergiant Games debuted the trailer for the sci-fi action RPG Transistor, featuring lady lead Red who come upon a talking sword that she uses to defend herself against The Process…

Geeks & Soldiers: Why Memorial Day is Important to Geek Culture

Battlestar Galactica officers

This weekend geeks have double the cause to celebrate! Not only is Geek Pride Day May 25th, but we also have Memorial Day to celebrate this Monday. What does geekery have to do with Memorial Day you ask? Well…

Memorial Day is about honoring the men and women who have risked and sacrificed their lives to defend ours throughout history and today. Whether you’re a comics fan, a gamer, or an avid science fiction geek, you’re familiar with the idea.

Military heroes are everywhere in geek culture. They’re the heroes we play in shooters; they’re the nameless enemies we kill in tabletop battles; they’re who we root for in science fiction shows like Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and Stargate. Many of our beloved superheroes were non-powered heroic military men and women first – Captain America, Nick Fury, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and John Stewart, and Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel), to  name a few. Others represent military values — honor, duty, service, loyalty, courage, sacrifice.

cover of Captain America Comics #1 – Captain America decking Hitler

The armed forces motif in games, comics and and sci-fi is wide-spread and variously contentious, ignored, and/or celebrated in different geek mediums.  Video games are usually criticized for inculcating violent behaviors in youth, science fiction is alternately praised and damned for its tendency to create either laudatory or critical allegories of our own real wars, and in many popular comics where soldiers become superheroes and superheroes become soldiers we idolize the military hero model.

For example, in The Avengers, war hero Captain America and his crew of super-powered patriots answer the government’s call to defend America from threats alien, mutant, and otherwise. There are, of course, many comics that criticize war and the military, like Alan Moore‘s The Watchmen which takes a critical look at the Vietnam War in particular and calls to attention the relationship between superheroes and war in comic books. Truth: Red, White, and Black by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker looks at another troubling aspect of war, re-examing the story of Captain America‘s origin and through the lens of the real-life medical experimentation on American heroes at Tuskegee.

Isaiah Bradley the hero from “Truth: Red, White & Black” star by Robert Morales & Kyle Baker

There are plenty of comics, games, and sci-fi shows that steer clear of battlefields and infantries, nonetheless it’d be difficult to deny that war and armed forces are pervasive in geek entertainments. War and soldiers have been a part of American comic books since their inception in the early 1930’s. The war effort itself used comic books to boost support and recruitment. So what is that about? What’s the deal with geeks and soldiers? Geekery and war?

Gerard Jones’s in his 2004 book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book offers an interesting answer. Jones takes a look at the inventors of the comic book medium, the majority of whom were young Jewish men, the children of Jewish immigrants, whose adult lives were sandwiched between two major wars.  Two of these young men Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created the ultimate outsider, the alien do-gooder Kal-El, who would go on to become one of America’s most iconic superheroes Superman. Shuster and Siegel and cultural outsiders like them claimed a place for themselves in American culture with ink and paper, creating heroes that would come to be definitively American — an American mythos born out of a need to belong.

Photo by Ulvis Alberts – © 1979 Ulvis Alberts – Image courtesy mptvimages.com

Given comics and comics fans’ dedication to legacy and continuity, it’s no wonder that war and military heroes remain a strong motif in comics and comics-inspired stories in film and tv today.

Both the outsider foundations of superheroes and the context of war and military heroes as icons in geek narratives is something we must keep in mind when we discuss/rage/ponder the lacking or mis- representation of women and minorities geek culture. These contexts show us the power of these mediums to influence inclusiveness and represent the values and people that we consider American, and particularly who we consider heroes. Women, people of color and people of various faiths who have served in our real-world wars have been marginalized and often forgotten by history. And this has been reflected in comics, sci-fi, and games.  With heroes like Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel, comics in particular reflected the woman heroes who joined the war effort in the 40s and made sweeping social gains, but despite their service in American armed forces throughout history, heroes of color remained and remain largely absent from comics until much later.

Science fiction, however, was telling stories of war long before comic books hit the scene, presenting science based fantasies as early as  the 17th century, and finding it’s real footing in the early 19th century with books like Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein and Edwin Abbot Abbot‘s Flatland. And war settled itself into the genre’s mold in the beginnings as well with the likes of  H.G. Wells‘s War of the Worlds in 1898 depicting, almost prophetically, a new, more ruthless face of war through the story of an alien invasion of Great Britain, the dominate military power of the time.  Many science fiction stories then and today deal with topics like class, space exploration, technology, often, though not always, in the context of war or apocalypse. Though science fiction inspired the creators of comics like Shuster and Siegel, today the two mediums both inform and inspire stories between them and in video games. Science fiction engages in much more analysis and commentary regarding war, but, like the innovators of comics, science fiction’s heroes are often outsiders who find a place for themselves through battle. This outsider turned patriot and hero theme clearly speaks to the geeky outcast ranks. Sci-fi isn’t all about war and military heroes, but there is much to be said about the vast world of sci-fi by much smarter people than me.

Taking much of their inspiration from science fiction and superhero mythologies, from Space Invaders to Mass Effect, video games are the geeky art form most entwined with military themes. Shooters, MMOs, RPGs… So many of the popular games are about being the heroic leader and going out there and bravely killing thousands of the other side’s foot soldiers. And this engrossing medium takes the outsider attraction to such heroism to a whole new level by putting the player in control, thereby deepening the connection of the player to the hero. It’s a world where death is temporary and ammo is endless. Understandably games that offer the action, adventure, heroism, really cool weapons, and clear goal of war, minus the traumatic consequences of real-life war, would be appealing to anyone bored by the social strictures or outcast by social norms and tensions.

Screenshot from Mass Effect 3

Whether criticizing, evaluating, honoring, or romanticizing militarism, geek history is very much entwined with wars (real and imagined), the men and women who fight them, and the youth who grew up in wartime. At a time when we are fighting wars in the Middle East, many Americans are struggling to make ends meet, we’re living in an increasingly diverse country, and fear is rampant, the escapism, fantasy, and heroism offered by geeky art forms has obvious appeal much as it has in the past. The question is what is the role of this legacy in geek culture today?

Combating the Negative Image of Video Games: Video Games, The Movie

Finally a film to counter the unrelenting bad media about video games!

“They’re too violent”

“they’re to blame for today’s violent or lazy youth”

“they suck out your soul and turn you into a drooling zombie (albiet with great thumb reflexes)”

We’re all familiar with the haterade that gets thrown at video games and gamers – from accusations for all the faults of “today’s youth” to social ostracization. Certainly, they’re not all always quality or great ways to spend your time, but then, neither is every novel.

It’s about time we hear a vociferous defense of all the good that this medium has to offer – unimaginable worlds made real, a sense of community, real-time strategy, inspiring careers in software/engineering/the arts…

And here it is!

Filming has already finished for Video Games, The Movie, and now Jeremy Snead, President at Mediajuice Studios, Ltd. has started a Kickstarter  to find funding to finish post-production on this long-overdue defense of video games the gaming community.

Check out the trailer above, see some of the video game heads interviewed in the film below, and  head over and support!

PAXEast Day One

Life-size Lara Croft model from the New Tomb Raider

Massive nerdery exploded on the harbor yesterday. Packs of gamer geeks from across the U.S. descended upon the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, armed with backpacks to load up with swag, laptops to plug into LAN parties, and decks to dominate at the tabletop tournaments.

Since the Con sold out early, I only managed to nab a badge for Friday, but SO worth it, if only just to marvel at the only place in the world where there is no line for the women’s restrooms.  That said, women were pretty well represented on the fan side of things. And the Tomb Raider panel showed that there are incredible women on the development side turning out some really awesome stuff.

There was even a little (very little) brown-folk representation, at a booth featuring Independent Game Festival award winner Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios), a combat game inspired by Mexican folklore and traditional Mexican culture.

Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios)
Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios)

With a name like Guacamelee, it definitely deserves a skeptical eyebrow raise and hesitant side-eye. But maybe it’s a beautiful work that celebrates an often under- and mis- represented culture in geek world. We’ll see…

In the meantime, the rest of the Con was a bombardment of everything from the big corps and online games to tabletop tournaments, Nerdcore jams, indie RPGs and MMOs, cosplay geniuses, and even a geeky furniture design business.

Here’s a couple of highlights:

GAMES!

WildStar looks like it’s going to be amazing. Graphics look great, and the story is fun – clashes between races from across the galaxy ensue when a dreamy planet called Nexus is discovered and hordes of galactic beings descend upon it, some to colonize, some to protect and defend it, some exiled and looking for a new home, and some are just there to wreak general havoc for the shit of it. Definitely signed up for the beta on this one.

With the Beta for The Elder Scrolls Online out this month, it’s no surprise that there was a 2-3 hour long line of fans at the Bethesda booth, where the insanely awesome trailer was booming on loop entrancing and tempting Elder Scrolls fans into their secreted gameplay section.

Another one that grabbed my eye, purely by it’s beautiful design was Contrast by Compulsion Games. It’s quite the departure from the shoot-em-up battles, galactic space wars, and  zombie frenzy survivalist games flashing on the screens around the rest of the Exhibit Hall.  This game is set around a cabaret and a little girl named Didi. The player plays Didi’s invisible friend Dawn, who can literally become her own shadow for stealth purposes, etc.  It’s an interesting idea that makes for a spectacular design, but I wonder if the concept is strong enough to hold action, story, and strategy…  I might give it a try just to find out and look at all the pretty.

A couple others worth checking out…

…if you’re into stealth games: Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment)

…if you’re into quirky survivalist, gather/collect games that show no mercy: Don’t Starve (Klei Entertainment)

…if you’re into significantly *less* quirky survivalist zombie games that scare the bejeezus out of you: The Last of Us

Fun fact: Ellen Page was the model for lead character Ellie
Fun fact: Ellen Page was the model for lead character Ellie

COSPLAY!

I’d do a  whole feature on it, but it’s been done better over at Kotaku.

I will however, add to the love for Amy Demicco’s supercrazyawesome battle dress made out of Magic cards.

Amy Demicco logged 200+ hours to create this beast.
Amy Demicco logged 200+ hours to create this beast.

GEEK CHIC!

Over at the Geek Chic booth, a cadre of very fashionable geeks were opening our nerdy eyes to the possibilities of furniture for your gaming habit. You don’t have to settle for long boxes for your comics or the coffee table you commandeered from your parents for your Friday night Dungeons and Dragons parties.

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God-hood, Your Console, & You: You by Austin Grossman

You by Austin Grossman
You by Austin Grossman

Okay, so this is not a review. If anything it’s a review of a review. I just saw Tom Bissell’s review of You by Austin Grossman in this month’s Harper’s and got the tinglies.

Bissell didn’t even have to praise the book, I was sold when he quoted a tiny excerpt of it:

“To forestall any future threat, the gods decreed that we should each be separated into halves and each half hurled into a separate dimension. There was a human half, weak but endowed with thought and feeling, and a video game half, with glowing and immortal bodies that were mere empty shells, lacking wills of their own. We became a fallen race, and forgot our origins, but something in us longed to be whole again. And so we invented the video game, the apparatus that bridged the realms and joined us with our other selves again.”

Anyone who’s logged hours and hours as a Drakkin Bard, singing and sword fighting in the far reaches of Kunark, or blasting teleportation holes into the walls of a prison maze, or saving the galaxy from Reapers, knows the feeling. Sure the idea of a game character being, literally, your “better half”, is terrifying to anyone who’s ever hidden his game habit from his girlfriend.

Okay so maybe it’s not true love, or even a whole separated-from-cosmic-birth type thing but you definitely develop a relationship with the characters you create (or even just the ones you name) and save the world with twice a week. You think about them outside the game, and wonder what to train them in next. You’re seriously distressed when they die (again). The obsessive among us even conflate them with ourselves switching back and forth between first and third person when we talk about them: “Darkus is training on heavy missiles right now, but I want to get him exploring so I’ve gotta get up on drones.”

I don’t know about you, but, despite the pervasive notion that gaming is a waste of time and brain space, I even feel  pretty accomplished after a few hours in-game, and on occasion the return to this dreary realm can be a sad letdown (Taxes? or Faction Warfare?) And I imagine our soulless, immortal bodies on the other side aren’t too happy to be miserably empty and idle when we shut down.

Anyway, I’m literally geeked on this idea and all the fun questions it raises: What does it say about us how we create our characters? How we play them?  What about playing multiple characters?

Can’t wait to give it a read and let it wreak havoc on my brain and feed my increasingly obsessive gaming habit. I’m gonna get my hands on a copy and give a real review asap. Right after a few-hour session with my glowing immortal half as young Lara Croft. Whattup!

Chrono Jigga: Nerdify-ing Hip-Hop

Hip-hop producer and MC, 2 Mello just released his latest album Chrono Jigga, a chrono jiggaseamlessly sown mashup of Jay-Z lyrics over the music from old-school Nintendo role-playing game Chrono Trigger. 

Prepare to nod and nerd at the same time. Check it: http://2mellomakes.bandcamp.com/album/chrono-jigga

2 Mello  pushes the boundaries of hip-hop and geek culture. I’d call him a hip-hop futurist. He self-describes as “geeky and proud of it, describing his childhood as being spent in lonesome bliss playing Super Nintendo games, watching dark science fiction films… 2 Mello’s artistic goal is to relate his obsessions with music and geek culture to his damaged connection with the real world and all its beauties and perils.” Fan the man: http://www.facebook.com/2mellomakes