droid does…?

I admit, I’ve been a fan of pretty much every smartphone as they’ve been released.  I don’t know which phone is certifiably the “original” smartphone, as the definition is rather fluid, but the first I remember was waaay back in roughly 2002 when I heard about the email-savvy Blackberry.  Pretty soon, photos of celebrities glued to their super phones started surfacing, and everyone was trying to get their hands on one of the addictive gadgets.

The capabilities of these mini-computers seems to have exponentially increased: Want to take a picture?  Why don’t you snap a high-quality photo with your 5 megapixel camera and upload it directly to flickr?  Want directions to the nearest shopping center?  Okay, use this built-in GPS, and why don’t you plan for traffic while you’re at it.   Download mp3s and select a different ringtone for each of your friends, or go on Pandora and just stream some radio while you’re working.

But with all the new functionality comes a price.  The OS on smartphones can be buggy, or the browser is laggy.  Many phones, especially those with tactile-sensitive screens, experience lag when loading images, or flipping the screen when turned on its side (omg Blackberry Storm, NO).   Sometimes the GPS is… well, slow, and not so effective.  Some phones, despite their amazing app-finding abilities, still couldn’t send pictures to other phones (*ahem*).  But that still doesn’t take away from the fact that phones are much more than simple, mobile phones these days.  They’re mini-computers that double as phones.

After getting my Blackberry Storm this spring, I was very excited.  I had previously owned a LG flip phone, which was just OMGWTFBBQ awesome when it came out, being able to play mp3 files instead of those pre-programmed midi Mozart files, and it took pictures and video, and it did have internet capabilities, though it was a crude representation of the worldwide web, for sure .  Like, omg, wow.   When I traded it in, I got laughed at for having such an outdated phone, and I was just adamant about getting something flashy and cool, without severing my contract with Verizon.  iPhone for Verizon? Yes, that must be the Blackberry Storm.  Bought and fully paid for in less than fifteen minutes.

I can’t even describe some of the problems this phone had at first.  It was like waiting for a dial-up modem to load a 30-second Youtube clip.  People would call and the phone would just sit there and “think”.  It would ring, but I couldn’t answer it because it was “thinking.”   Screen lag would cause the phone to freeze and restart, which took about 7 minutes to complete.  I am a texting maniac, and the touch-screen buttons were not only slow, but unwieldy.  It had issues saving the video it took, one of the main reasons I wanted the phone — it surprised me that existing smartphones so few had video capabilities.  I became frustrated and stopped taking video, only to find my camera was so laggy that I’d miss any action shot, and for still shots, I’d often find myself waiting so long that I would turn the phone to see if it was actually taking a picture, only to have a picture snapped while I was turning it.  In short, it couldn’t keep up with me.  I was super bummed.

A patch was released shortly after the launch of the Blackberry Storm, which was supposed to fix the issues the phone had in terms of lag and OS instability.  It did help a bit, but the phone still has problems if I don’t restart it every day.  It was, in my opinion, too rushed to compete with the iPhone, and guess what?  I fell for it.  Well, I won’t do that again.

Or will I?

Ever since I’ve seen that droiddoes commercial, I’ve been wanting one.  I’ve visited the website and read up on it.  If you’re interested in droid, visit the website and take a peek.  So far I’ve heard that it will retail for $199 after a $100 mail-in rebate (and I am so not a fan of mail-in rebates), but that phone just seems….sexy.  Yeah.  I want one.  Free, built-in Google Maps GPS, background-running apps, flash support (though I’m also not a fan of flash-based sites, but hey, maybe I can finally play Cafeworld on my phone… oops, I mean, uh, do important-like things! Yes!), shop for mp3s on Amazon, and you know, take pictures in the dark.  Mmm.

Anyone want a free Blackberry Storm?

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On the Usage of “Rape” in Video Game Culture

I can’t specifically recall the first time I saw it, but it was probably during battlegrounds in World of Warcraft, back when I was grinding honor for my season 2 pvp set (I was never that great at arenas, being a spriest in early Burning Crusade, partnered with an arcane mage and ret paladin).  I think it was when my team (that is, the Horde! Yes!) were arguing in Alterac Valley over if we should even bother killing Balinda for extra honor points, and I was amused by these comments because it was so easy to kill her quickly and get our honor, then move on.  When I said something like, “It’s a quick and easy fight, it’s easy honor, why not?” Someone responded with, “Yeah, let’s rape her!”

Whoah, whoah, whoah.  Where did I miss the connection between defeating an enemy put there for the sole purpose of being defeated, and raping an enemy?  Oh, I see.  I guess rape means kill.  And apparently it’s completely normal and accepted.  And so it began: I started noticing people using this terminology everywhere.  At first, I thought that perhaps it was a rather twisted victory cry that was only vocalized (or typed?) after defeating female enemies, but I was wrong — it became just as common for people to say “We raped them” when we won a battle as a team (sometimes up to 40 players versus 40 other players, and not one person said something like, “hey, don’t say that”), or sometimes even “we raped him” when a raid of anywhere between 5 and 25 players downed a boss (again, no objections).  This struck me as so odd.  How could I even begin to come up with a reason as to why they’d misuse rape so grossly?  Well, I thought, it’s a group of people.  Perhaps this is something people just say when there’s a bunch of other people around to “shock” them.  Maybe if they’re with friends, or guildmates (a group of people who you regularly team up with to accomplish certain tasks, like dungeons, raids, or player-versus-player combat), whom they probably respect, then they wouldn’t say such things.

But I was wrong again.  People can duel other people in World of Warcraft; that is, do a one-on-one fight with no real consequences (such as dying or losing armor durability) other than having anyone in the area see who won the duel, and then the losing avatar grovels and begs in front of the winning avatar, in a sort of, “Oh, you are superior!” fashion.  Haha, funny.  “I raped you” became just as common as “owned” or “pwned”, which, if you play games, you know these terms have been around for a long time, and are very common in nerdy circles (there are issues, of course, with these words as well; however, that is not the focus of this entry).  It actually succeeded in making me entirely uncomfortable, and, in fact, less willing to participate in player-versus-player combat, because, as a woman, it really unnerved me seeing people use the term “rape” so flippantly; to these people, a very loaded term became nothing more than a joke.  I began to leave all chat channels because the woman-bashing (i.e., “get back in the kitchen”, “I’m gonna rape you”, or “girls suck at video games”) and growing rape culture got to a point of ludicrousness.  One might say, “Oh, just ignore them.  They’re teenage boys trying to piss people off.”  I know.  But the “boys will be boys” excuse just wasn’t flying with me.  Nor should it ever, with anyone.  It’s a get-out-of-jail free card.  That saying allows boys to get away with things that they probably should normally be opposed to, only because they are boys — and I’m pretty confident that they can learn to interact with other human beings in a fairly decent way, right?   Unless that saying dares to imply boys aren’t intelligent enough to learn otherwise?  Yeah, I doubt it.  /snark.

Finally, I wrote a piece for feministing.com on a few things that bothered me when it came to the portrayal of women in video games, and my experiences as a woman who played video games.  Feministing has always intimidated me, because I’m not a woman’s studies major who is incredibly well-versed in everything I write; nor am I someone who can qualify every post as an academic essay, complete with a bibliography.  (Not that I take issue with this, but I felt my post would be too vague and unfocused for a site of that caliber.)  Someone commented regarding my complaint about rape-as-an-analogy-for-defeat, saying, “Well, it’s fantasy. You kill things, but you wouldn’t kill monsters or people in real life.  But that doesn’t mean people get all whiny about you killing people.  Lighten up, it’s just a term… no one would really rape anyone.”

You know what?  I can’t believe people still believe this bullshit.  1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life.  Is that funny? Well, I guess the rape-joke train didn’t stop in Hellytown, because it really isn’t funny to me. Oh, that’s bullshit, people say. Women make up those numbers, no one I know would rape anyone… they just want to take you to court and brand you a rapist for life. No. Most sane people wouldn’t do that sort of thing.  Did you know that most women know their assailants?  Yeah, not all rapists are hiding in bushes and smelling of piss.

This summer I was nearly raped by a stranger.  Yes, even though I just said most women know their assailants, I just so happened to fall into that category of woman-who-was-attacked-by-a-guy she-didn’t-know.  I was drinking with a friend of mine, and we were chilling at a hotel, when we ran into a couple of other guys staying there, too.  They were friendly and wanted to drink with us, so we stuck around for awhile.  We were all goofing around and having fun — or so I thought, it seemed.  Suddenly the two guys weren’t into drinking anymore and told us to get out, so we did.  I realized after walking out that I’d forgotten my purse, so I walked back to ask for it.  As I stood outside the door, I was thinking of how silly it was, and I hoped they weren’t irritated with me.  But the door opened, I was grabbed, jerked inside, and on the bed before I could even know what was going on.

“You look like that kind of girl that likes it rough,” one of the guys said.  I looked over at the other guy, who was standing there, grinning like a douchebag.  Mainly, being drunkenly entertained by this display before him, and doing nothing to stop it.  I don’t know what happened, but I got a ton of adrenaline, kicked the guy and pushed him off me, grabbed my purse, and ran outside just in time to see my friend looking in the hallway for me.

That happened in less than a minute.  That quickly, and that unexpectedly.  And this isn’t all that uncommon. I was one of the lucky ones.  The guys disappeared, and no one could find records of them staying at that hotel.  How creepy is that?

A fifteen-year-old girl was gang raped after her school dance this week by several guys.  And lots of others stood around and watched this happen.  For 2 hours.  She was beaten and robbed, and completely dehumanized.

I could go on.  I know women who were raped, I know women who are beaten and brainwashed into submission.  I know what people do to these women, what they say about them: “Oh, if she wasn’t drunk”, or, “Well she was dressed like a slut, so…”, or even “She deserved it, she turned him on, then she changed her mind.”  This is, pure and simple, victim blaming. The victim did nothing wrong; the rapist is the one committing a fucking crime.  Now, I know victim-blaming is rampant outside of feminist circles.  I’ve heard it all before, and yet, I still get incensed every time I hear it or even see it appear on my screen in World of Warcraft, probably spewed out by some completely naive child.  But it still makes me abhorrent of our society’s excuses.

So, tell me, is this still funny?  I mean, really, if this happened to your girlfriend, your sister, your mother, even a friend of yours… is this really funny? Does it deserve to be trivialized?  I feel re-assaulted every time I have to read people dehumanizing women and making jokes about rape, and I’m sure others do, too.  Especially those who didn’t get away before it was too late.

I play games to have fun.  There is enough sexual violence in the real world to go around (there should be none, of course), and there is enough pain and degradation directed at women outside of the internet sphere.  And, hey, let’s not ignore it: there’s more than enough in the internet sphere as well — just read the comments to pretty much any article pertaining to/written by a woman.

Does this have to bleed into my entertainment as well?

Marketing for Women and Girls: Just make it pink!

Justify it however you want.  The studies show, the numbers prove, it just sells.  Marketing people seem to think that women and girls respond en masse to pink displays.   While I know of quite a few little girls who enjoy princesses and sparkly, singing popstars, I also know of quite a few who enjoy doing puzzles, solving mysteries, wielding a fearsome weapon, and beating the crap out of their on-screen opponent. I am just so damn sick of seeing these sad attempts at including the wimminz in what was considered just a few short years ago to be a sort of “boys’ club.”  Take it from just one of the many, many female gamers out there: You’re embarrassing and annoying us.  Allow me to elaborate.

I’ve played games since I figured out what Frogger was, and that I could play it on my family’s Commodore 64.  My sister and I worked feverishly to raise that daunting $70 to put toward our very own Super Nintendo (we weren’t allowed to have a Nintendo system when they were cool; don’t you know you burn out your retinas and turn into a degenerate who can’t read when you play such filth as DuckHunt??), and we played the hell out of that system.  We scoured pawn shops for discontinued games, for new systems (or old, crappy ones, as it were) to add to our gaming console collection, or for quirky posters or other paraphernalia that was distributed with games back in the 80s. (Full dungeon map for Final Fantasy? Oh yes, I think so.)  You get it?  Do I need to go on?  Back when this was considered to be for guys only, my sister and I, without the help of anything pink, sparkly, or itsy-bitsy in size, were drawn to games.  Gender segmentation of video games wasn’t even an idea that had formed in my head.

So, when I was made aware that there was such a thing as a  “Gameboy”, I became perplexed.  Why is it a GameBOY?  What is it about this thing that implies it’s for boys?  For the first time, I actually thought about the fact that nearly all my friends had brothers who owned a gaming console, and most treated it like a prized possession that noooooo one else could touch, particularly their sisters.  So, after more than a few sleepovers, I finally got the guts to ask why no one ever wanted to play games, like I did.  My answer was a little less than satisfying.  I was told simply, “Girls don’t play games.”  I guess this sentiment started early and continued, because for years after that, I was viewed as sort-of “odd” for liking boys’ toys.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a poor me pity-party, but it’s necessary to reflect on my experiences to understand that this has been going on a long time.  Marketing used to exclude women and girls from the gaming community all together; as a result, people assumed women weren’t interested video games or technology, and consequently, they also began to assume we knew nothing about it.  But with the rise of the internet and the growing importance of understanding at least the basics of technology, marketers found themselves up to bat for a new challenge: Getting women and girls to “pay attention” to mens’ and boys’ toys, and getting them to use these gadgets independently.

Cue the shitstorm.  I don’t know what was going through marketers’ heads, but I assure you it was more than likely a team of 40-something white guys tossing out ideas: “How do we make them look at this? Oh I know, let’s make it pink!  And CUUUUTE! Women like pink and cute, right?”  I KNOW there are women out there who  like pink things; this is not something I’ve ever denied.  But to assume that women function as one unit and respond simply because something is pink is beyond insulting.  It’s just plain stupid.  Because along with something that’s decked-out in pink, you can be sure to find that the quality probably isn’t as good (more than likely because they threw it out there as an afterthought), and that the suggested uses for it are ridiculous.  Take, for example, Dell’s pathetic attempt at marketing laptops to the laydeez: Della. Within two sad weeks of its launch, Della was gone. Why? An asinine pastel website design, paired with helpful “tips” on how to use a Della (Use it to count calories! How about looking up some healthy recipes?), just plain turned women off to it.  And you know, I’d be willing to let it slide if it were a one-time slip-up that Dell learned an important lesson from, but unfortunately, it happened again.

Oh, look, the women have pink and magenta laptops.  And the one that isn’t pink?  She’s using her webcam to put on her lipstick.  So cute!  The lipstick and computer like, totally match!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know they weren’t trying to imply that women ONLY use computers for arts and crafts and on-the-go/bus-lipstick-applying (if they learned anything from the Della debacle), but come on.  The guys were all actively taking pictures, organizing their record collections, looking businessy and important, and proudly posing with Google Maps by their (admittedly) awesome cars, you know, doing the things they usually advertise about in order to sell personal computers or laptops — organize your music collection, plan a roadtrip or vacation, edit your photos, take it with you for business trips.  The women were standing there, doing… I’m not sure what, maybe arts and crafts?  Or putting on lipstick.  Do you see computers advertised for that?  Get your own personal laptop so you can replace that tiny, antiquated mirror in your purse!  Get a laptop so you can print out stencils!  Doesn’t quite mesh, does it?  There is the exception of the first girl on her Vespa, but of course… it’s all pink, and I don’t see what that has to do with selling a computer.  With the way she glances up at her helmet, perhaps she used her pink laptop to buy a pink helmet on Ebay to match her pink ride.

But before you get all up-in-arms, saying I’m focusing on stupid things when I could be donating my time to more important things, what I’m writing about here isn’t simply just knocking the pretty pictures and color schemes that they use to appeal to women and girls.  It’s also about the language of marketing directed towards women and girls, namely, in simplistic terms.  And this has a more widespread effect than most people think.

I may be a tad biased as a linguist, but language really is the basis for our formative ideas about a product.  We listen to advertisements describe what a product can do, how it will improve our lives, and how easy it is to use.  Colors, imagery, and music are all integrated with the words to make a 30-second impression that we’re supposed to remember, so we can rush out and buy the merchandise.  The problem arises not only when women and girls don’t see representations of themselves in commercials, but when the language clearly isn’t directed towards them (yes, I know, it’s a gratuitous, ridiculous example, but the idea is still the same), or it’s just plain ridiculous. (Bonus: This site has a whole list of commercials that exemplify what I was discussing earlier about pink, and it’s a hilarious article to boot!) “Play now, my lord”?  Well, I guess that kinda leaves ladies out of it, doesn’t it?  “Imagine Babyz”?  You’ve gotta be kidding me, as if all women just want to play with babies all the time.  At least the DS commercials feature women of varying ages playing different kinds games, and you know what?  That’s pretty accurate.  Women self-identify as gamers these days, and apparently they make up 40% of the gaming market.  There’s a lot of money to be made by appealing to women and girls who play video games, and the point that these marketers seem to be missing is that there are different kinds of games that interest different people.  That is, men and women alike.  Using language that creates an atmosphere of exclusion, or that infantizes women’s gaming interests creates a social stigma that says, “Women don’t play games, and when they do, it’s not the same games that men like.”  These separate, but “equal” gaming strategies aren’t working, and they’re just plain annoying.  Take a hint from the many, many women out there who are fed up with this: We’re people, with a whole spectrum of interests when it comes to games.  Stop assuming we’re going to respond to only pink, or only things specially labeled for us as ladies.  Oh, and please: get on hiring some more women already.

A bit about me

I figured that if I was going to make a blog, and attempt to have any sort of reasonable discussions here (see, this is an assumption that eventually I’ll get readers, har har!) that you might need to know a bit about me, and what I expect from this blog.

First of all, I am indeed a woman.  I’m 25 now, which means I’ve had a bit of life experience, but I’m still terribly inexperienced in other areas.  My point of view is somewhat privileged, as I am a white, middle-class person.  I take a highly feminist stance on most issues, and although I do my best to write and analyze ‘fairly’,  I have to remember to check myself every once in awhile for my privilege and biases.

That being said, I have a little experience with a lot of different subjects that I would like to incorporate into my blog (let’s hear it for all the jack-of-all-trades people out there!).  I have been a creative individual my whole life; I used to draw, write, compose music, design games, do stop-motion films, and as soon as I discovered the internet, I took on designing webpages, writing anime and video game reviews, and doing a webcomic with my sister. (You probably never heard of it, but Shonen Chikara will return someday. Promise.)  I studied languages and foreign cultures, which I discovered intersected with my interest in games very well.  After completing an undergrad degree in 2007, I moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a Master’s in Language and Communication at Georgetown University.  This was one of the best and worst years of my entire life.

Firstly, I discovered I enjoyed writing about games.  I played World of Warcraft in ANY of the downtime I had from classes, which resulted in me having three level 70 characters (Burning Crusade, yeah!) despite the 13 hours a day I was spending doing school-related things.  I tried to incorporate nerdy issues into my papers, because technology and language, as I’d discovered, were highly intersectional, and they were relatively new and therefore untapped resources for a budding young linguist to bury herself in.

Secondly, I discovered that not only language within the gaming community, but other online communities as well, was beginning to change.  Patterns of discourse veered from the traditional mimicry of spoken language, to shortened forms of words (mostly seen in texting or in chatrooms/messenger programs) and even to syntax variation within certain circles.  The tl;dr of it?  Language was changing and evolving before my very eyes, and it was something I wanted very much to study.

Finally, as a woman who is very interested in gaming, graphics, technology, language, and other nerdy fare, I’ve experienced more than my fair share of sexism.  I want a safe platform to discuss women and girls in video games, and women and girls who play video games.  This is not commensurate with excluding men from discussing these issues, but I would like to say first and foremost that I will not tolerate any trolling, woman-bashing, or basic thread derailing. I am the only judge of what is, or is not considered to be any of the aforementioned taboos, so honestly, I don’t give a shit if you don’t agree with my calls.  Also, I expect that if you have any criticism, you can keep it constructive and not destructive.  I welcome debate, as long as it doesn’t get too heated.

So, this blog will be an exploration.  I want it to be open to non-linguists and linguists alike, and to all genders.  I look forward to sharing with you!