Tag Archives: Games

So many games, what one do I make?

So time for my small community to give something back to me. “But what?” you ask all horrified and scared. Just your souls that’s all… insert evil laugh here. Ok, you probably guessed from the posts title, but I need help selecting the Trans Inclusive game to build. There is no point in me building one no one wants, so getting an idea of what people like would be good. So I am going to outline a bunch of concepts, and see if I can set up a poll for people to give feedback on what they would like to see. Bear in mind these are all concepts, and some don’t even have real names. Got a better idea? Fire it into the comments, I won’t be offended and if everyone likes it and I go and make it, I’ll even give you credit!

1: The Trans Horror Game

Simply look over some of my posts and you get the jist of this. A game looking at issues plaguing Trans Folk today in a horror context. Designed for anyone to play and meant in a more serious manner as a form of understanding, it would be fun to challenge myself to build a game in a genre I can’t play. Honestly I can’t play horrors, I get too scarred. Anyway some issues I understand is the potential triggering of the game for Trans People as it could dig up some harsh memories.

2: Sea of Monsters

I fell in love with the navel side of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, and would love to see more stuff in a similar style.So that’s where this game comes in. As the Trans captain aboard a ship, you raid ships and fight monsters in a world themed around the ancient Mediterranean with groups based on Romans, Greeks and Egyptians.The game itself doesn’t use Trans issues as a theme, merely designed to show people we aren’t things to be gawked at by placing us in a anti-hero role working to save the world from monsters. So while the character is Trans, it is not an issue for anyone in the game world, partially why the setting is ancient because that was a time of greater tolerance for Trans People.

3: Finding Me

A more serious game which explores the journey of a Trans Person through coming out and Transition, but unlike every other story focuses on some one young, a teen most likely. Through out the game the players would perform actions that we all go through, buying clothes, seeing doctors, and coming out, and some which the player can decide how to proceed, such as HRT and Surgeries. The games end would be to build the players confidence bar to the max, done through various actions like seeing doctors and making decisions about the Transition they were undertaken. It would also involve turn based Conversation “Battles” where the player had to keep their self esteem up while being talked to by curious children, concerned family or even random passers by, almost like a Pokemon game. Selecting correct responses would be key to such battles, and as confidence increased, more difficult conversations could be had.

4: Of People and Demons

hat title needs work. Anyway this is an old concept that has evolved a bit over the years. A young Trans Girl, probably 18, makes a deal with the King of Demons to be herself in exchange for a soul. The Demon King agrees and she is turned into a girl, but her sisters soul is taken, not hers. This leads her on a journey to track down the Demon King and rescue her sister. Over the course of the game the Trans girl becomes more confident and by the end is able to return to her old self to undergo a real world Transition than a magical one. Really this game is all about overcoming adversity and gaining confidence with a Trans spin on things.

5: Spaced Out

Dreamed of a silly space adventure romp in which you woke up 500 years in the future due to a failed colony mission? If so this is the game for you! A really zany space game where the player wakes up from cryogenic freezing on a sub light ship only to find humanity has advance to Faster Than Light in the time you took to travel between stars, so your mission was pointless. I planed to let people play who they want but incorporate some of the ideas Mitch discusses here to allow people to play Trans characters. Again no Trans themes beyond “Look, we can be heroes in games too!”

So there you go, just five really quick ideas, I’ll set up a poll so you can give your thoughts, or just leave a comment with you own. Peace out!

 

“Don’t Feed the Trolls”

If you are wondering what happened to the next part of my look into a Trans Horror Game, well I have decided to actually make one, so I am holding off on it until a get a more focused image.

Anyway, onto today’s subject, where I will be looking at harassment, a recent “movement” focused on it, and the crazy defence of it. For those who don’t know, my title is in reference to one of the common defences of digital harassment. You see, people who harass others online are often referred to as Trolls. The common or garden Troll will often leap in randomly to conversation and offer either dissenting opinions or bring up random topics. Their aim is often to de-rail the conversation, for any number of reasons like boredom or wanting the winning side of a conversation to lose. They can be harmless morons, wasting what little time they have in this life, but they can also be dangerous and zealot like in their attacks.

In the latter case they cease being Trolls, and instead turn into Demons, the Demons of society. You want to see the issues still prevalent in society, look where anonymity is preserved. Right now that is the digital world. Across the internet and gaming worlds, open harassment happens on a daily basis to anyone who is unfortunate enough to not be “normal.” I know, as I have experienced it. Last year, I was really into Star Trek Online (no I am not a Trekkie, but I do love the Trek Universe, and the combination of tactical RPG style ground and space combat was really good in my opinion). At one point, while wandering round the social area that is the Space Station above Earth (forget its name) I was invited to join a Fleet, essentially a Clan for questing and so forth. It was the Star Fleet LGBT CORPS (or something similar). I decided to join as, hey, I am Trans and I had written a Trans backstory for my character (visible only to friends). What I wasn’t prepared for was the backlash for having my LGBT status visible online. I had to deal with a lot insults for walking around, raids could only be done with my fleet or I would face ridicule. I eventually left the fleet and the game, which I miss dearly as I felt that it was pretty cool.

This is the thing, harassment can quickly push people away, and now people have caught onto the idea and are using it. Just look at the GamerGate “movement,” if it can even be called that. Some claim that its originators where looking for ethics in video game journalism but I personally find that a little hard to swallow. The only people I have seen using that story are GamerGaters and apologists, mainly as ways of negating the horrible nature of the GamerGaters. And trust me, GamerGate is horrible, and if you truly believe in video game ethics, stay away. I have avoided talking about this for some time, as I fear the implications for my little indie blog. Though never encountering a GamerGate crowd, my post to the creators of Warface, which I recently saw, is as close as I ever got. It confirmed to me that I didn’t want to play that game, considering its fan base.

Anyway, this harassment is being used to push people away from games and discussing games. So far the GamerGaters have pushed three women to flee their homes for safety fears, and cancel talks to protect the public. It has nothing to do with ethics, even if it did “start” that way (as said, I’m not convinced). It is being used to silence those that challenge the status quo of games, which put the white cis het dudes on top. Sure advances are being made by some companies, Bioware has included a Trans Man in its most recent Dragon Aga game (which I just bought, so expect to see something on it in a while), but as long as Gamers still hold these ideas, and most games fail to challenge them, things are grim for me and many of my friends.

And here is the real kicker, apologists and defenders. Why the fuck would someone defend actions and words that have scared people to death? Forced them to run away and sleep on friends couches just in case someone decides to follow through on a threat? I mean what the actual fuck? Commen defences include “It’s just words,” “Don’t feed the Trolls,” and “Just turn it off and go away.” They generally fall into two categories, ignoring the harassment or implying the harassed person is the one with fault. Ignoring the harassment is probably the most common, and certainly done at a political scale. To this day the disproportionately high levels of violence against woman and LGBT people is ignored to the point we need to scream and shout to be heard. Indeed, when I have pointed out Transphobic language on Facebook, they ignore it (then they started blocking Trans peoples accounts for not using their birth names, so I wonder where their allegiances lie?). It is horrible and dehumanizing. Ignoring it is indeed a defence because it allows it to go on. For years people ignored the Anti-Semitism the Nazi party displayed, and what happened? Attempted genocide. Now I am not saying all those who have taken part in the GamerGate are new Hitlers and Himmlers, merely that they are beginning to climb the same ladders they did.

The other group of defenders are worse than the ignorers, because they twist it round to be the victims fault. It is unfortunately very prevalent in our society to blame victims, just look toward rape. “Why where you wearing that?” Why didn’t you come forward sooner?” “Why didn’t you fight back or scream?” These all cast doubt on the victim, and cause almost as much scaring as the incident itself. In games, it is thankfully not as bad, but still plagues us. We are often told we are too sensitive and need to grow thicker skins. Bullshit. It is easy to claim someone is oversensitive, but hard to look at why. You don’t know what has happened in their life that means that something upsets them. Let’s give an example, two in fact. I occasionally use the T word (don’t know what it is? Ask Ru-Paul) in a mocking sense on myself, but a couple of Trans friends mentioned really not liking the word. So I stopped. My Dad kept using the R word (annoyingly it is considered a medical term in America as far as I can gather) and I asked him to stop as my Head Mistress had called me it at school. So he stopped (one of his more decent moves, the Transphobic Bigot (he doesn’t let me wear what I want or call me Emily as well as apparently trying to get my Mother to Detransition me, so I can call him what I like here)). You need to accept that people get hurt by things, and change according to who is around you. On the internet of course anyone could be around you, so even greater care is needed. Merely telling them to switch of or go away for being offended does not improve them or yourselves. In fact it can drive people away from what they enjoy (look at me and Star Trek: Online). By shutting out the voices of others you loose the ability to learn. That is what GamerGate is all about, not ethics, shutting out the voices of others because they don’t want to learn just how horrible things are.

So yeah, I think this was one of my longer posts, but I have been holding this back a bit.

Halloween Special! (In November)

So maybe this is because it was it was Halloween on Friday, or perhaps because I have thought about this before, but I have come to the conclusion a Trans Horror game would be distressing as all hell. And really, you want a Horror game to leave a lasting impression on the player.

Now first off, no I do not mean a game were the villain, monster or ghost is Trans. Too often when Trans people are represented in horrors or thrillers they are killers. Just look at Silence of the Lambs or Psycho. In both cases the killer assumes a female identity, supposedly due to mental anguish or some such. Often defended as simply “Men who wish to be woman,” which is a commen trope about Trans Woman, they only help to drive the stigmaof Trans people as “mentally ill.” In games, I think the closest I have seen is Yutaji the Flesh Mage from Draken: The Ancients Gates. He is supposed to be completely mad although he does not don a female identity, merely wears woman’s skin.

Yutaji

This guy was terrifying. The game wasn’t even supposed to be scary!

No, what I am talking about is a horror game which bases the world, challenges of that world and its major themes on issues facing Trans people. With that goal in mind I have thought of some issues and how they could be explored in a horror game context. Warning, things are about to get personal and maybe a little emotional.

Control

Probably one issue common to all Trans people is control. Society tries to force us to behave like the gender we were assigned at birth, or when they do accept us force us to act in a stereotypical manner for our Gender Identity. Even Trans people try to control other Trans people, by telling them they are not truly Trans or their identity unless they have SRS. So how do we explore this in a game? Games have the unique opportunity to be Active Experiences, giving the player control over what they see, so we must break this! Some games already toy with this a little. In Wolfenstein: The New Order, a brilliant moment early in the game has you at the Mercy of a Nazi official. You have no idea what she will do, you can only pick pictures. And honestly, it is one of the scariest segments of the game. But obviously a game where the player has no control is just one long cutscene, so how do we give the illusion of control, while taking it away? Some ideas I have include giving the player a map which depicts a large open world, yet they are confined to a narrow path. Doors are locked, walls crumble to prevent passage, and horrors stop you from exploring that cool looking tower. A eerie idea I like is the idea of a stair way. When you step on it and travel up, it goes on as long as you move up, but when you turn around, you are still standing at the bottom.

Rejection

Another one common to all Trans people, as our families and friends abandon our new found selves. A little more difficult to convey in a game, but it could still be done. Characters, people just out of reach, behind locked doors, walking away constantly. A simple method, and I certainly think I need to think more on this one.

Violence

Sad to say, but Trans people, especially those of darker skin (gah I hate using that phrase, can anyone think of a better one?) are at an extremely high risk of violence. I am thankful I have gone a year nearly full time and only been called “Ugly.” (by a man whose face was falling off, ooh burn) But how do you show violence in a game? Oh wait, that’s what games have been doing for some time. The difference here is of course the player will not be the one dishing it out, but receiving it, and being helpless to stop save to run away (when Trans people defend themselves, they are often arrested, because sometimes the only to stop someone killing you is to kill them). This would result likely in some kind of muscular monster, that stalks you, and you only choice if you bump into him (yes him, as its usually men who attack us, although woman do too, especially TERFs) is to run. Other possible options include the very world trying to attack the player, so they must be on a constant look out. Even then, they may not see it until its too late.

Sexual Harrassment and Rape

Now we get to really shit stuff. Just like violence, Trans people suffer rape to a high degree too. Sometimes it is “corrective” to show them they are wrong. Really, as I have only had to deal with sexual harassment, not sure I would feel comfortable tacking rape without doing lots more research and speaking to those who have suffered it so as to do it properly. Still I think the comic by Erin Lindsey, Venus Envy has had a very interesting way of depicting the horror of it.

Venus Envy

The first time we see any hint of sexual assault, and its terrifying. It comes out of no where. Read the whole comic, its very good.

Misunderstanding

So most people don’t understand Trans people, as is easily evidenced by looking at media portrayals of us. Ironically, bringing in the stupid stereotyped idea of a Trans person could help here. A mirror held up to the player, telling them this is what they look like, when we can see they do not. It helps to perhaps show anyone who is Cis the horribleness of being told you are something you are not. How to make it scary and gamy though? Potentially a room full of these mirrors, which the player must destroy, potentially while avoiding the ire of that muscle bound monster.

So there we go, this was just a wee look at some issues facing Trans people, and how to gamify them in a horror context. This is in no way a complete list, and I am not really a horror enthusiast, more a casual admirer (I am scared of butterflies, how well do you think I do in horror games?). Also, being Trans isn’t all oppression and violence. There are a lot of awesome bits to it to, like being yourself, and speaking honestly, getting the right bra to turn your pecs into boobs rocks!

I Sold my Soul and Ideals, Only to get Insulted

I recently applied for a job in the games industry, with the biggest company in Scotland and arguably one of the most successful in the world, Rockstar North, creators of the Grand Theft Auto Series. I was even asked to attend an interview, though I can’t talk details for obvious reasons. I was excited, it was a huge possibility for me and could have lead to great things. I didn’t get it. It was a shame, because I really enjoyed meeting them. They were nice and friendly, well except one who seemed to avoid my gaze and not really look at me. I have no idea what he was thinking, but I do worry that it wasn’t nice.

Anyway, as part of the prep for the interview, I was asked to play GTA V. Not really an unreasonable request, but I got a little worried. I was torn between two issues. I really wanted the job, and so I should strive to play the game, but I swore not to buy the game because of its content. I of course didn’t tell them this, it was because I had no money and time as I was undertaking my Honours year at University (which as you should know was met with difficulties).

The reason the content made me swear not to play the game was because it was so insulting to so many groups, and Rockstar had also decided to include Trans characters. Not in a good way of course. Really this is all old news of course, Mitch wrote a brilliant piece on it for Gay Gamer, Bad Trans Jokes covered it in game and beyond and of course there was the Game Spot article in which Carolyn Petit dared to mark down a game for being misogynistic. So the issues were not only within the game, but also the community of fans. It painted a rather nasty picture which I did not really want to get into.

I’ll admit, the game looked amazing, and reviews (including Carolyn’s) all talked about the great gameplay within the game. I even watch videos of some one playing it, and was thankful when they released a video defending the GameSpot review.

So I decided to borrow my sisters copy, and used various sources to avoid problem areas. I did not wish to see the Trans Characters or go to the Strip Club. I successfully avoided them and found myself having fun, with only the issue of Trevor’s introduction. So after the fairly positive experience of the interview, I bought the game when it went on offer for £25, which was almost half its usual price. Then I spotted more issues.

While I had been avoiding the Strip Club, the game started to spawn me in it when I changed characters. Then I went and did a stupid thing. I checked the Fame or Shame Website. “Dancing Trannies,” “She Male Bop” and LGBT ais changed to LBGT so they can crack off the “joke” of it meaning “Lady Boy’s Gigantic Tits.” This is beyond poor stereotypes, this is blatant insults! She-Male and Tranny are insults, and I am no fan of Lady Boy either. I know “Trainnies” also appears on the Gay Bar’s windows, but this is a relatively accurate depiction of how some Gay men think it isn’t a slur (Rupaul for example (TW: to prove a point, the title of the linked article contains an anti gay slur)). Of course the media shares this idia, but to include along side She Male and Lady Boy is less a shout out to poor media representation, its actively taking part, especially considering all the other offenses. Also, the change of LGBT to LBGT for a joke about “Gigantic Tits” sounds like some silly school yard thing, were the very mention of Breasts, Penises, Anuses or Vaginas is funny. This is Carry On levels of puerile and I would know having enjoyed them as a silly young idiot.

Now I suspect that Rockstar does not have a single trans staff member. If they do they are either too spineless to call out this nonsense, too frightened they may loose their job, spoke up and lost their job or was silenced because all this was “too funny.” I don’t know, I certainly never saw any, although I wasn’t looking. I slightly worry if my own Trans Status had anything to do with not being accepted despite my skills from a Games Course. I again can’t know, but my request for reason as to why I did not get a job has gone unanswered, which does not alleviate these fears. Here is the funny thing though, if they didn’t there is a place not too far away were they could have gone to check their jokes, or even talk to some trans people to get some real experience. Rockstar North is situated in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh has a LGBT Centre for Health and Well Being, and pretty much every Month Trans Woman go their for something called Tea Time (there is one in Glasgow too). I have been to a couple, and they aren’t far from the Train Station. Neither is Rockstar North. In fact they are both walking distance away! Here is a map showing each location, with some directions!

Map

Not exactly miles away, its not even one!

With such easy access to Trans People who could have told them that what they would be doing is insulting, why didn’t they use this valuable resource? The could have made some brilliant jokes about Trans people were we are still legitimate people, not things to gawk at or be disgusted by. I’ll give you this brilliant one I found for free:

How do you find the Transsexual in a room full of Drag Queens?

Look for the girl in a t-shirt and jeans.

I just want to point out before signing off, I am not saying Rockstar is a big evil corporation. My fears of not getting the job for being Trans are as yet unfounded, and I would rejoice at being proven wrong. I just don’t like the insulting manner of Trans inclusion and have suggested how they may in future prevent such issues.

Russian Anti-Gay Law is Now Affecting Games

The Sims 4

Not for Teenagers any more.

The Sims 4 has potentially been hit by Russia’s new Non-Tradition Relationships Law (Anti-Gay to anyone with some sense). The game is the first in the series to receive a Mature rating, at least in Russia. Those who enjoy the games (haven’t played since The Sims 2) will know The Sims usually fall into the early teens or even Everyone 10+ because for their fairly mild depiction of sex and lacking any real violence or drug use.

This is the reason it has been perceived that Russia has rated the game Mature for including same-sex relationships. The Sims has allowed same sex relationships since its creation, and even allowed same sex marriage for longer than some Governments, my own included! EA has also been classed as one of the best places to work as LGBT by the Human Rights Campaign (good luck finding it, I couldn’t and was just going by this BBC article).

So where does this come from? Well back in 2010 Russia passed a content law, 436-FZ or, “On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development.” It was basically designed to prevent harmful content such as glorification of Drug use, suicide or child pornography. It led to the censoring of several websites and to be fair is really a good thing in my books. However 2013 saw an amendment that said  “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” is also not allowed. As such anyone under the age of eighteen can not be given information about these “non-traditional” relationships. As I said its been called the Anti-Gay Law because of this. Unfortunately this has meant that many Russian Teenagers  will be breaking the law if they try to buy a game that they used to buy with ease. Hopefully someday Russia will vote in an intelligent and forward thinking Government and remove their current one which is routed in their own agenda to become some kind of new Soviet Empire were their own people are scarred.

Sorry, got a little political there.

According to Nintendo, Gay relationships are “Social Commentary.” _ UPDATED

So was beginning to get a little stumped for what next and this little article fell into my lap. Unfortunately, and don’t hate me for this, but this may have actually slipped my radar if it wasn’t shown to me as I am not really a big Nintendo fan. However, this actually annoys me even though I would not have actually played the game.

Firstly, some ideas about the game. Tomodachi Life is billed as a life simulate game in which players can use their Miis (Nintendo’s avatars of players) to live out their life. Its tagline is “Your friends. Your drama. Your life.” However they need to add a bit on the end. Here you go “Your friends. Your drama. Your life. As long as you aren’t Gay (or Bi).” Its odd to exclude homosexual relationships, even if just for a Western port, mainly due to how much acceptance and recent strides are being made in some countries over same sex marriages. It would do more good than harm for their game and make less people lose out n in game experiences they may miss out on just because they want it to follow the slogan and be “Their friends. Their drama. Their life.”

This was the reasoning behind a attempt to convince Nintendo to rethink and add Homosexual relationships. The group, called Miiquality, was created by Tye Marini because he wants to marry his real word fiancee’s Mii. Is it too much to ask? He managed to gather a small following and even talked to various media outlets, but unfortunately Nintendo was not moved. They claimed that they  “never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of ‘Tomodachi Life,'” Of course, not including them is in itself a social commentary, and I believe Nintendo are on the wrong side of the line here. Before heading on I just want it to be known that Marini does not want a boycott, just more communication with Nintendo, however I say take whatever action you feel is justified (and legal).

I find it bizarre that Nintendo are not changing the game, when it could actually prove to better for a company which is beginning to struggle. They have been shown to be a little narrow minded, but if they mended their ways they may draw in even more customers. Sure, right wing nutjobs will accuse them of destroying the moral fiber of our children, but they are nutjobs remember. In fact, this may lead to better sales, just look at when Mass Effect was accused of allowing you to “rape” characters. All that negatively and nonsensical publicity likely brought it to the minds of more people than the actual marketing did!

Finally I just want to say something about this from a developer and designer viewpoint. They will have had to code in “NO GAYS!” To give an example beyond relationships. Say I made a game with a fireball spell that would do damage to health, this would be scripted happen to all things with health. But then say I wanted a class of monster who was immune to fireballs? Well that’s more code, and its the same thing here. Look at the older, probably better life simulation game, called The Sims! They have included Homosexual relationships for a long time, possible due simply to not coding out the possibility. The point I am trying to make is Nintendo will have needed code to prevent Homosexual relationships and in doing so have unfortunately demonstrated that they may not be as accepting as they may seem.

UPDATE

On the BBC Website, Nintendo is quoted as saying that they can not change the games design anymore, but will endeavour to update any future releases. I find it difficult to believe they can not change it in this age of easy to obtain Patches, the 3DS does have internet connection, so how can’t they. Skyrim added mounted combat in a patch for crying out loud!

Lets get Serious About Serious Games

Over the course of my University course I learnt about an interesting thing. Serious Games. Not something I suspect you have heard about unless you are a member of the game development community. So what is a Serious Game?

Well, lets start with games everyone knows about. When you go out and buy a game out of your local retailer or off an online store, I can almost guarantee that it is not a Serious Game. The reason is that those games are commercial, and their main focus is entertainment. A Serious Game however focuses on education, in the widest possible sense. They are games that will either teach you something, train you to be able to do something or potentially influence you. Now, I am sure what is now flashing through your mind are silly little games you played back in school on computers to help your maths, like Ghostblasters.

Ghostblasters

This was kinda fun on a toughscreen.

I bet most of those were really dull, especially hen you look back on them now. However, Serious Games strive to so much more. The aim to try to be as entertaining as they are educational. I personally think its an awesome thing, and many people agree. Advocates aren’t just games developers, but psychologists and educators are also interested in these games. The thing is, whether you realise it or not, learning is actually fun, but only if it is engaging.

Remember back to your childhood, you played a lot of different things. Why? So you could learn about the world and your place in it. Games like Hide and go Seek likely started as hunting games back in our ancestors, and in more modern times we may play at being a doctor or cook to prepare us for potential future careers. I bet it was a lot of fun, it was for me. Serious games strive to tap into our primal “Learn Through Play” to make us far better at learning. Sitting down and doing sums or answering questions on history are dull, so why not use games to liven them up?

While that is in its infancy we have actually been using games to teach since before the first electronic computer! Early simulators were built to train pilots, and consisted of a mocked up plane with working controls. It was very basic, but now we have built upon it and have cockpits that move as the pilots fly, and use advanced simulation programs with screens to help them learn to fly. Simulators are a pretty common Serious Game, but not all things called “(Insert random thing here) Simulator” are of course simulators.

 

Goat Sim

Definitely not a Serious Game, or Simulator

As mentioned previously I was doing a University course, and I made a Serious Game (link to it on my Dropbox). It was through this I discovered just how powerful Serious games can be. The game I made was simple, all you had to do was sort the rubbish into the correct bins, getting points for doing so correctly and sounds helped to guide the player to use the correct bins. After only five minutes of playing, everyone who played it learned more about the recycling scheme at my University. They all enjoyed it too, because I imbued it with a little bit of what made Flappy Bird such a success. The game was designed to quickly get impossible, so people kept wanting to beat their scores. It was simple, but it worked.

Now imagine if we had games on the same level as Call of Duty, GTA, Bioshock, Command and Conquer and other prominent titles. Not only would they last longer, but so much more could be put within them. The Total War series is really good for learning little bits of history, so many have actually used as educational tools. If they were more historically accurate, they could easily replace history lessons. Physics based puzzle games could allow learners to not only learn how to do sums, but also to see how they may be used. I remember working out friction forces in physics, but what if a game used a sum I made to try to prevent a man hitting a wall too fast, or too slow? Games have lots of potential as teaching tools.

Influence can also be created in games, though most focus on potential violence (most studies point out its not really linked). However, games can be positively influential too. I bet you never realised that playing Call of Duty with your friends was benefitting your Pro-Social behaviours. Games also carry political messages too. Games like America’s Army were designed to recruit people into the army by showing them what its really like, and even is used to train soldiers about cultural differences. I really like this, and have already mentioned my intentions of developing a game to influence people to see Trans people in a better light.

So there you go, you now know a little bit about Serious Games. Hopefully you’re a little interested, perhaps you’re excited to see what the future may hold. Well why not look it up? A guy I can recommend looking up (we looked at his stuff a lot, and he is pretty easy to read) is James Paul Gee.  Here’s hoping this new field of games develops well, because I personally think its rather cool.

Want to Break the Gender Binary in games? Play Saints’ Row 2

Saints Row 2

A Trans-Inclusive Game?

If you read this article on Mitch’s Gay Gamer archives you’ll find me briefly taking about Saints’ Row 2. I really enjoy the game, and personally think it is the best open world crime-a-thon I have ever played (GTA 4 bored me and I didn’t play GTA 5 for these reasons). It does have a few issues of course. It can be more than a little misogynistic , uses racial stereotypes and basically glorifies crime.

However, for all that these problems exist, they are balanced out by not being the major focus of the game. There is so much to do in Stilwater that the issues rarely crop up. There are never brought to the front, unlike GTA 5’s torture scene, so you could be forgiven for not noticing them as something else far better is going on.

Anyway, back to the main reason I came to right this post.  Saints Row 2 offers an insane level of customisation. Far more than its sequels. Not only is your character and vehicles customisable, but your gang, Tag (spray-painting on walls)and Cribs can all be modified to some degree. With the frankly brilliant character creation system, which you can use at any point during the game for $500 in game money, comes a wealth of ways to experiment. Saints Row 2 is the only game I can name, that allows female characters to have beards, males to have breasts and actually create a Transgender character. You see, the first section asks you to pick your character’s sex, which limits you to, nothing. Your characters sex does not limit any of the options, the only thing it controls is whether your character has eyelashes (slightly annoys me because I had massive eyelashes even before identifying as a woman). TY=he next page offers you the body shape controls, which is masculine at one end, with broad shoulders and crotch bulge, and feminine at the other, with wide hips and breasts. Everything else is likewise open, so you can make muscle-bound bodies, fat bodies, strong jaws, soft faces, shaved heads, long flowing hair, beards or clean shaven. Your sex don’t matter, you could be totally androgynous. Even picking a voice is totally free an you can choose how your character acts from a wide variety of movement styles, taints and compliments, some being very camp and feminine, others more brutal and macho.

The Binary Breaking doesn’t just end within the character creation however. Once you are in the game you get access to stores with a wide variety of cloths. Again, being male doesn’t prevent you from wearing a female clothes, and vice versa. You can dress your character how you wish, and the brilliant thing is that it has no bearing on how your character is perceived. Unlike the Fable serious, where dressing in the opposite sex’s clothes will result in you being considered funny, in Saints Row 2 no one bats an eye lid. While it was likely added for humour, it has actually made it probably one of the best inclusive games as far as Gender Binary Breaking goes.

I would really suggest buying this game, the experimenting with how you want to present yourself isn’t really available to such a degree anywhere else digitally. I know that it was probably where I first began to experiment with my gender, and because it is entirely digital, you don’t have to worry about people seeing you and becoming nasty. Once you gain confidence, you can take it beyond the game, but it stills acts as a good starting point. The story is also really good, better than its sequels, so while you are there you can also enjoy the rest this brilliant game has to offer.

My Experience with Suppression of Trans Culture

Sorry, ages late, but my Dissertation was due. Brings me to my first point actually. You see, as a student of Computer Games Design, it has been drilled into me that the next great avenue for games are Serious Games. Serious Games are games which have a purpose beyond being fun, they could educate you, influence you or even help physiotherapy. Its actually a really cool field, partially due to the challenge and also because you get a real feeling you are helping people.

So, in my Honours year, the year I began my Transition, I decided I would try to build a game to help the Trans Community. It was a cool idea, and instantly a hit with my chosen supervisor and fellow peers. Mitch (god people are gonna think I fancy him at this rate) embarked on a similar exercise, but on the LGBT community as a whole. It looked like it was gonna be groovy. I drew up a brief idea, and began to write my proposal. Other staff members heard about my project and were very interested. I even got in contact with a local Trans Youth group to help me design the game. The man in charge was very interested and really looked forward to me meeting them to begin drawing up ideas.

There was just one hurdle. The Ethics Committee (insert scary thunder here). I had to be careful, as they could cancel my project if they felt it was unethical. I made sure to inform them the Trans Youth Group was ready willing and able to be a part of the project, and I even tried to figure out how to get my criminal record checked for working with under eighteens. The difficulty was the University only gave guidance for Government Organisations, and the Trans Youth Group was a Charity. They didn’t know, and as far as they were concerned it was a non-issue. So I asked the Ethics Committee for help.

They originally did not respond, till I gave them a second Email. Here was the response;

“I am afraid that the committee cannot approve your Ethics application as it stands. The subject you are addressing is considered a sensitive subject and the ethical issues are complex, and unlikely to be resolved in the timescale required for an undergraduate project.”

So I was told no. After creating an entire proposal, almost nine weeks of work as I started early because I felt so keen to do it, I was told no. I tried to get Trans issues into a game somehow, a long too and fro got me nowhere. Trans issues was a blanket no go zone. The line of it being “too sensitive” carried on throughout. Then, Mitch had his project halted too. We both had to radically shift our projects, mine became recycling. I was obviously livid, and believed that this may well have been discrimination, especially due to the difficulty of getting information. I read the guidelines, got in contact with Groups to help Trans People, I was ready to fight to bring back my project. then I learned something. Many projects were cancelled. My initial though was the Ethics Committee was covering their skin, however I eventually dropped this to focus on my work.

So my school work continued, with me feeling really rather upset at not being able to do what I really wanted too. Then the module Series Games Design came up and I got excited. I could try again! I had to work with a team however, and I was unlikely to persuade them. However my concept could still be pitched, and the Lecturer could pick which they though was best out of all the teams ideas. So I created a brief, which outlined the basic idea of a game where you have to do battle discussions and mini games to learn about the issues that face Transgender people. My lecturer liked it.

The Clients did not.

According to the clients who also judged our ideas, Trans issues was not a broad enough topic to build a game around. Apparently I would be better suited to just do bullying in general. Sweep the Trans stuff away. Who would play it aside from Trans People? People, that’s who! The game was specifically designed to let the player see it from a Trans view point and a Cis view point, and so people could learn what they perhaps do in their own lives that may be anti-Trans. It was designed to be used by both Trans People, and Cis People.

Guess this is just something I’ll have to get used to. Either my ideas are to icky, or they just won’t be attractive to your typical Male Heterosexual Cis Gamer.

Warface: Boob WIndows

Trigger Warnings: Misogyny

Sorry I am a little late, but University has been a pain recently. While doing some work, I decided to download a Free-to-Play game by Crytek called Warface. I had seen some videos and thought it looked like some fun. After downloading it onto my Xbox 360 I obviously loaded it up. After a short update I came to the character select and was a little disappointed. Why couldn’t I pick a female soldier? Most modern shooters have recognised their female audience and included them. As the game is in Beta they were looking for feedback so I decided to take to the forums to mention my annoyance. Then I thought; “Maybe they haven’t been added yet, perhaps they will come in a future update.” So I used Google and found this:

Warface Girl

At least the graphics are nice.

Yes, they are on the PC versions, probably just a little bit. Hang on a minute, is that cleavage? unfortunately yes it is. Just like Power Girl, the clothing contains a very handy Boob Window. I wonder what protection that offers? Now, these are apparently the Russian skins, and we will likely end up with our own here in Europe and American as apparently they are different in China (though still apparently sexualized) due to cultural differences in what is considered attractive. Thais right, the female characters are being designed to be attractive, not realistic (though that is kinda obvious). This is only on the female characters, although some mechanic which change a little too (according the Escapist gun recoil also varies). Male characters remain the same. Now I might be able to accept these female models if they were some form of insurgent group, as they wouldn’t have the need to follow Military doctrine and woman do sometimes show flesh for a variety of reasons (from trying to be attractive to men to the Russian Rad Fem groups who paint their slogans across their bare breasts). However, their male counter parts depict a very different style:

This is the second Decade of the 21st Centuary and this Shite is considered fine?

This is the second Decade of the 21st Century and this Shite is considered fine?

Full body armor, even the sniper who are usually depicted as fighting light so they can move around faster has armor on. I suppose the female Rifleman is a little better but it doesn’t really seem like it’s what a female soldier should wear. If ether of these two were close enough to some fire explosion, like a petrol bomb, that they didn’t die but got caught in the flames, the men would likely get minor burns while the woman would suffer major burns because they have flesh on display.

The design of the female characters has of course been defended. What is the defense? Well they were created according to player feedback. Obviously shooters attract a large male player base but girls such as myself, my sister and several friends play them too. We don’t nearly number as much as our male counterparts however, so if they all say “Lets have sexy Ladies!” we can’t have nearly enough numbers to come back with “No, let’s have realistic female soldiers. I certainly wouldn’t snipe with a top that shows my tits to whoever is firing back!” Here is a funny thing as well, when the Lead Producer Joshua Howard was interviewed by Wired (where he defended the decision) he mentioned  “it’s our job to maintain thatWarface has an authenticity to it that makes sense for us.” Apparently revealing female uniforms make sense to Crytek then. Yet, other game companies don’t seem to agree. Here is a female soldier for COD: Ghosts:

COD Ghosts Female Soldier

Helmets are optional.

Fully geared up, minus helmet but I think that’s because this is a character from the co-op alien thing so we would want to focus on her character (and COD male characters rarely wear helmets in campaigns too). Going back to the fact that the female models vary depending on region, but the males don’t, it suggests a major issue. What also changes depending on region in other organisations? Adverts, slogans and names. And frankly I think this is the reason for the female models. They are simply there to add sex appeal to attract the male audience. Its sort of like “Why Play Ghosts were girls wear real armor when you could play Warface and get to see Tits!?!” An interesting experiment, at the time of writing this I typed in “Warface female soldiers” into Google Image Search I got back a lot of images from Warface, with a couple of exceptions, with several being the Sniper and her Power Girl like Boob Window. I then tried “Call of Duty Ghosts female soldiers” and the fifth image was the comparison image from Warface. I think that helps to some up this insulting decision. It is Click Baiting on a game wide scale. I posted on the forums, and have yet to see a response. Likely I will be told that my concerns have been heard but I am merely one in a million. I urge others, whether you girls or guys, to go on Crytek’s forums and websites and tell them exactly what you think of their Misogynistic views.