Category Archives: Gender

‘A Disney character in every home in America’

Keith Gluck, The Walt Disney Family Museum:

Then one day in 1932, Walt received a phone call from an affable fellow named Herman “Kay” Kamen, a Kansas City advertising man. He had a vision of putting a Disney character in every home in America. Intrigued by his energy, and already dissatisfied with his current deal, Walt invited Kamen out to California to hear his proposal. During the meeting, Walt and Roy quickly learned that not only did he have great ideas, but they were also all on the same page in terms of only allowing high quality merchandise to be stamped with the Disney name. On July 1, 1932, Kamen signed with Disney. The contract outlined a 50/50 split of the profits, a deal with which both sides were highly content.

Kamen wasted little time realizing his vision. Soon Mickey and Minnie could be found in department stores everywhere, adorning such products as: napkins, wallpaper, books, phonographs, all types of clothing, hairbrushes, toys, and much more. Mickey products extended beyond the store shelves as well, thanks to annual, then biennial, merchandise catalogs published by Kamen.

I thought Reggie Fils-Aimé’s comment sounded familar.

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Marco on Phil with John

On June 9th, 2015, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, a man who has spent half of his life at Apple Inc., joined Daring Fireball’s John Gruber on stage for a live episode of The Talk Show.

Here’s a bit from Marco Arment:

This meant a lot for both John and podcasting. Apple sent an executive to be interviewed on a podcast, and one of the highlights of John Gruber’s career as a writer didn’t involve writing at all.

To quote Marco further, “I’d listen to their podcast.” It will be remembered.

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21 Percent Delta

Polygon’s Charlie Hall reporting from GDC 2015:

Rosalind Wiseman and Ashly Burch collaborated to create their survey in the spring of 2014. Wiseman, herself a teacher, educator and author, was able to deliver the survey to 1,583 students aged 11 to 18 over the course of the year. The results, the authors say, are enough to turn the games industry’s understanding of gender issues on its head.

The most compelling data point for game developers is the fact that girls in high school are far more likely to prefer to play female characters than boys of the same age are likely to prefer to play male characters.

Only 39 percent of high-school aged boys surveyed preferred to play as male characters, while 60 percent of high-school aged girls preferred to play as female characters.

That 21 percent delta, the authors say, is more than enough reason for game developers to rethink who their main characters should be going forward.

“We as developers,” Burch said, “understandably … are afraid of our games not selling.

“It’s terrifying to imagine that your game’s not going to sell. But it could be that we are falsely attributing the success of past games to things that don’t actually matter to the kids that are playing them.”

Since hearing Rosalind Wiseman on The One You Feed podcast, I’ve been an avid fan of her and Ashly Burch’s work. In case you missed it, their GDC 2014 talk on The Connection Between Boys’ Social Status, Gaming and Conflict is worth the watch.

See also: My recent breakdown of protagonist gender and video game genre from the games announced or highlighted at E3 2014.

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E3 2014: Genre/Gender Breakdown

Continuing my research of video game genre and protagonist/main character gender, here is the collected data from E3 2014. The sample list of 152 video games was sourced from IGN’s Games at E3 2014, platform data mapped to a quantifiable “TRUE”/”FALSE” list, genre lists collected from both IGN and Wikipedia (limited to primary genre), and the main character gender researched to the best of my ability.

Elaborating on the gender categories:

“Multi” being either:
a) multiple characters to select from (ie. Mario Kart 8 / Killer Instinct receive 1 count for “multi” although there are several characters to select from)
b) customizable gender
c) large customizable party

“n/a” being a:
a) gender ambiguous character
b) God-view game
c) first-person with no direct gender association

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Some key points:

  • My data can be found here. (Numbers online)
  • Sample size = 152 games
  • 13 exclusively female protagonists/main characters vs. 47 exclusively male protagonists
  • Female protagonist by year
    • 2012: 2%
    • 2013: 6%
    • 2014: 9%

Additional reference:

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Garena Philippines Limiting LGBTQ Women from League of Legends Competition

Garena Esports (empahsis my own):

For any events we do, we always want to make sure we are able to have an inclusive environment where no one feels left out, and of course for everybody to enjoy.  On this angle, we believed that allowing more to be eligible to join is obviously the answer and as many of our female teams have expressed — Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered Women members are their friends too.  On the other hand, for any competitions, we seriously look at ensuring there’s a fair level playing field for all participants.  And there are arguments and concerns from other participants who disputes that Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered Women members may probably have some unfair advantage.

I have zero tolerance for the twisted logic/suspicion/assumption that one’s physical traits, let alone sexual orientation, “may probably” provide them “some unfair advantage” in a competition based purely on mental prowess. Unbelievable.

[Via Polygon]

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Troll Masks

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

How much of it is just an act? How much does it actually matter? How much empathy should we feel when we read something that genuinely seems like a cry for help, when the entire premise of modern-day trolling is that the internet is just a giant game of make-believe, and you’re a fool to do more than point and laugh?

None of this is encouraging, especially when you know that just mentioning it puts you in the crosshairs, too. It doesn’t prove that there’s some hidden decency to reach or some way to impose offline consequences (I haven’t looked up anything about these people’s real identities, and I don’t plan to.) It doesn’t prove anything about what kind of person does this, because someone’s web presence doesn’t necessarily indicate much about their everyday lives. All it proves is that this isn’t some barrage of throwaway insults in a vacuum. Given enough time, whether it’s created out of deep resentment or teenage thoughtlessness or deliberate, sociopathic calculation, even the most one-dimensional troll mask can start to come alive.

Great read.

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Nostalgia, Feminism Top Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year

Merriam-Webster:

The next two words on the list, nostalgia and insidious, saw huge increases in use this year, primarily because of their entertainment connection. Nostalgia was used in discussions about the television series Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, and other cultural milestones like the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America. “We saw more than a 100% increase in lookups of nostalgia this year,” says Kory Stamper, an Associate Editor at Merriam-Webster. “It was certainly used in reference to pop culture and television, but it was also used as a way to frame larger political discussions. We spotted examples of nostalgia used in connection with the annexation of Crimea and the defeat of Eric Cantor. People often think of nostalgia as a return to ‘good old days,’ so these uses that go beyond the personal may have surprised some readers and sent them to the dictionary.”

Lookups for feminism were strong throughout the year, as the word was used in many highly publicized comments–from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision to the Gamergate controversy. One big spike came after TIME announced its 100 Most Influential People–a list including Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, and Pharrell Williams. TIME’s claim that 2014 was the “year of pop feminism” sent many people to the dictionary.

In 2014, more than ever (and for reasons other than Merriam-Webster’s), I seemed to obsess over the idea of nostalgia. It coursed through many of my pieces including Hail Mario, Golden Age Thinking, and Iterative vs. Redesigned Experiences. It also seemed to be a common theme strewn out through several of Nintendo’s recent first-party titles: The Excitebike Arena in Mario Kart 8, NES Remix, and the plethora of new characters and legacy nods in Super Smash Bros. to name a few.

On the topic of feminism, it is very interesting to see just how large the Gamergate conversation has become. 2014 felt like a truly remarkable year for the feminist movement and this list offers a small shred of proof.

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Assassin-in-the-room

Polygon’s Quality Control is a fantastic short-form podcast hosted by Justin McElroy in which video game reviewers (primarily from Polygon) offer insight to their review of a particular new release and answer listener questions.

On today’s episode, Polygon Reviews Editor and guest Arthur Gies elaborated on his review of Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

Upon reading Gies’s review, I was taken aback by the lack of mention to the E3 hubbub surrounding Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio’s comments regarding the lack of playable female avatar’s in co-op:

It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.

I posed the following unabridged question to Justin via email:

“Arthur seemed to avoid the elephant-in-the-room regarding female playable characters in co-op. While Polygon (and Arthur) has/have made sexualization and representation an impetus for review scores in the past (see Bayonetta 2 (albeit, on the opposite side of representation)), why was this not addressed? Did Arthur feel that female representation did not affect AC: Unity’s overall review? Did he feel the damage had already been done and no more worthwhile discussion could be added? Or was it that Arthur simply wanted us focus solely on the end-product, sharing the detail we may miss when distracted by the elephant?”

Arthur’s response, time stamp 8:20, edited for clarity:

I mean Arno is the character in the game. And I don’t think women are treated particularly well in the game; It’s certainly not even close to the most egregious misstep that I’ve seen in a game this year with regard to that kind of subject matter. And honestly, the game has so many other problems to discuss that at a certain point I feel like I’m running out of reader patience or attention span to get to the heart of the statement that I’m trying to make.

With Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the traversal problems that the series has had for years and the massive technical issues and a really underwhelming story are all things that undermine Unity very seriously. I could go on at length at various things in the game that bother me but those are the most substantive things that hurt the game. It could still have been a fantastic game despite the absence of women in it as playable avatars. [If that were the case], that might have been a discussion I could have had, but that wasn’t as material as everything else.

Thanks for the time and clarity, Arthur.

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Chris Kluwe’s #Gamergate Piece

Chris Kluwe:

All the real gamers? They’re the developers now, the reviewers, the writers and the players who remember a time when you couldn’t download a virtual copy of your game, but instead had to go to a Toys“R”Us and hope they had it in stock. The real gamers, both men and women, look at your frantic rantings about “ethics in videogame journalism,” and they shake their heads sadly, wondering how you could get sucked in by some script-kiddie /b/tards and conspiracy-nut celebrities gleefully using you as a smokescreen for misogynistic hate. They look at the rich diversity of games that exist now, and they are THRILLED, because no one ever thought we’d get this far, and real gamers like PLAYING GAMES.

I know game developers, personally. I know game reviewers, personally. You know what else I know? That both developers and reviewers know each other quite well, because this industry used to be very small. One where you had to be a gamer to want to make a game, or to write reviews, because the money certainly wasn’t NFL money. It absolutely wasn’t the billion-dollar industry it is now, with games pulling in just as much as blockbuster movies. It was a group of people, doing what they loved, making games, and playing games, and a lot of them are still there, and they’re friends!

In true Kluwe fashion, this piece is delightfully entertaining, well written, and cuts the bullshit.

Speaking of Toys”R”Us, remember these things? Am I dating myself?

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‘An irredeemably dark version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’

T.C. Sottek writing for The Verge:

Still, it’s important for reasonable people to speak up, if only to set the terms of reality — something Gamergate’s most hardcore supporters don’t even seem to grasp. Gamergate’s echo chamber is an endless rabbit hole of paranoia, like an irredeemably dark version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The entire affair is built on trolling, counter-trolling, anger, and ignorance; Gamergate’s forums exhibit deranged skepticism in almost everything, including vicious doubts about every woman who speaks up against harassment and threats. Entire threads have been devoted to accusing Sarkeesian and other recipients of hatred and violence of running false-flag campaigns to elevate their own status. In their world, everyone who’s not on their side is a “shill” who’s lying for attention.

Not long ago, I was celebrating the social brilliance of Twitch Plays Pokémon; a weeks-long, virtual slog with an estimated 658,000 participants that, looking back, actually had tremendous potential for mass frustration, intimidation, and organized harassment. Instead, the community-at-large generated spontaneous and fascinating politics, factions, deities, usurpers, and home-brewed mythology that eventually panned in favor of progress and the completion of the game.

Needless to say, I am completely floored by the idiocy and insanity of Gamergate.

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