FtBCon – Ashley’s schedule

Life is always easier when you’ve got a schedule to follow.  So here’s mine for the weekend.  I am in on 5 sessions, talking about a variety of subjects from YA lit to video games, but all to do with media and culture.  Which is good because I have a degree that makes people think I’m qualified in that.

TImes here are in EST, but if you go to the site they’ll be in CST.

FtBConscience

As of right now this is a solo talk, but I have feelers out for anyone who might want to join.  If you’re an expert on YA lit, let me know.

Although much of the bestselling YA literature in the last few years has featured female main characters, ofttimes the portrayal of these characters is problematic in terms of gender stereotypes and lack of minority characters. This is a discussion of the ways YA literature succeeds and fails and why it needs to change.

I feel like so underqualified to be on this panel.  I play ukulele cover songs on YouTube and love to sing karaoke.  And I’m on a panel with an actual musician with records and such.  Yep.  Imposter syndrome big time.

Join us to hear a few songs and have a casual chat with ukulelist and FtB blogger Ashley Miller, and Australian singer-songwriter Shelley Segal. In 2011 Shelley published An Atheist Album, and she has played at the Reason Rally, the American Atheist Convention, Women In Secularism and other events. Panel facilitated by Brianne Bilyeu

Jason Thibeault, Russell Glasser, Brianne Bilyeu, Ashley F. Miller, Avicenna, Tauriq Moosa.  Religion and morality systems in video games are often grossly oversimplified, to the point where choices are entirely binary and you’re often forced, as a gamer, to do things that you might otherwise find appalling, like working in service of a god or gods. How are these heady topics handled in the slowly-maturing video game industry? Who’s already doing this stuff right? How can these topics’ treatment be improved?

Jason Thibeault, Avicenna, Brianne Bilyeu, Ashley F. Miller, Rebecca Watson, Lynnea Glasser. Women make up 45% of the gamer population, a number that’s constantly climbing. And yet, female protagonists in games are few and far between — and when games are exclusively fronted by female characters, they get far less marketing budget than their equivalent male-led titles. Why?

JT Eberhard, Rebecca Watson, Heina Dadabhoy, Ashley F. Miller, Hemant Mehta, Xavier Trapp.  TV, Movies, Comic books… our popular culture is soaked in depictions of religious people, but what about atheists? How are atheists portrayed in the public sphere? How can we do better? A panel of atheists gets at the real issues.

 

 

Book Summary: “You play like a girl” by Elena Bertozzi

She teaches, makes video games, and writes novels? I’m in love.

For one of my classes this summer, I had write annotations/summaries for several books.  I enjoyed many of them and I thought that the annotations might be useful for other people, so I will be posting them here.  They’re somewhat rough, but considering how much everyone loves when someone at FtB posts about feminism, I doubt it matters.

Bertozzi, E. (2011). “You Play Like a Girl”: Cross-Gender Competition and the Uneven Playing Field. In G. Dines, & J.M. Humez (Eds.), Gender, Race, and Class in the Media: A Critical Reader (pp. 443-454). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Question(s) Investigated: What is the environment in video games like for women?  Does gamer culture encourage cross-gender competition?

Time Period: 2000s

Geographic Region: US

Subjects studied: Video games, competition, gender relations

Abstract:

Women play as many video games as men, but different ones, generally ones that involve less developed skill.  Because gamer culture and the culture at large are so gendered, even in gender-neutral gameplay, the gender of the players impacts the way that the game is played – especially when there is a lot of interacting with other players (444).  Civility is taught as something men should always show women, and violence towards women is abhorred (445), yet violence against female characters may be necessary when playing against women.

Men are also extremely hostile when they are beaten by a woman (446).  Women and girliness are associated with gayness and weakness and are to be avoided at all costs – to play a woman means that victory will be hollow and loss will be humiliating (447).  Women know this as well and it makes them uncomfortable when playing against men (448).Friendly open aggression between men is ok, but there’s no equivalent for women and no equivalent for inter-gender interaction.  Women do not use games to establish a dominance hierarchy the same way that men do; women use beauty not skill for their hierarchies (449).

The article ends with suggests as to how to make the gamer community and gaming in general more friendly to women and to crossgender gaming.  Normalize crossgender play, create a broader range of female character types, etc.

Resources used:

Alix, A. (2007) ‘Online Game Talk and the Articulation of Maleness,’ in Flow TV 5

DeBoer, K.J. (2004). Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently.

Levy, A. (2005) Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.

Lucas, K. and Sherry, J.L. (2004) ‘Sex Differences in Video Game Play: A Communication-Based Explanation’. (this link is a pdf)

Taylor, T.L. (2005) Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture.

 

And here’s a video of her talking about teaching and play: http://www.uww.edu/news/videos/why-i-teach-elena-bertozzi ”

If there were more women involved in making games, then we would see a lot of different kinds of games. We will also have more women running corporations that run technology. We’ll have a female Bill Gates and a female Steve Jobs.

Video Games as Art

Poor Roger Ebert has created some sort of Internet Firestorm by claiming that Video Games aren’t art.  Everyone is pissed off at him, which is really quite silly.  But it’s interesting.  PZ Myers posted in agreement with Ebert, and now there’s extreme craziness over there as well.  Seriously, 3000 Comments at Ebert’s page and over 500 at Pharyngula.

It all seems a bit ridiculous to me because obviously art is a subjective experience.  One man’s art is another man’s urinal.  This hits home with me because I think comedy is an art form but it generally isn’t treated as one.  If it makes you cry, it’s art, if it makes you laugh, it’s just entertainment.  Video games straddle this line between entertainment and art, much like film does, and it’s why people act as though some films are art and some aren’t.  Rather than accepting that some films are just really shitty art made by committee.  As though calling something “art” automatically makes it good, worthwhile or insightful.  Have you ever been to DeviantArt?

Someone mentioned this in the comments over on Ebert’s page, but it seems like it’s the difference between a chess board and playing chess.  A chess board can be a work of art, but a game of chess is a game.  The act of playing a video game isn’t artistic, but the game itself is some combination of puzzle and art.  Although, playing a game for other people might be considered some kind of performance art…

I think the lines are a bit blurred, because storytelling is generally considered art, though it is also entertainment.  Video Games, particularly RPGs, follow specific story lines and develop characters, you can genuinely become emotionally involved with them.  This is why the people defending the video games are so defensive, to them the games have real emotional depth and feeling and Ebert and PZ are saying that that isn’t a valid reaction.

I don’t think it makes you old-fashioned not to think of video games as art anymore than it makes someone old-fashioned to think TV or bad films aren’t art.  It’s a very difficult line to draw between entertainment and art.  Is Blazing Saddles art?  Is Die Hard?  Is Eddie Izzard?

It’s a subjective question.  Some people might say that Uwe Boll is art, and I’m not sure I could disagree with them.  Now, if they claimed it was worthwhile, I’d have to laugh derisively in their face.  Personally, I think the in-depth narratives, stunning graphics, and emotional investment that a lot of video games provide do make them art.  I’d argue for Kingdom Hearts, Prince of Persia, Ocarina of Time or even Katamari Damacy — they present unique visions of the world and stories that have stuck in my mind as much as any film.

But, I think the entire discussion is best encapsulated by a comment by Brownian over at Pharyngula:

Oh, goody.

You know what this society sorely lacks? More pretentious conversations asking What Is Art? (and then answering with something along the lines of “Whatever it is, kids today aren’t doing it.”)

I look forward to Ebert’s next essay: “Why Lawns Are Important And Why The Kids Should Get The Fuck Off Mine.”

If you want to see something really boring, watch someone else playing a video game.

Complete bullshit. Boring for you maybe, but I spent a great part of my childhood and teenage years watching other people play video games, and found it to be as full of opportunities for socialisation and entertainment as many other activities.