#Bragtoberfest Achievement Round-up

Not as much of a round-up as I want, but I’ve got links to other round-ups! To see the first week’s results Izlain has got you covered. The first Saturday of Bragtober had bloggers get together for some MOBA battles in Strife.

My own triumphs this week:

  • Pacman DX+ : I’ve unlocked 11 of 12 Steam achievements. Little Chris scored 1.3 million in a 5 minute timed match of Pacman, strengthening his claim to the Little Gamer Throne!
  • Banished: The town of Rowler is promising. I’ve finally scored a couple of achievements which are pretty much endurance challenges. The longer you play, the more inevitable the achievements become. I’ve got 3!
  • Cook, Serve, Delicious: I nearly burned my reestaurant down this week. The Buzz has finally dipped below 104% which means people are talking about my restaurant LESS as a result of the charred meals this week.

I try to hop on Twitch, my Fail Live channel, to give you lovely folks a chance to get screenshots of me failing. My streams are few and never more than an hour so your window of opportunity is slim. Try to catch up! No one fails as spectacularly as me.

Defense Grid scores are in my future. I’ve noticed some of you have your own high scores and I’m laying down the gauntlet:

Bragtober seems to be a great month to compare scores and challenge one another, so there’s my challenge to you guys. If any of you arent’ familiar with Defense Grid, it’s an awesome tower defense game that you can find on PC and Xbox. I’ve spent most of my time scoring big on Xbox so this is a good time to fix up my PC scores!

I’ll accept any of your challenges, even if you slaughter me. Especially if you’ll slaughter me.

Couch Podtatoes Ep. 15

It’s out! Go listen to it!

I’m awful at putting out posts when a new podcast is published by my dear friends Eri and Izzy. I only make an appearance once per month, but it’s a fun show, just a few gamers talking about what’s going on in the blogger community and having opinions.

It’s linked in the sidebar 24/7. This week’s episode is about Bragtoberfest which is coming October 1st. It’s a gaming event for game bloggers, so head over to Me vs Myself and I to learn more!

bragtoberfest_spooky

Who Are You Talking To?

Do you know your audience as a writer? Who are the readers you’re trying to reach? And do you write mostly for them or do you write in the hopes of attracting others unlike you?

It takes a lot of time for a blogger to get to know their audience. But for game bloggers the experience usually starts off as a passion for a particular game and, in a way, you immediately know who your audience is. So there are bloggers who got started writing about World of Warcraft and anyone who plays that game might be interested in what they’re writing. Players from Wildstar or Star Wars might find it interesting too, but the target audience is clearly players who like the same games as you do.

This is the same with social justice, though it seems to be poorly understood. I can’t count how many times I’ve had readers wonder who I’m writing for. Well …for you. The person who read it.

I think over the years I’ve come to know my audience pretty well. I know what riles up my readers and what makes them feel good about themselves. I know what they might find amusing or the kinds of games they might play. In a way, bloggers even come to know things about our readers that are a little …intimate. For example, some bloggers know what makes their readers uncomfortable. That might be why they know which issues to avoid and which issues will net them more page views than usual. Writers get to know their audience and their own writing. For those who have been at it for a few years, you know exactly the kind of response (or lack thereof) to any given topic you publish.

And the audience knows their writers much of the time too.

Almost every one I’ve come to know through blogging who has heard me speak for the first time has been surprised. Because of the intensity of my writing at times, a lot of people imagine I speak more loudly than I actually do. Because of the tenor of my writing some have come to think I’m a talker, but those of you who’ve talked to me have learned that’s not the case either. So in a sense, blogging gives the reader and writer this weird space to imagine who the person really is, but also to invent the person behind the monitor completely.

I speak softly. I speak rarely. But I have a lot I want to say. One could argue that blogging gave me a voice in a way I’ve never had. I feel very comfortable blogging in ways that I’d never feel about talking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shy or afraid to speak or anything like that. But …well some things from our childhoods stick with us in my case. Talking wasn’t the way I learned to communicate most effectively and in a way I still feel inadequate when I speak. Words feel clumsy in my mouth.

Here’s a an exercise: who did you imagine your audience/favorite authors to be before you had the opportunity to interact with them? Did they meet your expectations?

How do your various personalities come together? There’s the gamer Doone. Then there’s the community carebear Doone. There’s daddy Doone. Mr. D. Doony. There’s the NBI Doone (the pest who just won’t stop bothering you about getting involved). There’s Doone the friend and Doone the social justice warrior. There’s many Doones, but the truth is that most of you only know blogger Doone. You only know the highly opinionated, analytical, unyielding game critic, the guy who challenges everything even when he agrees with it. I’d ask who your favorite Doone is, but I probably don’t really want to know. Much more fun to imagine.

Know your audience. Unlike when I first started writing, I’ve got a pretty clear picture of who I’m talking to when I write and I think every veteran blogger knows what I mean. Over time you just get a really good feel for who your audience is. For new bloggers, you’re not alone if you still aren’t entirely sure who you’re writing for.  You’re still developing your audience and over time that picture will become a bit more clear to you.

Leading in the Gaming Community

Gamer culture is rich with bright, intelligent, creative, energetic, passionate people. We love our games, love to analyze them, make them, mod them, love to praise them and love creating the forums, wikis, guilds and leagues around them. It is, without a doubt, a culture we want to continue to cultivate, a culture with value and potential. But the amount of bigotry, especially the casual homophobia and hyper-masculinity in the gaming community is a threat to this culture I love. Every time a gamer says “that’s gay”, every time guys get unusually excited over voice chat when they hear a woman, every time we call a woman a stupid bitch, cunt or fake gamer, the community dies a little. If we want to preserve gamer culture, we’ve got to do something about this. We have to change. All of us.

Since the greater part of the problem isn’t these vicious, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, able-ist attacks committed by a hateful few, I want to focus on those of us who are paralyzed by the displays of violence, or those of us fence-sitting, waiting for incidents to blow over, waving them off as insignificant, passively observing, watching as the community is made less. It’s not hard to see that something is wrong with this, but it’s very hard to know what to do, much easier to grow apathetic. Hearing about these violent events can get annoying, if only because they sometimes remind us of our feelings of powerlessness. But we’re far from powerless. To act though, we have to understand the problems. And unfortunately, not enough of us do or even want to. We have tons of excuses to continue with our own points of view, to stay within the confines of our warm and fuzzy ideas, despite any evidence that’s contrary to them – even if we know there’s evidence contrary to them. We’ve got to grow up.

If we really love this community, we’ve got to be willing to change.

Men

For relevance, let’s talk about recent events, though they’re far from the only problems threatening our beloved culture. The hatefulness and bigotry of those who violently attack people for having strong opinions is nuts. The fight to prove who does or doesn’t belong in gaming is positively destroying the culture, preventing progressive game development and killing our communities. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of this destruction. Attackers commonly claim to be male in identity and commonly defend their violent acts. Keep in mind violence is much more than physical. Attacking people through insults and threats is possibly more harmful than outright slapping them in the face. While this behavior by men is definitely a by-product of the wider culture, that doesn’t mean we can’t deal with it within the gamer community. I’d argue that’s where most of us need to deal with it, because it’s the community we live in the most. This aggressive behavior is just a symptom of the way those men were taught to perform masculinity, and since group behavior is magnified the larger the group, it rapidly becomes heinous and out of control.

One can never be enough man that one can stop proving their masculinity. Unlike with women gaining the status of woman, manhood is something men believe we can lose. It’s not something we are, it’s something we do. And because we don’t focus on who we actually are, because we’re so hell bent on demonstrating what a man is, the blind and mindless anger and hatred is a really easy thing for us to reach for. It’s so bad men don’t even blame themselves for their bad acts (the nexus of victim blaming). Masculinity is literally a relentless, daily effort that men put into a performance:

Women are only tangentially necessary to prove male heterosexuality, a checkbox on the list of Masculinity. The less like people they are, the better because it’s not about demonstrating our love of women, but our solidarity with other men. Remember: men don’t get points with other men by being loving. We get the respect of other men by being emotionless, hard, tough, and, most of all, heterosexual. Sexualization of women in games is primarily about homosociality among men. Masculinity is a performance men do for other men and in which women are only a prop.

This brings us to the concept of the Man Box. The Man Box, a concept that sociologists and experts on gender studies have coined to describe the construction of masculinity, is at the root of our community problems because many of those lashing out right now are of the mind that gaming is a man’s domain. One of my readers linked me a really great article in the comments of a recent post. The article is by Charlie Glickman and he does a nice job of explaining, in a really light and clear way, the complexities of the Man Box. I highly recommend reading it for anyone more interested in exploring what it is and what it means for men in our culture. But how does this relate to the behavior we see amongst men in the gaming community?

The rabid defenses of sexualization of women, the vitriolic response to Tropes vs. Women, the hatefulness being thrown at Zoe Quinn for her sexual habits (if it were about journalistic integrity, there would have been more attacks on the journalist), are all performances. To be inside the box is to vehemently deny the validity of anything outside of it. This is partly why the issue of sexism in the gaming community is usually so black and white. Masculinity is an either/or proposition. I see this kind of thinking all the time with men. We see this extremism everytime someone suggests sexualization of female characters is out of control (“but censorship is wrong!” and it’s ilk). You’re in or you’re out with these guys.

Here’s an illustration of the box, though if it were a physical thing, it’d be more like a mask or a body suit. It’s something we wear, not something we are.

the-manbox

This isn’t all encompassing, of course. There’s lots more we can put inside this box and outside. Can you think of any?

Charlie explained that men have to be all of these things to be masculine, and while I’m willing to yield to his expertise, I must say this isn’t how it seems. Men try to be all of these things, that’s very true. But you only need to be as many of these things as possible and make sure that you’re not anything outside the box – that’s the trick. Whatever we lack (such as height), we just over compensate with what we have. Masculinity is more like a critical mass of manliness. Either you’re a real man or you’re not, and there’s no in between.

One of the studies Charlie mentioned asked men to braid hair or rope. As a reward for completing the task they could chose either a puzzle or to punch a punching bag. The men who braided hair always chose the punching bag, and they always tried to punch harder. The men who braided rope didn’t try to punch so hard. This is that over compensation.

Another example he gave was that men acting in groups are far more aggressive than they would be individually, and he mentioned cat-calling is one activity where we see this. The more men doing the calling, the more likely the situation is to escalate out of control. This he attributed to one-up manship. Each man in the group is striving to prove that they’re more inside the box than the other men, and none of them wants to be the guy in the group who’s at the bottom of this competition. I think most men can relate to this experience.

This competitiveness against other men is equal parts performing masculinity and homophobia. Fear of not being seen as a man is also a fear of being seen as gay. All the taunting using fag, homo, gay, etc reveals that fear. We’ve all probably seen men flare up at the mere suggestion that they might like men or act like a woman. Some of us have seen the reaction of men who, after learning that woman was a “man”, wanted to confront that person about being “tricked” – as if his attraction to that woman were based on her chromosome arrangement. This is the flimsy, fragile nature of our model of masculinity.

A strange thing happens to us psychologically because of this mask, this performance. We know there’s a difference between the demands of masculinity and who we are, and I think this is why men are less likely to take responsibility for their own terrible acts. We’re more likely to deny that responsibility and to blame external factors for our behavior. The attacks on Anita Sarkeesian are seen by certain groups of men as her own fault. She provoked this response, she’s responsible for what’s happening. We see this in cases of rape, assaults on transgendered people and other cases where men get violent. It’s always provoked. In a sense, it’s a way of looking at our behavior and saying “I wouldn’t do something like that”, but the man we wear would do that and then some. If men in our community want this hostile behavior to stop, we must re-examine why believe that being provoked is sufficient grounds for it.

A study in the previous article made me consider this connection between masculinity and the fierce denials of responsibility that are so common. Bigots and other hateful mobs who condone this toxic behavior see people like me as the problem, me as someone who provokes the demons out of them. They don’t believe their behavior is a problem. Their behavior, in their eyes, is perfectly sane, normal, and righteous. It’s a proper response to people who are demanding a better community.

There’s no nuance to masculinity. Recognizing the root causes of this behavior is kinda important if we want to be able to do something about it. We can’t be reactionary, waiting to respond only after the fact. We have to accept that these people are among us all the time and all they need is some event to provoke them. So why not think about why we see this behavior and talk about how we can foster better models of masculinity? This is a problem only mean can solve, because we are the problem.

Solutions

Let’s whip out the ole spellbook on this one.

spellbookOf particular relevance to recent events are Counterspell, Awareness, and Reinforcement. Show your support to people being targeted. There’s always the risk that those same people may retaliate on you, but how is that different than any other day? Those of us demanding a better community have to expect a certain amount of flack for standing up. All the same, know your own limits and give self-care as much priority as taking a stand. Only you know where that line lies and only you, in any given moment, can determine if it’s the best time and place to put yourself at risk.

I’ve been asked to help build an activist group for gamers. The basic idea is that gamers need a place to turn to, a refuge against the hate. We also desperately need a gamer friendly place to get useful information about social issues and pool our contributions to social justice. More on that another time, but if you’re interested in organizing and doing more for this community let me know.

Advice for men in particular:

  • Listen. This is the single most important thing for you to do in the sexism debate. Yes we have feelings. Yes we have things we want to say. But we have to first understand and we can’t do that if we’re too eager to speak.
  • Follow. Read up the issues to give yourself greater context. It’s really not enough to pay attention to the singular incident. The more you know about the wider issue, the better you can respond to any specific one. Follow people who usually have that information or who can help you access it.
  • Care. Give a damn. Never let the fact that REAL people’s lives are literally being devastated by this hateful behavior, whether you believe it or not. Let compassion be your first response to people who feel attacked.

You’re Invited to Community Gaming

Consider this your invitation to join me in the games I play. There’ll be games we have in common and there will be games we’ll simply exchange experiences about. Right now, I just want to make the announcement and see how many of you still love your games as much as you say you do.

Civ Nights

My wife and I have decided that I need one evening a week to spend relaxing over a battle of strategy. She’s tired of me dragging her into my culture wars in Civilization 5. And to be truthful I’m tired of her warmongering.

Thus the idea for Civ Sundays was born. Each Sunday evening (PST/Los Angeles) I’ll turn on my friends list and begin a round of Civ. You’re all invited. As we can see each other on Steam, on Sunday nights you’ll know exactly what I’m up to. For multiplayer rounds we’ll lay out some rules and determine how epic or quick we want the match to be. I’ll post recaps of each match just to share my gaming habit with you. For those of you who’ve played this with me, please be sure to tell everyone else what a pleasure it is to share a Civ map with me 🙂 You can find me on Steam by clicking this link or just join the NBI Steam group where most of us can be found hanging around when we’re online.

Cook Off

I see my enthusiasm for the kitchen arts has caused some of you to begin playing Cook, Serve, Delicious ….and so we must celebrate with a feast! Record yourself cooking your favorite and worst menus, then simply post them on Youtube, your stream or your blog to share it. Share your progress! Likewise, I’ll post a challenge menu for the community on occasion so we can have some fun with it. Right now I’m in New Game + which is horrifying, or extra fun depending on how you look at it. Meet me there and share your cooking journey with the rest of us.

For awesome game recording software use Open Broadcaster. It’s open source, free, and easy to use.

Casual Replays

I’ve got some other casual indie-type games in my library that I want to play more of. I’ve found these games fun in the past, but for reasons unknown have stopped playing them. It’s time to resurrect these gems and share them with you!

  • Volgarr the Viking
  • Dungeon of the Endless
  • Cubetractor
  • Transistor

This list will likely grow or just change over time, but right now these are games I want to play more of so I’ll be recording my sessions and posting the videos here for your mockery. If you have a game you’d like me to play, let me know. These replays will be me failing and flailing at these games and I’ll try to do some modest editing to keep the videos interesting, short and to the point. I don’t want these to turn into long LPs, but to give you a taste of what it’s like to watch me struggle through a good game.

Game Guys That Straight Guys Would Date

So back in like February I watched a video by Smosh Games on their “Why We’re Single” series – a super awkward video for the clearly uncomfortable, straight guys in it – where they talk about male game characters that they would date. It was a funny video, but also really interesting to see how these men picked their dates.

But before I talk about their choices, let’s talk about mine. That only seems fair, right? What male game characters would I go on a date with …

…its taken me months to come up with these names, not because it’s so damn hard, but I had truly never considered this. And now I’ve been considering it ever since I saw this video. The more I thought about it the more it made absolutely no sense that I hadn’t asked myself this question before. Why? Because I’ve definitely had conversations with friends, usually when sitting together around a party game or some similar situation, about guys we think are attractive. It isn’t an uncommon thing to talk about among men. More on the homoerotic overtones of male bonding another time.

Adan looked something like this. Those eyes!

Adan looked something like this. Those eyes!

So who? Who would I go out with? This may seem a little vain, but I’d date the character I made in Dragon Age Origins. He was a rogue, dual daggers. What I liked about him was that he wasn’t afraid to tell people to fuck off, but he was also the most risk taking best friend my party could ever have. If anyone was in a tight spot, Adan would switch plans in a heartbeat for them. I’m a sucker for loyalty. For those wondering, Adan was a brown-skinned male at about 200 lbs, with short dark hair and brown eyes. I wish I had a screenshot of him, but I bought this one on Xbox 360 and I don’t have the machine any more to pull pics from.

Shadowrun-DragonfallThat’s an easy one though. What about other characters I haven’t made? Dietrich from Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall.  I like how he carries himself like a wisened veteran, he’s super loyal, and his attitude is awesome. I also think the shamanic runes on his skin look pretty hot. He also strikes me as someone fun and cool to hang out with. I really enjoyed his company while playing the game.

prisonerPrisoner Johnson in Prison Architect is growing on me as well. His story makes me want to give him a hug.

The Smosh Game hosts’ picks weren’t any more interesting than mine, really. But that shouldn’t be surprising to any of us. We’re all a little weird when it comes to attraction. What I found interesting was how they made their choices.

ezio-assassinscreed2-4Lasercorn picked Cloud from Final Fantasy because he’s a great fighter, he dressed-up “convincingly” as a woman once and he’s got an airship. He also picks Ezio from Assassin’s Creed pretty much because he’s a well-equipped fighter and he’s smooth with the ladies. He talks about how Ezio would take him out to any restaurant he wants. He picks his dates based on how successful they are and also sees himself as assuming a traditionally feminine role in the relationship (where Ezio does the pursuing and wines and dines him).

Nathan-DrakeSohinki picks Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series and very shyly tells us that Nathan Drake is hot (“no homo”). He admits he likes cuddling and Nathan seems like he’d be a great cuddler. He also picks Prince of Persia …because Jake Gyllenhal plays the prince in a movie and Jake is hot! He picks his dates based on how they look and how good they are romantically (kissing and cuddling). I really got a kick out of him picking an actor over the character itself. Nice touch.

poisonJovenshire picks Poison from Street Fighter strictly for her looks. He calls her a he/she the entire time he describes how attracted he is to her body. He also picks Snow from FF13 because he thinks Snow kinda looks like a cute girl. Jovenshire picks his dates based pretty strictly on how they look.

I think the video’s great and if you haven’t seen it, entertain yourself. It’s funny and it’s guys being as honest as they’re able on a show that airs to a large internet audience. I think they did pretty good with it, but even I felt awkward seeing how awkward they felt about making these choices. There are some problematic things going on in the video for sure, but overall I took it as guys trying to have an interesting, if awkward, conversation about homosexuality. And for where they are with this in their personal lives, they did great.

If you were to date a game character of the same sex, who would you pick and why?