Thursday, January 7, 2010

I turn to the crowd as they're watching, they're sitting all together in the dark, in the warm

GlaDOS as Venus? It's a theory.

Meet Pun-Pun, the single scariest creature in D&D.

Via William Gibson, finder of so many intriguing things, comes an article from the Ladies' Home Journal, circa 1900, predicting events a hundred year hence. I'm surprised how close they came.

Someone really needs to update the ISC page on the Caledon Wiki. Just sayin'.

Pixels & Policy comments on what happens to virtual goods upon the owner's death. And true, there's no specific law for individuals, though I do remember two times in my history when the death of someone else directly affected me, in terms of property.

First, was the idiot vampire prince, who died through fraud. Though I had my home set to his sim, and had, in fact, decorated his house with my belongings, when he died, the sim owners erased his house and sent everything back. This was my first brush with the 'fire-and-forget' method of sim cleaning, and it was shocking at the time.

Second, of course, was Sumie Kawashima, whose RL family dedicated a virtual executor for her estate. What could be passed on, or what was under individual names, was, quietly and without fanfare.

Was it legal, in terms of what the current laws regarding the metaverse say? Not sure, though in a head-to-head legal challenge, probably not. Was it ethical, however, and morally responsible? Yes. And to that end, I look forward to laws--or at least, guidelines--developed for such instances.

Sort of on the heels of that--considering Sumie died from a deep bone infection--scientists have now discovered how to graft specially-treated rattan wood onto bone. If the sheep survive the process--and to date, none of the test herd has rejected the implants out of hand--then within a few years, we could see implanted rattan-wood bones for people who've lost bone mass, with little risk of rejection, retaining the strength of original bones.

So very very close...yet another dollop of sadness, but still.

Runes of Magic is further narrowing how diamonds can be used. Believe me, they're trying to pimp the cards, because the cards are supposedly "safer"; I get that, and I don't mind the diamond cards. I use the diamond cards; in fact, that nifty translucent mount we all got for the game? Came from a diamond card.

But it's still irritating. I buy diamonds, I'm putting money on the line for in-world funds, which cannot, thereafter, be translated back into cash. I want to know I can gift them, if I wish to; trade them in the Auction House if I want; I don't want or need restrictions like this.

"[T]his fantasy of being under constant siege by a multitude of external feminizing forces is really an unconscious defense that is employed to keep out of mind something even more disturbing - an identification with women."

The whole article is telling, but wau, that bit just leapt out and hit me. Only two years ago, Cory-at-the-time-Linden said there was, on average, 45% of all players in SL being biologically female, and 50% "playing as" female--and most of us at the time thought, yeah, the 'playing as'? That's higher than you think.

"I can tell you a million personal experiences of me covering this industry as a woman where people are just clearly freaked out by the fact that you're a woman but you're not a booth babe," Heather Chaplin commented in the article, and I believe her. I'm not going to go for the obvious and say there's a retrogression in gaming, of wanting to make females both accessible and minimized, but a woman executive in the gaming industry is still treated as something of a puzzle.

Take Team Fortress 2, for instance, my current obsession--there are no female characters in the game. There are no female voices in the game. It practically drips testosterone as if it's an engine for the stuph.

Had at least one female designer on the game. Who was a designer on the game because she liked the game, because she wanted to play that game, because she wanted to code and design that game. It's not an all-male industry anymore, and it hasn't been for some time, yet men are still somewhat shocked to discover women like to play games.

"Our secular culture produces all kinds of fear, including fear of the female anatomy," said Janet Jakobsen. And I believe that, too, I know that one. Fear of the feminine goes way back. Shub-Niggurath, the Goat with a Thousand Young, is presumed to be female, and when described at all is described as a dripping, oozing, fatally fecund presence. Fast-forward to Starship Troopers--at least, the movie version--and the "big bad" at the end is the Brain Bug, who--when defeated--is shown tied down while a group of men shove a sharp probe deeply into its...let's just say "mouth" and not go farther.

And Silent, the entire game is pretty much Man Faces the Monster--and the Monster is, variably either female, neuter with female attributes, or male intent on hurting females. From Silent Hill comes Miniaret, the Nurses, what can only be described as a femipede...and that's without going into the horrors of the film version, where the evil mastermind behind the world's ills is female, ruthless, insane--and gets raped to death by barbed wire at the end.

"It is not that there's something pathological about being male," Ducat said in The Wimp Factor. "Rather, the problem is the psychological cost of developing a male identity in a culture that disparages the feminine and insists that the boundaries between the masculine and the feminine remain unambiguous and impermeable."

I'd agree with that, too. There's a lot going on, in the Western world, at least, that's very conflicting. Men are told to prize women--and then told that women have no worth. Men are told to be strong, to take control, to dominate--and then told that that dominance doesn't matter, won't matter, and is, in large part, a joke. Men search for an identify as men and are offered examples of men that vary from gay and celibate, to sociopathic, as role models. And on top of that they're told gender should play no part, and everyone should be equal.

It's no wonder men are confused. In this light, it's easier for women to develop an identity on their own--we're told we're weak, emotional, and without worth, but that's both easy to incorporate and move past, as well as easy to reject to search out new paradigms. I'm not saying men don't do this as well, but I do think we put more pressure on growing men, and it's not surprising that their heads spin, trying to process it all.

"If you could kill male prostitutes in the game, then it would be different, but you can only kill female prostitutes," Samhita Mukhopadhyay said. "It's clearly a fantasy. This is not the real world, and you have the right to fantasize about what you want to fantasize about. I'm more interested in what informs that fantasy. It's not coming out of nowhere."

It's not, and it is interesting to note that fantasies of destruction pervade a lot of countries' darker corners. The film Hostel, Eli Roth's tribute to snuff, has been censored in several countries, and it's been both critically acclaimed and lambasted for its subject content.

It's uncomfortable to think about what births these fantasies of vaginal gore and dominance through aggression. We argue that Chaplin is wrong because not all men are the way she says. Mukhopadhyay is wrong because there is so much more to GTA IV than sex and killing hookers. But making these observations is not an all-or-nothing statement.

And that's true, too. They're not saying all men are "bad", all men will destroy before preserve; ostensibly, this is about the fear of the female overall in online and console games. But it does make an impact when, time after time, men are shown a protagonist that is female and that tries to kill them, or shown a female that is obviously weak and frail, and then told either to protect her (with the game rigged for the player to fail), or to kill her (to gain achievements down the line).

I think, overall, games have gotten better in the past few years, both for female gamers, and the industry at large. Ten years ago a game like Portal--with a female antagonist and protagonist, a game somewhat drenched in estrogen, in a sense--would never have been made. And I think it's a good step forward that it has been, and that Portal is pretty standard in terms of FPS gameplay. It's centered on the feminine, but the only pink hearts in the game come from the Companion Cube--who never talks, and interacts only to the extent that it can be lifted and carried, and subsequently dropped.

We have a long way to go, sure. But I don't think more 'female-positive' games will really do the trick. I think we need to figure out why we're raising our children with these expectations, and change those expectations for them. The rest of us are dinosaurs, at this point, men and women alike. It's their world.

Let's see what games they come up with in ten years.


Anonymous said...

For whatever it's worth, that's the largely moribund Second Life Wikia, not the Caledon Wiki.

Emilly Orr said...

Ah-ha! I wondered. It seemed more dated than I recalled on my last trip through the Cal-Wiki, and now I know why.

Fogwoman Gray said...

Emilly Orr said...

Waiiiit, so now we have the ISC wiki and a Steamlands wiki?


Anonymous said...

As it turns out, there's just one of those... the Caledon Wiki morphed into the Steampunk Wiki last August. (Presumably both to widen its focus, and to keep it from being considered an official Caledon site.)

Emilly Orr said...

Tch, I'm behind the times.

Right, then, I need to update my code! :)

Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

Ditto the Caledon Forums. Is now the Steamlander Forums.

I don't think anyone has touched the SL wiki since Caledon started its own one about 3 years ago.

Emilly Orr said...

I did figure that one out, and amusingly enough, the Steamlander forums still show up in Google after searching "Caledon forums", so it all works out.

Icterus Dagger said...

For anyone that might be put in the position of a "virtual executor," I will say it will be a major source of stress and fraught will all manner of trouble. The fact that it would be flagrant violation of SL's TOS doesn't help matters at all.

But what's *right* and what's legal don't always coincide.


Emilly Orr said...

No, which is why--for now--such things must be done quietly.

But, independent of legality, yes, massive stress and confusion for everyone concerned. The single most shocking thing after Sumie passed on happened at the small impromptu wake that was called in Tamrannoch. A lady ported in--to this day, I can't remember her name--and was very, very confused. She said she was supposed to meet Sumie there, that Sumie was her mentor, and she hadn't heard anything.

For all of us, the stress of telling her that Sumie was no more? Was further heightened when she said we were lying to her--practically screamed at us that we were--and ported off. Because, really, how do you tell someone in a virtual world that someone else has died? How do you really know? And how do you get across to someone else what they manifestly don't want to hear?

But what's *right* and what's legal don't always coincide.

Rarely. In this, as in so many other things.

Candy said...

That was me, Miss Orr.

Sumie was my best friend and mentor. She had always been talking about Caledon and the people and places there.

We used to meet either over the Sanitorium at her sky garden or in Nevi and Avendale (Mystical Cookie's sims). She was teaching me how to build, script and interact with people in SL.

I very rarely come in-world at night or weekends. I had met with her the Thursday morning before she died and decided to meet her after the weekend in the evening, as my RL partner was away on business.

The TP point was near a pub, if I recall, when I arrived in Caledon Tamrannoch. Shocked is too mild a word for it. I wasn't accusing anyone of lying. I remember asking if it was a sick joke. It was just too incredible to bear. I apologize for my behavior in that.

I logged out for a bit to get my bearings and came back to find out what the hell had happened, all the while in a daze. I was messed up for months afterward.

Mr. Drinkwater made me a Caledonian right then and there, which is something Sumie had wanted since we met. I was so comfortable in Avendale I felt there was no need.

I still rarely came to Caledon after that, until almost all my friends there "found" WoW and all but vanished from the grid.

I know Sumie loved you, Miss Orr, and you too, Mr. Dagger, very much.

-Candy (Incandescent Ember)

Emilly Orr said...

I remember now. It may have been "You're wrong!" rather than "You're lying!"--I confess, at the pub we were all so far tilted, that entire night was hazed with pain.

The one thing I do know--that everyone Sumie touched, she touched deeply. All of us.

Candy said...

I should clarify, my Avendale friends left for WoW and I had just submitted a note to the Governor for citizenship a few days prior.

It's a bit difficult to remember through the haze barrier I have put in my mind.


Emilly Orr said...

I understand, believe me. I've lost more than a few friends to the WoW lands. :)