Thursday, April 26, 2012

an ancient grand hotel of Persian thread and ivory

So, there's been a lot of heat and pressure around female gamers lately. Not just female game characters (that's from 2011, but seriously, with TERA Online, it still stands), but actual harassment of female gamers. I've watched some of the source footage, and read some of Super__Yan's Twitter feed, and the entire thing is just appalling, start to finish.

(from the media album)

But there's something that was pointed out in response to something Miss Pakozdi said. I quote:
@Super__Yan the entire time you were giggling and enjoying the attention. someone mentions harassment and not until then do you complain?
For those who don't know, there's some socializing and psychology behind this, and it all comes down to male vs. female perception and reaction. To wit:

Males will laugh when:

  • happy 
  • amused 
  • angry 

These laughs will generally be perceptively altered so that a happy laugh sounds happy, an angry laugh sounds angry. This is the way most males are trained to react.

Conversely, females will laugh when:

  • happy 
  • amused 
  • nervous 
  • embarrassed 
  • angry
  • hurt 
  • confused 
  • fearful 

Why? Because we are trained to, by our mothers, by media, by women around us. We are overwhelmingly trained that our first response to something that makes us uncomfortable should not be stand up for ourselves and say that--it should be to laugh, and smile, and play it off as if it's not something that is embarrassing us, or discomfiting us, or angering us, or even scaring us. This, I think, is what most males cannot seem to grasp.

Much of the heat that landed firmly on this lady's shoulders was because of how she reacted to Aris Bakhtanians' comments to her--live, on the air, on a site streaming such content out to the internet at large.

Here's another problem that I don't think is being adequately understood--while I believe strongly that Aris was simply a jerk beyond all reason, for the most part he can--and does--honestly claim that it wasn't him, it was the live chat alongside the gaming stream to which he was reacting.

While the "fighting game community", or "FGC" as it's now being called, has never really lacked for abusive behavior, this should be well understood--most of what he said to Super__Yan was simply repeating and reading off what the chat was typing at the time. Asking for her bra size--that didn't come from him, that came from the chat. Deciding to rise from his chair and "smell" her--that didn't come from him, that came from the chat. Offering to buy a skirt for her, so camera shots could be zoomed in on her bare--and presumably spread--legs, that was a suggestion from the chat.

What I'm saying here is pointing all our ire at Aris himself does nothing to fix the larger problem, which is the incredibly racist, abusive, horrific things a lot of male gamers spew on a daily basis--on voice, in chat, in person. I want to be clear, here--it's not Aris himself we should single out, it's the entire male gaming culture where this kind of abuse is considered okay.

Worst of all, there's this attitude in a lot of game blogs where this incident was concerned--most well put on the Sonic Hurricane blog, where the author tells us that anyone can be a "stream monster", it just happens.
As Extra Creditz asks, why does it just happen? Why can't we stop it? Why can't we shut these idiots down, and make online gaming welcoming to anyone, not just the racist bigots who want to slam anyone who's not them--women, gays, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, transsexuals...I agree: this is not right. And it needs to stop.

Meanwhile, in the world of quantum mechanics, something many of us have long suspected has turned out to be true--namely, that simply making the decision to change the state of a photon changes its state under early observation, before the experiment. The only way this doesn't happen? Is if the later experiment does not change the state of the photon in question.

In this case, cause is preceding effect. Me personally, I'm fascinated by that.

Also, Minecraft's hit the world of textile patterning in a huge way. Is it a sad thing that now I want to track down who made what and make plans to acquire it? Well, some of it. I don't think I could live with the chair...

And I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the Digital Twin concept, originally discovered on NWN. Granted, there are programs collating all of our data online anyway, that's not the part that bothers me. (That djinni is long out of the bottle, frankly.) Instead, what worries me is the concept of teaching it through random interactions:
You can interact with this Pet You - ask it questions, push it around, introduce unexpected elements like warm apple pie or a swarm of bees.
Yeah, that way lies madness, believe me. I know this, because I used to play Sims, and there was always that great temptation to build a deep swimming pool, watch my Sims go swimming, then remove the diving board. Or usher them all in to a small room with two fireplaces and watch them burn.

While I do on occasion consider myself a cruel person, that line being uttered in such an uninvolved, matter-of-fact tone speaks to a larger subset of behavior. While we may not do terrible things to a baby (at least, those of us who have a strong ethical base), would we automatically do terrible things "just for fun" because it's a digital creation? Because it's been classified as "not us" from the start?

In that case, does that explain some of the horrifying things that happen in SL? Because it's "just a game"? Because it's not like anyone really cares what happens to their avatar, right?

Except we do.

More from New World Notes: a brief glimmer of a larger problem at the very end of this article on the prevalence of linked SLUrls on blogs and websites. I link SLUrls frequently on the blog, so discovering those user metrics are so lo is making me ponder whether or not I should continue to offer SLUrls so people can visit. However, that's not the larger problem mentioned. The problem, in a nutshell, is that seventy percent of all SL residents never leave their home location.

They don't go to clubs. They don't shop in-world. They don't go to events. They don't port around the grid in any way. They just stay home.

While I understand that, generally--you have a home you spent time and/or Lindens to decorate and acquire, you want to enjoy that home; possibly with your SL spouse/your partner/your SL family/your clan....whatever. I do understand that.

But, that paired with the overwhelming catastrophe of the Marketplace coding, means there are seventy percent of residents, on average, that now can't go online to buy things and have them delivered. If they never go walking around, flying around, teleport to various sims, drive or boat or swim away from their homes...and Marketplace no longer works...seriously, how long is it going to be before they figure, screw SL, they'll just go back to IMVU? Or set up a new account in the first place?

Also from New World Notes: the somewhat astonishing fact that Linden Lab will not be involved in a Second Life ninth year anniversary celebration. This just confirms what I've said many times on the Train Wreck--Linden Lab as an entity no longer cares about community in Second Life, and is now refusing to sponsor anything that doesn't make them direct cash. Which is a) depressing as hell, and b) explains why they're targeting the sims and businesses featured on the Destinations page (many of which subsequently get featured on the log-in screen)--it's not that Linden Lab is ethically advocating those businesses, sims, and clubs; it's just that those sims, businesses and clubs directly pay them Lindens, through tier fees, advertising, or more direct interactions. While I still don't think you have to be a huge business to get linked, you have to have a lot of traffic, or a lot of virtual acreage, to get linked.

Couple more things from New World Notes, since this seems to be turning into a clip entry, over another Minecraft entry. I disagree with Daniel Kaplan's assertion that there are more males playing Minecraft than females. Why? Break it down: not every woman will "like" a Facebook fan page for a game, nor will they automatically interact constantly on Mojang's Twitter feed. Females as a rule also won't plunge into cooperative multiplayer server worlds (at least, for the most part).

What they will do is purchase the game, download it, pick out a non-Steve skin, and play in single-player mode. Planting orchards, getting pets, farming, building incredible structures, discovering the world. I think there are a great number of female Minecraft players; they're just not players that have a desire to interact with the bulk of the online (male) gaming community.

Minecraft gives them the gaming experience without the "tits or GTFO" mentality that established online communities (Eve Online, SW:ToR and its predecessors, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and every other FPS on the planet, seemingly...even Team Fortress II falls into this on occasion) seem to develop, because of the aforementioned small-minded men in those established gaming communities. And isn't that a good thing? I'm not saying every woman on the planet has to eschew shooting games, military games, survival horror games--if it's what they like to do, they should feel they have a right to play. We're no longer in that Farmville-or-nothing world; there's a lot of games out there for everyone to play.

But seriously, if a woman's already feeling excluded from the gaming world, Minecraft just reinforces that--if she's going to be alone anyway, and not interacting with the social aspects of the games she likes, then hell--why not be alone virtually, too? She'll still get to kill things, she'll still get to stake her claim, make her home, scavenge for materials. She just doesn't have to do it while the men around her are either asking for pictures, calling her a bitch, or telling her girls can't play these games, and to just leave before she stinks up the place. That kind of continual, dunning pressure--as Super__Yan rightly points out--is deeply damaging to our self-esteem and our sense of self-worth.

And it shouldn't be this way. But since it is...yeah, I think Minecraft is a great alternative for female gamers, hands down.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the Google metrics for SLURLs... it seems to me that that approach would miss some (perhaps most?) of the traffic from them. I never click on SLURLs directly from the Web; I cut'n'paste them into my SL viewer and use them there. The client treats them as landmarks without going to an outside website. Google won't track that.

Regarding the statistic that 70% of active SLers don't leave home... while it's a startling statistic, I think it's not quite as bad as it looks at first glance.

(1) The exact statement we're given is "Only 30% of active SLers explore the Second Life grid on a regular basis." Exactly what "actice SLers," "explore," and "a regular basis" mean seems open to question; I'm not sure it wouldn't exclude those who do the occasional in-world shopping spree but mostly stick to one club.

(2) It's also not clear to me whether it's always the *same* people in the 70% or 30% category at any given time. If people can move from one group to the other, then this ends up equating to "people explore SL in only 30% of their sessions." Which actually doesn't strike me as that unreasonable? Especially given the next two points...

(3) I tend to agree with Hamlet in one regard: this likely includes many avatars who regularly stay at one club or other social hangout. I certainly know people that would apply to.

(4) I think the other thing being ignored here is that most avatars in SL are alts or bots. Heck, I've got four, though probably only one (besides me) is an "active SLer" these days. (Though it's hard to be sure without a definition.) It would not surprise me if these were more likely to stay put.

All of that having been said, I will grant that I do much less exploring than I once did. I'm not sure that has anything to do with platform issues so much as my just getting boring and set in my ways...

(Also, if you can read this, then the captcha worked fine this time.)

Emilly Orr said...

Yay for the captcha working!

I think you're right on both the Google metrics, and the never leaving make some very good points, and I'm not sure they're points that have been considered. Though I still think that even if you have someone who's parked in a club at all hours (at least, when online)...there would still be times where things aren't happening, and they're idly surfing the web, or perusing Marketplace for new deals.

And with Marketplace still deeply fubared, that's going to get old real quick.

I tend to discount the alts/bots angle too, mainly because while most bots always stay in one place, most alts are counted as independent operatives, which I still think should be reevaluated.

I think I still do a fair amount of exploring the grid, but it will be in big single sessions--I'll take one log-in and wander for four hours, then for the next eight days, whenever I log in, I'm pinioned in my skybox, never moving, barely interacting. So I can definitely see his point. I guess what we really should be considering is not how do those of us who've been in world longer than four years behave, but how do new residents (new-that-day to, say, one year) behave? Knowing that might tell the Labs more about how their platform is being used by those oh-so-vital new eyes. (To their way of thinking, at least.)