Four Reasons Why I Won’t Boycott PAX

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Why this geek won’t Boycott PAX

2013 wasn’t a particularly good year for Penny Arcade, Inc’s image. After a relatively peaceful  PAX-East and flagship PAX-Aus, there was another Dickwolves flair up that got sparked again at PAX Prime, and the ensuing fallout was pretty intense.

There are lots of people, former and current fans alike, who are asking for a community-wide call-to-arms to put a stop to these sorts of abuses, but how exactly to do so is hotly debated.

Many are calling for a full-blown boycott of PAX, while others are going for a larger presence and awareness campaign at-event.

I’ve chosen, for now, to be a part of that later camp. Which is in no way saying that those who choose to boycott are wrong, the same way those who were hurt, angered, or otherwise affected by some of what’s gone down but still choose to go are not wrong.  There are different ways to go about this situation, and I thought I’d share my reasons why I chose NOT to boycott.

Reason #1) Financially, it says little.

I know I said that there’s really no “wrong” or “right” in the choice of whether or not to boycott the events – financially is one area, however, where I feel there is a much straighter answer. Many feel that by boycotting we hit them where it hurts – in the wallet. Theoretically, a great idea. Realistically, not so much. With PAX tickets selling out faster and faster with every year, it’s almost impossible to imagine a drop in attendance, ever, even if every single person who opposed even one thing that PA has said or done decided not to go. Our spots would be filled instantly. PAX is, in my opinion, too large a beast to be culled by finances alone at this point. And unfortunately those of us who felt wronged or offended by what’s happened are far outnumbered by those who either don’t care, don’t even know, or are totally on the other side of the fence. By not going, I only open my spot to someone who is much more likely to be in one of those groups than not. Which leads me to point #2

Reason #2) My presence says more than my absence Continue reading

Why Blackface in Cosplay and Costume Appropriation Sucks

So I stumbled upon a post on Tumblr that garnered a lot of negative attention recently in regards to blackface in cosplay, and it (understandably) sparked quite the argument.

Also, halloween is coming and so the controversial “we are a culture, not a costume” issue gets tossed about a lot as well. I wanted to talk about these issues in the most objective, straight-forward way possible.

Cosplay blackface and racist costumes are a big problem. Here’s why.

cosplay-brownface-blackface-problemFirst off I think it’s problematic that the reaction is always “OMFG U RACIST GO FUK URSELF” and never an explanation. Yes, you might argue that in this day and age people really ought to know better, but you know what? They don’t. People are raised ignorant and privileged – even I, as a hispanic, was unaware of many of these issues growing up and even well into adulthood. I was thankfully educated (kindly) by my peers. It came in waves.

Now, you’d think something like the subject of racial appropriation (and especially black face) is obvious. But it’s not. There are still many people out there who don’t get it. And even worse there are people who bounce back rhetoric (omg, black face is racist!) but couldn’t tell you why. They just say it because they know it’s bad and they want to seem worldly and understanding. But you have to know why, too. Not only so you can be more aware but so you can explain to those unaware in a better way than “omg, you’re disgusting”.

 
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So really, what is appropriation and why is it a problem?

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HBO’s “Girls” Review – How one girl made her Mary Sue fic into an award-winning series.

HBO Girls Review

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Living the dream, one mistake at a time.

And never actually facing the consequences of those mistakes, because entitlement.

Oh, Girls. This is definitely one of those shows that you either love or hate – there’s little in-between and I feel as though the general public feels the same given the vasts amount of both praise and criticism it’s received in the media. Well, I pretty much hate it. I admit I only managed to get halfway through season 2 before I was so appalled I had to stop, but from what I gather not much has changed since.

I first heard about the series on Tumblr as I follow several social issue bloggers, many of whom are women of color who were unhappy with an all-white cast in a setting that should be profoundly more diverse. I shrugged it off as something I would probably never watch, since I’m more a fan of fantasy and sci-fi anyway. But curiosity got the best of me – after Lena got showered with awards and seemed adorkable and humble, I decided I wanted to give the show a shot.

Talk about mistakes.

So why is it so popular / what does it do right?

I’ll start with the good. If we put aside the major issues I dive into below, the show is well written, funny, and does speak to a very key demographic of viewers, which is (begrudgingly) one of those things that lends itself to popularity in Hollywood.

GIRLS does sex-positivity fairly well, and I think that’s important. For some it might be a guilty pleasure, but for a lot of young girls struggling with society’s often harsh beat down of female sexuality, GIRLS takes it on in a more casual light. The main character likes getting some, and does so a lot.  Despite her own issues of self image and self worth, she is comfortable expressing her desire and enjoyment of sex, in all its awkward and uncomfortable glory. Likewise, the other girls on the show express different takes on sexuality, from Shoshana discovering it to Jessa using it as a shield for her own insecurities. It covers a lot of bases, and doesn’t shame the girls much (though I worry they don’t stress safety enough).

But mom, you need to fund me so I can follow my dreams.

But mom, you need to fund me so I can follow my dreams.

At times GIRLS also does female friendship fairly well, but it also fails on many other points. Whether or not this is a bad or good thing depends – realistic, yes, but sometimes the petty, competitive nature of female relationships is glossed over to acceptable a little too much.

It has moments that really funny, charming, and relatable. Despite how much I dislike the show, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t points where I did enjoy it, if just a little. Lena is definitely a good writer and a decent story teller.

But, the handful of good points about Girls is very much overshadowed by some serious problems.

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Penny Arcade Dickwolves Controversy – It’s not the dickwolves comic that’s the problem, it’s the subculture that got legitimized.

Penny Arcade Dickwolves Controversy

Now an unfortunate symbol of hate.

Penny Arcade Dickwolves Controversy

I’ll start by saying this – like many, many gamers, PA fans, and PAX regulars, I am more than desiring of this whole dickwolves fiasco to die down and go away. Many people have been hurt and an undeniable rift within our community has been widened. And despite Gabe’s very well written (and hopefully sincere) apology today, I am not confident it will, and for the very reason that I wish it would disappear – dickwolves have become the unintended symbol of a subculture that previously would have simply been filed away under “douche-bag central”, and has put a name and a “face” to the immense chasm of misunderstanding that exists between two groups of people within the gaming community.

Like many, I felt that the point of the comic was not about rape or rape victims – it was about a darkly humorous truth about MMO games. The concept was sound and not lost on me – the execution is where the controversy lies. A group of people were offended, or worse, hurt. Bad memories were triggered. There was an outcry of insensitivity and ignorance. That outcry caused an ugly backlash, and this war has been ongoing ever since.

I was not part of that group, so I was not personally affected by this and can’t speak to the feelings of those people. I however am not one to turn a blind eye to those who were. To say that our modern digital society and prevalent anonymity on the internet has lent to an increase of detachment and lack of empathy towards our fellow humans is just the tip of a very big, hulking iceberg true in Western society, especially the United States, that encourages self-entitlement.

And this right here is the very root and core of the dickwolves problem. 

We’ve been conditioned to be selfish, insensitive, and hang on the idea of “if this doesn’t affect me, then it’s not a problem.” You see this every day in politics, international relations, and the back and forth between the privileged and oppressed in countless situations. The gaming community, despite its roots in nerdy camaraderie, is not, and never has been, immune to this seemingly innate human problem. The issue of misogyny and clash of the sexes has spiked dramatically in the past few years as female gamers have increased in numbers, power, and strength. Knowing we have a larger network of support, we are no longer the “one girl” in the group of guys who is simultaneously fawned over and resented and too afraid to speak out against either. And as our numbers swell and our voices get louder, the status quo and fear of the “other” swells as well.

Penny Arcade Dickwolves Controversy The PA guys’ initial reaction and treatment of the situation is the outcome of this privilege and what turned what could have been a quick issue — gone in a few weeks with a simple apology — into a constant escalation of ridicule and harassment of victims and critics on BOTH sides.

Gabe was defending his art. I’m an artist, I get it. Gabe was angry at the harsh reception. He’s human, he’s allowed. We all get angry. But he is a figurehead of a community that is both large yet intricately intimate. To a lot of impressionable individuals who subscribe to hive-mind mentality, or simply look up to them, they are symbol of what is great and awesome about being a geek and a gamer. People take what they say and do to heart. Continue reading

Gaymer.org vs /r/Gaymers. Ready your weapons, ladies and gents. This could get ugly.

Well, this is a unexpected brewing war.

While browsing the League of Legends subreddit, I noticed that there’s a new sub–sub reddit for gaymers who play LoL. I found this extremely interesting, since the LoL community isn’t known for being the most open-armed group of people, so I went to check it out.

I was pretty disappointed to see the top thread being about the danger of a cease-and-desist summons over the term “gaymer.”

The summons comes from a fellow named Chris, creator of the website gaymer.org (which as of the time of this post, is curiously “account suspended”), who wrote an open-letter to the /r/gaymer community on reddit about his choice of action.

The reaction has been, unsurprisingly, negative. His site has been around for quite some time, and in his address he tried to garner sympathy by explaining how much blood, sweat, and tears has gone into his project and community. He has allegedly wordmarked the word “gaymer” and is trying to protect the brand that he’s built.

I gather he’s trying to sound worried about his site and the subreddit being mistaken for one another, as if the opinions of /r/gaymers might negatively affect his site. Or something. But I’mm not buying it. Sounds more like he’s not happy that searching the term gaymer results in the subreddit being top with his site second on the list (that could just be me, though.)

Truly, the term gaymer has been used for far longer than his site has been around. And I completely agree with the members in this community when they say he has no right to trademark an identity. That’s like trying to trademark the word “gay” or “GirlGamer” or what have you. It’s silly and uncalled for.

 I’m not too sure of the timeframe of this development; Gaymers subreddit posted their warning of the CAD at around  10 pm EST yesterday, Sept 9th, and the admin of Gaymer.Org posted his response (partially fueled by the initial nasty reaction he got) at 1pm EST today, Sept 10th.  So the fued is ongoing for the time being.

 It’ll be interesting to see how this develops. Honestly, I feel this guy should let it go. There’s nothing glorious about alienating or pissing off the very group of people he’s trying to support / cater to, and I guarantee if he gets his way, they are NOT going to be happy with it. I sure as hell wouldn’t be.

What do you guys think?

 

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Is the Assassin’s Creed film already starting out on the wrong foot with white-washing?

It was brought to my attention recently that there’s an Assassin’s Creed movie in the works, which got me a little more excited than I expected. The honest truth is I’ve played maybe two hours of the entire series (which I promise I’m hoping to change very soon). But it’s always intrigued me a ton; the whole idea of the Animus and past-lives, assassins, and the style and art of the game have totally drawn me in.

Even with little experience, I’m pretty stoked about the movie and will definitely be seeing it, especially considering Ubisoft’s allegedly firm stance on retaining creative control. Most of us gamers have been sorely let down by film adaptions of popular franchises, so it’s easy to be cynical on whether or not the film will be worth seeing. I’m hoping it will.

So here’s what I’m not too excited about: they announced the casting of Michael Fassbender apparently as a lead according to this article from  Variety. It’s specficially worded as:

“Michael Fassbender was our first choice” to play the franchise’s iconic hooded hero

That’s kind of a let-down, assuming they follow the games and that hero is Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, a very Syrian kind of guy.  It’s ironic to make such a casting and then conclude with these sentiments:

By controlling more of the creative through UMP, Ubisoft hopes it doesn’t wind up with another “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,”

Funny, since one of the biggest critisims was that film’s casting of predominately white actors.

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SOPA / PIPA, Fandoms, and the Entertainment Industry

I managed to spend about an hour at the NY/NJ Tech Group emergency meetup / protest yesterday. Listening to the very influential speakers and just the general chatter really got me thinking about what SOPA/PIPA means to me.

I’ve never been an angel. I was a huge pirate during my high-school / college years; at my most ignorant I’d brag at how many thousands of dollars worth of stolen content I owned.

But now, as a functioning adult and someone who’s hoping to break into an industry that is victimized by piracy (gaming, and art to an extent), I am doing my best to rectify those choices by paying for the content I enjoy as much as possible. I can thank Amazon, Pandora, Netflix, Steam and even iTunes for that. Through these websites I have discovered new shows, movies, games, music, books, and the like, all of which I am able to watch and enjoy knowing I paid for it or supported it legally.

Something of note, though: In my many years as a rabid fangirl of many franchises, I can say with upmost confidence that 90% of the time, discovering the series’ and artists that I currently love was through a method that would be considered illegal either by current or future “laws”. I think that stands true for a lot of people in my generation, and likely most in those after me. I can’t even tell you how many songs and artists I discovered from fan-made music videos on youtube or gaming streams. Or how many shows I got into because I saw them at a college meeting or a clip online. How many games I discovered playing on a friend’s account. How many old passions were rekindled because I ran into a great fanart or fanfic or an animated GIF.

Legislation like SOPA and PIPA would do nothing but hinder this process of discovery and the spread of quality entertainment. In fact, I believe it would cause the complete opposite by encouraging a shadier and perhaps more risky internet “black market” by  making content harder to discover and enjoy.

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September 11th, 10 years later. It still hurts.

It’s strange how 10 years can change things. Despite the impact 9/11 had on me and my family and the sad losses we faced, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel like a bad, distant dream these days. But as I began to write this months ago, everything came back to me. My heart raced and my eyes teared, because that day was all too real.

So this might be kind of long-winded, but, I thought it was worth writing as a reminder to myself and perhaps as a form of venting.

9/11/06, 5 year anniversary

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What Makes Us Human: Will AI ever fully replace the human mind?

The subject on what puts us on a different level from the countless other living things around us has been something humankind has debated for ages. We know we’re different. We know we’re special. But why? What is it that sets us apart from our animal counterparts? Why is it that we are the dominate species now and have been for thousands of years? What is it about our race that put us so far on top of the totem pole?

There are countless theories coming from as many sources, a good chunk of which are sometimes completely contradictory. Religious and scientific, personal and global.

I thought about it after reading an article from Deadspin linked by @Wired about how a robot apparently was able to write a better news story than a human. In the end, it isn’t particularly surprising that a program could create an automated report based on facts, data, and randomly interjected descriptive words. But it has people wondering; will human writers be replaced by robots? Is this the start of something we’ve seen way too many times in movies but coming eerily close to reality?

Everything evolutionary can be argued as an adaption for survival. Even some of the most beautiful displays mother nature has to offer have some sort of practical function. Attracting mates, pollination, camouflage. Very few creatures in the animal kingdom display a true creative flare; even less do it for no reason at all.

cogito ergo sum

Humanity’s ability to think creatively and innovate is what I feel TRULY sets us apart. There are still tons of other practical factors, of course. Our bodies’ efficient energy usage, for instance, as being bi-pedal helped us out-endure our prey. Advanced communication abilities. Our intelligence. And then we used tools to help us, we created machines to do what we couldn’t do ourselves, and we dominate the world to work for us. We were able to solve the problems that would otherwise have been our downfall. Irrigation allowed us to rely on plants for food, allowed us to become stationary and create communities. Domestication assured us we’d always have the meat or protection we’d need. This is both a blessing and a curse, but in the end it’s the idea of abstract thinking that I believe puts us ahead.

As an artist, I think the other large part of what makes us different is our ability to create for the sake of creation. At some point in our history, we started to draw pictures. Further down the line, the pictures no longer needed meaning. We create music, write stories, and express our emotions not for survival (although some may argue that in a therapeutic way, it is) but just because. We want to. It feels good. So we do it.

That’s what sets us apart from animals. But what about robots? What about AI?

Computers can do amazing things it’s almost frightening. They can even think, so to speak. Anything involving numbers and algorithms, formulas and facts, a computer can do better than most people. But what they cannot do, not yet anyway, is create. Not truly. Yes, we have robots who draw, but all that is really based on software with pre-set factors and/or  randomization at best.

It’s popular belief that the moment of eclipse when robots take over the world is when one can truly feel something real. Have an abstract thought, question existence, feel love or hatred. I wouldn’t disagree, however, I feel the pre-cursor to this evolution is when AI can truly create something new and beautiful and purposeless without being guided to do so by programing.  It’s a scary thought because while the idea of AI being able to think freely or feel emotion is a long-way off, their ability to be creative seems much closer to home and realistic. What if creation is the stepping stone to emotion?

I don’t know much about science or programming or AI, honestly. But I guess the whole human vs robot apocalypse isn’t so far-fetched after all. There still has to be a lot of factors to allow it to happen, of course. Free-thinking and creative software on its own can, at best, completely shut us out of the digital world. A social shock perhaps, yes, and westernized nations reliant on anything computerized will find themselves extremely vulnerable. But we still have the ability to go outside and farm ourselves food and hunt.

Svedka is turned on by the robo-pocolypse. You should be, too. Maybe. 

What the AI would need is the hardware (body) to function in, and manipulate its environment. It would also need a lot of bodies. Power in numbers, after all. Lastly, an unlimited power-source. So that’s the golden combination. Solar-energy powered self-thinking painterly robots en masse will be humanity’s downfall. One can only hope mercy is a part of that formula.

 

On Females and Gaming Stigmas

So I was browsing around the interwebs, and came across one of about 3000 articles tackling the subject of women in gaming, and how we are perceived as a consumers.

It actually didn’t make me want to kill myself:
http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=21940

This is always kind of a touchy subject, but it also sparks some interesting thoughts. I really like the way this writer explained her neutral view on things: why do companies think making games “female friendly” means having to cover them up more?

Don’t get me wrong, I think sometimes we have some extreme ridiculousness when it comes to female game characters.
Among some quick thoughts:


In retrospect, these girls make Lara Croft look saintly.

But is it that much different when Kratos runs around in a loin-cloth?

A lot of the places we see of the over-sexualizing of female characters in games also happens to be from our favorite nerd country, Japan. And while I don’t want to be the target of fanboy terrorism, cause I know some gamers hold Japanese games in high regard, but it’s also a reflexion of culture. Women in Japan are not as liberalized and independent as Americans are. And the way the Japanese deal with sexuality is a completely different story. Obviously, those cultural aspects are going to leak their way into their games.

I feel like American gaming definitely has come a long way. In fact, I feel like we never really had the issue with exploitation as badly as the Japanese have. Still, we do have to keep in mind that up until fairly recently the market was always geared to your 18-35 fan base. The companies have caught on that we ladies like games, too. But gearing games towards women doesn’t necessarily mean dumbing down the eye candy (it’s not like we don’t have our share of topless dudes to stare at), but more an education of the masses. Girls like games, we like the stuff in games that guys like. We like the bloodshed, kicking ass in combat, explosions and shooting zombies.

The issue is lots of people don’t realize that, and sometimes the guys expect or assume that we don’t. In return, a lot of the casual girl gamers themselves may not realize they would most likely also enjoy what makes a game tick, cause advertisements suggest it’s for guys. Sometimes, they don’t want to be open about it for fear of being poked fun at.

In retrospect, I also feel like guy gamers should take a step back and think “Is this really how I want the companies to feel about me?” The fact that catering to male fan base is assumed to be successful with lots of cleavage and bouncing boobs. I personally would feel super offended if game companies thought posting up a Brad Pitt clone with swords was supposed to make me want to buy a game. That could just be me, though, and it’s not JUST a gaming issue. Being in Graphic Design and dealing with advertisement, I would know. Sex sells.

I’ve always been open about being a chick online and in games, and I would defend myself to say it’s not for attention, but more a wake-up call to the people that, hey, girls play games, it’s not that big a deal. I hate special treatment, or comments in vent. Is it really that surprising? Really?

Helping boosts sales for the females is simply a matter of waiting it out and not making stupid assumptions. A growing up of the community is needed, but it’s already happening, so I think with time, that balance will come.

Random thoughts.
~Isa