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Wah wah wah poor me etc - Tactical Ninja

Aug. 22nd, 2013

09:11 am - Wah wah wah poor me etc

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Today I am feeling somewhat disheartened.


Yesterday, Bioware released the second Dev Diary video (read - promotional stuff to get fans excited) about Dragon Age: Inquisition. This was relevant to my interests *ahem* so I watched it. On face value, it's pretty exciting - I can see what they mean about taking a leaf from Skyrim's book, and I'm excited about what they are doing with the story and the choices you can make as a player. But.. where are the women? I looked, and could see absolutely no evidence of a female protagonist.

Don't get me wrong, I know there will be the option to play a female protagonist, but in the promotional material? Nada. There's even a section in the voiceover that goes:

"Creating the Inquisitor himself, it's really about creating your character and being the person that you want to be - be that an elf, or a dwarf, or a human. Mage, rogue, warrior. So you've really have a lot of choices.."

.. yet they don't mention the choice to play a woman, and they refer to the Inquisitor himself as the default. So yeah, you'll get to play a woman but in terms of telling the world about the game, we don't exist. I made this tweet about my concern:

@tatjna: "2nd #DAI trailer … Still no recognition of female protagonists. @bioware @dragonage @ea Step up please."

and got this reply:

@dragonage: "@tatjna @bioware @EA Don't worry, Wendy. We'll get there. :)"

Yes, the @dragonage account knows my name - he's the guy that rounded me up for the Bioware blog. It was nice of him to reply and acknowledge. It was less nice of the bro douchebag who misinterpreted my tweet to assume I thought there'd be no female protagonist at all and called me a fucking dumbarse and then linked me to pictures of female assets in the gamedev.

Meanwhile, on the Bioware Social Network, seems I'm not the only one who's noticed this omission. That link, by the way, has cut out all the bros going "I don't see a problem" and only shows the responses from the Bioware staff. As you can see there are differing viewpoints, but the general gist is that they acknowledge the frustration of being excluded yet again, but that the male concept art is done first (what they dont say is 'by default') and there's a bit of 'probably because marketing to the majority' in there too. And some linking to the one split-second showing of a female protagonist in the video and going "See? She's in there!" As if half a second of one somewhat androgynous-looking and therefore hard to spot female PC in the video makes it ok that we're excluded from the rest.

OK, I buy that, there will likely eventually be a promotional video that represents a female PC, but as usual the male is the default and we have to jump up and down about it (and take the flak for jumping up and down about it) in order to be recognised. And this is from a developer that is known for its inclusivity, and has developed a disproportionately large female fanbase because of it.

Now, that female fanbase seems to dominate in the area of creative endeavours that expand on the gameworld outside of the game. So far, the three artists who've been featured on the Bioware blog about fan art are all women. Fanfiction is written by mostly women. Cosplayers are mostly women. Fanvids seem to be mostly made by women. So there is quite a large culture of creativity and interest and endeavour attached to these games that is driven, by and large, by women - and this culture is one of the things that keeps interest up between game releases. I am already eyeing up the promo videos for costumes I want to make into reality, you know?

So anyway, fast forward to yesterday evening, and I still haven't heard back from Digital Nationz. "What is Digital Nationz?" I hear you ask. Well, it's a game expo that's happening in Auckland in late September, that's modelled on Pax and E3 styles - so there'll be LAN tournaments and new/developing playable game demos, XBoxOne and PS4 trials, workshops, talks, all the usual stuff. But there was no mention on their site of cosplay. Now, most large expos have a contest and/or a parade, and it usually gets a mention. It would be fairly safe to assume that cosplay will be a thing at DNZ as well, but since there is no mention of it on the site and no previous-year photos to check (it's in its first year), I wasn't sure, so I emailed them and asked because I would like to go, and I would like to take my newly-minted silly costume and prance about in it. It would add to the experience for me.

They ignored me.

So I tweeted them.

So far, they have ignored that too.

So I went to their Facebook page, where there's a Q&A. There's no mention of it there either - and I can't ask a question there because I don't have Facebook. I did note that the people talking there were almost entirely guys. Then I went to their Q&A forum on Gameplanet to see if it's mentioned there. And it seems that one of the hot issues among the forum denizens there is "Will there be booth babes?"

WILL.THERE.BE.BOOTH.BABES.

Seriously. The organisers dodged the question as long as they could, and then when pressed, said something vague about how it was up to the exhibitors but that the general trend has been away from that sort of thing and towards having devs there to talk to about game stuff.

It seems they are willing to answer questions about booth babes, but not about cosplay. And because every single forum about this topic seems to be dominated by guys, and because the people there are the sort of people who go on and on about booth babes, I don't feel welcome.

I mean, I could be completely wrong about this, maybe my question would be answered and nobody else would give me a hard time, but I can't help but think that because it's not mentioned on the site, because my direct asking has been ignored, because the FB page is a sausage fest and because the Gameplanet forum is full of guys that want to ogle booth babes, I'd end up regretting posting a question about such a 'girly' thing as cosplay. I am actually afraid to post my question in a forum with that culture. I am afraid that I'll be flamed because I'm interested in something that isn't FPS over LAN, even though booth babes aren't FPS over LAN either. That's apparently different and valid.

Dr Wheel suggested I create a generic sockpuppet called Pimply Teenager and ask my question, but by that time I was feeling so unwelcome in the gaming world that I was on the point of tears. Yes, I could be strong and brave and step forward and expose myself and take the risks because how else will women ever get a look in if we don't? But I've done that my entire life, I've been a gamer for 30-odd years and I'm still having to do this, and sometimes I just don't have enough chutzpah to face it. And that is even with me being the right sort of geek to fit right into what they are doing - a gamer who plays with wearable microcontroller art* for fun. I am also a middle aged woman who wants to cosplay and thus not the target demographic, and that was made abundantly clear to me yesterday.

And the sad part is this is really not a new thing. It's ongoing and the denial from the people who don't see a problem because they have never had to fight for inclusion is really, really disheartening.

*There is a workshop about this at the event.


And I still don't know if Digital Nationz will be cosplay-friendly. I could just assume it will be and go anyway, but:

a) Nothing that has happened so far has made me feel welcome at this event
b) I am very new to cosplay and therefore somewhat unsure of even how to go about it.

It would be nice to know there will be a bunch of other, more experienced people there that I could interact with, that would get what I'm trying to do, that would make me feel welcome and that I could form some sort of community with. I don't know this, so it seems I won't be going.

And thus, I am disheartened. This is emerging as freaking out about whether or not we'll be able to rent our house out, because I'm a rockstar at transference. We interview the tenancy management guy tonight. Please wish us luck.

[edit] I got a response from the DNZ people:

@DIGITALNATIONZ: "Hi Tatjna, our stance is simply "you can if you want", but there are no planned Cosplay competitions etc. Cheers ^JG"

So, I don't know.

Comments:

[User Picture]
From:rantydave
Date:August 21st, 2013 09:48 pm (UTC)

Cosplay

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I think cosplay, for women, involves dressing up and having (the aforementioned) pimply youth staring at your tits. But there may be some humans there too!
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From:tatjna
Date:August 21st, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Uh..

Cosplay for women involves creating a costume that represents a character that you'd like to emulate in some way (or just that you think looks cool), and then sharing your creation in public because you're proud of it.

My cosplay costume covers my entire body, including my hands - as do the costumes of most of the female cosplayers I know.

Your interpretation of what cosplay involves for women sounds more like a booth babe, to be honest. And the fact that you think cosplay for women is about getting your tits stared at is an example of the kind of subtle indication that women are not welcome.

You're right, there will be some humans there - but if even you come out with the tits thing, then I'm not convinced they'll be in the majority.
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From:rantydave
Date:August 22nd, 2013 01:22 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Um.

Yes. Exactly.

I'm not about to defend gamer culture. Apart from pre-teens working together to make their minecraft worlds safe from griefers. That's pretty cool.

And being 'covered' would seem the best way to go.

If my zero-talent sorry arse was any good at being creative I'd be into it (you could make a *great* carbon fibre batman). But whenever I try I end up looking like a five year old with a particularly poor dress-up box :(
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From:anna_en_route
Date:August 22nd, 2013 01:36 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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The best way to go would be for people to wear whatever they want and for everyone else to have their backs.

I don't cosplay at all but I've been really impressed by Gail Simone's take on Red Sonja and I would rather that people who shared that admiration could don a chainmail bikini without worrying about anything worse than wind chill.

Like I said elsewhere, there's a really positive movement within the community at large to try and make that happen.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 01:47 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Ha. I love that we both used Red Sonja and her chainmail bikini as an example.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:August 22nd, 2013 02:08 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Would you believe I had never really heard of her until Ms Simone started writing her?

A while ago I might have used her as example of everything that I did not like about certain aspects of fandom, but I was unpleasantly judgemental back then.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 02:11 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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I was introduced to her in the movie that was a spinoff from Conan the Barbarian in 1985. It was.. probably something that would make Old You quite judgey.

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From:anna_en_route
Date:August 22nd, 2013 02:18 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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yep...she was really really judgey...
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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 02:14 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Also, I should be embarrassed about getting this wrong - her bikini is actually scalemail.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:August 22nd, 2013 02:18 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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What is the difference if you don't mind me asking?
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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Chain mail is made with interlocking rings:



Scale mail is made using oval shaped 'scales' with points on each end, and a hole in one end that has rings threaded through it to join them all together in a pattern, thus:



I have learned quite a lot about the second. ;-)
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From:anna_en_route
Date:August 22nd, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Very cool thank you =)
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From:Will Marshall
Date:August 22nd, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Scale mail weighs more but provides +1AC
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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 08:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Where AC could mean either Armour Class or Air Conditioning in this context.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 01:43 am (UTC)

Re: Cosplay

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Interestingly, my costume is 'covered' because I chose my fandom with 'doesn't make women slay dragons in a chain mail bikini so 13 year old boys can wank over them' as one of the criteria.

So it has a flow-on effect. If the only costumes women have to choose from are revealing, then you get loads of scantily clad women (see also: Hallowe'en costumes in the US). The increasing level of recognition of women as people in the development of games has led to the option of being covered. As you're well aware, I'm not afraid of showing a bit of skin and can hold my own in those situations, but *shrug* the Regalia of Weisshaupt was way more interesting to make than a few wisps of wet-look vinyl for a Red Sonja style bikini.

One of the YoT's friends and his Dad are making Batman and Robin (Arkham City) costumes for the next Armageddon in Wellington. Maybe you could steal their design, scan it and 3D-print it!
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:August 21st, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC)
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I looked at the forum and I saw 3 people/messages asking about booth babes in 5 pages. While I recognize it's still a thing that can make women feel unwelcome, I also think that 3 people, on an internet forum, who were mostly ignored by everyone else, do not provide a good representation of the community that will be there.

Do you want to go to Digital Nationz for anything other than cosplay? You could perhaps take your gear with you, see what it's like, and wear it if it seems welcoming.

The other question is, what would make you feel welcome in a giant crowd of gamers? While I like gaming, I tend to avoid giant expos because queueing, expensive food/drink, and generally feeling like a number in crowd does not make me feel welcome and makes me feel like a tourist rather than an active participant. Which doesn't mean I wouldn't go, just why I've skipped things like Armageddon etc. in the past.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 21st, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
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Actually it's five mentions by four separate people. That's enough to make it a thing, and if you're a person who's already feeling sensitive about the boys' club mentality, it's enough to be really offputting. It may not represent the community, just like that one guy who's a dick to you at a rugby game doesn't represent rugby fans either - but I bet it makes you feel unwelcome.

There are quite a few things at DNZ I'd like to see - I'm pretty sure pixelbrid will be doing that microcontroller workshop for example. I'm intersted in the dev talks too, and while I'd like to play demos, I suffer quite badly from performance anxiety when playing in public* so I doubt I'd actually participate in any of that. I'd still like to have a look though.

In answer to your last question, two things:

1) I've never been to a large gaming expo before and so I've no idea if I'd enjoy that scene as a whole. I've been to other expos and been 'meh' about the crowds as long as I'm interested in the topic.
2) Part of why I wear costumes (remember, I'm new to cosplay but not new to the concept of dressing up for events) is because I'm inherently shy and the costume gives me a mask that I can wear to hide my insecurity, along with a way of being social because it generally makes people want to talk to me.

* Quite possibly because of a tendency in the past - distant past, not meaning you or anyone we know - for guys to try to tell me how to play, or assume I don't know how because I'm female, and to do things like try to take over what I'm doing. Consequently I get nervous and play badly, and then I feel like I'm reinforcing the stereotype and so I don't want to do that.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 21st, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
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I am also trying to weigh up the cost of going to Auckland and staying there for a weekend against what I'd get out of the expo without cosplay (or even with it for that matter given the lack of organised events in that area). It's quite an investment given the current financial upheaval in my life, and I'm coming out on the side of 'probably not worth it'.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:August 22nd, 2013 12:07 am (UTC)
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The lack of promotion for a female protagonist sucks (especially in light of games like Borderlands putting real effort into creating female characters and promoting them...).

Cosplay has been kind of a hot topic all through sci fic and fantasy fandom recently (as has harassment at cons...and consequently a lot of really positive looking stuff in terms of creators and artists refusing to attend cons which do not have a definitive safety policy).

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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 12:12 am (UTC)
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I would think it'd be a simple equation. Lots of women really like Bioware. Acknowledge us as a relevant demographic in your marketing and we'll love you even more.

It's sad that the metaphor in my mind is the starving dog that gets a bowl of biscuits and how grateful it is, but it's kind of true.

I was glad to see the response from DNZ on the booth babe question acknowledging that they are on the out, and refusing to validate the argument that they enhance the experience of X group of gamers and therefore should be there. I hope it's a sign that they will be proactively inclusive.
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From:laughingmagpie
Date:August 22nd, 2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
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This makes me wish so much that I was in NZ! We could just dress up and go together and then it wouldn't matter if no one else was in costume or if there were jerky guys there. But to go to a new Con by myself would be beyond my Comfort level (actually, even a Con that was long running but that I didn't have at least one buddy at would be beyond my Comfort level). I don't swim alone :-)

There's certainly costuming at PAX and E3, but at least looking at the PAX Seattle website, for instance, the only indication that people dress-up is that there's a Weapons Policy in the FAQ and pictures in the galleries from previous events - there are no contests or cosplay panels on the schedule, or mention of it in the "About".

I agree it's likely that DNZ would evolve in this fashion, but it's frustrating that there's no indication of it, and yeah, they (the forums and staff) do not sound like they've been very welcoming.

Edit: I've already agreed before on the LJ comm... but I agree so much with you about the lack of female protagonist in DA:I marketing that I might as well say it again! Especially galling during the voiceover with all the "you will have so many choices for character customization" that they left out frickin' gender.

There's a femShep vid that ends with the line "I'm just here to get the job done, let someone else be on the poster" and this picture:
http://imageshack.us/m/691/9939/jobdone.jpg

(Video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0McQvKVrzk "The many faces of FemShep" - really good one)

But anyway, the point is that she should actually be on the damn poster. And we shouldn't have to point this out to Bioware every time and have to be told that "it's in the works". Fix your workflow, Bioware.

Edited at 2013-08-22 02:06 pm (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 08:10 pm (UTC)
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I'm kind of used to my somewhat bizarre hobbies meaning I'm often on my own, but I too would prefer to go with a posse. And one day there will definitely be you and me being silly at a con in costume. Yep.

I don't even recognise the guy on the poster as having any connection with my Mass Effect. Whenever I open Origin to play ME3, I see that pic and think briefly "Who is that guy and what is he doing here?" Because Shepard is a woman. End of story. Heheh. And, agreed that inclusivity starts at the beginning of development, not as an afterthought.

Meanwhile, I might give DNZ a miss this year (partly because of this stuff but also because of the house move pretty much eating my spare cash for the next couple of months) and see what it looks like next year. I'm in touch with the organisers on Twitter now and have suggested they consider including cosplay next year, or at least emphasising that it's cosplay-friendly. So we'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping to get a good photoshoot with the RoW this weekend, so hopefully pics of that with me in it instead of my headless dummy next week!
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From:anna_en_route
Date:August 22nd, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
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While I'm on the Gail Simone fangirl kick

http://gailsimone.tumblr.com/post/57620695049/claysad-gail-simones-twitter-feed-from-this

http://gailsimone.tumblr.com/post/57621463131/claysad-gail-simones-morning-twitter-feed

I think female characters in gaming and comics face a lot of the same issues in terms of representation so these might be worth a read for the lulz
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From:tatjna
Date:August 22nd, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
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Sadly Tumblr is the only site that's blocked here at work, so I'll have to check these out later. But thanks! ;-)
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From:pundigrion
Date:August 27th, 2013 02:58 pm (UTC)
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Leaving aside how popular this game series is with females...

If they are operating on menz=majority and yay for status quo....I would still expect to see a female character! Most of the guys I know prefer to look at female toons...(regardless of skimpy armour, I mean they still do this with well-covered female characters too)
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From:tatjna
Date:August 27th, 2013 08:18 pm (UTC)
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There will definitely be female protagonists in the game - Bioware is famous for that - but yeah, the trailer doesn't seem to acknowledge that at all, and if you weren't already a player you would just assume it's another game where you have to be a bloke.

I totally get why people choose female characters, especially in these games. The men run funny and it's a bit distracting, for a start. Although, I found my Shepard's arse to be a bit wrong in that it didn't move right, and maybe if I'd played M!Shep it would have been better?
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