September 13th, 2013


The gaping maw of Karrimor

So there's this thing going round where people post photos of the stuff they carry around with them. Most people so far seem to be those organised types that actually take things out of their bags when they get home, and so only really carry the stuff they've decided on for any given day.

I am not those people. I was brought up to consider contingencies, and this has led to carrying all sorts of crap I 'might need'. Also, I'm a bit absentminded so it's often easier for me to just have a thing in my bag all the time rather than try to remember to put stuff in on specific occasions. This is the result.

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Yesterday, while I was walking down Taranaki, a guy going the other way said "Hey!" So I turned, and he said "You look beautiful." I was all O.o and mumbled "Thank you" and stumbled on. I heard over my shoulder as I went, "I've noticed you before..."

I want to feel flattered and complimented. I was wearing my matrix raincoat with the hot pink lining, and because of the pink in my hair and (oh shit I'm that person!) pink top, I was a study in pink and black contrast. So I probably did look.. effective? I'm sure the guy meant to be nice, and if he'd stopped with the compliment I'd be fine with it. Yes, yes, what gives men the idea they have the right to comment on my appearance, I'm a person not a decoration etc etc, but I actually think that complimenting people in a genuine way is part of the grease that keeps the wheels of community turning, and isn't always coming from a place of privilege and patriarchy. Sometimes folks are just being nice, you know, and I'm happy to take that at face value.

But that last comment creeped me out just a little. Probably wasn't meant to, it was probably meant as a follow up nice thing to say, but what it did was make me uncomfortable enough so I took a different way to work today to avoid running into the guy again. I'm not afraid that he'll suddenly try to grab me or anything, but part of me fears he'd try to talk to me again, and then it'd be weird and awkward and I have no idea if I'm being paranoid or not, but I really wish he'd stopped after the first bit and let it rest at that.

The world's a pretty messed up place if someone being nice has me feeling like that eh? Or maybe it's just my head.

I know not everyone who reads this is a gamer

But a lot of you are, and a lot of you are into RPGs, and a lot of you like story-driven gameplay, and a lot of you also happen to be women.

Being a female gamer involves a lot of accepting that the development world sees men as the default gamer. This means accepting that in more games than not you will be forced to play a guy because a female protagonist is not an option. It means that playing a woman often means slaying dragons in a bikini. And almost without fail, it means that in marketing material you are invisible, even in games that allow female protagonists. Even my first and biggest love, Dragon Age, which is known for its inclusivity, is so far failing to acknowledge women as protagonists in the marketing material for the latest instalment in the series.

So imagine the thrill I got when Ambrov X came on my radar. The first thing I saw at the top of their Kickstarter page was.. a woman. A female protagonist, featured in their marketing as default. This is a game that allows you to choose the gender of your protagonist, and they chose to feature women! OMG.

Scrolling down, I liked what I saw more and more. A story-driven sci-fi RPG set in a universe I'd never heard of, but with a pretext of being forced by circumstances into a dangerous symbiotic relationship with a companion, that you must maintain without fear or you both die. Meanwhile, you're investigating a mystery and solving universe-sized problems in the standard RPG way.

I like the story-driven aspect, I like the premise, I like the episodic nature of the game that means relatively low time-commitment, I like that it's DRM-free and will run on Linux (even though I don't use Linux, it's nice to see it getting a nod you know?), I like the paradigm conversation system, I like that combat is only a part of what the game involves. As a lover of RPGs, I am always disappointed when a game claims to be RPG but is really just combat with a loose story to tie it together. This promises to be much more.

But mostly, I like that the developers are acknowledging that women gamers exist and that some people actually like emotional content. I'm a fan of Jennifer Hepler's writing and would like nothing better than to see her come on board for this game.

But, by doing all of these things, by making women the default, by placing how the story might make you feel over how big a monsters you can kill or how many headshots you need to get a badge, they are taking a risk. Many people will see that woman at the top of the page, then read 'emotional content' and close it. You can see by the amount of pledges that the dudebro FPS crowd that the vast majority of big-selling developers generally pander to, are not interested in this game. Of course they aren't - it's not them in the picture for a change.

It's me. And I would really like to see this game get made, because few developers are brave enough to even acknowledge my existence when marketing, never mind place me as the default.

If we want to see games made that step outside the young-white-male-as-default paradigm, we have to support the making of such games. And this one looks like it'll actually be a good game too. So please, if you give a crap about changing the culture of gaming, if you've ever felt miffed that developers always seem to assume their audience is male, if you want content that's truly story driven, or even if you would just like to see a cool RPG from an indie developer get some success, make a pledge.

Or if donating to making games is beyond your resources or ethics, even just boosting the signal would help, eh?