Great Gamers (June Edition): Felicia Day

I have decided that once a month I will be releasing an article called Great Gamers where I detail out one person, duo, or group which positively influences and affects the video game community, culture, and/or industry.  I haven’t decided whether it will come at the beginning or the end of the month, but this is the first one.  Great Gamers will look at what the person has done for the community, the culture, and the industry (although they need not affect all three to be a Great Gamer) and how their influence over these areas positively affects the gaming world in general.

Why Felicia Day is a Great Gamer

There are two main reasons why I think Felicia Day has a very good and positive influence on the gamer community.  1) Felicia Day has created characters that positively represent female gamers in the community as real people rather than mere objects of plot, and 2) she actively helps to shape, create, and change the video game culture and community in a positive way (even if she doesn’t intend to).

In all honesty I don’t know if Felicia Day actively tries to change the video game community for the better but I don’t think it matters.  In creating the works of fiction and gamer related media that she has (i.e. The Guild, various music videos, Dragon Age: Redemption, etc.) Felicia Day is leaving a mark that, I believe, is changing the sphere of gaming for the better.

In this post I’m going to explain line out three points as to why Felicia Day is a Great Gamer.  I could ramble on and on (especially considering the crush that I have on her like most male gamers do), but I will stick to 3 things that I believe exemplify the work that she has done.  First I will explain why I think Gamer Girl, Country Boy, the music video, is a great piece of gamer media.  Second I will explain how The Guild is an excellent series that is helping to change the negative mentality that male gamers harbor towards female gamers.  Lastly I will look at the Dragon Age: Redemption the Youtube series that she created (with Machinima in association with BioWare) as a demonstration of the power that gamers as a whole wield.

Note: In thinking up this article I decided on one thing that I had to do: avoid the fact that Felicia Day is female.  I want to focus on the great things that Felicia Day has done as a gamer, and the fact that she is female should be, and is, irrelevant to this conversation.  So let’s get started.

Gamer Girl, Country Boy

Felicia Day’s most recent music video Gamer Girl, Country Boy is an excellent piece of gamer media for several reasons, but most of all because it actively fights against the isolationist/Hikikomori-esque view of gamers.  Often times gamers are thought of in terms of the negative press that they get.  Articles circulate in newspapers about people dying while playing video games, gamers who spend hours upon hours playing by themselves locked in rooms or basements, and horror stories of marriages ending in divorce because of MMO’s like World of Warcraft (I personally know someone who divorced her husband because of this).

This gives rise to stereotypes of gamers as a group that is anti-social and unwilling to work with others.  This might stem from the old nerd stereotype that was huge in the 80’s and into the 90’s.  The stereotype of the IT nerd who doesn’t talk to people, wears pocket protectors, and is completely inept when it comes to any sort of social interaction.

But in making a country music video that gamers can relate to (even if you don’t like country I’m sure you can sympathize with at least having a crush on someone who isn’t a gamer) she is demonstrating the social side of gamers.  In my experiences at conventions, meet-ups, and meeting friends of friends gamers are actually very social people and willing to talk to just about anyone.  We are often indiscriminate in judgments (even though we like to joke about revoking someone’s gamer card for not playing landmark games like Portal) and are happy to socialize with people other than gamers.

In creating this video Day actively reached out to people who are not a part of the gaming culture and gaming community.  It gives a positive, fun representation of what it is to be a gamer.  As a country music video it also has the ability to reach out to those who love country music but might not be gamers.  It has a great representation of gaming and costuming/cosplay while showing that you don’t have to be a gamer to have a friendship/relationship with someone who is a gamer.

The Guild

Felicia Day’s The Guild is an excellent piece of gamer media that reaches out to gamers through what we all do best: game.  Based on a guild in an MMORPG the ragtag group is great, funny, and, for many people, relatable.

But it’s not just the premise that makes The Guild part of what makes Felicia Day a Great Gamer, but it’s the characters that she has created.  All of the characters, with a fun spin on the weird kooky stereotypes of video gamers, are fully fledged characters with personalities unto themselves.  The Guild doesn’t rely on cookie cutter tropes and stereotypes thrown into new settings.  Vork (Jeff Lewis), Bladezz (Vincent Casso), and Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) are the male characters in the series, all very complex characters with their weird quirks and obsessions (like Vork’s refusal to spend money to the point where he likes to steal the free bread from restaurants).

But it is the strong female characters that I think lend The Guild to Day’s resume for Great Gamer.  Clara (Robin Thorsen), Tinkerballa aka Tink (Amy Okuda), and Codex (Felicia Day) are all just as 3 dimensional as their male counter-parts.  In having complex, 3 dimensional female characters Felicia Day is creating a more positive and realistic view of female gamers.  The female characters are not there purely for the sake of plot and they are by no means objects within the series, they are people.

This actively creates a more positive image for women in the gaming community, even if Day didn’t mean for this to be the case.  The female characters in The Guild represent a realistic approach to women in the gaming community.  It portrays the women who game as women with real life problems and real life personalities ; fighting the male perspective that women who game are only casual games, can’t be hardcore gamers, and don’t belong in the gaming sphere unless they’re a booth babe.

Dragon Age: Redemption

Dragon Age: Redemption, made by AMD, in association with BioWare, and produced by Knights of Good is an example of participation in the video game community.  I claimed earlier that Felicia Day is actively shaping, creating, and changing the video game community and culture.  I think Dragon Age: Redemption is an excellent example of just how she is doing that while using a perspective that we can all relate to: fandom.

Felicia Day created this video series as an alternate story line within the Dragon Age canon.  I would call it a work of fan fiction and I think it’s a great example of just how amazing fan fiction can be.  Fan fictions are created by people who are truly vested in video games’ characters and story lines.  These people work hard to think deeply about the world that video games have given us and produce works of art that expand upon the original (most often in the story telling format rather than video format).

But Dragon Age: Redemption went even further than that because it influenced BioWare so much that when they released a downloadable expansion they included Felicia Day’s character, Tallis, in the downloadable content.  She actively created content that impressed BioWare so much that they included the content she created in their game.

This is a demonstration of the power that gamers wield when they actively participate within the video game community.  Commenting on videos, posting in forums, creating Youtube videos, vlogs, and blogs are all ways in which people create, comment, and make accessible their ideas for the creators of video games.

Felicia Day demonstrates the passion that so many gamers have and brings it to the next level by creating excellent media that we can all enjoy while simultaneously influencing the industry.  It’s the metaphorical two birds with one stone.

If you would like to learn more about Felicia Day here are some more links for you to follow:

Felicia Day’s Website and Blog

Geek and Sundry: Youtube Channel by producers of The Guild (includes Felicia Day)

The Flog: Felicia Day’s Video Blog (on Geek and Sundry)

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Female Gamers: Doing More for our Community than Any Misogynist Could Ever Hope

[TRIGGER WARNING: Some of these links contain extreme material including references to rape and death threats]

My first post, Cultural Relativity vs. Feminism, made mention of Anita Sarkeesian (known for her blog and YouTube channel Feminist Frequency) and the brutal internet attack that was launched against her in reaction to the series she wants to make (note didn’t actually make yet) called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.  The attack was brutal.  She was the victim of threats such as rape and death in addition to people wishing death upon her friends and family.  (I’d like to note that a very good thing happened: she raised over $150,000 for her Kickstarter.  I’m glad that the unyielding support for Sarkeesian showed all the misogynists that they are weak in their attempts to bring down Sarkeesian and her intellectual endeavor)

I, in my first post, noted some of my reaction and was reticent about putting down the full force of my thoughts on the subject not only because I wasn’t sure about what I truly thought anymore, but more that I didn’t want to be on the wrong side of the conversation (and I should note that not taking sides, being in the middle, can be wrong).  However, over the past several days I have come to a full fledged opinion on the topic and it’s this: as a white male I am privileged, and those like me who try to describe the privilege as non-existent or describe not white males as having the same number of privileges are a product of tradition, ritual, and hold an inability to critically reflect upon their own views.  Or, in short, those who targeted Sarkeesian, and other women like her, are wrong.

This opinion wasn’t informed purely by the Sarkeesian incident, but also by some links and articles that I read from various friends and people I follow on Tumblr.  The first thing that really and truly opened my eyes to how pervasive the problem is was Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  This website made my stomach churn.  More importantly, the power that men clearly wield in such instances is overwhelming and panoptic.*  Fat, Ugly, or Slutty truly embodies this panoptic power.  Men attempt to reinforce the power they wield by devaluing women based on their gender.  The build and maintain their own power by silencing women and making them feel like their gender is their identity, not the contents of their character or the skills they have.  The website demonstrates how women are subject to it every day and risk being subject to it by merely participating in the community, even more so if they are good at what they are playing.  Not only that, but the problem is now coming into the mainstream media with BBC doing an article about it which linked Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  [LINK]

Then I read the article I linked the other day called Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, by John Scalzi.  This article was such a great metaphor for what the men who attacked Sarkeesian clearly can’t understand.  The fact that one is male puts them in a position over females.  Even better if you’re a white male.

After this I started going through the comments of Felicia Day’s recent music video Gamer Girl, Country Boy.  I’m quite aware that many people dislike country music (I’m not one of them as my mother listened to nothing but it while I was growing up) and some even despise the genre.  Some people dislike the idea of gaming being joined with something other than gaming, or even just geek culture in general being joined with something like the culture associated with “country boys”.  But rather than judge the music video based on these things many went straight for the jugular and debased Day purely based on the fact that she was a women, many of the comments being similar to those that Sarkeesian faced.  Many also claimed that Day wasn’t a true “gamer” because she was a woman and women can’t be gamers.  It was not an attack on the video or the contents of the video, it was purely an attack on the fact that Day is a woman.

But what has motivated me to write this is not the fact that I now have a fully fledge opinion on the subject, because I think opinions in themselves can be boring.  What really motivates me to write this article is the reaction on Kickstarter to Sarkeesian.  The Kickstarter was called Misandry in Video Games.

I read a bit of the contents when I found the Kickstarter, but couldn’t get through them because the whole idea made me to angry and upset to continue reading.  I have since tried to find the Kickstarter again, but haven’t been able to find it (was it taken down?  If you know the link or know if it was taken down please comment or e-mail me. [The link has been sent to me via comment and can be found either in the comment section or at the bottom of the article.]).

This Kickstarter was set up in an attempt to reinforce the mindset of the men who attacked people like Sarkeesian, Day, and the men who send messages like those on Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  But even more importantly it reinforces the idea that women can continue to be treated by men in this terrible way because men are supposedly subject to the same tropes as women via misandry with all the same ill-effects.

This behavior has to stop and many people are going to oppose to video game community if this behavior continues.  This behavior is going to kill the gaming community and more importantly it perpetuates a culture where women are fearful of even logging into the online community because of the messages they get, and the verbal abuse they receive over chat.  Moms and dads out there who are seeing this side of the video game community are going to start working even harder against the video game community.  This behavior only reinforces the stereotype of video game players as violent and morally unsound.  Video games will be seen as a morally and ethically detrimental to children and teenagers.  If BBC is picking up on it now who knows how long it is until the front page of large newspapers; headline reports of investigative journalism about harassment in the online gaming community.

So guys out there who are cognizant of their privilege, who are aware that women are subject to this kind of thing, who are playing video games when women are verbally abused online, and who recognize that women are people and not just the toys of men need to fight back with women.  We need to make sure that we are reporting the terrible behavior that is present in the online community.  We need to make sure that we are helping women in this struggle against the misogynistic mindset that is so pervasive in the gaming community.

And if you disagree with me and are a part of the gaming community then remember; Felicia Day, Anita Sarkeesian, and the women who you debase in the community have done more for the gaming community than you ever will.  By telling women to make you sandwiches, get back in the kitchen, and threatening them because they threaten the panoptic power that you wield in the community, you only hurt the community and more importantly you are hurting women everywhere by creating another place where women feel unsafe and are afraid to go because of the harassing and threatening messages that you send out.

Your Resident (not really) Anthropologist

Notes:

*Panoptic power is defined by Foucault in Discipline and Punish as power which is inescapable, pervasive everywhere in everyday life, and actively works to change the mindset and view that people hold of themselves, others, and the society that they live within.

EDIT: I had someone on Tumblr ask a question (although there were a few implied) so I’m going to add my response to further clarify the article.

To clarify the power is panoptic within the gaming community (probably should have made that clearer).  If someone wants to actively participate within the community they have to participate in the public space of the community (for gaming that could be commenting on gaming related media, creating gaming related media, or just playing online games).

As for the messages from strangers being panoptic, the messages are a way of reinforcing the role that women are supposed to play in the gaming community (aka, no role at all).  When enough people participate by sending messages to women which are disparaging and devaluing women based on their gender they are attempting to silence women and pushing women to believe that there is no place in the gaming world for them (whether it is successful or not).  There are ways to avoid these messages such as playing only with friends (on or offline), only playing single player games, using a gamertag/PSN ID/username which does not hint at the gender of the person, or playing without a headset (the last two of which would have to be used on conjunction with each other).  But I would argue that when women do these things it merely reinforces the misogynistic view of women in the gaming world and allows men to continue their behavior because women are actively silenced.  Women shouldn’t have participate in gaming covertly.

The re-appropriation of messages can be used as a way to try and shift or remove the power of men in the gaming community, but overwhelmingly they are not.  There is a very pervasive mentality that reporting does nothing (and often times when men are reported for their behavior and find that they have been reported they message the woman who they suspect of reporting them with that very message – that reporting abusive behavior does nothing).

I am actively working on an article that talks about the effect one of these women (Felicia Day) has had on the gaming community and what she is doing for the gaming community.  But in short, without giving too much about my next article away, these women are not only actively participating but helping to shape, create, and change the culture of the gaming community.  By doing what they have, such as Felicia Day making 3 dimensional female characters rather than relying on stereotypes and tropes of women that are pervasive in the gaming community/culture, they are helping to create a more realistic and friendly view of women in the gaming community.

EDIT 2: I have been sent the link to the misandry and video games kickstarter.  It’s here: http://www.indiegogo.com/misandryinvideogames Thanks to NUReviews for the link to the page.  (http://nureviewsnetwork.com/)