Tropes vs Women episode 1 is up!

HOLY CRAP IT'S HERE FEMINIST FREQUENCY'S TROPES VS WOMEN IN VIDEO GAMES IS HERE OH MY GOD I CAN'T EVEN In May of 2012, pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian launched a kickstarter for a video series, "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games," asking for six thousand dollars to fund a web series exploring systematic sexism in video games. The kickstarter raised over 25 times its goal, and misogynists all over the internet freaked the hell out.

Since then, she launched the Tropes vs Women Tumblr, which over the last few months has been posting examples of hundreds of games that feature Damsels in Distress, the subject of the first upcoming video.

Today, the first episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games went up:  Damsel in Distress Part 1.

I can't find any information about what kind of schedule the videos will go up on, but as soon as I know, I will report back.

I'm so excited!  This is the coolest thing that has gone up on YouTube today.

HankGames playing Story War

So it turns out I guess I haven't specifically written about Story War yet.  Sorry about that. Story War is a card game, currently pushing for ever higher, ever more awesome stretch goals in their Kickstarter, in which players choose warriors or mythical creatures, give them items, and defend the case that they would win in a fight in a given environment.  One of the players, the judge, listens to all the cases, then decides how the battle actually goes down.

If you want to see an example of a match, Hank Green judged a round played by Katherine Green, Michael Aranda, and Emily Graslie, embedded below.  The next round will go up online next week.

Dresden Codak's kickstarter owns everything (Also: Make That Thing!)

Dresden Codak, possibly my favorite webcomic, put up a kickstarter yesterday to fund the printing of hardcover books, collecting the first 5 years of the comic.  The kickstarter's initial goal was $30,000.  That goal was met in less than an hour.  Within twelve hours, it passed $100,000.  Right now, it's at about $133,000.  There's a thousand-dollar pledge level, and seven (out of a maximum 10) have been sold.

Basically, holy crap.

Also, the kickstarter was organized with the help of TopatoCo's new subsidary, Make That Thing, whose function is to help artists run kickstarters.  It looks pretty cool -- from the Dresden Codak kickstarter:

Make That Thing was conceived as a production and fulfillment agency for crowdfunded projects specifically, which means they help people like me (who live in apartments) print books (which come on pallets) and ship them to you guys (since I am no longer allowed within 100 yards of a mailbox). So you can be confident that if this project is funded, all the rewards will be sourced and produced quickly, be of the highest quality, and ship on time!

The only other kickstarter currently posted on Make That Thing is a card game for Machine of Death, which is a machine that predicts (with perfect, although sometimes ironic, accuracy) the way you will die.  The card game involves players getting a death prediction, and other players using a limited hand of cards to make that death happen.

It has also overwhelmingly passed its funding goal, at $185,000 pledged for a $23,000 goal.  It did not reach that goal quite as quickly, but it's still freaking awesome that it's getting made.

A fiction magazine that needs your money

(via Boing Boing) I often feel pretty guilty about not being able to donate to Kickstarter campaigns I want to support.  Generally, I think it's a little bit like making up for it when I point them out to my readers.  This time, though, it seems like it might actually be extra-selfish.

Fireside Magazine is a multi-genre fiction magazine that published three issues last year, each one funded by Kickstarter. They think that method is unsustainable, so they're trying to do a monthly magazine, funded in part by one big Kickstarter at the front-end.  They're asking for $25,000; they're at $7,600 so far, with 18 days to go.

The reason this is selfish is that one of Fireside's mission statements is to offer their writers fair pay.  I can't put any of the money up, but I'm hoping they exist as a market for me to submit to eventually...

But even if I never get anything in, I still want to support, or at least beg other people to support, sources of good fiction that pay their writers fair wages.  (Even if the editor is wearing a fedora and drinking scotch in his picture.)

Anita Sarkeesian's TED talk

Anita Sarkeesian, the vlogger behind Feminist Frequency and the Women vs Tropes Kickstarter, has a TED talk, at TEDxWomen 2012, now up on YouTube.  The talk is about the backlash to her Kickstarter -- a huge, organized hate campaign against her and her project. Trigger warning: misogyny.

Unfortunately I didn't have any money at the time all this harassment was going on, so I wasn't able to donate.  As a result, I don't have access to the news updates -- but I do have access to the headlines, which inform me that production started in late July of this year, since which point there have been two further updates.  I can't wait until this series comes out.

The Hunting of the Snark

I really like Lewis Carroll, primarily his poetry.  I've memorized the Walrus and the Carpenter, and I've tried to memorize the Hunting of the Snark.  The Hunting of the Snark, though, is much longer than the Walrus and the Carpenter, so I (predictably) failed. That said, it's a really excellent story -- the kind that would make a really cool independent short film.

BTW:  Here is a kickstarter video.

There are 19 days left to go in the project, and they're not very close to their goal but they just got linked by Boing Boing, so I'm hopeful. For a $5 pledge, if the project gets funded, you can get a DRM-free digital copy of the film.

Here's the poem, and an excerpt below of one of the many good bits:

 There was one who was famed for the number of things

He forgot when he entered the ship:

His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,

And the clothes he had bought for the trip.


He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,

With his name painted clearly on each:

But, since he omitted to mention the fact,

They were all left behind on the beach.


The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because

He had seven coats on when he came,

With three pairs of boots--but the worst of it was,

He had wholly forgotten his name.

Another awesome new 3D printer: FORM 1

Last week, I wrote about the new Makerbot Replicator.  The next day, I wrote about all the cool things that 3D printers will probably do to civilization in the next few decades.

The Replicator 2 costs about $2200.  For just $100 more, people have purchased the Form 1, a printer on Kickstarterthat's already earned almost 4 times its $100,000 goal.  The Form 1 has a layer resolution of 25 microns, which makes for a significant difference in possible detail.  This printer really meets its goal of "[rivaling] the output of high-end printers at a fraction of the cost."

That price does not, unfortunately, appear to be available to the general public -- it was a limited offer to the first 25 people who pledged $2,299.  Those people are also first in line for delivery -- $2,499 (also sold out) is second in line, $2,699 (almost 300 left) are promised priority for shipment over people who order it after the Kickstarter.

The Form 1 is able to achieve its superior resolution because it employs a different printing method than most printers on the market:

Stereolithography (SL) is the gold standard for accuracy and resolution in the 3D printing world, reaching layer thicknesses and feature sizes that are worlds ahead of what is possible with [extruded plastic]. The process is pretty straightforward - a laser is used to draw on the surface of a liquid plastic resin that hardens when exposed to a certain wavelength of light. The laser draws and hardens a layer at a time until the entire model is built. It’s simple, reliable, and quiet.

This printer looks amazing, but it's also a little more in-depth than the Replicator 2 -- there's an after-printing process, using the Form Finishing Kit, that's necessary to finish off the object after it's been printed.  I'm not sure about what kind of drafting software works well with the FORM 1 ("We painstakingly designed our Form software to have a simple, intuitive user experience that streamlines the process of importing .STL models from any 3D CAD package. ")  but it seems very much designed for serious engineers and other professionals who need high-resolution rapid prototyping technology.

I still want one, though.

Penny Arcade Sells Out

I had thought I blogged about this when it first came out, but it appears I didn't.  Anyone who follows comics on the internet has by now probably heard of Penny Arcade's Kickstarter campaign, "Penny Arcade sells out," in which they're trying to raise $1 million so that they can take down advertising on their site, entirely. The campaign's basic goal was $250 thousand, and they made that very quickly.  For that, the leaderboard ad on the home page will be removed.  I checked back today, and it's currently at $364,461, which is enough to unlock the first stretch goal at $325 thousand, a 6 page comic strip.  I don't know why that one's in there, but it's nice that they put a bunch of other cool stuff around all the goals for ad removal.

I checked back today honestly expecting for them to be at or close to the $1 million goal.  I figured if anyone was going to raise that much on Kickstarter in the first week or so, it would be Penny Arcade.  They're not even close yet, but there are still 22 days to go.

Lacking money, I won't be contributing, but I do think this is a good idea.  For a long time now, the model for financing online content has been "We can't think of anything better than ads," and I'm happy to see people who have the power to overcome that issue reaching out to try and change things.

If this works, I can honestly imagine an artistic future in which the culture of art is that people voluntarily contribute to the art they love.  Eventually we might even be able to finance the kind of blockbusters that Hollywood pumps out -- though I expect we'd only get the Nolan style films, and lose out on the Transformers franchise.  But I'm not complaining.

Tropes vs. Women in video games: FeministFrequency Kickstarter update

I wrote last week about Anita Sarkeesian's kickstarter, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. This update consists of good news and (depressingly predictable) bad news. As of writing, there's 63 hours left in the Kickstarter, if you still want to get some money in.

It's at almost $100,000, nearly 4,000 backers, and has passed all the reach goals.  That means not only are there going to be twice as many trope videos as originally planned, and a video on positive female characters in video games, and a step up in production quality, there will also be a classroom curriculum version of the series and a 12th video deconstructing common defenses of sexism in the video game industry.

On the really awful, totally reprehensible side, the online gaming community has gone out of their way to explain by example why we need this sort of series.  From Kickstarter update #4:

The intimidation and harassment effort has included a torrent of misogyny and hate speech on my YouTube video, repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me, organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as "terrorism", as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website.  These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen "jokes" to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape.  All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded.

She linked to a screencap she took of the YouTube comments.  I got about halfway through.  Trigger warning:  here's the link.

EDIT:  Because I spaced on putting these in when I wrote this post.  Here are links to other news sources that have covered this story -- Game Politics, The Mary Sue, The New Statesman

Kickstarter on Growth

(Via Neil Gaiman's Tumblr) You know what's awesome?  Statistical analysis.  You know what else is awesome?  Kickstarter.  And, apparently, when those two things come together, a beautiful thing happens:  We find out that Kickstarter is even more awesome than people think.

A lot of people believe that the more Kickstarters there are, the harder it will be to get one off the ground.  Hell, there was an xkcd strip about it.  But according to Kickstarter's blog, that's not the case.

As we've grown, we've heard people worry that it will be harder and harder to fund projects as the total number of projects grows. They wonder: Do more projects mean greater competition for the same dollars? 

And when there's a blockbuster project, they ask: Are these projects stealing backers from other worthy projects?

For both questions, the opposite actually appears to be true. Projects aren't fighting over a finite pool of Kickstarter dollars or backers. One project's backer isn't another project's loss. The backers that one project brings often end up backing other projects as well. Each project is not only promoting itself, but the Kickstarter ecosystem as a whole.

The very cool charts in their blog post detail the way that big projects result in huge overflows of backers into other cool projects in the same area.  The video game example of Double Fine, especially, showed a huge positive-sum impact on the community with a successful, large project.

FeministFrequency Kickstarter: Way past goal, still going

Anita Sarkeesian, the vlogger responsible for FeministFrequency, is running a Kickstarter to create an in-depth video series on sexism in video games.

Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

The videos she makes on her own budget are amazing, so I can't wait to see what she does with financial support.  Her initial proposal was to make a set of five videos on gamer tropes that repeatedly depict women in a marginalized or objectified light:

  • Damsel in Distress
  • The Fighting F#@k Toy
  • The Sexy Sidekick
  • The Sexy Villainess
  • Background Decoration

But her donors shot way past the initial $6,000 goal in the first 24 hours, and now the project is into stretch goals territory. The first one was achieved within the first week, the next one the following week, and the project is only about $1000 short of goal #3, creating a classroom curriculum using the materials of the series.

Thanks to the additional donations, we're also getting these videos:

  • Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress
  • Woman as Reward
  • Mrs. Male Character
  • Unattractive Equals Evil
  • Man with Boobs
  • Bonus Video - Positive Female Characters!
All the videos are going to be online for free, and will be between 10 and 20 minutes long.  They'll be like a pop-culture feminist CrashCourse!

Content like this is important for a lot of reasons.  Anita Sarkeesian's FeministFrequency videos offer a way into a dialogue about sexism in pop culture without requiring a prep course in postmodernism.  The video game industry and nerd culture have some huge problems with sexism, and high-quality, easy to digest content addressing it, like the stuff Anita produces, make it a lot easier (a.) for fence-sitters to see what's wrong with the stuff that might have only made them a little uncomfortable, and (b.) for people in the industry who do want to make less sexist content to make the case for their artistic decisions.  (It's hard to make genuinely progressive games if you're the only one on staff who cares about it and your boss insists that it'll be more marketable if the women are good wank material.)

I won't be able to contribute (I don't have any money) but I hope anyone reading this with some cash to spare pitches in.  This is exactly the sort of media we need.

Zombie-Based Learning: A Kickstarter

(Via Boing Boing) I'm a big fan of alternative learning programs -- especially video game inspired programs like Quest to Learn.  It seems obvious to me that we've developed tools and techniques for engaging people in immersive, educational experiences that far outperform traditional lecture-and-test style education.

I also like zombie stuff.  I mean, not as much as some people, but I do like zombie stuff.

So I was thrilled when I saw "Zombie-Based Learning: Geography taught in Zombie Apocalypse."  It's a kickstarter campaign by a middle school teacher who's putting together a curriculum for geography that leads the students through a narrative of a post-apocalypse zombie survival, where they'll learn and apply all the basic middle- and high-school level geography principles they'd have learned[1. Read:  memorized out-of-context well enough to pass some tests.] in a traditional lecture course.

The teacher putting this project together got into teaching for the best reason I think anyone gets into anything:  He didn't like the way it was being done, so he put himself forward to try and do it better.

There are 22 days left in the kickstarter, and they're a little over halfway towards their $5,000 goal. Here's the link again.  If you can spare it, give a contribution.