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.

Atari filed for bankruptcy

I had an Atari when I was a kid.  I was too young for it, really, Super Nintendo was already out when I got it, but my dad brought it home one day and it was awesome. Maybe nostalgia was already a big enough influence on my life back then that I cared about connecting with the history of video games, but I loved playing Atari.

Al Jazeera writes,

Video game company Atari SA said it has filed for bankruptcy protection in Paris and New York after it failed to find a successor to main shareholder and sole lender BlueBay.

The US operations in addition plan to separate from their French parent to seek independent capital to grow in digital and mobile games, Atari Inc said in a statement on Monday.

The US businesses plan to sell or restructure all or almost all of their assets in the next three to four months and are seeking $5.25 million in financing from Tenor Capital, Atari Inc added.

[...]

Atari SA said no investor had been willing to replace BlueBay as its reference shareholder and main creditor because of its French listing, complicated capital structure and the difficult economic and operating environment.

The company said it owed 21 million euros ($28 million) to BlueBay.

This news hurts my nostalgia bone, but the fact that the list of notable games at the bottom of the article is "Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Battlezone and Tempest," suggests that this company really is where it ought to be -- To my knowledge, Atari hasn't accomplished anything extraordinary lately, and a company can only live so long on nothing but a strong feeling that they deserve to be around.

Arcades are coming back, with a new target audience

(via Wil Wheaton on Tumblr) ArsTechnica has a new article on arcades, The surprising, stealth rebirth of the American Arcade.  The nostalgia factor is helping, but it's coming back on a lot more than just the memories of Baby Boomers -- there's a real appeal that the arcade has found a niche in, that home consoles apparently just can't satisfy, no matter how shiny the controllers are.

After a while they've played all the games... but if it's a place they know they can get as good a beer as any place in the city and [also] play games, then that's what makes it stand out."

That doesn't mean Emporium's customers treat the games as an afterthought to the alcohol, though. "We could be completely full to capacity and all of our tables will be open—no one is at the tables because everyone is out playing games," Marks said. "Any other bar I've ever been to in my life, the tables are the prime real estate, not the games.

But it;s not all bars -- ZAP Arcade in Jordan, Minnesota was opened for kids, not adults.

"There's really nothing for youth there. There's a water tower, a lake, a creek... it's small. That was really our intention when we opened, to be a safe resource for kids, to offer something in the community that was just sort of cheap fun."

The article makes a solid case for the business model of arcades, which seem to have a solid consumer base, even with the high-graphics, super-complicated games you can have in your home. Classic arcade games are simpler, have more replay value, are often more challenging, and the arcade environment makes for a better social play experience.

"The last time I played Modern Warfare on Xbox Live, I stopped playing because I was tired of hearing these immature rants," he said. "We have people playing each other face to face in our bar, they're high fiving, they're congratulatory, they're respectful, they're having a good time. When you play online, you just want to scream sometimes. [The arcade] is just a better experience."

 

Jane McGonigal: Life-giving games

First thing's first: JANE McGONIGAL HAS A NEW TED TALK OMG HOLY CRAP THIS IS AWESOME

Ahem.

Now that I've got that out of my system.

I remember, when I was reading "Reality Is Broken," the chapter when Jane McGonigal discusses "Super Better," the game she invented to help her through the depression and recovery after a serious injury.  I don't remember, at the time, making the connection between my own depression and the variety of illnesses that other people are using Super Better to get through.

I don't know.  Maybe I did think of it.  There was a lot in that book that made me think, "There it is!  The solution to everything!"

In McGonigal's new TED talk, she points out, much more straightforwardly, that the tools she developed are a framework for improving one's life, in exactly the sort of way that everyone, not just people suffering from serious illness, can benefit from.

It's a little embarrassing, actually, to realize that I didn't make this connection in the first place.  The central theme of "Reality Is Broken" is positive psychology -- using science, psychology, analysis, and especially gamification, to move upwards from a neutral point and make life better, rather than just focusing on alleviating suffering and reducing exposure to unpleasant experiences.

The talk is great.  You should watch it.  You should also watch her other TED talk, which is more broadly about how gaming can make the world a better place, and read her book, Reality Is Broken, which is about using game style mechanisms to make everything better.

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.