Cool Girl Detox

So you’ve realized you have a bad case of Cool Girl and you know it’s a problem. Good for you; admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? Now to figure out how to go about doing the work of dismantling the patriarchy in your mind (so you can go on to work to dismantle it in the world outside).

Step 1: Stop reading men. Also stop reading white feminists.


The first part should be fairly obvious — set aside your Game of Thrones, your Dresden Files, your Jonathan Franzen and your Dave Eggers. Don’t worry, you can come back to it later when your detox is done (but you probably won’t want to). But you also really need to set aside ‘Lean In’ and all its ilk — it reflects such a narrow band of feminism and femininity that it’s just another iteration of Cool Girl with a feminist label.

People like Meghan Murphy and Sheryl Sandburg want you to be cool enough to say you’re a feminist without doing any of the pesky work of dismantling white supremacy or interrogating cissexism or asking men to change their behavior. How Cool Girl is that?! Just say no to white feminism.

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Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted;
persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished;
persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

By Order Of The Author,
Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

— Mark Twain, Author’s Note for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain, undoubtedly writing an angry screed much like this one

Note: There will be spoilers for The Beginner’s Guide herein; if you care about that sort of thing you should probably play it before you read this.

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You were a burgeoning feminist. I mean, you’d always believed in equality of the sexes and were nominally a feminist, but you used to think that it wasn’t such a big deal any more. You were a Strong Woman and men couldn’t tell you what to do and things were mostly equal already, right?

But one too many abuses at the hands of men, one too many instances of realizing that you were keeping silent, one too many times telling yourself “well, it’s just that one guy”, when it all kept happening over and over and you started to realize: you still need feminism. So you started reading and learning and understanding about privilege and marginalization and intersectionality. And you came to the conclusion that the way to avoid those abuses, at least in a romantic relationship, was to date a Good Feminist ™.

Good Feminist 

You were a little doubtful that they existed but you knew you couldn’t date anyone who wouldn’t treat you as an equal. You told yourself you’d rather be alone than do that again. So you waited and you watched and you dated a few guys but none of them were him.

Cartoon image of a frog with a crown on its head and little hearts floating around

Prince Charming

Then you met him and it seemed like a dream come true. You’d talk media and analyze how men and women were treated differently, and you talked together about how things could and should be better and he was sympathetic. You talked about work and hobbies and how hard it was to be in video games or comic books or any other nerd interest and deal with harassment and being doubted. He told you, proudly, about how all of his exes had learned to raise their standards after dating him, how he’d taught all these women to look for the Good Feminist ™.

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Content warnings: misogyny, harassment

At this point, I have written and rewritten this piece many times in my head. There are so many things I want to say and so many things I’m afraid to say, so many things that have already been said and much more clearly and eloquently than I could ever express. But this community (the gaming community) is my community too, both as a gamer and a creator, and I feel like the community and I need to have a talk. Because, you see, a significant subset of the community has been trying to tell me for most of my life that this isn’t  my community, that this community isn’t for me or people like me and others (women, LGBTQ, people of color, etc – basically anyone who isn’t a straight, white, cis man).

I finished Bioshock Infinite a few days ago – for the most part I had fun with it but it was ultimately disappointing, and there are some very specific things I really did not like. Possibly I’ll write a longer blog specifically about that at some point, but for now my summary is: meh.

I’ve spent most of the day today playing Neverwinter and I’m enjoying it. I doubt I’ll stick with it for very long, but there are some interesting things that they’re doing. I also feel like some of the key decisions Arenanet made with Guild Wars 2 have seeped in, or maybe we’re just finally at that stage in MMO thinking, but either way, I’m glad to see it. Artificially inconveniencing players as a means to gate content just never sat well with me, even when I understood the thinking behind it. It is interesting that this shift is coming from the F2P space. With Neverwinter, I think it makes even more sense, with the Foundry in place. Speaking of which, I have played through one Foundry quest (they actually incentivize players to play them, through daily quests). I haven’t yet crafted my own, though I definitely will be playing around with it. Very very curious to see what that toolset looks like. I’d probably be doing that right now if the servers weren’t down for maintenance.

I also picked up Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and I’ll probably boot that up in a bit to check it out. It looks super fun though.

Originally published here.

A Simple Game Idea

On my way home from work tonight, I had an idea for a game, a game that I am calling ‘id’.

At the start of the game you are assigned an arbitrary shape placed inside an arbitrarily shaped container. You can change your shape but only to a limited extent (the shape is somewhat elastic and resists attempts at reshaping, a little bit like playdough). You cannot change the shape of the container, but it will arbitrarily change shape sometimes, and if the new shape of the container forces the player’s shape to be out of bounds, the out of bounds portions of the player’s shape are lost, incurring a move penalty. You win the game by getting your shape to match the shape of the container and you are ranked on leaderboards based on how long it takes and how many moves you used.

The game has two difficulty settings: ‘Reality’ and ‘Fantasy’. In Fantasy mode, you can also alter the shape of the container to match your shape and the player’s shape can never be out of bounds. Fantasy mode also has no leaderboard or scoring – every player can win.

Originally published here.

When I was a kid, I went through a period of consuming choose your own adventure books in mass quantities. It was the merging of books and games, my two loves, so I kept telling myself that, as the amalgamation of the two, they were even better. But they weren’t better. I never identified with my character in those books the way I identified with Bilbo in ‘The Hobbit’ or Hazel in ‘Watership Down’. And they were definitely not as exciting as stomping mushrooms in Super Mario Bros or hitting things with Simon’s whip in Castlevania. Obviously the gameplay was lacking because there isn’t much you can do with “turn to page 67” (even adding a die roll and combat system, like some of the more advanced versions did, didn’t do much to increase the sense of risk and accomplishment inherent in games like Super Mario Bros and Castlevania), but why was the story not as immersive? The theory I think a lot of us who make games operate from is that offering player choices creates a sense of investment in their character and in the story that supersedes that of a novel or film; however, in my experience, that is seldom the case.

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Last weekend was the second Beta Weekend Event for Guild Wars 2, so I spent most of the weekend playing it.

I already had a Charr thief I’d made for the last beta event, but I made a couple of other characters, a Norn engineer and a Human necromancer. I ended up mostly playing the engineer because I really enjoyed the class and the Norn starting area. The thing I’ve found so far is that each class allows for a fairly wide range of playstyles while each still keeps their own unique flavor. The engineer uses pistols, rifles and shields, and has a wide range of utility skills from turrets (some for healing and some for damage/control) to grenades to elixirs (providing buffs to the player and/or nearby players). I highly recommend playing quite a bit with different skill/weapon combinations because it really changes how the class plays.

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So, like most of you, I’ve been playing a lot of Diablo III. I’ve mostly been playing my Witch Doctor (level 52 and in Hell Act 1 now), mostly solo though some grouping as well. Some of the fights have been an interesting challenge and Hell is noticeably more challenging than Nightmare (Normal was a joke). Crafting and the Auction House have both been somewhat disappointing so far – crafting is generally more costly than justify its rewards and the Auction House has a disturbing habit of being up and down all the time as they sort out various issues with it (it’s also rather lacking in search functionality and limits users to 10 listings which is a bit disappointing though I understand it).

Blizzard posted a dev blog this morning (Game Design Update) describing some of the issues they’re seeing with balance and play-feel as well as roughly outlining some of their intended solutions. It’s well worth a read if you’re interested in Blizz’s perspective about the course of Diablo III, and of course I have a few thoughts about it.

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