Category Archives: games

Covering the Hijab at the Rio Olympics

Past weeks have seen the internet come to blows over pictures from a women’s volleyball game between Germany and Egypt. This picture:

9er0thu

Now where most sane folks would see a simple game of beach volleyball, the denizens of the interwebs have managed to read in some fantasy about a clash of cultures- “the free and civilized West against the superstitious, primitive savages of the East.” Comment sections have been flooded with everything from sarcastic half-jokes…

scs

…to open propaganda.

prp

“Because I, from the comfort of my armchair, know this athlete’s situation better than she does.” -Idiot Commentor

There’s been snide comment after comment directed not at Doaa Elghobashy’s performance in the game, not towards her assertion that what she wears is her own damn business, not towards her teammate (Nada Meawad) who doesn’t wear a hijab…

tumblr_obk9bkw4gj1tz1baoo2_500

And I think it’s because people aren’t actually angry about any of that.

For all the sanctimony, the issue at hand seems not to be with mandates or even just pressure to wear the hijab. It has nothing to do with standing up for women- on the contrary. I do think that the extreme contrast between Elghobashy and her German counterparts hit a nerve that most people didn’t realize they had. I think it does forced folks to ask themselves some truly uncomfortable questions about why they actually watch the sport.

I’m talking about this:

qb3op8i

Now I seriously debated putting that picture up, but as cringingly uncomfortable as it is, I think it speaks volumes about our culture. Continue reading

Advertisements

Can Video Games Make Thoughtful Social Critiques?

Just to be clear, I am not a gamer. The only video game I ever successfully completed was Jill of the Jungle, which we owned on floppy disk when I was a kid.

I’m pretty sure I only liked this game because Jane was a super cool tough girl,

In fact, up until this past year I would have argued that video games don’t really have any redeeming qualities. At worst, they are a hotbed of misogyny and xenophobia, as chronicled by female gamers on websites like Not in the Kitchen Anymore and Fat, Ugly or Slutty. At best, they are like a bottomless pit where the lives of children and adults disappear, never to resurface.

Although I suppose the same could be said about pretty well anything.

This year a good friend convinced me to try a Digital Humanities class at my University. For those of you who haven’t heard of the field before (I hadn’t either), Wikipedia defines it as the “intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities”.  If you want to see some examples of the kind of research being done in the field, you could check out two of my past posts describing DH scholar Lisa Nakamura’s guest lectures at my university.

While this class has challenged the way I see technology in general, it has particularly challenged my very negative perception of video games. In fact, Ian Bogost, one of the DH scholars we studied in the course, argues that games can form powerful arguments and unique social critiques. In his book, Persuasive GamesBogost describes arguments made by a game as “procedural rhetoric“, or, more simply as “the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions, rather than the spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures”.

Below, I’ve included four examples of persuasive games my DH professor shared with the class. Each of these games make relevant and thoughtful arguments that wouldn’t have been as effective if they didn’t appear in their procedural form.

The Parable of the Polygons

Vi Hart and Nicky Case preface their simple browser game by stating that “This is a story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.” Hart and Case explain that the triangles and squares are “slightly shapist”. This means that the shapes prefer some level of diversity around them, but will become unhappy if they feel isolated in their community. Players are then asked to drag and drop the shapes until all of the squares and triangles are happy with the community of shapes around them.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.28.02 PM

Click on the image to play the game

Once the player begins moving the shapes, it becomes apparent that even a slight bias will lead to large scale segregation. Continue reading

My First Time LARPing (Live Action Role Playing): A Culture War Report

One of the things you may not know about me is that I have some of the coolest nieces and nephews out there. Recently one of these very cool nephews invited me and John to join him and his friends for some LARPing.

According to the Urban Dictionary, LARP, or Live Action Role Play, is

“a type of game where a group of people wear costumes representing a character they create to participate in an agreed fantasy world. [They] use foam sticks as swords, foam balls as magic and other props to create the games world.”

The first time John and I visited Dagger Deep, the massive Heavy Action Roll Playing arena here on Vancouver Island, we figured we’d just take a look around. That was when we realized that LARPing was one of those all-or-nothing sort of things; we were, of course, denied entrance at the gate. Apparently, jeans just don’t cut it in the medieval world.

This photo was borrowed from the Pictures of Medieval Chaos page on facebook. Check out this photo and more by clicking here, or on the photo itself.

Continue reading

Mystery Room: A Culture War Report

I’m actually being half-serious when I say that today’s post very well could have been “Re: Re: Do Western Christians Want Martyrs?”. It’s an extremely relevant topic, and I hope that you’ll take the time to read what Kat had to say, as well as Gordon’s response. No, instead what I have for all of you is another one of my rarely shared new life experiences, this time being the hour and a half I spent on Wednesday night trying to escape a series of dark locked rooms.

Now apparently this sort of thing is, and has been, all the rage according to a friend of mine, but the very concept was extremely foreign to me. Wikipedia’s entry for it is titled “Real-life Room Escape”, and describes it as being:

“a type of puzzle simulation games in which you are locked in a room with other participants and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles, find clues, and escape the room within a set time limit.”

It also mentions the fact that their existence stems directly from online video games, which is honestly the coolest thing. Whereas most video games are based on real life activities [stealing cars, shooting ethnically ambiguous terrorists,
running your own farm, etc.], this is an example of an activity that mimicks a video game. That is, and realize I don’t use this word lightly, neat. It’s super neat.

I should probably get to what my time with it was actually like, though. To help prime your expectations a little bit, the course my friends and I went through was titled “Haunted Hospital”.

Zombie nurses not included.

Continue reading

Culture War Correspondence: Sports

GORDON: The GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAL of today’s topic is to discuss sports, ladies and gentlemen- which I thought appropriate, considering the devastating defeat of Brazil at the hands of Germany.

KAT: Yeah, it was a real blitzkrieg.

Are you a sports guy Gordon?

GORDON: Classy, Kat. Bring up the darkest and most shameful elements of German history on this, their proudest day.


But to answer the question, no, not at all. I’ve always been an adherent of the belief that if you’re not playing it, it’s probably not all that interesting.

KAT: My apologies to all my fellow Germans out there.

And yes, I think you are really on to something there. The only sport I’ve enjoyed watching at all is soccer and that’s just because I’ve played it (terribly, but I did play) so I understand (most of) the rules.

So, did you actually watch any of the games in the World Cup?

GORDON: None whatsoever.

I did follow it a little bit, but only to gauge the reactions of average Americans to the comparative success of the team. This has probably been the most invested the American public has been in the sport.

Or anything, really.

Continue reading

6 Reasons to Pick Up Iron Patriot #1 Tomorrow

If you don’t like numbered lists [the internet does have more than enough] then try to look past the digits and view this as a general collection of items, free of any form or order, as to why you should head over to your local comic book store and pick up a copy of Iron Patriot #1.

1. It’s a Jumping On Point For Movie Fans

I fully realize that many comic book readers do not like it when their medium of choice makes changes to appear more in line with what takes place on the big screen. That being said, Col. James Rhodes has been wearing the red, white, and blue power suit for a little while now and it’s led to some pretty great stories.

Let’s also not forget that Iron Man 3 made $1.2 billion worldwide. That is a lot of people who know and understand Rhodey to look like the love child of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. If you loved the film and the characters this is a great place for you to get in on the world of comics.

Continue reading

My Personal Fears About Dota 2‘s Art Plagiarism Made Real

My first contact with anything Blizzard Entertainment-related was when a kid much older than I found a copy of WarCraft II: Tides of War on our aging PC in the Philippines. I found the fantasy story gripping, but as a child who drew far more than he wrote [a ratio clearly flipped on its head nowadays] it was the visuals that really grabbed me.

A few years later, on my family’s return to Canada, seeing WarCraft III in Best Buy fliers made my eyes widen in awe. These were many of the same races and units I was familiar with, but updated graphically. I spent many of my precious minutes on the internet perusing the game’s website just gawking at the units and buildings before I finally grabbed a copy of my own.

When World of WarCraft was announced I made plans to play it with my friends, though those were ultimately stymied by the subscription fee as well as my family’s move to Thailand. That didn’t stop me from absorbing as much about the game as I could, though. This was a world I was deeply familiar with but expanded to a greater scope than I could ever imagine. Continue reading