So, this is a post that is going to probably upset some folks. I’m taking a dissenting opinion on a topic of great interest to the gaming/geeky community right now (or so it seems to me). I want to explain that I am not taking issue with anyone in particular and that I’m not even going to go so far as to say that my opinion on the topic is fully fleshed out… more that this post is an exploration of my feelings to try and make some sense out of the topic for myself. I hope to be respectful and I hope to be careful in what I express here… and if you disagree or would like to help me explore my feelings, I hope you’ll comment.
This is not what I meant to post about today. This is not what I wanted to post about today… but it’s been rattling around in my brain for a while (ever since the explosion of “women in reasonable armor” images/posts a while back). I decided to write today after seeing this pop up all over my Facebook the last few days… “Drawing the Impossible? Fully Dressed Superheroines“
Now, don’t get me wrong – the art is cool – and this guy did a good job of making sure to say that his intent was in no way to push a moral code. Bravo to you Michael Lunsford, I really do appreciate your work here. I think my problem stems from the fact that the discussion (look at the editorial comment at the link I posted) and many of the Fb shares of this are exactly that – trying to extract a lesson out of all this. And that may be as simple as my disdain for these efforts gets – I’m upset by the smugness I often see accompany these images and memes – the idea that if you disagree you are sexist, or you hate women, or you don’t welcome women into the culture/subculture…
So maybe that’s really what upsets me. But I’m still exploring so bear with me please. I’m a gamer and a guy. I don’t really identify as a geek. I like things that others have decided are geek things, like gaming, but I haven’t really faced a lot of social stigma because of those things because, well, one – I don’t self-identify as a geek and two, I don’t really give two tugs what a portion of intolerant people think of me or my way of having fun. I will admit, I have been subjected to harassment over the nearly thirty years of my gaming life by people in my extended family, workplace, and personal life telling me that gaming is evil, that it is a tool of the devil, and that I’m a tool of the devil if I do it, I just never let it bother me. Since my mom sat me down at a young age and let me watch The Last Unicorn and bought me books on mythology alongside my first D&D Basic Set I feel like I know that I am secure as a gamer.
I don’t know what it is like to be a female cosplayer who gets groped and insulted at conventions. I think it’s ridiculous and awful that such things happen and I fully support efforts like CONsent and I wish them the best of luck in raising awareness – and I’ll be more aware too when I want to take a picture at a convention (heck, I’m super nervous when I ask a cosplayer for a picture anyway, I always feel like I’m bugging them no matter how nice they are about it). But reading what the CONsent folks had to say, as well as the article they link to, is good information to know. I also realize that there is this whole “fake-geek-girl” thing and this weird backlash against girls in gaming in some quarters… To those people I can only ask, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Why would anyone take all the time, energy, and money to craft a costume, be brave enough to wear it, and spend their weekend at the freakin’ convention if they didn’t want to be there just as much as you did? (I’ll admit, I wish I was brave enough to cosplay – I follow several cosplayers online and find them completely inspiring.) I’d hazard a guess that many of them might want to be there more than you… they are committed in a way you wish you were.
But I’m digressing a little. I’m always bothered by the discussions of how women are depicted in gaming… mainly because the conversations seem very one-sided and most involve groups of people who only want to vent into their echo chamber and god forbid you have the temerity to disagree. And as a guy who identifies as straight – I’ll say this with no shame at all – I don’t really understand people’s beef with skin, male or female. Heck, show it all off if you want, as long as you are respectful of the opinions of reasonable people in public places, of course. I don’t particularly feel the need to cater to the fringe or the unreasonable – but I accept that there are wrongs committed in gaming and comic art in some people’s eyes, and as long as they are reasonable in their discussion I think we should all keep listening and learning.
I just don’t really see how the “women in reasonable armor” or “fully clothed superheroines” discussions are in any way “helping.” I much prefer to see someone who comes out and says, “you have the right to dress however you want and no one has the right to abuse you for it.” [Please note: this video could include triggers and the part I'm interested in here kicks in at about the 3:40 mark.] That’s the education we need to give in this discussion – not changing appearances, but rather, changing attitudes.
But let’s really get back to the discussion of fully-dressed superheroines for a moment. First of all, my spell-checker doesn’t like the word superheroines and frankly, neither do I. I prefer just to call them superheroes and move on with it (can I be silly and call them metahumans?) Anyway…
So, my wife loves Tomb Raider (at least the old Tomb Raider, the verdict is still out on this new reboot). She loves the old games, she’s read the comics, she even likes the movies… I give her a bit of a hard time for liking the movies… I’ll admit. And Lara Croft is often a poster-child for the supposed ills of depicting women in fantasy/scifi. But I always get a laugh out of this because that’s not the first thing I notice about Lara Croft. The first thing I notice about Lara Croft is the fact that it seems highly unlikely to me that someone that thin would be able to do the extreme adventuring she does. Where’s the muscle mass, the fitness, the fat reserves for endurance? Right, no where to be found because she has to be drawn like a Victoria Secret model. You want to get into a discussion of drawing reasonable or realistic women in comics? I’d love to see a version of Alex Ross’ painting of Batman, covered in the scars of his life that depicts the Huntress or Black Canary in the same way. You know how many times the Huntress has been shot, stabbed, clawed, burned, electrocuted, and just plain beaten up? Draw me a superhero who looks like she lives the life and that’s something I can believe in.
Something that caught my eye when looking at the superheroines in full clothing was that I noted the only one who seemed to have a costume that closely echoed her male counterparts was Power Girl. I love the costume he created for Power Girl by the way and I love that he kept her muscles and her toughness right up front in the picture too, but I wonder if those muscles didn’t prompt the costume to seem more like her male counterparts? I could be wrong about that. It was just an immediate thought that occurred to me as I viewed the images.
Ultimately, I feel like my takeaway is that I’m glad that there are more females in my little corner of the subculture… it means more people to game with. I’m thankful that I’ve always had the opportunity to game with and enjoy the company of excellent females – geek or not – and I’m thankful that there are more high profile female geek icons. This awareness is a truly wonderful development in our hobby and whenever I have the opportunity to welcome another female player to the table, I’m happy to do so. And I’m appalled at some of the ridiculous examples of idiotic behavior that belittles or outright abuses women for being a part of our culture (and frankly, more than women, anyone who has to suffer in a group they have chosen to identify with). And there is nothing at all wrong with art projects like the one depicting the Fully Dressed Heroines… (except when paired with stupid tag lines like “Drawing the Impossible”). My crisis with these types of things, when they pop up, is the smug bandwagon effect that seems to accompany them. I’ll admit freely, maybe that’s just that I get my news and reactions from the wrong sources… I hope, more than anything, that we continue to educate people to be more mature, more open, and more accepting in all phases of life. I may not particularly identify as a geek (despite running a gaming blog, right) but I love being a part of a thriving community of gamers, cosplayers, artists, and writers who are sharing wonderful imagination with each other and I would hate to lose any of the voices because they have been shouted down – no matter which side of the aisle you are on.
At my local convention, Madicon, a few years back, one of the author guests made a pretty interesting point in his discussion about coming up as a writer. (I apologize, I don’t remember which author guest — it was the quote that stuck with me, not the person). I’m only paraphrasing but he basically said, When I was trying to get started and needed an agent — no agent wanted me. When I eventually made it on my own — agents wanted me but I didn’t need one anymore.
I’ve been investigating Kickstarter lately, reading up on successes and failures. I’ve backed stuff on Kickstarter before and found some great products that way that I missed the campaigns for but bought after the fact. It seems like a great thing. I’ve talked to some people who’ve used it and been successful and I’ve seen the big name, big budget projects hit. I’ve read commentary about it from outside the RPG niche and well, generally, I kinda feel like that author guest up above. In order for Kickstarter to be worth using, you have to already be “somebody” (in a subjective sense, of course — and based on your audience). Being a nobody is a sure way to get a KS to fail.
So I’m well into writing on my Game. I’ve done a lot of the work and I have a great artist lined up and actively working along with some supplemental art by a few others. The project is shaping up nicely. And I’ve really considered whether a Kickstarter campaign would be worth it to help finance the project. But here’s the thing.
I was discussing this very thing with another guest at Madicon this year, a great guy who was in the middle of his own KS campaign for a music project and he told me that he felt that he’d really used the campaign the wrong way, kind of doing it as a poll — to gauge interest in a project. And he realized after he’d started (he actually made his goals and beyond but that’s not the point here) that he wasn’t sure how smart that was. Because if it’s a project you really want to do and you fail to fund it then basically, does that mean that people don’t want it? If you fail to fund, does that mean you scrap the project and never finish it? And I think those are valid points.
Money is tight all around. So far I’ve funded this project out of pocket and I’m happy enough with the results. I don’t expect my little home-design diceless game to set the RPG world on fire or anything… I’ve even contemplated going the free game route at one point. But a funding drive would be super useful right now. I kind of need Kickstarter but honestly, it doesn’t need me. No rancor in that statement, just true facts and a little sad envy.
Ultimately, my reading and my experience lead me to believe that Kickstarter is a great thing and I love some of the products I’ve learned about and picked up through KS. But I think for KS to be worthwhile for someone they need to already have their audience attracted. Kickstarter isn’t (or doesn’t seem to be) for nobodies.
So back to the grindstone, back to polishing my work and being excited about the art coming in. I’ll see where this project takes me — maybe to the next project which will be worthy of a Kickstarter…
Thanks for reading.
I don’t write about comics that often — and I’ve tried to stay mostly silent on the DC 52 Reboot (I know they’re not calling it a reboot, but… c’mon.) But I find the whole thing kind of fascinating really — and it intersects with gaming in an interesting way too, but that’s more of tangent.
Thing is, when I was a young kid, I read two comics regularly, Thor and Iron Man. Later, I got really into the Marvel 2099 line, but I didn’t read much DC — except for All-Star Squadron, which I thought was brilliant — death of the Red Bee is still one of my favorite issues ever, of anything.
So, fast-forward a bit and I kept up a little, being drawn in by a few events — The Death of Superman, stuff like that, learned to love Steel and the new Superboy. The Knightfall storyline didn’t interest me at all, but the end of it, with Bruce fighting to come back really did — and that’s when I met Tim Drake for the first time. And I was hooked.
Tim is by far my favorite character in the DCU. I mean, I love Green Arrow, and Alan Scott, and most of the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans, Power Girl, Black Canary and Huntress… but Tim is just great. And the most recent run of his (currently) Red Robin comic with Fabian Nicieza is so amazing — even when I recently gave up on the DCU (event fatigue your name is me) — I kept up with two books, Stephanie Brown as Batgirl and Tim Drake as Red Robin.
But what’s really amazing to me is that Tim has been around since 1989. Think about that in Gaming Years… Tim debuted in the same year as D&D 2nd Edition. That’s nuts. But what’s more amazing is that he’s been around for 22 years. So a kid that was 8 and started out reading Batman books in 1989 is 30 now. And Tim is the Robin he’s grown up with… Weird, huh?
Graduate school, comprehensive exams, and teaching are kicking my butt right now. I haven’t had the time I’d like to build posts — and my little gaming time has been spent posting character builds over at the Mutants and Masterminds forums.
But I was talking with a friend of mine about music — we’re both pretty big Zeppelin fans (who isn’t, right?) — and we were talking about the way that some bands are “classics.” In the sense that they have staying power beyond normal expectation. Now, I am not a business student or a music industry guru, but, our armchair conclusion about why so many bands after that “classic” age don’t live up to the same standards comes from the revolving door nature of the music industry.
Video didn’t kill the radio star — it killed the timeless star. I mean, look at a lot of more modern bands. They’re the Next Big Thing(!) — for all of 15 minutes. Then their industry handlers realize that sales of the second album fell off a little, so naturally it’s time to move on to the next Next Big Thing (NBT). And we, as consumers, support this relentless turnover. We support the quest for the NBT even before we’ve seen what the Last Big Thing (LBT) might truly have had to offer. (Either that or the local radio station plays the same one song by a band so many times that you decide you’d rather go deaf than listen to that band ever again.)
Another example — I was reading an interview with the boxer, Tarver, who is moving up to the Heavyweight division. He was talking about how they’re aren’t really any big personalities in boxing anymore — how the media has moved on, because no one’s out there making a Name for themselves — gone are the Foremans and the Leonards and the Alis.
Ask yourself too — how many times have you been watching a new show, and you love the first season — and it’s hyper-successful, so the first thing the network does is change stuff second season, mess with the formula and ruin a good show (“cause you gotta keep it fresh!”)?
I see a similar issue with gaming. I read a post at Critical Hits recently discussing game evolution — and the good sides of that process — though you could just as easily (and cynically) see it as game cannibalism. Not that I’d ever say that great games don’t still come out. I absolutely love Barbarians of Lemuria and Dogs of War, for example. But we do tend to value the “new, shiny toys” and I suppose I’m frustrated by that a little. I suppose this sentiment explains the love I have for the Old School people and the DYI ethic. I don’t really want to ever play Basic Set D&D again. I played it and it was great, but I’m not that gamer anymore — but I love the fact that they are still out there, supporting and building a game system that the company killed 20+ years ago.
But look at the editions of games — the time between them keeps getting shorter and shorter. The bigger companies turn into businesses more than gaming companies. All the “Personalities” in gaming are Indy-kids (though I know they’re not really “kids” per se), and great game designers like Mike Mearls get stuck behind a keyboard promoting D&D 4E. Again though, I won’t hate on 4E here anymore — I wanted to love it, the relationship went wrong, and I’m not going back.
Warhammer Fantasy is a similar example, same with Mutants and Masterminds, same with Shadowrun. Now, I love the new edition of Shadowrun, I love it dearly — but 4.5 editions in not that much time — and don’t get me started on the World of Darkness (joking).
Maybe I’m just an old grognard (do you know how much I hate seeing people use that word — like it means something…) and I don’t hate new games. I love a bunch of them. I just think, in the corporate culture of gaming, in the rush for Shiny New Toys, we often forget the good stuff, the important stuff, and we don’t let products have the lifespan to develop into “classics.”
Thanks for reading. Sadness over. Next week I’ll try to jump back on the happy bandwagon with some Savage Worlds discussion!
I was talking to my girlfriend, who is much more a computer/console gamer than I am about the problems with going backwards. That is to say, when you play a console game, like a PS2 game on your PS3, you can often see how much has changed, how much has updated. Graphics are better, everything is shinier, brighter, crisper. The games often play faster and have better reactions. The AI keeps getting more fluid. It was during this discussion that I realized a really important way that video games are not like table top games.
RPGs never get old.
I’ve been busy this week making a huge map for a game I want to start… so I haven’t given the blog enough attention, but this is the perfect opportunity to reach out to readers and fellow bloggers with a few gaming related questions I’ve been pondering.
1. Does anyone know any good resources for learning more about the in and outs of the OGL and its various uses and forms? I will admit to being utterly confused by the whole thing and having some source that explains things better would be extremely helpful.
2. For the new game I’m running, I’ve been looking into systems/mechanics for maintaining domains/households/empires at the game table. I’ve reread the systems in Houses of the Blooded, Birthright, a system from a Dragon Magazine article (Issue 293, March 2002), and the system in the old GURPS adventure, Harkwood. None of these really do it for me. They are either too vague, too intensive in book keeping, and they all are written with relatively small domains in mind.
Ideally, I’m looking for a system that is relatively light on paperwork and scales well from small domain to empire level. I guess a fairly abstract system would be nice… If I can’t find one I’ll have to make one, but I thought I’d ask first.
3. I’m also curious if anyone out there is involved in the running or planning of gaming/fantasy and sci-fi conventions? Specifically, smaller scale conventions in the hundreds of attendees rather than thousands of attendees range. I’m working on a project to help codify planning for a smaller convention and I’d love some input — especially about the best places on the web to advertise the convention. I have something of a plan in mind, but I’d like to talk to more people before getting excited.
Any help with any of these would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. I hope by Friday I can have some images of the map I’ve been working on and I can start talking about that setting.
I really wish I could have come up with a good synonym for Regret that started with a D. That would have given the title a lot more symmetry… But that wish for a D-word is not the regret I’ll end up writing about today. I’m writing about me and gaming. So, today’s a little personal, but I hope it’s still interesting for others.
First, I want to say a word of admiration. I’ve been immersed in Barbarians of Lemuria and Dogs of War for the last week or so. These two games are built around the same engine and are written by Simon Washbourne. These are excellent games. They are everything I want in a game. BoL and DoW are both very rules-lite, but despite that the system is robust, with a lot of detail packed into few words on few pages. The game is well-written, as well edited as most of the big publishers (which may not be a compliment, but it’s meant as one), and very imaginative.
I interrupt my regularly scheduled Friday posting to bring good news. Off-topic for “rpg” but very good news nonetheless.
Seriously, I could not be more stoked about this. I want it now!
PS – I love how they dodge the questions about the Last Airbender movie awfulness.
The Good News: Last night I bought and downloaded the DC Adventures Heroes Handbook, debuting the new Mutants and Masterminds system. Haven’t read deeply enough yet for a true review, but the look-over tells me that I’m gonna like it. I’m really pleased with the step away from some of the d20 elements they’ve made.
The Bad News: The Green Lantern costume for the live action movie… I know we haven’t seen it “on-screen” yet, but seriously, DC, who is responsible for that, that, thing he’s wearing. From what we’ve seen so far, the costume looks pretty awful. Does not bode well for GL.
Sometime in 1982/83 I became an RPG player and I never looked back. I started with what I call the Purple Box. It’s the one with the Erol Otus cover, and what I think most old-schoolers refer to as the Moldvay edition. I was playing with a friend who was two years older and acted as our DM for a long time. My first two characters were a Fighter named Sir Greyhawk and a Wizard named Arkaynne (you can’t make this shit up, right) and we played with very little regard to the actual rules. Over the course of the next three years or so we got a lot more serious and moved on to AD&D after exhausting the Basic and Expert rules sets.