What We Missed

Still don’t know what to be for Halloween? Planned Parenthood of NYC has a list of some awesome and hilarious pro-choice costumes.
A Guam Archbishop says suicide bombers are better than gay people.
Models promise to get naked for you if you talk to your politicians about climate change.
A new bill was proposed in Baltimore that would force crisis pregnancy centers to post signs disclosing they don’t provide all reproductive health services.
What’s wrong with how “romance” is portrayed in video games.

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17 Comments

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    My opinion of such centers is forever shaped by a friend from college who found herself pregnant at 17 and visited one such location, only to find herself inundated with pro-life propaganda in the form of a video and fear-based shaming tactics from the staff.

  2. Asteri
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Wait, does anyone know if that 350 video is actually 350 sponsored, or just a video that someone created independently? (. . . if it was the former, i’m sorely disappointed. 350 began at my school, its roots are here, and I’ll be very frustrated if this is its new message. [also 'cause i wasn't too crazy about the 'natural state' line in the end. . .])

  3. Asteri
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    (mostly ’cause i don’t know if ‘natural’ is the right word to describe many produced super model bodies)

  4. Shadowen
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I would argue that by the reasoning given in the essay on video game “romance”, such subplots should be excised as something that happens to the player character entirely until rudimentary (but genuine) AI is capable of actually reacting to the player, as opposed to a series of if/then components. Because that’s all video game “romance” boils down to.
    The real problem is that video games are achievement-based. The point is to reward the player for trying and succeeding. In addition, romances generally only occur in games with a story. If the romance doesn’t unfold like the story, with a beginning, middle, and a (ahem) satisfying conclusion, then why include it at all? It might be the height of artistry to include a relationship that’s only really starting to get past flirting by the end of the game, but it will be really unsatisfying for the player. Applying a truly non-commodified approach to relationships and sexuality while keeping it enjoyable for the player would be, I imagine, difficult if not impossible with current tech.
    (The other real problem is that Most Video Game Writers Are Male, come at it from a male perspective, and the industry still aims at a primarily-male audience.)

  5. fsu
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  6. Citizen Lane
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure it’s just a limit of current tech.
    A lot of times players who are given lots of customizability over their character aren’t allowed to choose to be hetero, homo, bi, etc. when determining how they’ll interact with others. As long as we’re on the solid “if/then” tech, it’s not difficult to code conditionals based on gender choice and allow NPCs of whatever gender to react the same or differently to PC advances, and for the chance of failure to be real and somewhat random, not, “cycle through dialog options endlessly until desired result is reached.” Ahem, Mass Effect.

  7. Spiffy McBang
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Tech is an issue, but more because there’s too much, not too little.
    Back in the day, a game could offer a multitude of dialogue options that offered some nuance beyond good-bad-neutral. In Baldur’s Gate 2, for example, this allowed for a less simplistic approach to your character’s romantic relationships, and in many games (BG2, Planescape: Torment, Fallout, etc.) offer a greater depth to NPCs in general that added dramatically to the setting. This was not just possible, but necessary due to limited technical capabilities; story carried the day completely in RPGs, and the fact everything was in text allowed game designers to put basically as much as they wanted into the games. There was some voice work, but minimal relative to how much characters said.
    These days, because solid graphics are critical to any game that’s released and voiced dialogue is the norm, a much larger percentage of game budgets goes to the aesthetic qualities. Relatively little goes into the writing except in rare instances, Mass Effect being one. The fact there are mostly male writers does have an effect, but the percentage was even higher ten years ago, and the writing back then was absolutely phenomenal.
    Another thing to keep in mind is that this choose-the-right-answer style is basically a necessity in video games. Older games did this well by offering many dialogue options, and thus greater nuance along with a lack of surety as to what consequences certain answers would bring. BG2 was especially clever in this regard by springing conversations on you unexpectedly as your party traveled, so you couldn’t always see it coming and save your game beforehand. But at the base of it, you choose what your character says, and what results is based off of that. Adding randomness- saying the same thing to the same person in different games with potentially different results- would be absolute anathema. What’s necessary in terms of realistic possibilities is for games to A) start writing relationships for female characters equal in quality and number to male characters (Mass Effect almost pulls this off) and/or B) take the time to create real character depth in the NPCs so that it doesn’t feel like you’re just rumbling along to the sex scene.
    Of course, this isn’t to absolve the whole industry. There certainly are games that put minimal effort into creating notable NPCs, especially love interests. The Witcher is terrible in this respect- the misogynistic backdrop of the world would be ok simply as a setting if not for the fact you earn naked cards of the twenty-some odd female NPCs you can get to sleep with you, and that the game is actually designed for you to play through multiple times so that, among other things, you can sleep with different women on each pass. But unfortunately, the realities of the industry favor this over extremely deep stories, and that’s not going to change unless gamers support good games that try to change this norm.

  8. TD
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    A lot of times players who are given lots of customizability over their character aren’t allowed to choose to be hetero, homo, bi, etc. when determining how they’ll interact with others.
    I don’t see how that would be more realistic. While that may be something in the players mind when creating the character it seems like something which would come across much better in dialogue, where the character chooses which advances to rebuff, which to accept, and which to pursue, rather then a predetermined switch which all NPCs inherently know.

  9. dormouse
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Would it have been so hard to put a man into that climate change ad? Then it wouldn’t have been sexist.

  10. cebes
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Yeah, sexual objectification is great as long as everyone can get in on it!

  11. Spiffy McBang
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    This would really be the only way to do it. The current issue is mainly that, Mass Effect’s pseudo-lesbian relationship aside, the option to make your character go that route through dialogue just doesn’t exist.
    What could be interesting is a scenario where your character has a relatively large team of characters working with him or her (potential party members, like in Final Fantasy VI) who could form relationships with each other with some degree of randomness. That way different possibilities are explored on each playthrough without the main character being impacted and potentially pissing off the player.

  12. aelphaba
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    What the hell is up with the Ads on the sidebar? If I see one more half naked buxom elf or get told I can design my wedding….
    really I

  13. aelphaba
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I love Boys panties?

  14. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    the truth is, if BOTH genders promise to strip naked, then I don’t see how it’s sexual objectification. But since it’s only females, so I do have a problem with that.
    but everyone has different opinions on nudity and what entails sexual objectification, I guess.

  15. Jack
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    It’s still objectification, but I think you’re right in that it’s less problematic. Even if it’s naked men, they’re still only there to be pretty and to titillate; the fact that it appeals to straight women (and gay men) rather than straight men and lesbians doesn’t change the fact that they’re not really there to be people. They’re there to look good.
    That said, there are some positives to be made of the idea of having naked men there. For one, it would acknowledge that women are sexual beings (and not just sexualized beings) capable of being just as titillated as men and not being judged for it. For another, it would definitely embrace a more equal mindset. Consider the following: naked ladies. Clearly sexualizing the ladies and maintaining the subtextual status quo, that pretty girls have little reason to exist other than to cause boners. Naked dudes: a subversion of the status quo, yes, and an inversion of the power structure, but it definitely embraces the same ideas that created the patriarchy to begin with. Naked dudes and ladies: the acknowledgment that both genders are free to get all horned up on the internet. Perhaps not the most noble goal, but a definite smiley face on the grade card of sexual equality.
    It’s all academic, since it’s not happening, but still. Something to think about.

  16. dormouse
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t say anything about objectification. I just said it wouldn’t be sexist if there were men in the ad too.
    I, personally, wouldn’t have a problem with the ad if it featured more diverse people.

  17. Gopher
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I think the Baltimore thing is going to be a good first step towards making CPCs illegal.

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