Tag Archives: games

On the joys of being a girl gamer…

Clichés, we all have them and we all want to defy them.
As a girl with a gaming habbit (addiction?), I come across them quite often.

1. Hot gamer chicks.

No, I’m not some skinny, half naked hot chick with an XBox controller between her teeth. I don’t even own an XBox, ffs! So stop your imaginary drooling.

2. No-lifer, screaming at her XBox

I have a life thank you very much. I even have real life friends and a tangible boyfriend. /proud.
Also: I still don’t own an XBox

3. Favouritism / Girls can’t game

Back in my WoW days, I had to fight quite a bit for my raidspot. No, I did not get picked by the officers cause of my boobs. No, I did not bribe anyone with promises of half naked pictures with an XBox controller. I got on the team because I can actually kick your ass! And even though I do enjoy proving you wrong, having to defend myself every week gets a bit boring.

4. Girls don’t exist!

The cliché about girls on the internet: they’re not real.
Let me check here. Boobs, yeah. Lack of penis, yeah. Yep, I’m a girl. And according to Descartes, I’m very real. So get over it!

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The waiting game…

On wednesday I finally mailed the second promoter of my research with my ‘progress’. It took me three days to get just about anything out of my head onto the screen. You’ll probably noticed the desperate SOS post from during the process. I’m glad to announce that throwing a message in the bottle from my island helped, even though I didn’t get any back. It’s a lonely island out here in my head. Maybe I should repopulate it with OompaLoompas!

I don’t expect anybody to be curious about my progress, but I’ll tell you anyway. Meanwhile I’m anxiously playing the waiting game, waiting for a response. Hoping for green lights and a great race. I wouldn’t like to hear I’m on the wrong track.

Background:

I’ll (hopefully) be performing my research about identity, the way J.P. Gee sees it in his books and articles (I’ll put some references later). Gamers have their own, real life identity. But their in-game avatar also has an identity: a virtual one. Put those two together and you get what he calls the projective identity. That’s when you, as a gamer, project expectancies and values on their avatar. It becomes an ‘in-between’ identity, not quite real but also not completely virtual. It’s those virtual and projective identities I’m interested in. How do people identify with their character(s), specifically in a very social and ever changing environment: MMORPGs.

Another important background element is the specific game I’ll be finding my poor case studies in. Despite two years of experience with World of Warcraft, I didn’t choose the most popular and obvious choice. I think there is already an overload of studies in that environment. I’d like to run in a different direction. A very different one. The game I chose is not set in a fantasy or a science fiction world. No, it’s based on our very own contemporary Earth, just a bit more… mystic. Just imagine that every myth and urban legend you ever heard, were true. Expect a surprise behind every corner!
But that’s not the biggest difference and not necessarily the one that pulled me in. The big fish for me is the game play. No traditional classes. Bye bye warrior, priest, shaman, paladin or druid. Hello skill based system with over 500 skills to choose and combine from. Hello freedom and hello complication. Hopefully not hello to jack-of-all-trades-that-fails-at-everything-but-solo-questing. Also there will be no progress by leveling. No level cap. I suspect the major progress will be made by gear and ‘practice’ with skills. It gets even more complicated as we speak!
Those that have been following the recent developments in the MMO scene, will know what game I’m talking about. A contemporary setting, skill-based gameplay and no leveling. Yep, I am talking about Funcom’s The Secret World, that will hopefully launch in April this year. Otherwise I’ll have a major problem. Oh well, I guess that’s my punishment for choosing a game that is not even released yet and I don’t have beta access to. But too be honest, I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since I saw this teaser trailer a couple of years ago.

Premise:

So what will I do with all that background? Identities and a skill based system / lack of levels? How does that combine? It does, Gurren Lagann style!

I’m interested in how this not so conventional gameplay will influence people’s virtual and projective identities in group play. I’ll be focusing on group roles, which I suspect will still be fairly traditional.

  • Tank:  A tank is a tank is a tank. It’s someone big and strong that takes all the punches for the team. He can handle a lot of damage and keeps the attention (aggro) of the bad guys on him so the rest of the team can do their thing.
  • Healer:  This guy (or girl) has a fairly straightforward job: don’t let the tank die! And preferably keep everybody else alive in the process as well. Just throw those heals, baby! In bigger groups, there’s a chance the healer will be occupied with the whole group and curse at everybody that is stupid enough to stand in fire. It’s also the person that usually gets flamed when the group wipes (aka everybody is sleeping with the fishes).
  • DPS:  Damage Per Second. That says it all. Just do some major pew pew, don’t stand in fire and don’t do anything stupid. Like taking the aggro away from the tank and getting squashed by an ugly, slime barfing giant.
  • CC: Crowd Control. This is not necessarily a separate roll, usually a couple of DPS are charged with this. When you’re facing a big group of mobs (bad guys), it can come in handy to put some asleep or glue them to the ground. Just incapacitate the shit out of them.

In a class based game, it is usually fairly straight forward who takes on which role. A protection paladin is a tank, while a restoration pally is a healer. A hunter does pew pew and a holy priest heals. My apologies for basing all my examples on WoW. I know fans of other, equally awesome MMOs will hate me for picking the biggest one in the pack, but these examples are pretty straightforward. Your class and specialization define what you do in a group and 90% of the time you’ll perform a very similar routine.
I expect things to be a bit more complicated in The Secret World. There are no predefined classes. You decide what you do with your skills and how you combine them. There will of course be pre-cut templates, but nobody forces you to use them. It makes things a bit more tricky for a group leader to find what he needs. But it also makes it easier to switch in between roles. You don’t have to level a totally new character or change your complete spec. Just look for the skills and practice them till you’re pro. Simply put of course.

So what does that mean? My premise is that, instead of having a fixed identity when it comes to group play, there will be more opportunities to switch in between identities. The skill-based gameplay seems to encourage multiple identies and flexibility in using them ingame. But at the same time I expect it will be harder to acquire and develop said identities. There is so much versatility in opportunities, that I think it might take a while to find the play style that suits you as a player and you might get less support from your guild and the community. There will probably be tons of ninja’s around, but what if you want to be a fire-blazing revolver-wielding bounty hunter and there is nobody like you out there? It will take a lot of learning and practice to take on an identity and it will become even more complicated when we put five or ten people in a group to go kill stuff.

Method:
As I’ve stated before, I’m starting from Gee’s view on identity in games, applying that on group roles in MMOs. I think that, because of that thinking framework, discourse analysis will be the way to go. I’ll be taking and analyzing interviews with players, both experienced and new. I’m expecting I’ll look for players in a stable guild and otherwise players that play in PUGs (pick up groups, playing with people you find in the game world and you usually don’t know). That will give me ample opportunity to analyze and compare their language, their expertise in the game and their view on identities and group play.
After my last exam of the semester (on tuesday, fingers crossed and light those candles please), I’ll be looking more into this method, to define how it will help me in my research. Yay, more literature! Moar! Maybe I should post a picture of my stack of books and articles?

Wow, long post!

Lots to do, but now I have to go study educational policy and development. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!

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Bastion

If you feel like trying an amazing actionRPG, try Bastion by Supergiant Games.

It won several awards this year, and with reason. Multiple reasons actually.

  1. Fabulous artwork.

    Wow, just wow!

  2. Great voice-overs. You don’t hear the Kid talking, but the story teller. He has this voice that melts a women like sugar. Sean Connery style but even better. And don’t forget the sarcasm! If you make a stupid fall off of a ledge, you’ll hear about it. The comments from the storyteller made me smile, giggle, laugh out loud and sometimes they even touched my heart for real.
  3. Game play. Seriously. Try it. The world around you gets made up as you go (you’ll see what I mean) and it’s full of variety. You can customize your favorite weapons and you’ll always have two of them. Special action moves are powerful, but limited in times of use. Same with healing potions: they can be scarce. It’s such an innovating and challenging game.

Those are just three reasons, but I bet you can come up with even more. Go look at the website or buy it on steam (really, it’s not expensive!) and try it! I promise, you won’t regret it.

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Why do you game?

I get that question on almost a daily basis… Ranging from out of friendly curiosity to complete hostility.

I’m a 23 year old girl in higher education that likes to go out to party and enjoys cooking for her friends. I guess I’m too far away from the cliche. People don’t see me as a gamer or a geek and are sometimes ‘shocked’ to find out I was addicted to World of Warcraft for two years. I just managed somehow to combine it with my normal life. How the hell did I do that anyway? Six raids a week, all preparations for that, two of them I was raidleading myself and I still found time for my friends and parties. No wonder my results in school dropped a bit.

Back to the point. I game cause it’s my passion. Just like I love books and movies, but then again: I love games even more than those stories. I love what James Paul Gee calls ’embodied experience’. When I’m gaming, I’m not reading or watching a story. I’m in the story. I’m playing the story. I’m co-creating the story. You could even go as far as saying that I’m living it, especially in a massive multiplayer world. No other medium has been able to give me that experience. Not even real life. I can’t shoot a bow straight for real, not even if my survival depended on it. I can’t do magics and I can’t ‘respawn’ when I die. Gaming gives me endless possibilities to do the things I dream of and even the things I didn’t know I was dreaming of. I can be a rogue, a hunter, a magician or even a strong, sturdy melee fighter in a fantasy world. I can be a technological girl-wonder in the future. I can be anything that the real world won’t allow cause of well… reality. Damn you, gravity!

Don’t get me wrong, I value real life still over gaming. I think that’s the borderline of things going ‘wrong’. That’s when gamers can become addicts, when they start valuing the game over their real life. There’s nothing wrong with escaping every once in a while. Life isn’t always peachy. But you still have to want to live it. Cause when the game becomes more important than the real thing, what’s the point?

Another thing I love about games, that makes me drool with passion, is how a good game is designed. My education made me think more about my own gaming experiences and the learning in it. It’s fascinating how many actually good learning experiences can be built into a game. And most of the time we don’t even notice that we’re learning! That’s completely different from yawning in a schoolbench for a day and trying to cram in the facts at night. Every game has rules, you have to learn those. Not by reading the booklet. But by playing. Tutorials that gradually build you to higher skills. New ways of problem solving that get introduced. The space to be creative with your character and it’s problems. Even completely new ways of thinking and looking at the (virtual) world. You learn to play the game by playing it, there is no other way. Your own experience will lead you to new discoveries. Some people don’t see the value in this for education. Because ‘you only learn the game and nothing useful’. But look at serious games, those have ‘useful’ learning built into them. And since when are skills like problem solving, tactical insight, learning to work together or even becoming a successful leader not useful anymore?

We don’t live in a modern society anymore. We live in a postmodern learning society, where knowledge is more than remembering facts from school. Why wouldn’t gaming fit into that?

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Baby steps

When I was about 5 or 6, me and my big bro took our first steps into the gaming world. Our aunt got us a GameBoy(against my parents will, of course) with these 3 games:

My first games <3

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you we were psyched… Our own gameboy, with Tetris AND Wario? Woooooow! But… what’s that? The Legend of Zelda? Never heard of it.  Who’s Zelda anyway?
That would soon change though. It wouldn’t be long before my brother was crying cause I accidentally deleted his saved game. Two years later, we finally finished it. Two kids, 8 and 10, that never got taught English, except by the TV and Magic the Gathering, and yet we did it. I remember it now as a big feat of strength. Working together on solutions for big problems. Figuring out what weapon was needed where. Me being scared from the Link-eating-flowers near the third (?) dungeon. Going to my aunt every weekend so she could help us think of new solutions and strategies Stalking the toy store whenever we got stuck. Fighting the final boss fight over and over and over, till we finally killed the ****.

Those were the days. Determination. Learning the rules of the game. Not knowing what the story was about (some guy woke up and there was a castle… and a lot of monsters!) till we discovered the internet 7  years later. Coöperating with my brother and my aunt, to accumulate our knowledge and strategies. We even picked up quite a few words of English: feather, sword, shield, bracelet, …

Good times! And then people dare say gaming is a waste of time? I think not!

Funny fact: We’re 15 years later and I started 4 or 5 other Zelda games after that. Yet I never managed to finish one again.

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