Thursday, November 06, 2008

squees, lies, videogames.

Erm, okay, I may have lied about no more election stuff. I was seduced into giving more election links by this amazing photo-series. Just keep hitting 'show more images', it's lovely. But I have gamer-girl stuff to share too, I promise!

A little over eight months ago, Michelle Obama said to a crowd of her husband's supporters, "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country." She took a lot of flak for that statement, and was called unpatriotic, 'ungrateful', and generally accused of being a nasty strident Sapphire who didn't know her place. Yesterday two good friends of mine each said pretty well exactly that, a third (who lives abroad) said that she no longer feels ashamed when people realise she's American, and Kyrias, a long-standing US resident, is considering filing for citizenship. A lot of people at Feministe are also echoing Michelle's remarks.

With provisional and absentee ballots to sort, the last calls are still being made; Georgia was finally settled for McCain earlier today, but I'm not sure if the Senate call (it will be a runoff election, because the Libertarians prevented anyone getting 50% of the vote) has been formalised. North Carolina went for Obama by 14000 votes, again due to those pesky Libertarians; Missouri is likely McCain but still to be called - on Super Tuesday it was prematurely called for Clinton but the final count flipped it to Obama, so I guess they're trying not to make a mistake again this time. The only other outstanding presidential count is in the city of Omaha, custodian of one of Nebraska's five votes; they're busy opening the last 15000 ballots, and it's relatively likely that Obama will eke out a tiny win. This would be the first time either of the splitting states - Maine and Nebraska - have actually split their votes; personally I think it would be more fun, and lead to more engagement, if all states split their votes by congressional district.

They're also still counting in the Alaska senate race, where seven-times felon Ted Stevens has probably pulled out a win. (Nate has a post about how Alaska skewed dramatically away from pre-election opinion polls, with the Republicans overperforming by +12% in all election races, not just the Senate). If so, he will be thrown out of the Senate and Alaska will join Georgia in having a December 2nd special; I fear the seat is Ms Hun's if she wants it. It's a shame because this was the one real chance of getting a left-wing Alaskan into the Senate. :/ The Oregon Senate race has been belatedly called for the Democrats, but Minnesota is in the throes of a full recount.

Saxby Chambliss, btw, did manage to find time to get even lower and shittier right before the election. Also, I am linking this just for one great sentence: "Nate Silver taught numbers how to fuck."

Now, gamer shit: if there's one videogame movie the world really doesn't need, it's this one.

This blog post contains a PDF file of the best gaming article I've ever read. It's about people who still play Pac-Man and other old arcade games competitively, and it contains the phrases 'meditative states' and 'gamer ontologies'. I thought I was the only person in the world who cared about gamer ontologies and I am so not. That article is very long but it made me so very happy.

The one thing I found off about it is that it framed classic gaming as being so completely a matter of male homosociality. This puzzles me because one of my housemates is a classic gamer - an obsessive Dr Mario player - and I often find myself sat drinking coffee while hypnotised by her arrays of primary-coloured pills. She is not an 'adept', and rarely squeaks past level 23, and is not part of any gamer club that I know of. And I like watching people play games, even ones I suck at (especially ones I suck at). I also know a person with a basement full of consoles from long ago - Ataris and the like. Yep, she's a chick. I don't know any men who still play classic games, only these two women. The article only mentions one woman among the many gamers it discusses, adepts and audience members both, and prefers to put women in the background caring for the gamers in their lives but not partaking. I suspect that this is an old idea at work - that what men do with their free time is serious, worthy, even sacred, but women have only their tasks and their fripperies. It's not true IRL obv, only in the media.

And here at Vorpal Bunny Ranch (which truly is the best-named website ever) is another wonderful article marred by the assumption of male homosociality. It's about the role of the dandy as a male stereotype in videogames, and it has Balthier in it just to make me happy:
It is a common stereotype that we have come to expect--if a man is not muscular and cannot save the day through his forceful body or strength, then he has to be crafty, making him either a man of questionable morals or a villain himself.

... You cannot trust the man who does not use his hands for physical labor and counts on magic and deceit to achieve his goals--how loathsome.

Is it that surprising that this happens in videogames? Not at all. Consider that, in general, the dandy is a male who is considered feminized by his opposition to the male principle of power through strength.

That post makes some great points but I think it's slightly crippled by comparing men only to other men, when electric culture is really way more level about gender; it talks about Balthier as a dandy, and yes he does have a claymore-swinging foil whose story is about grappling with the male principle of power through strength...and that person is Ashe, a chick, so there you go.

Also speaking of chicks, Nintendo have been surveying DS players in Osaka. The biggest user block of all is boys aged 10-12, but the second biggest is women in their early 30s. At most ages, women are more likely than men to use a DS.

Did any of you hear about the Little Big Planet recall? A classic case of oversensitivity at work; songwriter Toumani Diabate, a Malian Muslim, included two lines from the Koran in a song he wrote for the game - something that's apparently common in Mali's music culture. When Sony realised this they went apeshit and recalled the game. M. Zuhdi Jasser, head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has no idea what their fucking problem was: "The fact that the music writer is a devout Muslim should highlight that at the core of this issue is not about offending 'all Muslims', but only about freedom of expression and the free market." Tycho, meanwhile, points out that Little Big Planet is a game centred on user-generated content, which - as I said re. the Hot Coffee mod a while ago - is inevitably going to cross every line the designers, censors and raters attempt to draw. It's the end user who chooses the content, not you.
No matter what this song contained, rated by some universal standard for blasphemy, the things you could do with the included toolset would make any scholar of Islam beg for the days when the holy scriptures were merely set to a jaunty beat. [...]

No-one was watching when modding became something like a gamer's right. Now, the mainstream perches in every high corner, shifting its weight like Poe's raven, positively starved for evidence that this incredible medium bears within it the dissolution of a generation.

This is why Microsoft doesn't want to get within ten miles of this shit.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

a quick note before bedtime:

CNN and other press agencies called Georgia for McCain at about 11pm; the Associated Press and Georgia's local press organs did not do so. Now we know why: roughly 600 000 early votes cast in the Atlanta area were not included in that initial count.

Whether McCain really won GA or not doesn't matter so much, but this is likely to push Saxby Chambliss into a Senate runoff or even out of the Senate entirely.