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.


Meghan said...

Not only Tekken, but I heard just today that they are actually making a movie of The Sims. Bottom of this article. Seriously, I love the sims and have wasted many hours of my life on them, but how on earth would any aspect of that game make a good movie?

Sorry, I realize this comment is a bit of a tangent, but still.

Daisy said...

Love the basketball clip!

Anonymous said...

As a non-US citizen the overwhelming outpouring of belief that Obama is going to signal a new era of change in America is quite odd. I understand the significance of having a half-caste African-American as President but can't help feeling that the white establishment are relieved he will be taking office as America seems set to experience the worst depression in living memory, even though it is not his fault the country is in the financial and fiscal mess it is.

Perhaps it is because of his politics, that might explain why there is so much disdain directed at the achievements of Condaleeza Rice, who although from a relatively privileged background, did grow up in Alabama in the time of segregation rather than the more multi-cultural Hawaii. She has been described as being "black by accident", which strikes me as quite offensive but I always believed that America would have a black President before they had a female one.

thene said...

Meghan - no sorries, and oh god that's horrifying. There'd better be an alien abduction, or else!

anon - the reasons people feel there's change afoot aren't all to do with Obama's skin colour.

There's the sense that he's the first president who isn't beholden to big-money donors - 75% of his donations came from small donors who gave less than $200 each; there's his keen intelligence, his awareness of the wider world and his identification with the northeast of the country, in a time when it seemed like only buddyish and insular Southerners or Westerners were allowed to be President; there's the 50-state strategy, launched by Howard Dean and adopted by Obama - one which took the election from scrappy fights in a couple of swing states to a national battle for every voter which saw ten states changing direction; and there's the networking, both virtual and IRL, that set boots on the ground to make this happen - had the conventional narrative played out, Hillary Clinton would probably be President-elect right now. That last one is something that's far from over, and which I strongly suspect Obama will use as a tool in battles against Congress over the course of the next eight years.

The 'disdain' for Condaleeza Rice is probably in part due to the fact that her own party like to keep her as far out of the spotlight as possible: she's gay. As far as the other side's concerned, she's been a member of a horribly unsuccessful cabinet, one that's hurt and killed a lot of people on this earth, and that prevents us from appreciating her talent or rating her as a star. I'm not sure which side's narrative has doomed her more, but I guess her story is over.

Anonymous said...

I can see what you say about Condaleeza but her being gay, is that really so much of an issue - it is widely accepted that Hilary is a lesbian and supposedly having a relationship with her Pakistani aid. According to G.Flowers, (so not the most credible source), Bill said that Hilary has probably eaten more pussy than him!
The funding issue is interesting as I recall Obama did get a huge amount of $200 or less donations and didn't have to receive state funding like McCain did and McCain acknowledged that he was simply outspent by the end of the campaign but you cannot ignore the huge funding Obama received from the business sector and, as expected, the more liberal entertainments sector - I am sure that they expect nothing from him in the future. Anyway good luck to Obama, it was interesting today to see Hank Paulson admitting that the current financial crisis is way beyond the scope of the TARP plan to resolve, what with AIG already having sucked up $165billion of tax payers money and that the US should now concern itself with the looming problems in the credit card/auto loan/ student loan sector. Obama addressed the global warming issue which while important perhaps should not be his most immediate concern.

thene said...

There's no evidence for Hillary being a lesbian, or even bisexual, other than malicious gossip; if she was, I'm damn sure it'd've come out in the primaries, so to speak. Rice shares her house and her bank account with another woman, and her name has never been linked to anyone male - she's not even trying as hard as Charlie Crist, which in turn implies that she's not that intent in seeking elected office anyway.

I made a post not so long ago about the Obama and McCain piggybanks: if you look up OpenSecrets' Contriubutions By Sector and drill down into Selected Industries (this is mostly gifts by independent individuals employed in an industry, rather than by corporations or industry bodies), you get a total entertainment sector gifting of $7,264,467 to Obama, then about half as much to Clinton and bugger all to McCain. So they love him in Hollywood, but not that much. Health professionals, retired people and educators each gave him considerably more. As for global warming, it's not separable from the auto industry; by investing in cleaner vehicles, you can act on both issues at once.

I need to stop reading Naomi Klein's columns about where the bailout money is going - I've no particular reason to believe they're true, and they just do my head in.

Anonymous said...

You have got to love the Clintons though, there is just so much negative stuff about them and so many people suggesting they should be in jail that you have to wonder if there is any truth in it. Still I suppose it is all part of American politics I mean look at Neil Bush, brother of George W and his involvement in the collapse of Silverado S&L, which cost the tax payer 1.3bn back in the days before government bail-outs started reaching unimaginable numbers. I shouldn't worry too much about greener cars from Detroit if I were you, the US auto industry is as good as dead, they may operate in the future as niche, nostalgia brands, much like Harley Davidson but short of the imposition of massive tariffs, these companies are history. The money from the bail-outs is completely misdirected and throwing money at a situation that was caused by excessive liquidity and leverage seems stupid, even by American standards. Still as America is in the new Obama era, I suppose it makes sense that Stan O'Neil, the first black CEO on wall street should get away with his $160mn payout for effectively bankrupting Merril Lynch, if only his white peers like Jimmy Cayne and Dick Fuld had bitten the bullet and stepped down before the true scale of the mismanagement was realised they might have collected higher pay-offs as well. I just cant help feeling that the financial problems that Obama has inherited are going to sour his term in office that some form of backlash is inevitable. I am sure he is very capable but this might not be the best time for a man like him to be in the white house, personally I think Marion Barry should have been the first black President.

thene said...

The healthcare situation has been an abiding drag on US car-making; even with all the mismanagement and lack of modernisation, they'd be doing a lot better if they weren't having to pay for their employees' doctors. It's a shame that it might have to be put off, because universal healthcare would be a boon for US businesses. Maybe the US car industry could make a comeback without those extra costs hanging from their necks.

Funny how all these crises end up being so linked together.