As noted earlier this week, posts and comments have waned and waxed in regularity as of late, for various reasons. One is that most staff are part-time, with a predictable decrease in commenting activity as a result – no shock there. But a more structural reason, as both commenters and commentators have pointed out, is the nature of blogging in recent years. Most activity now takes place on blogging platforms, i.e. daily aggregators like BuzzFeed and Gawker, rather than on individual blogs. As winter approaches, we can’t promise more frequent posts – but we can promise more regular ones, based on this tentative roadmap for winter…
During summer, when we weren’t mocking rape culture, we were posting gaming vlogs with vaguely feminist themes. The vlogs themselves weren’t great, but served as creative practice for a project we’ve developed for months – an ongoing series of feminist videogame reviews, slated to start this winter. But we chose to practise first with vlogs, so we could make sure we knew what we were doing. We won’t bore you with lessons learned – if you’re interested, here’s our Tumblr post on the subject.
Why feminist game reviews? Isn’t Anita Sarkeesian doing a pretty good job on that front, despite claims by critics that her efforts to encourage women in gaming make her a fascist threat to civilisation?
Yes, Sarkeesian does commendable work, but it’s tangential to what we’re developing. She and her FemFreq team review genres, not games. And even when her videos are 30 minutes, they touch on 50+ games at a time – leaving little time to truly analyse any single title, no matter how pivotal it is to geek feminism or gaming. And frankly, seminal games like Half-Life and BioShock deserve more than 30 secs of analysis.
That’s why we’re doing this. We’re not competing with Sarkeesian’s work but complementing it, filling gaps where in-depth analysis is needed or deserved.
Do we intend to review every game out there? Hardly. For the first season, we’ll look at 10 significant games over the past decade, from 2004’s Half-Life 2 to 2014’s The New Order. (Anyone who’s played either title understands exactly why they deserve to be on a feminist list, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Each episode will be at least four minutes, divided into four sections…
Overview: What’s the game about? What’s its importance to gaming culture?
Visibility: Does the game feature anyone besides beefcake white guys made of guns and steroids? We’re not just talking about women’s visibility but also POC, LGBT folks, religious people and the disabled.
Agency: Sure, a game may feature women and other non-traditional characters, but how much agency do they have? Are they on equal footing with the hero, or merely victims to be rescued?
Progress: How has the game contributed to the progress of gaming diversity? Or has it, at all?
Each section has its own colour-coded theme. For example’s sake, here’s an orange theme in action…
We’ll also include behind-the-scenes development details about each game, to nullify the sort of accusations levelled at Sarkeesian that she’s not a real gamer who understands the industry. And to neutralise claims that we’re not hardcore gamers but filthy casuals, we’ve made sure to play every game on highest default difficulty (meaning difficulty levels that don’t require unlocking or secret codes.)
So that’s how we’ll do the first season. We do have ideas for crowdsourcing future seasons by releasing all our templates for free to the feminist blogosphere – but for now our focus is on this season, as we work to set the bar for others interested in doing feminist game analyses.
This is our first project to truly take advantage of online video. With vlogs we’ve posted in the past, we admit we could have done those as simple blog posts – we only did them as vlogs for technical experience. But we feel feminist game reviews are actually easier to do as videos, rather than as blog posts. The footage we use will take centre stage in backing up our claims about feminism in different games, versus most vlogs where video is basically background noise. We’re moving away from that now.*
I’m personally excited about this project, and not just because it’s cool. In the past I’ve worked mostly on the technical aspects of videos, such as their editing and design. But this will be the first project where I’m also the creative lead. If it turns out to be an underwhelming mess, I’ll be the one most at fault.
Got suggestions or criticisms, with regards to our plans?
* To be fair, we’ll likely post a couple spoken-word vlogs before our feminist review series is ready for winter, part of a deal we worked out with some younger siblings. They help with capturing game footage for us, and in return we help them with their own vlogs, where they talk about why they think girls like yoga pants or join ISIS. Life is interesting.