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The Baldur's Gate Affair

13.04.2016

Everyone who knows me a little bit probably knows that I've played Baldur's Gate an unreasonable amount of times. So with the drama swirling around the new Baldur's Gate game by Beamdog and their changes to the EE I've been asked by a few friends what I think about the whole thing.

First, I'll say that I haven't played the EE and I might never do so, because if (well... "when" would probably be more realistic) I do play it again, I will want to include a whole bunch of mods that probably won't be adjusted to work with EE. That being said, the wonderful BG-modding community is still at work and a bunch of mods is already playable with EE. The Big World Project also has the EE option already, so who knows, maybe in a few years they will have found a way to make everything compatible.

Anything I have to say then is based on what I've read from articles/forums linked to me, and it obviously is not a review of the Enhanced Edition.

I will sum it up like this:

- There are people who get annoyed at those, who are brash and don't think about the feelings of others in whatever they do

- There are people who get annoyed at those, who try to stuff political correctness everywhere

- Then there's me, a person who gets annoyed at both of the above.

And it sucks to be me, because that means that I'm annoyed twice as often at twice as many people.

I won't post a huge-ass rant here dissecting the entire drama, because there's already a fair amount of that available elsewhere. But a short stance from a person 'in the middle':

 

Adjusting BioWare NPCs by adding 'depth' and the personalities of original BG NPCs:

I've read that several characters are getting new dialogue in expansion that doesn't quite go with how they were initially to expand their roles and make them... cooler? I suppose?

The case of Jaheira

It seems that people had a beef with how she was shown as a shrew and that her relationship with Khalid was presented as one lacking respect from her side and near resentment. And that it has to be fixed.

What? Why?

I mean, so a woman cannot be a shrew anymore? So what if she is? So what if their relationship isn't perfect in someone's eyes or doesn't follow some 'healthy marriage' rules? Newsflash - people are different. Marriages are different. Some people tease one another. Some women are shrews. Sometimes couples will act in ways that to others seem disrespectful, but still love one another deeply. Sometimes they will stick together for other reasons.

I absolutely hate the idea of making every character comply to some arbitrary standards. I never had a single issue with Jaheira, and the BG1 NPC project (wonderful mod) managed to expand all of the characters without screwing up their original personalities and fit seamlessly into the game. That's how expansions should work. Not by changing the original characters. That's not adding depth. That's adding agenda. Create new characters to push your agenda if you must.

The case of Skie

Now in this case it seems that women also cannot be weak and vain anymore.

You know, so what if we have a shrew Jaheira with ties to occassionally ruthless organizations, so what if we have Imoen, who's a sweet thief with a sense of humor aspiring to be a mage, so what if we have Viconia, who's a drow and still on the evil side, so what if we have Flaming Fist officers, female assassins, wicked vampire Bodhi (granted, in BG2), so what if there is a strong and brash barbarian Shar-teel, or a stuck-up priestess Branwen, and a dignified sorceress Dynaheir, and a bajillion other, varied female characters all over the game?

Gods forbid one of them is a weak, vain girl who's dependent on a man and generally hopeless. What a disgrace! Hurry, fix! Add substance! Make her a real woman!

I now this might be an upopular opinion, but women like that exist. And it's not just one or two somewhere out there either.

Is diversity only good when it's showing the 'underpriviledged' in a shining light? I thought the word meant something else. Silly me.

 

Real-world references to GamerGate/other social battles:

I mean, no, just no. I heard they added some line to Minsc in the new expansion/game that mocks the affair. That's not what the game should be about. If you want to push for diversity in games, add plots/characters that introduce it into the game (point below). But don't put your agenda into the words of actual established characters. It's not funny, it's not cute, and frankly, it's damn arrogant.

I'm generally pro-diversity, BUT ONLY WHEN IT MAKES SENSE!! Don't confuse that with demands for diversity in games about medieval countries where there just historically wasn't any. Or with making those demands towards creators who have something else in mind for whatever reason. That's their right. Not every game/movie/book has to be diverse. Not every country is concerned with racial issues either, some societies are pretty homogenous and people there don't even think about those issues going about their lives, because they're just absent from their lives. If they want to create stories from their perspective it's not fair to tell them they're wrong, because in America things are different. Sorry.

But yes, generally, I'm pro diversity in games, I like that culture is being more and more open and accepting of different types of characters or views, and I think that's a good thing, and that it's vital in changing the general opinion by making the 'scary strange' familiar and normal.

And even I would be annoyed greatly if I heard Minsc give commentaries about a real-world affair by echoing the new creators' opinions. Just no.

Adding more diversity to the world:

I'm fine with this. The world is changing, the games are changing, Baldur's Gate is an old title where diversity wasn't even something very much considered in the development process. I like that nowadays in many RPGs there will be a romance options for homosexual characters, that's great. I don't mind raising new questions or dealing with issues that are related to what's current in our world either.

The thing is - it has to be done right, as does everything else.

There's a difference between a complex quest that deals with an issue of race, where player can choose either side and get into discussions/opt out of them, and a character who spews their agenda to tell the >player< what's right.

There's a difference between an interesting NPC, who, when asked (that's an important part - let the player decide whether they give a fuck or not) tells them about their gender identity issues and, say, I don't know, ASKS the player to find them a girdle of sex change? Because, you know, it's a thing in the BG world? There are also spells that do it. If you want to tackle issues like that in a game, great, go for it, but think it through first. Would it even be an issue in this world? Are there easy solutions? Can it be done in a non-preachy way?

And let the player take their stance. ROLEPLAY their stance. Don't force them to agree/listen to the characters, who give the one-truth.

 

Frankly, as far as sharing your views and 'pushing' an agenda goes, a dialogue and smart way of presenting your stance will go a long way. Shoving it down anyone's throat by changing their favorite things (game/characters) will only antagonize people.

And from what I've seen in the quoted posts/screenshots/audio files, in the case of the BG expansion this was not done well. It reads like a fanfiction, not a professional continuation. I like good fanfiction, but only when it knows what it is.

When it pretends to be canon, well, that's when the problems start.

 

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Hedgehogery and the fights about
diversity in fiction

24.02.2015

Disclaimer: everything I say here are my own opinions, I'm not trying to speak for anyone else. This also applies to everything else I post... just sayin'


It's a topic that grew to be more interesting, important, and controversial to me over time. I guess, this post's coming was unavoidable. Sooner or later.

Few years ago, those issues weren't even poking my radar, nowadays, it feel like they're everywhere. I've been observing, reading, sometimes debating things related to equality and diversity for a longer while now, and what I've observed is a process that goes like: there's an issue, people debate to prove the issue exists, then they debate to end it, then, for those that can be convinced without issue, the issue ends, and then the first debaters keep debating, and pushing to convince everyone else. That in turn, becomes too much for some of those that were happily convinced at first.

And so the pendulum swings, the spring springs, and the hedgehogs are born.

Me? A while ago I could feel the spikes growing. Every now and then, I read something that gives me that hedgehogy itch. And I find myself having to reason with myself to get rid of it.

What issues bring it out? Anything really. Some pertain to me, some don't. Some are important, some aren't. But what gets me is that at some point in those debates the fighting side (side A, let's say, starting from the underprivileged position) seems to lose the perspective. And they begin to deny other people (side B, 'the primary opressors') the right to their opinion, they refuse to listen, and refuse to communicate. It stops being a discussion with a good goal in mind, and it turns into some sort of vendetta, pushing more, and more, until things stop making sense, or get side B to feel bullied/discriminated against in return.

And no, the past doesn't justify it. Why? Because most of the side B that gets convinced, and is actually honestly supportive towards side A, has never done side A any harm. Punishing people for what their gender/race/orientation/religion/anythingelse did in the past/does nowadays (as in - some people with the side B trait living today), just because they belong to it, is no better than the original discrimination.

I hate the term 'mansplaining'. I hate the term 'whitesplaining'. Just as I hate any sort of derogatory slur directed at another person (but not used in a discussion about the slur, articles, or comedy). Yes, it's not entirely politically correct, because I think no word should be banned from the dictionary. While I believe political correctness a great concept in general, I also believe that recently it likes to cross boundaries of common sense here and there. Terms like mansplaining used in a discussion with another person ARE offensive. They reek of complete disregard and disrespect. I'm sure there are people who deserve to have their arguments summed up this way, but what I'm noticing lately is that people in cultural, respectful discussions get slapped in the face with them too. I could count at least five places/discussions where I've seen it happen in the past few months. And I don't spend that much time browsing the web.

As a woman, I support the efforts for actual, real equality. I am grateful to women who fought for our rights in the past, I'm grateful to those, who still fight the injustice, unequal pay, right to decide about our bodies, fight the harassment, and other important issues. Those women are wonderful people, and I've nothing but respect towards them. As I do for the men, who join those causes and help these brave women. Thank you, guys, sincerely :)

But then there are those women, who go too far. Fight the way in-game characters are clothed, fight for every piece of fiction to contain a strong woman or else, start actions about reading books only written by women, boycott men in discussions, and generally start to disregard every male just because of their gender. They get offended, because they're not privileged. That's not what the others are fighting for, is it? Privilege does not equal equality. And you can't get respect without giving it in return.

And that, I see all over, is causing hedgehogery as well. In men. Instead of equality and respect, some guys, who normally wouldn't mind equality at all, begin to bristle up, because frankly, they feel attacked and disregarded. And nobody likes to feel that way, it causes instant hostility, or at least leaves people disgruntled and non sympathetic.

Before I read (I usually just lurk, as I grew out of loving conflict :P) a few discussions pushing things too far, I had no negative feelings towards any sort of minority. None, zero, nada. I viewed everyone for who they were, and I was happy with it. Then, the internet released the Hedgehog. Yes, even against women. And I am one, so go figure.

Luckily, there are many people in the minorities/underprivileged groups fighting for equality that are level-headed, open-minded, and not offended by things not meant to be offensive. I thank those people and their replies/comments in all of those places for dehedgehoging me. It makes me remember that majority of people in the Side B is not out there to make war and to make the Side A feel irrelevant in the two-way issue/debate. And that makes me feel good. About humanity, and about my writing.

I know that there's already a bunch of Diversity Hedgehogs out there bristling at the inclusion of minorities into a lot of mainstream works, and they ask "Again? What for? Why?". The answer, to me, is "Why not?".

I like diversity, I have plenty of it in my novel, and not because I feel obligated to have it by the trends or whatever else, but because I want to, because it's more fun to write, because the world is diverse, because the plot doesn't suffer from it (quite the contrary), because it may make someone happy to see characters like themselves in a novel. I don't stick anything in where it doesn't fit, but who knew? Albinos are actually common in a race I made up. My protagonist is from a race I can't really identify in earthly terms, cause it's irrelevant in the world, and I just go by a picture I drew. One of the major characters turned out to be wheelchair-bound. It came from her story (the past, and the role in the plot as it develops), not an idea like: "A-HA! I got to have a disabled character... who could it be... oh yea! Check." Nothing like that. And damn, did it flesh her out in my mind.

I'm very much against shoehorning anything where it doesn't belong. If there were no women on ships, don't put a female sailor in that historically accurate story. A story with all-men can be superb. Don't demand racial diversity in a setting that historically had none just for the sake of political correctness. Those are some of the things that go too far, and they're the hedgehog-baits.

I hope that once everything settles down, all sorts of hedgehogs will be placated. Right now, it all feels like a conflict where one side says OMG WHY MUST IT BE ABOUT CIS GENDERED STRAIGHT WHITE MALE AGAIN I BOYCOTT THIS BIGOTED MISOGYNISTIC CRAP, where the other will go OMG WHY MUST THEY PUT EVERY MINORITY IN EVERYTHING NOWADAYS I DEMAND A HALF-ASIAN HALF-BLACK HALF-CHEROKEE HALF-GAY HALF-FEMALE HALF-ALIEN REPRESENTATION RIGHT NOW.

So I hide my spikes and remember that all in all, I love good and nice people. I do. I'd love good and nice Martians if I met any too. And I say suck it, overactive warriors, from any conflict, either side. And suck it, hedgehogs. Write what you love, read/watch/play what you love. Go for crazy diversity if it pleases you, or go for none, if that's what your setting/idea calls for. It's nice to make people feel good, but once there's a diversity in diversity in all the works, there won't be a need or pressure to do so, because nobody will feel generally left out/made into a token. Or so I choose to believe.

All in all, make love not war.

Or at least cuddle.

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I don't hit plasters

14.02.2015

It's a joke that makes negative sense in English :D But I had to, precisely for that reason.

Anyway, this time, a short post, inspired by several conversations with several friends (I almost wrote several plasters here) I've had this week. And yes, we talked about Valentines day.

So, happy Valentines day, world! I think of all the things, love is one of the best to celebrate. And yes, there's commercialism, yes it's a "forced" celebration. As every celebration. We celebrate Christmas in December too, and nobody will say "but I don't want to celebrate that TODAY! It's so *forced*!".

That's the point, yo. Everyone at once, special day. And it's great. Just as it's great that people are generally nicer by Christmas, it's great if they go the extra mile for Valentines day. It's great if they get excited to celebrate love. And if a commercial pink teddy bear or candy hearts make someone smile, then why the hell not use them. Same with black goth teddy bears. Or simple forest walks (with bonus grizzly bears if that's someone's fancy).

And, contrary to what at least two of those friends I spoke to seem to think, doing something special on Valentines day does not mean you can't be romantic, lovely, and nice for the rest of the year. And if spending a nice day with your other half is something forced and unpleasant, well... ;)

And (this entry is sponsored by the word "And"), to all the hipsters, who refuse to celebrate it, to all the singles, who have no reason to, and to all the uninterested for any other reason - happy Saturday. It's weekend. Maybe it's not love, but it's still good enough reason to celebrate on it's own :P

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But isn't a butt but a butt?

08.02.2015

I decided to butt into this butt debate. No buts.

{warning: post may be disjointed, played some LoL inbetween sections and it's also 4 AM :D}

Blogging with posts on concrete subjects was something I didn't initially plan on, but (ha) I guess, it became somewhat of a natural thing. Today, there's a butt on a platter. This musing is sponsored by Riot Games and /r/leagueoflegends.

None of you one person who reads these things know about what spruced the whole mini-drama. So, let me present you DJ Sona, a new ultimate skin for a champion in League of Legends in her non-butty glory:http://www.newsoflegends.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/xPYWJoe.jpg That's one of the new splash arts.


The in-game model: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74Exl5dNz2Q

Now, courtesy of some 3rd party software... behold: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4B4VKDc3M0 THA BUTT.

Alright, so there's that, I kinda didn't pay too much attention to the whole thing (can't afford the skin for one of my main champs atm, so I'm not going to rub it in my eyes!). But then I casually stroll onto Reddit today, and see there's a drama spiking up. Well, hand me the popcorns, not like I'll resist a good drama. I scroll through the posts and find out that the issue is, there are apparently people complaining about that ass indeed being too fat. But not in a "OMG SO FAT MUST HAVE IT ALL" way, but objectifying women way. And then there were sides, and there were questions.

And someone said that Riot actually made the butt smaller on PBE and all hell broke loose. Nothing surprising there, but then came a question of why don't people mind bare-chested guys. Isn't that sexualizing them too? Isn't that objectifying?

Short answer: no. And before I go on, let me say I don't mind DJ Sona or her butt. I don't mind sexualized League characters, it doesn't offend me and it's not going to be a feminist rant. It's going to be an equality request. As in:

<img>"http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/leagueoflegends/images/4/44/Varus_HeartseekerSkin.jpg/revision/20150204195317"</img>

RITO PLS. U GOT IT RITE, KEEP GOING :D

But I want to state a few things that some people seem to miss in their perspective on the subject:

1. Women are more sexualized and objectified in games than men are.

2. Women are offended by it, because of the history of how our gender was treated, objectified in real life, how those issues still aren't a thing of the past.

3. I'll go with LoL examples since that's where it started. Guys like Pantheon, Braum, Lee Sin, they show chest, but it's not for objectifying or sexual reasons, it's not to cater to females and gays, it's to cater to heterosexual men who want to feel strong. There's a reason so many girls I know prefer Ezreal and Varus over those guys :P

4. For the sake of this argument, I'll count Pool Party Graves, though he's hardly sexualized (it's like Pool Party Leona, neither is). That gives 2 males who could be said to cater to manloving crowd through showing some skin in a way that's not either devoid of sex appeal or simply lore-induced (Pantheon).

5. When you compare the amount of fun/weird champions for either sex, it's also striking. Girls, we had Annie, Anivia, and some yordles. Guys had everything from Amumu through Twitch, Urgot, Gragas, Mundo, Kha'Zix, Rengar, Sion, Thresh, and a solid bunch more. Now, it seems to me that ever since LoL grew as a game, Riot has actually started to take other perspectives and possibilities into account. Newest female champions seem SO much less like boy fanservice, and I think it's great. Go Jinx with her different psychique, go Kalista with her Thresh-levels of sex appeal. Go Rek'sai, maybe soon people will even stop instantly assuming you're a boy!

I don't think DJ Sona should be changed, as she has always been the over the top busty sexy champion. Even her voice is pretty much one of a temptress (you can hear if you play her, she's mute otherwise). I don't think there should be less sexy characters in games, because they're games, and people like to watch pretty people in their games/movies, and there's nothing wrong with it.

And honestly I think that all the issues of those who complain about these things will disappear once the game casts will become more diverse. Give us sexy girls, give us sexy guys (SEXY not BUFF and so overly manly they're turning most men-loving people off <most, I'm well aware there are those that would drool all over Braum, and good for you! He's there in all his glory!>). Give us monster guys, monster gals, dumbo guys, dumbo girls, give us a fugly female champion that can rival Urgot, and give us an Incubus who will give Ahri a run for her money.

And yea, everyone should be happy then :) Aside of people who just really want to fight for things to disappear untill everything is homogenized and fitting their over-the-top politeness and PC standards. IMHO, that would be boring. But I'm all for giving everyone who shrugs off DJ Sona's booty an eyecandy that will give them some drool to wipe off the keyboard too.
 

 

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The woman's inter-gender feud

07.01.2015

I was watching an episode of the funny TV show "Veep" recently. I can recommend it by the way, if you don't mind swearing and brash humor. To me, it was refreshing in its honesty. But the thing that made me think for a bit was something Amy said - women hate women. At first I was like, nah, bullshit.

But then I was like, she might be onto something. Sure, in society in general many women band together to fight for their rights, many others fight over men, they're best friends and most spiteful enemies. But I had a chance to observe the female relations in a different environment - online games. And over the years, I've noticed that there's more than a grain of truth to that statement :D

I remember playing World of Warcraft for the first time years ago. My friends and I joined a mostly Romanian guild where there was one girl before I came. We became actually good friends later, but that turned out to be more of an exception than a rule of how those relationships go. Some time after we talked, all honest, and asked one another what were our first impressions when we found out we were girls, and now sharing the guild (also known as the man harem that should not be shared with another b*ch :D ).

She, I recall, told me she was mad. This was HER turf, HER harem, and she wanted me to go away :D Of course, she wouldn't show it or say it, we're civilized.

Me? I remember still when she came to show me a way to Lady Vashj (or something in that water raid) and I thought "Of course, the b*ch plays a rogue with a ponytail. How fucking else. I wish she wasn't here."

Cue best WoW-borne friendship I've ever had :D

But the point stands - before we got to know each other, there was definite hostility. It's not even logical, but it's there. And gods, girls like us, competitive sort, we can get beaten in games by guys without drama (surely better to win), but beaten by a girl? Forget food, forget life, this has got to be fixed! Also applies to guys that annoy us though. I think that's the same for guys too.

Now, fast forward some months or years, I'm not playing WoW anymore, but my friend still does. And there come the horror stories of girls that came to the guild after me. Now, she wasn't even that mad anymore at first, because we did make it work wonderfully, but then all hell broke loose. With those new girls came actual fights for dominance in the guild, getting ranks, getting guild members to like them better, sucking up to the guild master, discrediting other girls.

It all seems to actually get down to the fight for men, and I guess, nature-wise, it makes sense. But when I think about it it's rather sad. It's been so long since I've had a serious real life conflict with another girl that would be caused at all by such feelings or behaviors, but that could be because I'm not the most social of butterflies.

A strange thing I've noticed about myself when it comes to that (and some of my friends) is that this hostility appears mostly in the male-dominated places. Computer games being one of those. There was no gender-feud to be seen in university or in schools. I don't see any on forums where everyone is automatically perceived to be on equal footing, male or female alike.

As I grew up I became much less confrontational. And I care about much different things now, and I honestly don't care anymore if a girl is better than me in a game, because my priorities switched pretty hard (might still get a bit salty if it was in League of Legends though, unsure about that :D). I'd be happy to meet girls sharing my interests, because most of my gamer friends are guys. If not all.

But there is still something about games that's just silly. Roles. A guy can play any role and there's absolutely nobody trying to label him. Girls? Different story.

I say these with a wink, but in many years I've spent in these communities, I can tell there's quite some truth to them :P

Girl plays a support in League/some priest healer in WoW - She's the Proper Girl. That's how girls are. All of them. No exception.

Girl plays a midlane/some mage or similar - Attention whore. Trying to impress the guys, be the cool one.

Girl plays a warlock, shadow priest or something darklish - Like above, but worse.

Girl plays toplane/picks a male orc warrior or similar - Total poser, trying to get attention by being a tomboy, proving she's SO NOT A PROPER GIRL.

:D

Make love, not war(craft). Personally, I love meeting girls in women-oriented places. The atmosphere is so different, and nowadays the lack of conflict and abundance of support is so much more enticing to me.

I'm tired of competing, I don't feel like caring to win. And you know what? It feels great.

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