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BlizzCon apologizes for homophobic gaffe

- October 28th, 2011

Looks like all that backlash from BlizzCon’s screening a clip of a Horde-tattoo-sporting metal head calling Alliance players homophobic slurs and telling them to go die has got the company’s attention.

Blizzard Entertainment  President Mike Morhaime has issued an apology, admitting that it “was shortsighted and insensitive to use the video at all, even in censored form.”

See full apology after the jump.

Read more…

BlizzCon shows homophobic clip

- October 27th, 2011

This year’s World of Warcraft-themed celebrations at BlizzCon featured a performance by Blizzard Entertainment’s art director Sam Didier along with Cannibal Corpse frontman George Fisher.

In introducing Fisher to the stage, BlizzCon broadcasts a video clip in which Fisher talks about what a die-hard WoW fan he is, and how he completely despises the Alliance, one of two opposing factions in the game, in favour of the Horde (he even has a Horde tattoo).

The clip, I assume, is intended to say to those in attendance: “Hey look, not only did we get a famous guest musician, but we got one who loves the game as much as you do!”

But there’s just one problem. In denouncing Alliance players, Fisher spits out horrendous anti-gay vitriol, calling the players homophobic slurs and telling then to go kill themselves.

Go f—-ing cry in a river and tell me about how you’re going to slit your wrists, you Night Elf f—–t. F— the Alliance. F—ing die, you f—ing emo c———.”

Lovely.

Now I don’t know the mental-health statistics surrounding people who choose to play humans, elfs and dwarves (thought I can plainly see they’re not terribly happy about this incident), but Fisher doesn’t need to tell gay kids to kill themselves. They already are, in record numbers.

In Canada, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24, and LBGT youth commit suicide at a disproportionately high rate.

Just this month, gay Ottawa teen Justin Hubley took his own life, at least partly because his peers barraged him with the kind of insults Fisher lobbed so casually at Alliance players.

Now, it would be naive to think this kind of language doesn’t take place in-game all the time, but for Blizzard to showcase this clip on stage to a throng of fans (who, by the way, cheered in approval) sends the message that the company not only tolerates anti-gay sentiments, but supports them.

I’ve asked Blizzard’s PR people for comment. Stay tuned.

Via The Mary Sue, via Rock Paper Shotgun via GayGamer.net

Level-up those surgery skills, docs

- October 25th, 2011
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REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Boing Boing has posted an excerpt of Nick Bilton’s book I Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain are Being Creatively Disrupted, in which he urges you to ask your surgeon if he or she has ever played video games.

A few years ago, researchers quizzed more than thirty surgeons and surgical residents on their video- game habits, identifying those who played video games frequently, those who played less frequently, and those who hardly played at all. Then they put all the surgeons through a laparoscopic surgery simulator, in which thin instruments akin to extremely long chopsticks are inserted into one or more small incisions through the skin along with a small camera that is inserted into an additional small opening. Minimally invasive surgery like this frequently is used for gallbladder removal, gynecologic procedures, and other procedures that once involved major cutting and stitching and could require hours on an operating table.

The researchers found that surgeons or residents who used to be avid video game players had significantly better laparoscopic skills than did those who’d never played. On average, the serious game players were 33 percent faster and made 37 percent fewer errors than their colleagues who didn’t have prior video- game experience.

That’s just one example. Bilton goes on to detail a few different studies that show how gaming “improves hand-eye co-ordination and increases one’s capacity for visual attention and spatial distribution, among other skills.”

The results were surprising given the criticism video games have received for rotting young minds, turning upstanding youngsters into juvenile delinquents, and just wasting time. Instead, surgeons and researchers have begun to test whether the games should be a key part of a future surgeon’s education, since speed and accuracy are crucial to conquering the learning curve associated with using laparoscopic techniques to perform delicate procedures. Game skill, the researchers theorized, could translate into surgical skill and help cut “medical errors,” which have become the eighth leading cause of death in this country.

Got that, med students? Go forth and quest, if not for gaming glory, then for the good of our health-care system!

via i09

Why are female video game characters hypersexualized?

- October 21st, 2011

The answer, it seems, is just what we suspected all along. They are designed through the male gaze, for the male gaze.

Latoya Peterson wrote on Kotaku about her experience at a New York Comic Con panel about geographical influences on game design featuring Isamu Kamikokuryo, the art director for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Jonathan Jacques-Bellêtete, the art director of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Here’s what happened with the topic of designing female characters came up:

In describing his influences, Jacques-Bellêtete mentioned he was heavily influenced by Metal Gear and Final Fantasy. Then he went into a two minute riff about “always trying to have very beautiful female characters,” noting that these were characters he would want to sleep with. After making a semi-disparaging remark about female characters drawn in a North American style, he concludes “I’d rather have female characters from Final Fantasy or Soulcalibur to sleep with.”  This draws chuckles from the crowd.

And there it was, the truth about character design that so many players know but most designers wouldn’t usually articulate: most of the egregiously sexist character designs are based on f—ability, rather than playability.

A little later in the panel, the moderator asked each artist to interpret the other’s work.  Seemingly to illustrate how one goes about drawing from the perspective of one’s own boner, Jacques-Bellêtete whipped up a faceless, cleavage-centric version of Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. Check out Peterson’s blog post to see a comparison between the original character and Jacques-Bellêtete’s porn-i-fied interpretation.

Why men should care about women gamers

- October 14th, 2011
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Herbert doesn't know any women who play video games, in or out of bathtubs (REUTERS/Ina Fassbender).

Over at The Mary Sue, Becky Chambers pens an open letter to some Internet commenter, whom she nicknames Herbert, who doesn’t see why he should care about the issue of women’s under-representation in the gaming industry because he doesn’t have a vagina and neither do his gamer buddies.

Chambers skips over the usual arguments “about stuff like fair representation and positive role-models and breaking stereotypes” because she recognizes these points will likely be lost on a guy like Herbert who’s only looking out for himself.

She briefly touches on some what-if scenarios in which Herbert actually makes some female friends interested in gaming with him, or perhaps spawns some female offspring (though this seems unlikely).

But that isn’t a winning argument either, is it? It’s merely a hypothetical scenario, and it’s got a lot of variables. You might never meet a woman who wants to game. You might never have kids. Maybe you’re fine with your daughter playing games that are only notable for being pinker than a blushing womb, or with your son learning that women are good for needing rescuing and displaying cleavage. So again, we come to the question: why should you care?

Chambers then slam-dunks with a detailed outline of how this issue does, in fact, affect Herbert, personally.

Her premise is that so-called hardcore games for so-called hardcore gamers will eventually prove unsustainable because the “hardcore market is currently dominated by established series, and new hardcore games don’t make much money.”

Which means if Herbert doesn’t want his favourite kind of games to go the way of the dodo, only to be replaced by Grandma-friendly Facebook games, he’ll need all the XX-chromosome help he can get.

So, Herbert, if you like the kind of games you have now, then that is precisely why you should care about women gamers. Women already make up forty-two percent of the gaming market, but right now, devs seem to think we only want social and casual games. That’s what’s being marketed towards us. That’s where the money is. If you really only care about getting games that you like, then it’s in your best interest to get as many people as possible on board in order to keep those games alive. And that means bringing in us women-folk.