So, how are we doing?

Today’s reading was Maps of Digital Desire: Exploring the Topographies of Gender and Play in Online Games by Nick Yee. This was a formal book chapter based on Yee’s research in The Daedalus Project, which I’ve referenced before in previous bits of research. The Daedalus Project, in short, was (it formerly went into “hibernation” in 2009) a data collection project that looked at gender, playtime, age, and a handful of other variables relating to MMOs. The data was collected via player-given surveys every few years, and then collected into a database.

The article itself uses the data within the project to fuel a conclusion: that game communities are more impactful on gendered play than gameplay mechanics.

Outside of demographics, Yee notes that the motivations for play in MMOs are similar between male and female players. Yee categorizes “play motivations” into three spheres:

Achievement: progress, power, status, numbers, analysis, challenging others, provocation

Social: casual chat, making friends, support, group achievement

Immersion: exploration, lore, fantasy, appearances, escapism

Yee’s categorizations show the many ways in which players “enjoy” MMOs. Likewise, they also show that there’s a great variety of “enjoyment” to be had within most modern MMOs.

The assumed, “popular” differences between the genders (in the gaming sphere) would seemingly mark these categories as gendered. I’m sure anyone who has ever belonged to a virtual community of some sort would immediately know the implications of each category without me even mentioning them: the casual, feminine space would be clearly defined. Likewise, the competitive, aggressive male space would also be clearly defined. The borders would be understood. Yee’s research, however, clearly shows that this popular assessment is bunk: in the category with the largest gender swing (mechanics), the overlap between men and women was 66 percent. Overall, the overlap was 87 percent. While there was difference, there was far more shared ground than feminine/masculine ground.

Yee notes, however, that even these tiny “gendered” spaces can be explained away with other statistics: age differences, for example, slightly inflate the numbers, as women gamers tend to be older than men.

This is about where we get to the elephant in the room: if women and men play for similar reasons, then why is their such a gender gap?

Yee’s interviewees offer some perspective:

“The only really off-putting detail is that it’s ludicrous that every time my elf fights, her breasts stick out to the side repeatedly. It is a constant reminder to me that this game is made for 13 year old boys, or men who still think like them. (World of Warcraft, female, 42)”

“But every ounce in a while, I seem to meet someone who wants to violently deny that I am who I am. And how am I supposed to respond to a charge of ‘You are not a girl!’ — I can’t flash ID or body parts to prove it. (World of Warcraft, female, 36)”

“There are things that happen in-game that make me embarrassed, as a woman and as a person who tries to be socially responsible, to be playing. For example, male players will talk about getting ‘raped’ without really thinking about it, things that happen will be referred to as ‘gay,’ which is offensive, people do crude things to player corpses in PvP [Player vs. Player settings], etc. (World of Warcraft, female, 29)”

With the exception of the first comment, all of these women have problems with the game’s community (and not the gameplay). Even then, the first comment could be considered a community issue as well, as the “community perspective” defines what parameters the game is developed to.

And so it is obvious then, what perhaps the largest “block” is on gender and MMOs (if not the whole of gaming).

But here’s my question — this article was written in 2008. The data is references was collected sometime during early vanilla World of Warcraft (as far as I know), with very few updates since then.

So… have things gotten better? Has the perspective changed?

Or, perhaps more to the point: has the recent (I’d argue 2010 and forward) surge of feminist (and queer) criticism directed at World of Warcraft impacted the diversity of the playerbase? Has it impacted developer dialog? Gameplay changes? Have advertising campaigns changed?

These aren’t questions that I can really answer yet — but they are certainly avenues for research later on in the semester. In the short-term, I’d like to interview a few WoW-based feminists to see what they think.

I cannot escape this issue.

…and it absolutely enrages me. Time to settle this whole mosque “issue” right here.

First of all, the entire argument has been instigated by a media obsessed with non-issues in a time of great struggle in America. Soldiers are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy is still looking poor and the job market is below abysmal. Let’s not forget the sorry state of education in our area of America and our country at large.

Yet what is on the television? What dominates our media?

This. This issue. It is backed up by apparently 61% of people in this nation. Good to know 61% of the people living in America are either ignorant of the facts or Islamophobic. Think that is harsh or intolerant? Feel free, you are entitled to your own opinion — however I refuse to tolerate hate or ignorance and this entire “controversy” stinks of both.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way:

There is no legal case against the “ground zero mosque” whatsoever. Nada. Zilch. The right to own and develop property is a constitutional right. In addition, the government shall make no law supporting or opposing any religion according to the First Amendment. Simply put, any action taken against the mosque (past support for the proprietor’s constitutional rights) would be unconstitutional.

So then, it is an issue of taste. Of morality.

Or, let’s call it what it is: Political pandering bullshit designed to create an “us versus them” atmosphere. An issue manufactured to feed on the ignorant emotional feelings of people who do not understand those who are different from them. It is a new era of such tension in America, a tactic that has been used since our countries very founding. Blacks, Catholics, Irish and Italians have all felt this alienation in the past and arguably some of those groups still do. Worse yet? Some of those same groups have joined in in welcoming whoever the “new guy” is in a truly American way, handing them an unlit torch and pushing them out into the darkened neighborhood of America. Good luck, maybe we will abstain from spitting on you for a few weeks.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt though. Maybe you really think it is about taste. If that is the case then the belief you subscribe to is that a mosque built near ground zero is somehow offensive.

So I ask you this.

Why?

What is offensive about it? The immediate answer seems to be because the attackers on 9/11 were all Muslim, or at least they claimed to be. What we must remember however is that Islam has over a billion followers. The actions of a minority should not damn a majority. Not only that but we must not forget that many Muslims died on 9/11and many of their lives were changed because of it. Not to mention those that were attacked due to hate crimes following the terrorist attacks.

That isn’t it, you say. The reason has to do with prominent Muslim leaders not damning extremists — not only that, but they tolerate hate for the US! You growl and sneer… and ignore that the man in charge of the whole project has been trying to mend relations between faiths and nations all the while damning extremists.

You shake your head and roll your eyes, “Muslim’s expect us to be tolerant and yet look at how much they hate us! How much they hate everyone else!”

While I won’t get into the socio-political elements of this debate that might just say that they have a good reason to not like us, I will say that this is possibly the silliest argument of them all. The golden image of America has always been the melting pot. The land of opportunity, where a guy with green skin can come and make a fortune selling beans. The land where all cultures mix and mesh together, the best parts of all of them becoming part of our national pride.

We are a country that is supposed to set the tone for the rest of the world when it comes to tolerance. We are a place that people come to in order to escape hate, not to bathe in it.

The logic of “Well, they don’t tolerate X so we shouldn’t Y!” is absolutely absurd as is the logic of NIMBY when applied to the issue.

On top of all of this? It isn’t even a mosque. It is a community center. While it is offensive to me that “being a mosque” makes it horrible in the first place, the fact is it isn’t one. It might have a place for prayer, but so did the World Trade Center. Hell, even the Pentagon has a place for non-denominational worship. Why is this such a bad thing? Do we only allow followers of religions we like to pray?

At the heart of it, that is exactly the issue. Americans are afraid of Islam. After all, they’ve been told over the years that anyone wearing (or associated with) a funny hat is bad!

You know, this was made such a big issue right before 9/11’s anniversary and that makes me absolutely disgusted. The idea that the memories of the dead are being used in a crusade for hate is sickening. I cried yesterday watching video someone had taken of the towers falling. It isn’t enough that thousands had to lose their lives, but now they are being used to spread misinformation and hate. It makes me physically ill. The link that spawned this whole article (this one) made me fume. Fox News, you are beyond scum to me.

I think I’ve covered all of the “issues” here. If there are any other ones please tell me so I can debunk them, I’d like to link everyone to this article that I can so this hate can be snuffed out.

Also I apologize if this article seems to be filled with an exceptional amount of bile, but after a month of this I am fairly irate.

How to make literally everyone hate me

I think research papers are a great idea. In fact, I think that the process of writing and researching a paper is one of the most valuable lessons we pull out of high school — and I don’t think our current system throws enough of them at our youth.

Now, chances are you think I am insane or hate me (unless you teach English or maybe history), but seriously — I promise I’m not crazy.

First, a little rant about how our educational system is broken.

Throughout grade school the way we are statistically measured is by tests. These tests are not created by the schools themselves but by the state or other higher-ups that choose material they believe the students should be learning. Often the scores of these tests are directly linked to jobs, funds and the public’s general view of what a “good” school is. Through the No Child Left Behind legislation “bad” scores cause schools to be directly punished, often in loss of government funds. I’m not quite sure how suspending funding forcing schools to fire staff boosts the grades of students, but that is another argument entirely.

In New Jersey we have the HSPA and GEPA (along with the CAT and numerous other tests). Since funding and image is directly linked to these two tests they have a huge influence on the curriculum. Years before students actually take the exam they learn facts, skills and other information specifically for the purpose of scoring high on these tests. If it doesn’t directly relate to high test scores it is typically removed from the curriculum. Standardized tests aren’t the only thing to blame, however. Since testing is widely seen as the easiest way to quickly measure aptitude in certain areas, history (among others) classes at the high school level often only focus on “hard” facts like dates and names. Questions are rarely open-ended and instead are strictly based on memorization. Ask a kid when the Korean War started and he could probably tell you, but ask him the significance of the war or the factors leading up to it — arguably the more important information — and chances are he will give you a blank stare.

So, what does all of this have to do with research papers? They are one of the few tools teachers have that can still help students score highly on the tests while teaching them the more abstract things behind the facts that are directly tested. When you have that first research paper in your English class and you’re asked to pick a topic, you must become immersed in it to a certain level to write a passing paper. You can’t just know the dates. You have to find out the whys and the hows. Someone writing about the Korean War will find out that it has nothing to actually do with Korea itself and everything to do with the relationship between the USSR and America during the post-WWII era. Sure, they will be able to throw some important dates at you — but they will be exposed to the important concepts that guided those dates into being.

Going through something you are lightly interested in is infinitely more engaging than memorizing numbers. Even if you aren’t “into” writing, reading about something and putting that information to use simply requires more interaction than memorization.

Let’s not kid ourselves, either. Do you remember any of the junk you memorized in high school? Hell, do you remember any of the stuff you were required to memorize in college? Unless you use the information on a weekly basis, chances are you don’t — and why would you? Unless it is a trivial fact you latched onto, it serves you little use. Its purpose was to get you through school so you could move to the next level and that was it.

On the other hand. the skills you pick up by writing a research paper aren’t something you forget. Learning how to use a database or simply how to pick apart truth from fiction in an educated manner is a powerful skill. As an adult in society it is something that is absolutely invaluable — and quite frankly, not enough adults have it. If more of us grew up in a society that put emphasis on doing research for yourself instead of just believing what you’re told then fewer people would be tricked into believing lies thrown at them from all angles. How many Americans take what they are told for granted? How many question and look into what they believe to be true?

It’s just a skill that isn’t emphasized enough in school. While it becomes a big deal when you reach college it is still barely touched on in most classes. Unless you are an English major you don’t really see too many of them — although I’m happy to say I’m seeing that change.

The real problem is not college though, its the root — high school. Throughout my time in high school I’m fairly certain I did one research paper and that was it. While I picked up some research skills on my own, many of my peers did not. Even simple things like using Google to find trustworthy sources come from doing a research paper. I’m still absolutely shocked by the number of people who don’t know how to properly use a search engine or database, something that is utterly amazing when doing any kind of research (Google scholar is a godsend, check it out).

We can’t forget that these skills translate incredibly well to the real world, too. The ability to “do research” translates over to being able to find a job, to not being fooled by politicians, to questioning those around you and almost every other aspect of life that your mind is involved in.

Let’s not forget the value in being able to write and communicate our ideas and thoughts with others. Writing a research paper is obviously something that assists in developing these skills. Not many people can argue against being able to communicate more effectively. Remember, I was an engineering major — I know how some people can be pretty brilliant but utterly useless when it comes to sharing their thoughts. It’s not a great thing and won’t exactly get you hired anywhere.

…I just realized I set out to point out the worth of research papers and ended up pretty much ranting about why being an English major has some advantages in the real world.

Welp. Guess that sort of works too.