Thursday, November 7, 2013

This blog does not pass the Bechdel Test

I heard some talk on the Facebooks lately about Swedish theaters "grading" movies on their representations of gender equality using the Bechdel Test. I don't know if that's true or not and I'm too lazy to look it up but that's ancillary here since that news was merely the inspiration for this post, not the subject.

I also want to say before I go further that I totally understand the point of the Bechdel Test. I even wrote a blog post a few eternities back applying it to games. Female characters in entertainment media are often defined primarily by their relationships with male characters, which the test hopefully draws awareness to. That said, while it's not bad, it's also not a complete metric for gender equality. Like at all. It even says that right at the top of Edit: Ok I double checked and it's not exactly right at the top but it's still there so closenough.jpg

Because I am apparently pretending to be a screenwriter now, let's imagine two hypothetical movie pitches I just made up:

One features a woman who is (ship/plane/spaceboat)wrecked and has to survive all on her own using her own strength, wits and tenacious will to survive. She never talks to anyone though, so this movie fails the Bechdel Test.

The second is a movie rife with misogynistic themes about how women are dumb and overly emotional and should always try to look sexy and never talk back to men and be good little girlfriends and wives, but at point two girls talk about how much they love buying shoes. So it passes.

Admittedly, those are sort of extreme examples but WHATEVER. The point is, a movie passing the Bechdel Test does not mean it is a good movie filled with cheerful gender equality. This subject is a liiiiiiittle bit more complicated than that. Though I'm not saying we should stop using it, either. I'm also saying this candy bar I'm eating right now is delicious. I know that's kind of a non sequitur but I really thought you should know.

tl;dr The Bechdel Test is nice but it should not be the only metric for gender equality in media.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why I didn't return your call

I've seen lots of guides for job applicants on how to talk to recruiters floating around the internet, but what I don't see as often are "Tips on how to talk to job candidates." I suppose that's not as required, since the recruiter is typically the one with more leverage in the arrangement and doesn't really have to worry as much about saying the wrong thing and putting someone off. Indeed, when I was unemployed right out of college, if a recruiter called me and said "Scrub my floors with a toothbrush every day for a week and maaaaaaaybe you'll get an interview" I'd probably have given it some thought.

Now that I have a job, though, things are a bit different. I'm not saying I'm planning to stay at my current place forever, but I have a baseline now. I can afford to be picky. Another side effect of having a job is that where I used to go weeks at a time without hearing anything back about applications, now I get unsolicited phone calls and LinkedIn messages from recruiters almost weekly. I've noticed, uh, a few trends. Not that I expect any recruiters to read this, but either way, following is a list of reasons I don't always jump at calling back.

Lack of any useful information about the job. I realize they are bound to respect the client's confidentiality up to a point, but you can give me more than "there's a position at this company," surely. Don't make me pry to figure out the things you know I want to know: What is the salary range? What are the benefits? As I said, in the olden days I'd have jumped for anything, but now I need something that at least matches my current benefits and offers a salary increase sufficient to justify the trouble of moving to an unfamiliar environment. I want to know right up front that I'm not wasting my time.

Awkward pretenses. This might sound harsh but: You're not my friend. I don't know you. I keep getting calls from this one guy to the effect of "Hey man, how's it going? I just thought I'd call and check up on ya, see if you were doin' ok." Bullshit. Stop acting like we're buddies. We both know all I want is a good career and all you want is your commission, so let's not pretend. I got a message a while ago asking me if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee to chat and get to know each other. That's the kind of message people should be sending to each other on OKCupid, not LinkedIn.

Calling at work. I don't mean during working hours. Most recruiting companies are 9-5, I get that and it's cool. What is not cool is calling someone at their direct extension on their current employer's line. Like, it's so remarkably unprofessional that I can't believe people actually do it yet they do.

Meaningless buzzwords. Seriously, I'm not fooled by the fluff. When you say "energetic new company with plenty of potential for growth!" I hear "unproven startup that probably has long hours and low job security that doesn't actually offer anything I don't already have." MckaylaMaroneyFace.jpg

So yeah. That. Hopefully I didn't burn any bridges and screw myself out of a 6 figure position because I drove off the wrong recruiter. Wooooops.

tl;dr I get tons of messages from recruiters now but they're all awkward and unimpressive.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This does not bode well

Huh. I almost failed BEDA 2 days in. Woops. Well, the post I had planned to write today is going to be really long so I don't want to start it now since it's late o'clock, and I already dedicated a post to lamenting how miserably I'm going to fail at BEDA, so I guess I will resort to doing what I explicitly said I was not going to do:

I just got Dragon's Dogma today and it is a hella novel concept. The bulk of the game is a fairly standard swords/bows/spells fantasy adventure RPG, but its novelty comes from the awesome "pawn" mechanic. So you make your character, but a bit into the game you also make a second character, your pawn. You control your character directly but your pawn is always AI controlled. The AI seems pretty solid but you can help it along with simple commands. At any time you can hire two additional pawns. This is the cool part: those aren't just random NPCs. When you hire other pawns, you are hiring the primary pawns of other players, and other players can hire your pawn. If your pawn gets taken out adventuring, they will gain experience, gain knowledge of quests/enemies/areas that they can use when back with you, and even collect items to give to you when they return. The game is primarily single player but the pawn hiring adds an interesting pseudo-multiplayer community flavor (kind of like what Dark Souls had with tips).

I recommend giving it a shot. And if you play it on XBox 360, look me up. Maybe we can level each others pawns sometime. =p

tl;dr I'm bad at BEDA and Dragon's Dogma is awesome.

Monday, April 1, 2013

BEDA, because "Blog a few times and give up" isn't as catchy

So ExplodedSoda reminded me about BEDA. As woefully neglected as my blog is, blogging every day for a month seems like an enterprise doomed to failure (and was the last time I tried BEDA). NEVERTHELESS! I shall be an optimist! I can do it . . . maybe! I just need to find a lot of things that make me really angry so I rant about them. Or I guess I could just ramble about video games I've played lately, but I don't really want to turn this already sub-optimal space into just a watered down game review page that nobody will pay any heed to.

So I'll keep ranting. I do have one lined up, but it's long and it's late, and plus I need to pad my BEDA post count by spreading things out, chyeah.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bechdel Gaming

I assume anyone reading this is familiar with the Bechdel Test, but if you're not, have a look here:

If you don't feel like clicking links, the gist of it is a movie passes the test if it meets the following criteria.
1. There are two named female characters.
2. They talk to each other.
3. About something other than a man.

The test is typically applied to movies, but I see no reason why it couldn't be applied just as well to any other story-telling medium. It's been on my mind lately, after a discussion on Reddit, and for the sake of staving off boredom and reviving my poor abandoned blog, I thought I'd test some of the games I've played lately (and games that spring to mind as I browse my Steam library). I'm not sure how far back I feel like dredging through my game-memories, so this probably won't be long, let's see how many I can think of:

Games with less than two female characters:

Jurassic Park Builder - The only female character is Malcom's daughter.

Darksiders - Only one female character, Uriel. At least, one human-like character. I guess if you include the assorted demonic monsters you get a few more.

Company of Heroes - Not surprisingly for a World War II game, there are no female characters.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine - I feel it is worth noting that Lieutenant Myra is one of the best female video game characters ever, stepping up after her commanding officers are killed, holding a weary band of troops together and basically holding the defense of an entire planet together until reinforcements arrive. She also isn't burdened with fanservicey sexualization or an unnecessary romantic side story. Alas, awesome as she is, she is the only named female character in the game so no Bechdel pass here.

Orcs Must Die (1 and 2) - The only female character is the Sorceress.

2+ female characters, but they don't talk to each other:

Metro 2033 - The only two named female characters (though I don't recall their actual names) are a prostitute in the second town and the mother of a boy you rescue later in the game. They do not interact with each other.

Carrier Command: Gaea Mission - I don't recall the game's two female characters, Essi and Aurora, ever talking to each other. Of course, the story wasn't exactly this game's strong suit so I may have just forgotten.

Darksiders 2 - Though the game has several interesting female characters (Uriel, Muria, Lilith and the Seer), none of them ever talk to anyone other than Death.

Bioshock - This one is a little harder to place. The Little Sisters do talk to each other in the orphanage, but mostly about the player, and they're not named characters. I don't believe any of the named female characters chat with each other.

Age of Empires III - Several named female characters, but they all live in different time periods and don't talk to each other.

EVE Online - There are many female characters, but NPCs in this game don't really interact with each other. If we count fluff, the novels do pass the test, but for the sake of this post I'm focusing exclusively on games.

Demigod - The game has two female characters, but the characters don't talk to each other. The back story for characters does allude to conversations between Sedna and her mother and the Queen of Thorns and other fairies, but these don't happen on screen so I'm placing it here.

Female characters talk to each other about a man:

Can't think of any off the top of my head.

Games that pass:

Retrovirus - Well, ok, they're all computer programs, but they have clearly gendered personas, and the female programs, Qat and the Oracle, talk several times about the virus infection and the internet.

Recettear - Recette and Tear talk to each other throughout the game about all sorts of things. They also have periodic chats with the female side characters about shop items, dungeons, booze, whatever.

Chantelise - As above. Since the main character's sister is her constant companion, the two frequently discuss a variety of things related to their adventure.

Everquest - Ignoring player characters because that's cheating, EQ still passes as Firiona Vie and Lanys T'Vyl periodically talk about beating the crap out of each other. There are surely others, but I can't begin to keep track of each conversation in a game so vast and one is enough to pass.

Borderlands 2 - A female director of the Dahl corporation tells her female security supervisor to go out and hunt monsters at one point. I don't recall what their names were, but they did have them, so we have a pass. The game very very nearly has a second qualifying conversation when Angel says that Lilith shouldn't come with to get the vault key, but she tells Roland to tell Lilith rather than telling Lilith herself (even though Lilith is in the same room).

Dawn of War - This one is tricky because its placement depends on whether or not you include the expansions, as the base game had only a single female character. In the Winter Assault and Dark Crusade expansions, Farseer Taldeer talks to other female eldar (Bonesingers, Fire Dragons and a Harlequin), but none of them have names. Soulstorm on the other hand, despite being the black sheep of the Dawn of War franchise, does clearly pass as if you play as either the Eldar or the Sisters of Battle you will hear the Farseer and the Canoness doing the typical leader vs leader smack talking.

Games I'm not sure about/forgot the details:

Strike Suit Zero - I want to say that Reynolds talks to Control/Isabella at some point but I don't recall. Reynolds does talk to a female station operator in the first mission, but she is nameless.

Sleeping Dogs - I know Sandra and whatshername (her best friend, the movie star) talk several times, but I honestly don't recall if they talk about anything other than whatshername's boyfriend or the main character.