Monday, October 27, 2014

Sexy Ladies Aren't the Problem

So Gamergate. That's a thing that's happening right now. It compels me to blog. Not about Gamergate, actually, because I'm not sure what I have to say that hasn't already been said by people better at writing than me. What I am actually going to blog about are some of the awful logical fallacies that I see popping up on Twitter and elsewhere.

I fear I didn't have the foresight to save links to them, but I saw one post that accused Anita Sarkeesian of being a hypocrite because she wore makeup during a talk once. Another post accused people who object to sexist representations of female characters in games of being "offended by the human body." (Y'know, because all female characters in games are accurate portrayals of the human body.)

Anyway. So the problem with that is that that's not the problem. (At least from my perspective. I guess I can't speak for the rest of the internet gang.) The problem is not that sexualized female characters exist everywhere, it's that other kinds of female characters don't. I don't see anything inherently wrong with games like Lollipop Chainsaw existing, but it would be nice to see, y'know, other types of female characters too. And there are some, certainly, but not nearly as many as their male counterparts.

Let's look at Twisted Metal 2, for example. And older game, admittedly, and one I'm rather fond of, but one that provides a fairly textbook example of the problem with the representation of female characters in video games.

Of the 16 playable characters (if we count the hidden boss characters), 13 are male. We have a few sexy male characters, sure, but we also have: a walking skeleton, a grizzled war veteran, a hobo, two psycho clowns, a creepy witchdoctor, a tortured guy trapped in massive wheels, and a fiery demon.

The female characters are: a sexy copy, a sexy racer and a sexy teenager.

So yeah. You can see why one might consider the gender balance a little lopsided. That's just one game, but it's not that hard to find other examples.

tl;dr the problem isn't that there are sexy female characters, the problem is that there aren't (m)any others

Monday, October 6, 2014

Words with Annoying People

Because I am a nerd (and stuff), I am sometimes fascinated with etymology. How did language evolve? Why do we talk the way we do? Individual words can be interesting, but even more fascinating are all the memetic idioms and catchphrases that permeate colloquial speech. How might they sound to an outsider who heard us constantly talking about how we must keep on truckin' and we might sink or swim because somebody's got a case of the Mondays and we don't want to crash and burn. Some of our phrases are kind of clever. Some are pretty weird. Others annoy the hell out of me. For no reason other than therapeutic venting, I have decided to compile a brief list of the latter here.

 "May or may not." This one is interesting for managing to be so utterly useless. It may be. Or it may not. When talking about a binary possibility, there is literally no other option, so the phrase taken literally managed to convey absolutely no information. "But Erik," you might say, "it's not meant to be taken literally." Yes, I realize it really means "this might be true but I don't know for sure" so it's more a way of admitting the speaker's uncertainty than communicating information, but that means that "I'm not sure" is a much more appropriate alternative. Also it's silly.

"Friends with benefits." Admittedly, I'm guilty of using this one often as there isn't really another option that expresses the same idea. "Fuck buddies" implies an emphasis on the physical with no friendship to go with it, and "friends who happen to sleep together" is a little clunky. What bothers me about it is the "with benefits" part, implying that you only benefit from a friendship if you're sleeping with them. All friendships are friendships with benefits. Sometimes the benefit is having someone to play video games with. Sometimes it's having someone to drink with at the bar. Sometimes it's sex.

"Viral." (In the context of social media sharing.) I actually used to like this one. "Viral" is a good way to describe the phenomenon of the people of the internet sharing a really good (or really weird video, image or story. The reason it annoys me now is the overuse. It has become the "epic" of today. People use it to refer to any mildly interesting or catchy thing, rather than things that truly spread across the internet like an unstoppable infection. Even worse are when people demand that we "make this go viral."

"Like and share if" Fuck you.

"Can't you just," mostly uttered at the workplace by people who have no understand of what goes into other people's jobs. I'm sure other disciplines have similar complaints, but for me as a software engineer this takes the form of people who have no understanding of technology (but think they are digital design experts cuz they made a Geocities page once) and think that things are as easy to code as they are to say. "Can't you just completely revamp the entire application to accommodate this one little feature that was never in the original scope and won't appeal to our users? Why are you being so difficult about this?" Or something.

tl;dr Sometimes people say things that annoy me.