Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Thoughts On Labels And The Future.

Categorical labeling is a tool that humans use to resolve the impossible complexity of the environments we grapple to perceive. Like so many human faculties, it’s adaptive and miraculous, but it also contributes to some of the deepest problems that face our species.

From Why It’s Dangerous To Label People, by Adam Alter, Psychology Today.

It’s not really controversial to say that human beings like to label things. We can’t help it, it’s natural for us to want to place everything that we encounter into distinguishable categories. Labelling helps us to organise our knowledge, placing our experiences into the neatly identifiable mental boxes that formulate our understanding of the world around us. Giving something a label is the first step in establishing our mental pathways. These pathways can lead to facts, such as the meaning of words or ideas, expectations or assumptions based on background and previous experience, and even unconscious ideas that we have soaked up from the world around us. We also often label the people around us, and claim labels for ourselves. That is where the problems can start.


The last decade has seen left-wing social ideology and social justice movements swing towards a focus on identity aspects. The purpose of this was to give those that for whatever reason have been marginalised a greater voice and role within the wider framework of society. The cause was worthy, to address disparities and overall make things more balanced and fair. The intentions were good, and great strides have been made. However, even the best of intentions can have unintended consequences.

As it turns out, very little that concerns people is simple. Most of us hold a mix of emotions about the bits and pieces that make up our identity, based on our experiences and personality. Some of those opinions will inevitably be shaped by the reactions of the world around us to our various identity aspects. Equally we may feel closeness or kinship with those who share our identity, and bond together to fight against what we perceive as disparities or injustices against us. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. We are all told that life is unfair, that doesn’t mean we have to just put up with it.


But things have gone horribly wrong. In recent years the left has made identity, the labels, the most important things about us. Instead of treating everyone as an equally important person in their own right, many are being told that if their face doesn’t fit? Their voice is not of value, and they need to shut up. However, it goes deeper than that, placing so much importance on labels has taught people that anyone who doesn’t share a label is automatically there to hold them down.

This happens both with the identity aspects that we are born with, but also the ones that we choose for ourselves. A label of identity that we claim for ourselves can be as simple as a religion, an ideology, even a hobby. The communities we choose to belong to become our tribe, those outside them are to be avoided or even actively shunned lest they do us harm.

It seems that in a world where the label controls all, and only those who share your labels are your allies, everyone else is your enemy. Those who are not of your label? Of your tribe? Are dangerous and not to be trusted. When only you and your tribe are the victims? Everybody else is guilty.

This mandatory orientation event was designed to help us appreciate our diversity as a student body during the first week of classes. But what did it really accomplish? In compressing us into isolated communities based on our race, religion or gender, the minister belittled every other piece of our identities. He faced a crowd of singular young adults and essentially told them that their heritage outweighed their humanity.  The message was clear: know your kind and stick to it. Don’t risk offending people from other backgrounds by trying to understand their worldviews.

From Diversity For The Sake Of Democracy, by Carrie Pritt,



When looked at with this in mind is it any wonder we have seen such a rise in right-wing nationalist dogma? The right has adopted the modern principles of the left, and twisted them to suit their ends. When you strip out the window dressing the extremists of the left AND the right are using the same rhetoric, the same tactics, blurring the lines to the point where it is no longer easy to tell which is which. From both ends of the political spectrum the message seems the same – only those of your tribe are important, you have to claim what you are owed. The rest of the world is not only lesser, they are actively out to get you.

When we focus entirely upon labels, whether given by ourselves or others, we risk losing something else. By reducing human beings to little more than tick boxes on a form that determine our place within the grand scheme of things we miss the glorious and complicated mess that is the individual. On a more worrisome note we encourage the worst excesses of tribalism, selfishness, fear, and mistrust. When people are dismissed because of arbitrary categories given to them by others? They go and seek others who are more welcoming. When you’re only looking to serve yourself and those of your label with everyone else placed in the role of the oppressor? That leaves little room for ideas such as kindness, altruism, trust, and understanding.



I’ve had this blog for two and a half years now, writing about whatever pops into my brain under the labels of feminist and gamer. Updates to this blog have always been somewhat unpredictable, mostly because finding the time to sit down and write is sometimes a struggle. I am not, and have never pretended to be, a professional writer or academic. I have never asked for financial contributions for my writing, why would I ask you to pay to read my opinions when you can read the opinions of any other dickhead with a computer for free?

I have written this blog under the labels of Feminist and Gamer, despite some of my posts being about neither of those things. When I began the labels seemed important, a stake in the ground that declared my allegiances. This has been both positive and negative. People who shared those allegiances were likely to read and share my work. Others would read through the negative lens of preconceptions, looking for things to tear apart. All of that was welcome, however there comes a time when we must evaluate where we are in our lives and consider our future.


With that in mind this will be the last Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer post. This is not because I intend to stop writing, but rather because the labels of feminist and gamer no longer seem important. Either you care about what I have to say, as an individual with thoughts and feelings as messy and complicated as your own, or you don’t. Either way is just fine with me. I can still actively support ideas of gender equality, I can still play and talk about video games. The difference is that I no longer choose to define myself by those labels.

Because here’s the thing, I don’t know how we’re going to fix things. Not to be hyperbolic but everybody just seems so determined to fight their perceived enemies, which just happens to be the rest of the world. We’re all so busy worrying about ourselves, snatching at what we can get and snarling away over territory like wild dogs. Some of us are actively shielding ourselves from other points of view, sealing ourselves in the bubbles of our own tribes with blocklists and internet mobs. We dismiss anyone that doesn’t agree with us as an SJW or a Nazi. Words are being redefined as acts of violence, and so physical violence is deemed an acceptable response to them. After all they are the enemy aren’t they? And this is war isn’t it? It’s just self defence.

I’m not saying that it is bad to love the things that you are. The point is that if everybody is fighting? Nobody is listening. If all anyone thinks of is their own people? Nobody is helping. If we place all the importance on labels? We’re not placing it on lives. The ideal of a world where things are equal and fair will never be achieved if we dehumanise people by only considering them by categories. We may see an end to caring, to helping strangers for no reason, to sharing what we have even when we have little, to accepting each others weaknesses and acknowledging our own. But mostly? To listening and trying to understand others even when they are very different from us. I don’t want us to close ourselves off from each other, spending our days wallowing in cynicism and nihilism while we eat our own in our sealed communities. I’d like to hope that we can turn this around, and that we can make the world kind again. We cannot end hate with more hate, neither can we forge understanding through fear. Perhaps you think I am being naive, revisionist, or virtue signalling, but I want to believe that overall humanity is good, and kind. I want to feel that we are capable of great acts of nobility and generosity, not just barbarism, stupidity,

or even worse? Apathy.

Perhaps that makes me sound a bit like a hippy but you know what? Maybe a little of that is what we need right now.


Thanks for reading, Angela

Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Sexuality And The Grotesque In Video Games

WARNING! This blog post will contain themes and imagery that some may find disturbing

Human beings love monsters. All throughout history humans have created monsters to fear, and to help us come to terms with some of the fundamental aspects of our reality. Whether as part of cultural mythology, art, literature or modern media, fictional and mythological monsters have always played a huge role in representing our darkest fears, baser desires and extreme fantasies. The most effective of these monsters are the ones that look like us, but only vaguely. Representations of the natural human form twisted, corrupted, distorted and/or exaggerated in such a way as to appear fantastical, ugly and grotesque. As well as the general adjective, the word grotesque in the context of art, media, performance and literature can also refer to something that simultaneously invokes feelings of disgust and discomfort as well as fascination and sympathetic pity within an audience.

…works of the grotesque can engage us in such a way that bafflement, mystery and possibility are all experienced. The fusion of organic and inorganic parts, the distortion of natural forms, and the exaggeration of fundamental aspects of life such as birth, sex, death, scatological processes, aging, size and gender, not only surprise and baffle us, they call forth a mixture of feelings, often contradictory, of fear, dread and repulsion, of fascination, amusement and derision, that provides us with an insight into the darker side of human nature.

Consuming The Grotesque Body

Christina Goulding, Michael Saren, and John Follett (2003)



Examples of grotesque from art, literature, film and architecture 

Video games are primarily a visual medium. The interactive requirement also means that the majority of narrative based video games rely on the most basic storytelling tool there is, conflict. This usually (but not always) takes on the form of one or more video game protagonists, controlled by the player, venturing forth within the narrative and visual framework presented to resolve the conflicts assigned i.e do battle with the enemies the game throws at us. Monsters are a fundamental cornerstone of gaming, and the concept of the grotesque is a mainstay of video game character design. As video game storytelling and technology have progressed so has the complexity and ambition regarding aesthetic, meaning that video game monster designs have only gotten more imaginative, more disgusting, more visceral and more exaggerated. In other words, more grotesque.


In mythology the grotesque often combines with themes of sexuality in order to exploit sexual terror and to serve as morality tales. These themes are also incorporated into fables and fairy tales, the purpose being to establish and maintain societal moral framework. Since mythology, morality tales and religious parables form the basis of a great many modern storytelling conventions it’s not surprising that imagery and themes of grotesque sexuality still play a part in media today, whether as straight up, gross out body horror or incorporated into exaggerated social satire. Examples of this include movies such as the Alien franchise, Hellraiser and The Thing, and TV shows such as Twin Peaks, The X Files, The League Of Gentlemen and even South Park.

With all this in mind it’s not really surprising that the idea of grotesque sexuality has also found its way into video games. 



Grotesque sexuality can be utilised as part of symbolic representation of lust, sexual appetite, and sexual perversion. One of the most common ways in which a human form may be designed to be sexually grotesque is by blending it with a non-human i.e an animal, insect, demon or machinery. Classical mythology is replete with both female and male examples, such as mermaids, harpies and gorgons (traditionally female) and minotaurs, centaurs and satyrs (traditionally male) Examples where both the male and female can be found include cyborgs, fairies, and nāgá/nāgī.

This aspect has multiple applications. In the context of video games the character may be a literal blending, such as the woman blended with spider designs of Cydaea in Diablo III, the Vagary of Doom 3, or the woman blended with robot design of Haydee.


Piggsy from  Manhunt 2 and the Vagary from Doom 3

However, it may be the more subtle idea of a human being mentally disturbed in a way that means they exhibit non-human behaviour and embody non-human aesthetic, such as Piggsy in Manhunt 2. Piggsy is a fat, hunched cannibal, a mass murderer who wears a pig skin mask and barely speaks beyond pig-like squeals and grunts. The sexual aspect of his design comes from the fact that his genitals are clearly on display, overtly referencing his maleness and alluding to his barely-human animalistic mental state.


Werewolf from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

One way in which blending human and animal can be used in grotesque sexuality character design is a creature that combines elements from both, rather than being strictly half and half. This can be seen in the tradition of the werewolf. In mythology werewolves have a long and rich history, with examples found in cultures all over the world such as Ancient Greek, Norse, South American, Eastern European, Roman and Native American. Werewolves are usually an allegory for the internal struggle with the more primitive animal excesses of human nature. They can also be associated with puberty i.e sudden body changes, growth of excess hair, menstruation and awakening of sexual desire. In most of the modern werewolf mythology lycanthropy is transmitted through saliva from a bite, forming a none too subtle connection with bodily fluid, unrestrained sexual appetite and sexually transmitted diseases. In film the grotesque sexuality of werewolves is usually embodied in the transformation sequence, such as the camp fire transformation sex scene in The Howling.

In video games examples of werewolves can be found in The Elder Scrolls Franchise, Altered Beast, Diablo 2, The Wolf Among Us and The Order: 1886. In the character model below you can see again that the male genitals are overtly displayed and fuse with the body during transformation, giving the subtle appearance of an erection. This alludes to connections between sex and violence, chiefly themes of male sexual prowess, bestiality and the threat of rape.


The Order: 1886 Elder Lycan

Grotesque sexuality can also be employed in symbolic depictions of good and evil, sin, religious/societal restrictions regarding sex, and potential consequences of sexual excess. Religion and folklore is often associated with grotesque sexuality as part of teaching ideas about morality. As such the images used vary in different cultures and time periods but the overall themes usually share similar concepts. Fear of sex and sexuality is one such theme. Poet John Milton’s interpretation of the Christian creation myth, Paradise Lost, gave the knowledge of sex as being the primary cause for the destruction of paradise. The Gods of Ancient Greece were renowned for their sexual exploits, which were not always consensual. Sexually deviant and grotesque mythical creatures existed in every culture, such as the centaurs of Ancient Greece (who were renowned for rape) the Tokoloshe of South Africa (a hairy extremely well endowed male demon that gives victims sexually transmitted infections) the Incubus/Succubus (male and female demons who drain their victim’s energy through sex) and the Lidérc of Hungary (who appear as a past lover/relative to drain victim’s life force through repeated sexual encounters)


Belief From Bayonetta 2

Grotesque religious imagery is also used in video games, examples can be found in games such as Bayonetta 1 & 2, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and the Devil May Cry series. Examples of religiously themed grotesque sexuality can be found in games such as the God Of War series, all three Diablo games, and Dante’s Inferno.


The Temptress from Dante’s Inferno

Dante’s Inferno, based on the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy, contains a number of character designs that utilise grotesque sexuality imagery to exemplify repercussions of sexual sin, since one of the circles of hell (and seven deadly sins) is Lust it’s hardly surprising. Dante’s journey through hell is one of redemption for numerous sins and atrocities committed in life, including sexual misconduct with a female captive. One of the enemy creature designs is The Temptress, a scantily dressed humanoid female that moans seductively before attacking with metal hand claws or with a long, retractable, scorpion tail that protrudes from a bloody opening down the length of her torso. I would interpret this not as a representation of weaponised female sexuality but more as a mirror of Dante’s own weaknesses regarding lust. However this is merely a personal interpretation.

One of the boss fights in Dante’s Inferno is Cleopatra, Queen of Lust, a half naked female that can alter her size, summon Lust storms, and excrete unbaptised babies from her breasts. This is a gross parody of birth and symbolic of the ripple effect of sin i.e that unrestrained lust can have consequences such as unwanted pregnancy.


 However the main antagonist of Dante’s Inferno is obviously the Prince of Hell himself Lucifer. The character design of Lucifer incorporates grotesque sexuality by giving him an unnaturally tall and muscular physique combined with goat legs, horns and a large and very obvious penis. As Cleopatra’s breasts utilise a grotesque distortion of the female biological function of birth, so Lucifer’s legs and genitals employ grotesque malformation and parody of the male form.  Lucifer’s penis is an overt reference to weaponised male sexuality, male sexual prowess distorted by the threat of sexual violence. This weaponisation is not characterised merely by the the sight of a male’s weapon, as it were. Indeed the penis can be displayed in video games for comedic purposes, or even to denote vulnerability. The threat comes from the combination of the nudity with the monstrous.


Exaggerated displays of genitals, and distorted genital imagery, are pretty commonplace within grotesque sexuality, often relating to human fascination with genitals and their functions combined with sexual, personal and societal taboos. Human genitals have a staggering array of association, the simplest being sex, sexual pleasure, procreation, menstruation, birth, urinating, defecating and fear of sexual violence/violation.

Connecting with lust and uncontrolled sexual appetite are themes of sexual frustration and violent mental instability. Examples of this can be found in the Silent Hill game series, The Suffering 2 and Outlast. In the Silent Hill games the male characters deal with sexual frustration, insanity, and violence that manifests itself as monsters that use grotesque sexuality within the character design, such as Pyramid Head and the Bubble Nurses. In Silent Hill 2 the monster Pyramid Head appears to rape the Mannequin monsters, a reference to protagonist James Sunderland’s frustration with the lack of sexual activity between himself and his gravely ill wife. In Silent Hill: Origins protagonist Travis Grady manifests his sexual frustration in the form of The Butcher, a humanoid male that stabs it’s victims through the abdomen and slices down through the genitals.


Monsters From The Silent Hill Series

As I mentioned before with Piggsy, grotesque sexuality can be employed to indicate mental disturbance. In The Suffering 2: Ties That Bind the protagonist encounters The Creeper, a monster composed of a misogynist pimp that murdered his own prostitutes and other various women. The Creeper takes the form of a middle aged man with bladed tentacles that hold the heads and torsos of murdered women. In the game Outlast, the protagonist explores a remote psychiatric hospital, filled with deranged and grotesque individuals such as these two naked cannibals known only as The Twins. Once again we have dicks on display as connection with insanity as well as the violation and devouring of the flesh.


The Twins from Outlast and The Creeper From The Suffering 2: Ties That Bind

Noticing a theme with the males yet?

Video games are actually full of genitals, however in the grand tradition of artists like HR Giger designers often use grotesque sexuality to (often not too subtly) disguise genitals in the form of monsters, scenery and technology. Why this is may be explained by understanding human obsession, amusement, and insecurity, regarding what we consider to be the most private and intimate parts of our body. You may conclude that this is a cheap and easy way for video game designers to use sex to sell video games. However it is worth noting that in games in which the player controls elements of creature design and environment aesthetics, such as Minecraft and No Man’s Sky, you will still see your fair share of genital scenery and genital based monsters.


A complaint from video game critics is that when grotesque sexuality is deployed in female character design it can be a negative representation of femaleness, and a weaponisation of female sexuality. This critique asserts that making female bodies into something gross and disgusting reinforces long held societal prejudices about women, such as the temptress that uses sexual wiles to manipulate and mislead men.

Personally I’m inclined to think this is an oversimplification, and that what we are really dealing with here are complex associations between core aspects of human existence. While yes, female sexuality has been unfairly maligned and negatively portrayed within the folklore and mythology that has influenced modern storytelling, realistically it’s fair to say that male sexuality hasn’t fared much better. The larger idea reinforced in these myths is that ALL sexuality, expressed outside the socially and religiously acceptable boundaries of heterosexual marriage, is unwise and likely to incur negative consequences. These are ideas that are still prevalent in modern storytelling, although this is beginning to change.


Succubus from Diablo III

Combining male sexuality with the grotesque in character design may be rarer in video games but it does exist and is no less a spectacle than its female counterparts. Looking at the video game examples listed above, I could make the argument that if utilisation of weaponised female sexuality in video game character design reinforces the idea that women are untrustworthy seductresses then weaponised male sexuality used in the same way reinforces the idea that men are violent rapists. As it is while depictions of female nudity and sexuality, weaponised or otherwise can often scrape an ESRB T (Teen) rating in the US, or 15 rating in the UK, depictions of male nudity and sexuality will virtually guarantee an ESRB M (Mature) or even an AO (Adult Only) rating, or 18 rating in the UK. This imbalance in the rating system means that video game character designers have little choice but to skew utilisation of grotesque sexuality in favour of the female form.


Creature from Penumbra: Black Plague

According to Consuming The Grotesque Body

…our fascination with the grotesque may be conceptualized as a means of arousing anxiety by giving expression to repressed infantile fantasies which in turn acts as a liberation from fear

I interpret this to mean that we use the grotesque in order to frighten and discomfort ourselves in a controlled manner so that we may acknowledge, understand, and ridicule our fears about our own existence. Grotesque sexuality is still used by modern artists, such as Dorothy Iannone and Lisa Yuskavage, to ask questions about human form, sexuality, gender, birth and death. I see no reason why video games are not able to ask these questions or explore ideas about the very fundamental aspects of our world, in the same way that other other art forms have done since prehistoric times. Both the positive and negative aspects of human sexuality invite examination and exploration. As video game narrative and design becomes more complex, and the technology more capable, so video game developers will be able to further push the boundaries of grotesque sexuality in character design. They will make truly hideous and disgusting monsters for players to have fun scaring themselves with, all the better to face the real terrors of our own everyday lives.

Thank you very much for reading and also an ocean of love to everyone that helped with this piece. If you read this and couldn’t believe I missed a particular point or example? Be sure to let me know in the comment section.

By Angela Night





Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Thoughts On #Brexit

So on the 23rd June 2016 surgery happened. No that isn’t some kind of clever allegory for the UK referendum that saw 51.9% vote in favour of leaving the EU (that comes later) My husband literally had surgery, laparoscopic left inguinal and open epigastric hernia repairs. The next day he came home, miserable, sore and generally feeling very sorry for himself.



As he did so the UK was reeling from the results of the EU referendum vote and immediately fell to arguing and blame. Please don’t take that the wrong way, it is not a rebuke. People were, and still are, afraid about what this could mean for the future and that is entirely understandable. Aside from one civil war and the occasional riot British people are not, generally speaking, a hugely revolutionary bunch. We like our tea hot, our fish battered and our wit dry, sarcastic and slightly whimsical. We crave stability and the comfort of familiar things, who doesn’t? The government was certain that Remain would win, as was the media. Even some of those that campaigned and voted for Leave were sure that Remain would win. As the results were revealed supporters of Remain commiserated and raged while the celebrations of Leave very quickly gave way to a kind of stunned silence as the sheer enormity of what had occurred began to sink in and the inevitable question of “Now what?” began to arise.



I’d watched both campaigns slinging mud at each other for years. I know people on both sides of the argument, Leavers and Remainers both as passionate and certain in their perspective as each other. I greeted the news that we were leaving the EU with a kind of numb detachment. Outside of my window the sun was shining (for a change) and life was continuing as normal. People were eating, drinking, going to work, taking their children to school and going to the shops. It was very hard to reconcile that with the Extinction Level Event status being declared online and in the media. I was facetious, flippant even, in the face of an outpouring of fear and uncertainty. I am pragmatic by nature, now that the vote was done with I wanted to get on with coming up with a strategy for dealing with what lies ahead.

UKIP were the ones pushing for the UK to leave the EU but the Conservatives are the ones in government, until the general election at least. The Tories would be the ones doing the negotiating and making the policies and after the initial shock and the unsurprising resignation of David Cameron I wanted them to get to the actual politics. There had seemed to be a decision, albeit a close and hugely controversial one, what there didn’t seem to be was a plan.


I can only speak from my experience but as someone from a working class family that lives on a local authority housing estate I was not actually that surprised by the way the vote went. From street level the social landscape of the UK has changed dramatically in what seems like a very short time and from what I saw the reasons why the poor voted to Leave are too complicated to be dismissed as “Too many immigrants”


The working classes have been made to feel powerless and disenfranchised by Westminster politics for decades. There’s an old expression about shit rolling downhill and in the age of harsh government cuts to public services driven by austerity as usual it is the people at the bottom that have suffered the most in their daily lives. This combined with lack of public trust in the politicians meant to represent them created a perfect storm of fear and resentment. As a people we are used to feeling that our votes make very little difference in real terms. We bleakly joke about our elections being a pick between liar A, liar B or liar C. The EU referendum gave the people a choice, the first choice in a long time that many felt would actually make a significant impact. It turns out that when you give people a choice, and don’t address the concerns that caused them to want that choice in the first place, people may make the choice you don’t want.



Some people voted Leave because they don’t trust the Westminster politicians that told them to vote Remain. They felt that giving the politicians they knew were bad, but in the long run replaceable, the unfettered power was better than the unknown and far away quantity of EU politicians. The government and media have spent decades telling the working classes about the inane and crazy decisions supposedly made by the EU and blaming them for unpopular outcomes, such as convicted criminals successfully applying to the European Court of Human Rights to overrule the UK justice system. This created a perception of the EU as a bunch of costly, interfering and unelected busybodies that had more concern with the labeling of jam and comfort of perpetrators and terrorists then the suffering of victims of crime or the poor. If UK politicians and media are looking to portion up responsibility for the way things have turned out then they better dish themselves up a particularly healthy slice.

Personally I believe that for working class people this whole referendum has been about fear, fear of the future, fear of loss of identity in the era of identity politics, fear of becoming lost and forgotten by politicians even further removed from our lives than the ones in Westminster. Fear alone does not make anyone racist or xenophobic and it is irresponsible to just dismiss it as such. Ultimately to ordinary people the EU Referendum was a decision about which future seemed scarier, the known of being part of the EU or the unknown of being outside of it. To me personally it felt like a choice between negotiating with and potentially being enveloped by the army on one side, hoping to not become a mindless drone, or throwing myself off the cliff on the other side, not knowing what is below and hoping to not get my head smashed in by a rock. The fact that the majority chose the unknown says a great deal about our mental state as a nation. We would rather feel in control and take a chance on a potentially disastrous unfamiliar then be secure while feeling undermined and unimportant. Maybe that is justified, maybe it isn’t, but that is the outcome that we have chosen.



 The EU Referendum has been the most divisive, bitter and shocking event that has occurred in our recent history. Neither the Remain or Leave campaigns have come out of this business with clean hands, both have used fear as a tool to try to simplify a hugely complex decision. The dogged jingoism of Leave and the sanctimonious shaming of Remain hasn’t really helped anybody alleviate their fear. Nobody has won, all we have done is chosen one set of consequences over another.

Like my poor husband, we had the surgery we were told we needed and now we are wounded, miserable, sore and generally feeling sorry for ourselves. The good news (other than Game Of Thrones not being affected) is that now that the popularity contest of the vote is over the real politics will begin. After all what does politics really mean? Compromise. The UK has options, so does the EU. The government may strike a deal, they may negotiate the Adam Smith Institute model, there may be a second referendum. Concessions will be made on both sides, free movement between EU countries may not be affected at all. Call me a hopeless optimist if you like but I believe that chances are that none of us will get everything we want but, on the other hand, none of us will get everything we fear either. It is too soon to see whether or not the surgery has been a success and in the meantime there will be pain, uncertainty, discomfort, unexpected side effects and probably a touch of constipation. What we must remember is that we all have to live with each other.


The future is not a straight road, it twists and turns and it doesn’t stop. As a nation we need time to heal, and to adjust. Mostly we need to remember not to let ourselves be ruled by fear.

Thanks for reading


Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Thoughts On Game Journalism And “Git Gud”

I picked up Mortal Kombat X this week. Yes I know I’m a little late to the party on this one but it was pretty cheap and I rather fancied giving it a go. Now I know what you might be thinking and don’t worry, this isn’t some kind of hamfisted attempt to establish my gamer cred (that went out of the window long ago) I’m not a game journalist or a game writer, it’s not really important whether people think I know anything about video games or not.

So why do I bring it up? Well I haven’t owned anything that can really be considered a fighting game in many years, not since Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii. Gaming wise I mainly stick to RPGs and shooters, I don’t really play fighting games. That is unless you count half an hour in an arcade messing about with some friends on Tekken 6. I fully expect to suck ass at Mortal Kombat X and to be mercilessly teased and mocked by whoever I play with until I can get a handle on the controls, after which will come having my ass handed to me numerous times playing online while I attempt to learn the game. Or, to put it another way, while I attempt to Git Gud.

getgud or get

The phrase “Git Gud” is a meme, a popular expression among modern gamers, it’s generally used in online play to heckle new or less experienced players. Recently it has come under some fire in the gaming press. It all started with a video posted by Polygon titled DOOM GAMEPLAY- The First Thirty Minutes The player featured in this video is clearly unskilled or unpracticed, they’re attempting to play a first person shooter but have difficulty running and shooting at the same time, many of their shots are wildly inaccurate and at one point they even attempt to shoot a stationary med-pack. I’d also say that the amount of the game they manage to complete in thirty minutes could probably have been knocked out in half the time by someone with a clearer idea of what they were doing.

The gaming community reacted to this video with mockery and scorn, holding it up as an example of gaming journalists lack of interest in actually playing the games they write about. The overall consensus within the community was that being this bad at the mechanical aspects of gaming, that is the actual button pressing bit of video games, was damaging to the credibility of the player as a games journalist, and to Polygon as a games publication. Polygon were told, in no uncertain terms, that they needed to Git Gud.



In the days that followed some writers jumped to Polygon’s defense, lamenting the reaction of the community and what they perceive as the exclusionary and toxic nature of the “Git Gud” attitude. John Walker of Rock, Paper, Shotgun emphasised the importance of players having fun while playing the game, rather than legitimising the bravado of “Git Gud”


A really unpleasant gaming trend is getting louder and louder of late, where it’s considered of vital importance to observe when other people are “bad” at games. And of course insinuating that one is “good” at them at the same time. Such an attitude reveals an extraordinarily narrow-minded view of gaming, and indeed of humanity. It’s really time for it to stop.

Editorial: An End To “GIT GUD” – You Don’t Need To Be Good At Games To  Enjoy Them


Garret Martin was equally unimpressed with the behaviour of gamers in his piece for Paste Magazine.

What is worth mentioning is the reaction to that video, and how it reinforces negative impressions about so-called “gamers.” People might sound like they’re trying out for the Blue Collar Comedy Tour when they say that somebody needs to “Git Gud” at a game, but what they’re really doing is trying to exclude players who don’t devote as much time to games as they do. Equal parts taunt and heckle, “Git Gud” is a joke directed at players doing poorly in online games, but a joke with a pointed edge: if you don’t get better at games, they’re saying, we’ll stop playing with you. That you don’t belong here.

The “Git Gud” Mentality Is Why People Don’t Take Games Seriously


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So was the reaction to Polygon’s video that unfair?

And is “Git Gud” a significant example of everything supposedly wrong with the gaming community?

Well to be fair there may well have been legitimate reasons why the player in the Doom video suffered some, shall we say, performance issues. Maybe they were playing on a different platform then they were used to, maybe they felt unwell, maybe they don’t usually play first person shooter games or they only had a very short amount of time to get to grips with the controls before recording. I’d also agree that having fun while playing a game is generally more important than actually being good at it. However, as a defense of Polygon? This is all pretty poor. No, I don’t believe that game journalists have to be especially brilliant at playing video games to be able to write about them. There are simply too many game genres and platforms, to expect game journalists to master all or even most of them is impractical and unrealistic.

With that said the Polygon video was packaged and sold to us as the first thirty minutes of Doom, what I would expect from that label is an average FPS player showing us how we can expect the game to look for the first half hour. Not MLG level, not showing every hidden area or doing a speed run, just what an ordinary gamer should expect in that section of the game. Struggling to move and shoot at the same time? Missing two thirds of shots? That isn’t what the game is supposed to look like or how the game is supposed to play. If I made a video of myself playing Mortal Kombat X right now it wouldn’t look at all how the game is supposed to, it would probably look like the game was being played by a chimpanzee. Therefore I couldn’t realistically label it as “The First Thirty Minutes Of Mortal Kombat X” unless I added a proviso like “…As It Might Look Played By A Chimp” It just wouldn’t be fair or accurate to the game otherwise. What Polygon gave us in that video was not what it was sold as. If Polygon had labelled the video as “FPS Newbie Plays Thirty Minutes Of Doom” then I doubt there would have nearly as much of a reaction from the community, it might even have been positively received.

It should be feasible that a publication as large as Polygon would have at least one member of their writing staff that can play an FPS, why was this assignment given to someone so clearly unable to properly do it justice? Polygon were not honest about the video and to be honest? It seemed like a pretty blatant attempt to fake it, to do the bare minimum, slap on an inaccurate title and hope that no-one will notice.

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As for “Git Gud”?

I think that games journalists are blowing it all out of proportion.

“Git Gud” as a phrase is not just used to heckle, like so many things it all comes down to context. As a phrase “Git Gud” can also be used to encourage. What “Git Gud” means in the most basic terms is simple, Keep Trying. Yes often it is used mockingly but that doesn’t mean it is toxic or exclusionary. Gaming is challenging, it is often competitive, and a huge part of the enjoyment for many gamers is the thrill and sense of achievement that comes from mastery of the game. “Git Gud” is a challenge, an attempt to motivate a gamer not to give up when a game is difficult. Even the very video games we play sometimes gently make fun of us for lack of skill or lack of bravery.


This is not an insult, it is a provocation, a dare. It is an invitation to test your might, as it were. When did it become such a problem to challenge gamers to get better? To not throw the game out of the window in disgust and demand an easy mode when there’s a difficulty spike? Games have become more complex, with more cinematic story-driven objectives. As such it has become more important than ever to be able to play a game until completion in order for the player to get the full experience of the game. This may mean players having to learn new tactics, recognise patterns and be adaptive with regard to strategy.

In my opinion “Git Gud” is an important life lesson. In these times participation is seen as just as important as victory, the cost of that can be that people give up when things get difficult under the guise of “Oh well at least I tried” When we invite someone to “Git Gud” we are asking them not to give up and just settle for how things are but to strive and adapt until that sweet feeling of having overcome your obstacles is yours. After all, life doesn’t exactly come with an easy mode.

No, you don’t have to be good at games to enjoy playing them. But if you’re a professional game journalist asked to cover a particular video game as an assignment? You should undertake the proper research and know your stuff. That is as true if you are playing the game for a video as it is if you are writing about it. This situation seems to have become yet another example of game journalists getting defensive when challenged by the community and immediately moving to distance themselves from their audience. The idea that the reason games are supposedly not taken seriously ( seriously as what and by whom?) because of a fairly innocuous current gamer phrase is ridiculous. That same phrase being blamed for people feeling insecure as gamers just comes off as whining. “Git Gud” is a meme, in time it will go the way of phrases such as “Pwned” falling out of fashion and being replaced by new slang. Game journalists need to accept that the challenging nature of gaming as a medium means that a degree of gentle mockery and smack talk is likely to always be a part of the gaming community. They could also do with learning not to take themselves so seriously. Video game journalism is supposed to be an enthusiast press, take the sticks out of your asses and show some enthusiasm for your work.


This would be an appropriate juncture for me to tell Polygon and those defending them to Git Gud but to be honest? I don’t really see the point. I’ll just do what many others have done and stop giving their site my clicks. Instead I will support smaller video game sites that hire journalists who actually have love for video games and for gamers. The game journalists that so easily disparage gamers for expecting quality have made their position clear. They do not consider themselves to be a part of the gamer community and they consider gamer culture to be something toxic that needs to be destroyed. That is more damaging to their credibility as game journalists then thirty minutes of crap playing could ever be.

Thanks For Reading


For those that are unaware I have joined Action A GoGo as a writer. Links for the pieces I have written for them so far. Enjoy!

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Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, A Dungeons And Dragons Love Story

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    I am A’Daragon, Drow and purveyor of poisons and narcotics. I exist in the space between the pull of my Underdark Drow heritage and the freedom and influence of the lands above where I sell my wares. During one of my deals things got ugly and I killed a nobleman in honourable combat. It turned out he had set me up and so I lost everything, my business, my freedom and almost my life. Instead of execution I was drafted into a task force of warriors, a supposedly elite group designed to deal with messes beyond the skill or jurisdiction of the city guard. The other group members are free to come and go but I? I am bound to it for life, a slave forced to travel with idiots and deluded heroes. My weapons of choice? A pair of poisoned daggers, my crossbow and my wits.

 This is me.

No , don’t worry, I haven’t gone bonkers. This is me every Saturday night when I sit down to play Dungeons and Dragons. If you’re unfamiliar with Dungeons and Dragons a more detailed overview can be found here.

Essentially D&D is a tabletop based fantasy role-play game in which a group of adventurers, controlled by the players, set out into a usually (but not always) medieval style world to complete tasks and quests. Basically you and your friends pretend to be characters and go on an adventure. The world in which the adventurers travel is controlled by a participant known as the Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master has many roles, they build the space where the adventurers roam, describing settings, events and interactions with enemies and non-player characters (NPCs) The DM also organises the game structure, ensures the rules and mechanics of the game are adhered to, and acts as referee. However the most important part of the DM’s job is to create a story, combining rules of the setting with player’s decisions to create a flowing narrative. Player abilities are controlled by the choices they make when creating their character, as different races and classes have varying stats. Whether player’s actions are successful or not is determined by dice rolls.

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But enough of the technical stuff. I said this was a love story and, like many great love stories, it starts with a young man.

But this is not that kind of love story.

This is the story of how I fell in love with Dungeons And Dragons.

I met the young man in question just over three years ago, having resisted my husband’s attempts to get me into D&D for many years. I’d seen the books listing the rules, mechanical aspects, stats and numbers and I could not have been less interested. It didn’t help that the only time I’d ever seen D&D played was when my husband and the group he was with at the time lost their venue one week and had to play in our flat. Confronted with a bunch of po-faced power players with books, battle mats and bags of dice and having to listen to them argue about rules for hours and hours I mentally ran a mile. Of course now that I understand D&D players a little better I know that they were probably a perfectly fun bunch of lads, it was probably just awkwardness at the prospect of playing in a small flat with a stranger hovering nearby. Playing D&D requires a certain amount of concentration and players embarking on a particularly engaging campaign can display an intense focus that rivals even the most hardcore video gamer, a trait which can be off-putting to the outsider looking in.

I could argue that I was put off by the complex looking mechanics and it would have some truth to it but that would not be the whole story. Self reflection is important and so I have to be honest with myself about this.

The truth of it is that I thought I was too cool for D&D. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way, shape or form classifiable as ‘cool’. Even now in my 30s I play video games, I’m a cinephile, I read fantasy and science fiction literature, I used to do viking re-enactment and I’ve forgotten more about Star Trek than most people ever know about it, I’m a fairly big geek. But I was comfortable in knowing that as geeky as I was there were some lines that I hadn’t crossed, I’d never been on a LARP, I hadn’t named any of my children Chewbacca and I didn’t play D&D. It’s a shameful thing to admit but there’s a certain comfort and security in the thought of “Hey I know I’m lame but at least I’m not as lame as THOSE guys” We all have our faults and I freely admit that this is one of mine. What’s more I’m not alone, since I started to play I have observed this kind of attitude in others. A feeling that, while D&D may seem like it would be the kind of thing a person may enjoy, they’re not willing to step outside their geek comfort zone enough to actually give it a try.

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 Anyway, back to the young man. My husband used to go to a weekly D&D Encounters group that was held fairly near to us and, being the wonderfully generous and kind-hearted person that he is, took this young man under his wing. Our young man was in his late teens and had had a particularly rough start in life. This had culminated in him living alone in a social housing bedsit, the watchful eye of the local social services just barely ensuring that he didn’t slip through the cracks completely and end up a drug addict or dead in his home with no-one noticing for three years. Often this Encounters group was the only contact he’d have with anyone in a whole week but he didn’t always have the bus fare to get to the session, so my husband began to chat with him on Facebook as some small form of human interaction.

This began a one on one D&D game, conducted in the evenings purely though Facebook chat, with my husband DM’ing and our young man as the player. It was only then that I began to see the story element of Dungeons And Dragons, the chance to not just read a great adventure but to create it, to participate in it. Creation of an established framework in which the player’s choices as their character would weave a narrative. I would read the chats as he and my husband played, watching the story unfold in a tiny box on the screen. I started to make suggestions to my husband about where he could take the story, things he could add, actions his NPCs could take to assist or counter the player’s character. But it wasn’t just the story, I learned about the young man and it was amazing to me seeing the response to that small amount of human contact. Such a small thing, a shared interest forging a tenuous link with someone who was on the edge of things and somewhat at risk of being forgotten. In short, I got invested.

After a time I suggested to my husband that we invite the young man over for dinner and I began to interact with him in person. He was an awkward little thing but polite, clearly wondering why the wife of the bloke he played D&D with online had taken any interest in him at all. Him and my husband could talk D&D for hours and hours and though a lot of the conversations went over my head I couldn’t help but get caught up in their passion for the game. The young man was amazed that I had never played and immediately joined my husband in trying to persuade me to give it a go.

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Time passed, the Facebook game continued and dinner visits became a regular thing. Sometimes there would be conflict about a decision that had been made in the game and I’d be asked for my opinion, sometimes agreeing with my husband and sometimes young man. His confidence grew and he met others that played D&D, including a young woman. A group was formed with my husband as DM. I was still reluctant to play but I would occasionally suggest some things that the villains could do to the party. I began to role play as the villain, not handling any of the mechanics but merely adding story and flavour to the character. The first time I did this it culminated in the entire universe being destroyed, it was a great campaign.

The conversation eventually occurred that since I was able to mess with the players I should take a turn around the table myself, it was only fair. So I gave in and made my first D&D character. He was a fighter named Druss, I based him on the character Druss the Legend of David Gemmell’s Drenai Series of novels (a fantastic series that I would highly recommend) He was a big, strong, tank of a man that wielded an enchanted axe named Snaga The Sender, the Blades of No Return. In the guise of Druss I joined the party and journeyed forth, we fought battles, settled disputes (and started some) In one fight Druss and his axe managed to take down two Hydras almost single-handedly (the dice were with me that night) Of course like any noob I was useless when it came to the mechanics but the DM and party were more than patient with me, guiding me through the process of learning the controls. Druss seemed unstoppable and he became a stalwart companion, though his sharp tongue sometimes got the party into trouble. Then one evening an encounter occurred with a half-dragon half-dinosaur, a huge beast that breathed fire. A party member rushed in recklessly, becoming trapped by the flames. Druss immediately went in to help his friend but the dice were not so favourable that evening. Druss fought valiantly but was grabbed by the beast and torn to pieces as the rest of the party watched on helplessly. The party despaired momentarily, the man who had seemed so indomitable had fallen, but they then rallied and defeated the beast. From that moment? I was hooked.


 My character token for Druss (R.I.P)

 Since then I have made many characters and played in multiple campaigns, starting with edition 3.5 and then moving on to 5th edition.

So what is so brilliant about Dungeons And Dragons

The Freedom

D&D offers the freedom to be creative in a way that is rarely seen in video games. The streamlined Back To Basics approach of 5th edition has really opened up the possibilities to players and DMs regarding characters and settings. Want to open up a KFC in Mordor? Totally doable, except the Colonel would invariably turn out to be Sauron and his secret recipe of herbs and spices would probably turn everyone that ate it into a Nazgûl. Constitution saving throws all round. Campaigns can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. The only real limits are your imagination and those of the people that you’re playing with. There are plenty of excellent ready written materials available for use or you can come up with something from scratch, the choice is yours.

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The Friendships

D&D is great to play with friends. However you can also make friends through the act of playing. The convenience of modern technology has meant that D&D has moved far beyond the need to sit around a table with pen, paper and dice. Thanks to Skype and the website Roll20 our weekly game is now conducted completely online and members of our group are based all over the world. You no longer even have to leave your home to play. D&D is a co-operative game and, though a little conflict is great story flavour, the game plays best if the party works together to overcome whatever the game throws at them. Sometimes campaigns can last for months, or even years, and the kind of teamwork and camaraderie that is built between characters can easily be carried over to the players in real life. Just remember to never split the party.

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You Can Have Sex With ANYTHING

No, I’m not kidding. In Dungeons And Dragons it is pretty much possible to bump genitals with anything you fancy. There are plenty of resources dedicated to sexual relations in D&D. This includes a manual, the Book Of Erotic Fantasy, that details rules, stats and requirements for romantic and sexual interactions with various creatures, from halflings, elves and tieflings to orcs, hydras and gelatinous cubes. Obviously a lot of this also depends on the comfort levels of the people that you’re playing with and it’s always wise to be considerate of your other party members. Luckily the rest of my group are as degenerate as I am. I remember one encounter in which the bard I was playing at the time captured the attention of two Drow women in a tavern. He followed them upstairs and opened the door for some sexy time only to be greeted by a wall mounted harness and various tools and instruments. He/I decided to go with it, after which followed many hilarious jokes about pegging with the DM getting me to roll for how many inches my bard took and whether or not the Drow ladies finished the encounter fully satisfied, the dice were with me and they did. Word of this encounter got round and it earned my bard and the party more than a few free drinks and hospitality during the campaign. The barbarian in our current game is rapidly developing a reputation for his main weapon being, well, his weapon. This has included trying to seduce a medusa, fucking a wyvern to death and fighting off two succubi while completely naked and armed with nothing but a rage boner and his incredibly powerful ass muscles. With D&D if everyone is comfortable with it? Anything goes.

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It’s FUN

D&D is a fun and challenging game. The campaigns can vary from an epic monster slaying dungeon crawl to a thrilling mind game filled with political intrigue. Those kind of things may even occur in the same campaign, with your party slaying a dragon one minute and negotiating a peace treaty between warring nations the next. D&D can test the limits of your imagination and your intellect, at times forcing you to think quickly as the lives of your party hang in the balance. You’re creating an epic story with your friends and the choices of everyone involved have real consequences within the world that you have all created. Kill a random NPC in a village for a laugh? Fine but the guards may turn up and throw your ass in a dungeon or the village may refuse to trade with you, leaving your party short of supplies. That unguarded treasure chest you find in the middle of nowhere? Well it might not be quite what you expect…



So why did I write this? Well since this most recent campaign started I have been live-tweeting from our D&D sessions.

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This nearly always results in someone saying some variation “Oh wow! I’ve never played D&D but I’ve always wanted try it” and so here is my advice


It’s never been as easy as it is now to give D&D a try. There are always groups looking for new players, both online and in real life. You can pick up a Player’s Handbook or you can get a D&D Starter Set, which is basically D&D as a board game with pre-made characters and simple adventures for you to run with your friends. If you think D&D is something that you might be interested in but are not sure? Read D&D stories, watch D&D videos and take a look at all the materials on offer. You don’t have to spend anything, all the basics you need are free online. You may find that it’s precisely the thing that you’ve been looking for. I know that some D&D purists and long term players would be absolutely horrified at what goes on in our game but that’s ok, the beauty of D&D is that it’s exactly what you want it to be, as long as everyone has fun.

As for our young man? He’s now living with the young woman that he met, they’re engaged to be married. So you see, D&D isn’t just a frivolous way to pass the time. I have seen it change lives, as it has changed mine. It has made me closer to my husband, something I never even thought was possible before. It has allowed me to build friendships with people I probably never would have met in any other circumstances. I kick myself now at all the time I wasted avoiding such an amazing hobby. I implore you, don’t be like I was. If you’ve ever had even a passing interest in D&D? Now’s the time. You may find that you’re as lame as THOSE guys after all.

Thanks for reading


With special thanks to my D&D group, even though you all kicked my character out of the group for being an asshole (I’m now playing as a Dwarf archer) I love you all XD

Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, “You Were The Chosen One!” Thoughts On Rey, Star Wars And Women In Sci Fi

A few days before writing this post I had a Twitter rant.

Now this in itself is nothing new, I’ll let rip on something fairly often on my timeline. However since the tweets I posted are still being retweeted and discussed I’m going to do something I’d previously decided not to, hop on the bandwagon and write a post about Star Wars.


HOWEVER, before we proceed I should make it clear that this post will be chock full of spoilers about Star Wars The Force Awakens and that some speculations will be made about characters and backstories that some readers may find upsetting.

My Twitter rant concerned the current media obsession with Rey, the female lead character of The Force Awakens. Currently Rey is being lauded as a first in the arena of science fiction, a “game-changer” and proof that “…Movies Starring Women Make Money…” As a movie and TV sci-fi fan I was more than a little perturbed at the erasure of the fine tradition of great female science fiction characters.


Almost immediately my Twitter mentions exploded with excellent examples of the many wonderful female characters that have existed in sci-fi throughout the decades. The full rant, and many of the examples sent to me can be found in this Action A GoGo post. I didn’t write it but the writer shares my disgust at media selective memory.

It’s a common complaint that Hollywood are afraid of the risk of woman lead movies and, to be fair, this complaint has merit. According to “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2014” by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen of San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film women lead only 12% of the top 100 domestic grossing movies of 2014 and encompassed 29% of major characters. However I believe that science fiction as a genre has one of the best records with regard to female inclusion and representation. Looking at science fiction films made in recent years, whether female lead or with major female roles, it is clear that women in science fiction bring in the box office bucks.

Gravity – over $700 million

Prometheus – over $310 million

Hunger Games – over $691 million

Hunger Games: Catching Fire – over $847 million

Terminator Genysis – over $409 million

Lucy – over $463 million


Disney paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm, well let’s face it $4 billion for Star Wars, and they have got to be rubbing their collective corporate hands together at the positive publicity that these articles about Rey are generating. Those less concerned about generating Disney dollars are inclined to be a little more cynical. Rey is being touted as a win for diversity, a strong and capable young woman that makes no apology for her abilities. However, as I discussed in my last post, character diversity is nothing without good writing and character composition. In other corners Rey was criticised as a poorly constructed wishy washy wish fulfillment character, pretty, immediately good at everything. A too perfect persona without the depth or flaws necessary for a fully rounded character.


The thing is, I’m actually going to disagree with that.

It’s true that Rey does seem to be immediately brilliant at everything she turns her hand to, she’s a great pilot, knows mechanics and can understand droid language and, inexplicably, Wookie. She’s presented to us as a loner on the desert planet of Jakku. A survivor taking great risks to scavenge bits and pieces from old, abandoned Imperial ships to exchange with junk dealer Unkar Plutt for tiny amounts of food rations. It’s clear from the outset that she can fight with a staff and is able to handle herself. She is also presented as a kind person that will stick her neck out for those in trouble. Her resistance to BB8 following her home is minimal and she immediately becomes invested in the droid’s plight. She rescues BB8 from thieves twice and declines a huge number of food rations for the droid (though she is obviously tempted) When Finn arrives Rey’s first instinct is to assist him and BB8 in getting away from The First Order and back to the rebellion.

Does that mean she has no flaws or weaknesses?

Well let’s take a deeper look. In my opinion Rey DOES have weaknesses and flaws, however the flaws she has been assigned do not endear her in any way to the audience. It’s all about how the weaknesses are presented. Take for example Princess Leia, she is very brave but outspoken, has a quick temper, finds it difficult to recognise and express her true feelings and is not above at times being petty. Instead of walking away when Solo baits her she calls him a “…stuck up, half-witted, scruffylooking Nerf herder!” She then kisses Luke purely to prove to Solo that he is wrong about her feelings for him. However those weaknesses are presented in a way that endears us to Leia, we enjoy her sharp put-downs, her arguments with Solo amuse us and we root for him to win her over. It’s refreshing that Leia doesn’t immediately fall into Solo’s arms and that he has to work to win her affections. Leia’s initial refusal to admit her feelings for Solo then adds real emotional weight to her declaration of love as Solo is about to be frozen in carbonite, a moment acknowledged in the film as very likely to result in his death.

I love you

Compare that with how Rey’s weaknesses are presented to us in The Force Awakens. Rey was left on Jakku by her family at a young age (as we see in a flashback) and though she could have left at almost any time if she traded her flying or mechanical skills for ship passage she chooses not to. Why? Because she believes that one day her family will come back for her. She is stubbornly resolute in this belief and even turns down a job on the Millennium Falcon because of it, desperate to return to Jakku. She only abandons the idea when, after a force vision on Takodana, she is told by Maz Kanata (a 1000 year old force-sensitive pirate) that her family are never going to return for her.

The thing is she never describes anything specific about her family, never even referring to even a mother, father or siblings but just as “family” This seems to suggest that she doesn’t even remember them in any meaningful way. The wish of a forgotten family coming to rescue her, when she is more than capable of rescuing herself, is a foolish child’s dream and suggests that she has difficulty dealing with some aspects of her reality. The flashback within the movie, and the reveal since that Rey was left with Unkar Plutt does rather suggest that Rey’s family may have sold her. I’m aware that the fan favourite conclusion is that she is a part of the Skywalker/Solo family, this may well be the case. In Rey’s force vision she witnessed Kylo Ren slaughtering a generation of padawan learners. However force visions often include events the force-sensitive person does not witness in person. If Rey is a Solo or a Skywalker I would question why she was left with someone clearly so unsuited to caring for her, and it could be that Rey being a member of either family is nothing but a giant red herring. Rey’s mechanical and flying knowledge had to come from somewhere, she may well have been a slave or servant in the same kind of vein as Anakin and his mother Shmi. Certainly her knowledge of Plutt’s methods, acquisitions (she knew who he stole the Millennium Falcon from) and mechanical habits suggests that she was once a part of his organisation.

This is where it also gets slightly uncomfortable in that at times Rey seems to shy away from physical contact. Being a young, attractive girl on her own on a savage wasteland planet comes with it’s own set of problems and it is clear that Rey has had to learn to defend herself well from predators. Er, that’s as far as I’m going with that.


For a scavenger that lives alone on a harsh planet Rey is awfully trusting, she takes everything anyone tells her at face value and never questions the motives of anyone around her. When Finn turns up wearing Poe’s jacket Rey challenges him but then immediately believes him when he tells her that he is from the resistance, BB8 shows far more skepticism than she does. The comical moment on the ship where Finn has to convince BB8 to tell him where the resistance is based so he can tell Rey to fly there only makes her look more incompetent as the conversation happens within her earshot but she doesn’t pick up on it at all.

When Rey comes across Han Solo she immediately builds him up as a father figure, despite spending hardly any meaningful time with him. The focus on action sequences in the movie leave little time for relationship building. Unfortunately this reflects on Rey in that it makes her seem starved of affection, instantly latching on to the first person that gives her any kind of positive reinforcement. This may have been done intentionally, connecting back to her youth and the abandonment issues regarding her family. Her immaturity is reinforced by what is quite frankly overconfidence in her other abilities. On Solo’s ship what Rey describes as the “simple matter” of pulling the fuses to seal the pirates away from Solo actually releases the deadly Rathtars on board. The fact that this ends up helping them is more a matter of luck than judgement.

These character facets added together present Rey to the audience as childish, needy and at times dangerously cocky. Unfortunately these are not very likable traits. I found it difficult to connect with Rey and as the movie progressed I found myself not particularly warming to her as a character. This may change as the movies progress and Rey grows. After all Luke Skywalker in A New Hope is, let’s face it, a bit of a tool. For Rey to progress into a more relatable character she may need to be allowed to lose a bit more, that may bring the Rey devotees out of lightspeed with a jolt.

So while I wouldn’t say that Rey is without flaws as a character I wouldn’t say she is the second coming of sci fi women either. In fact she’s not even the best female character in the Star Wars universe. Even though the extended  universe storylines were abandoned the prequels and their offshoots are still in fact considered a part of Star Wars canon. If Padme Amidala and Princess Leia are not enough and you want to show your daughter where all the best female characters are in Star Wars? Show her the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated movie and TV series and Star Wars Rebels.


The fact remains that some of the most iconic female characters ever created have come from science fiction. Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Uhura, Zoe Washburne, Starbuck, Dana Scully, Eleanor Arroway, Katniss…the list of sci fi women is long and distinguished. Rey joins a genre already packed full of fantastic role models. Rey is untrained, untested and unworthy to lead such a group, but maybe with some seasoning she may be able one day take her place among the most excellent pantheon of science fiction goddesses.

women in scifi

The current state of corporate Hollywood has made it clear, with it’s endless remakes and reboots, that it considers anything that has not already been tested to be a risk. Personally I think it’s a little naive to place so much hope on Star Wars The Force Awakens opening up other genres to more female lead movies. Yes the film has taken a very large amount of money but it’s Star Wars, it could have been over two hours of nothing but council meetings, trade negotiations and whiny emos and people would still have paid good money to see it…wait…

Thanks For Reading


Find me on Twitter at Angela Night @Angelheartnight


Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Opinions On Diversity In The Realms Of Gaming And Geekery


Diversity and Representation, two words that have been pretty much inescapable in media over the last few years. These words have penetrated every aspect of geekdom, from video games and comics to tabletop roleplay games, dominating conversations about everything from character creation and art style to story structure and gameplay mechanics.


When we talk about diversity there is often some confusion about how, as a concept, it differs from representation in the context of media. So with little ado and with only a tiny amount of the slightly self indulgent academic wankery that can sometimes be found surrounding these terms we’ll quickly take a look at what they actually mean.


Diversity refers to media having a range of characters encompassing dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Representation refers to the choices that media make in their depictions of individuals or groups in media. This encompasses the signals used to highlight certain aspects, such as dress, speech, movement and prop placement, which the audience then decode to garner information and catagorise characters within short spaces of time. A representation is a construction of reality, a perspective on a screen, and is therefore never completely accurate. It can be as simple as dressing a character in scrubs to signify that a person works in a hospital, despite the fact that only certain people in hospitals wear scrubs. Where representation starts to get complicated is when people feel that the groups to which they belong are not represented enough, or that those representations are inaccurate or damaging.

So just how important is diversity in video games? Well that depends on your point of view. Some Geek media critics purvey this idea that people are only able to relate to characters that they share identity traits with, such as gender or race. Others blame lack of diversity in character designs for certain groups moving away from gaming. There then comes pressure on creators to meet demands for diversity, and accusations of bigotry if they do not comply, or worse, get it wrong.

Now there may be some truth to the idea that we connect more easily with characters that look like us, or that we share identity traits with, and that it makes it easier for us to imagine ourselves as part of the story. Truthfully I doubt it’s that simple. Connections with characters on the basis of identity traits are important to some, shallow to others. Am I supposed to connect with Lara Croft because, like me, she is a white British woman? Perhaps on a superficial level. However on the other hand in every incarnation of Lara she is also described as athletic, upper class, wealthy and highly educated, all things that I am not. On deeper levels we actually have very little in common and that also shapes whether or not I relate to Lara in the context of certain situations. Certainly in the current incarnation I can empathise with a young women struggling with uncertainty trying to carve a place for herself in the world, but the money and the desire to poke around old dangerous places to look for very old bits of tat? Yeah not so much.

Every character is a representation, a perception or interpretation based on the choices of the creator, it is also worth remembering that the audience then filters that character through their own perceptions, forming their own interpretation. We can be aware of what the creator intended and still perceive the character in a completely different way, imposing our own values and aspects of identity onto characters or stories in a way that it’s creators don’t expect. I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with that, it’s all part of being a fan and is the very basis for concepts like fanfiction and fanart. If a consumer chooses to diversify media that they enjoy by viewing it in the context of a character having a particular identity trait that the creator did not intend? That’s fine. However that’s a personal interpretation, and nobody else is in any way required to share that point of view. Certainly when all is said and done, and excluding player avatar based games, the gamer becomes the game character, not the other way around.

My perspective has always been that diversity as a concept is something of a double-edged sword. While it may seem simple enough on the surface, just throwing in what you would consider a diverse character and then nodding in satisfaction at your progressiveness is likely to do a lot more harm than good. Character diversity can widen the scope and variety of video game stories, helping to create rich and vibrant worlds full of interesting people to interact with. A danger of diversity established through creator coercion is that it can become pandering tokenism. Having black characters in your game can make it seem diverse, but what if those characters are nothing but massive stereotypes?


While having characters that encompass all of the dizzying varieties listed above in the definition may satisfy the demands of diversity is it really enough without character depth? A developer can give any character a minority status on a superficial level. They can just make them black or female or transgender in an attempt to placate those with the agenda of identity politics. But just having them there isn’t enough, each character has to interact with the world around them partly through the lens of that status. These are not just character ice cream flavours we’re talking about, these are fundamental aspects of identity. Basic identity characteristics are the very foundational building blocks of the individual self. I am a woman, that is not my entire personality but it is one of the major aspects of who I am and how I perceive the world around me. Therefore I would expect any character that is a woman to have that built into her being, again not the whole but one of the many facets of personhood. I would also expect this to reflect in her perceptions of the environment, situation and interactions within the world she inhabits. I may not relate to her any more than I would if she were not a woman but I would at least be enjoying a story with fully fleshed out and well rounded characters.


And that’s where we get to the meat of the problem, that kind of character depth and structure takes real skill to create. Diversity on it’s own is meaningless, it needs good writing to back it up and that kind of care and consideration can ONLY come from diversity that has come about organically from the creator. If a creator feels that they are not skilled or knowledgeable enough to incorporate diversity into their games at the level expected by media critics then is shaming them into including token diversity actually going to solve anything? This isn’t to say that any character considered part of a minority group needs any special attention or particular writing. ALL characters, regardless of their given identity traits or background, should be given the due care and attention required to be considered well written. If characters are unable to write the characters that they want without pressure from critics then isn’t that just censorship and bullying disguised in the festive wrapping paper of making gaming more inclusive?

The concept of diversity within geek media is by no means a bad thing, when done well it can be a very good thing for variety, enrichment of storytelling and helping gamers from minority groups feel more a part of the medium and community. However it MUST go hand in hand with the good writing, creativity and consideration that should go into writing any character. If game journalists and pop culture critics continue to use the concept of diversity as a cudgel to beat creators and their audiences with then they will continue to create divisions within the gaming community as gamers rally against what they see as the terrorising of developers and the suppression of their freedom to create the characters that they choose. This kind of divisive behaviour also runs the risk of scaring away talented creators from the medium. Game developers and writers currently walk the knife edge between satisfying gamers and placating game critics, risking commercial failure or media blackout and condemnation if they get either one wrong. As a community diversity is our asset, with the right encouragement that asset can be reflected in the games that we enjoy. Maybe we just need more of the carrot, and less of the stick.

Thanks for reading


Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Adult Content: No Sex Please, We’re Video Game Critics

WARNING! This post contains video game images that some might consider graphic but, let’s face it, are mostly just hilarious.



Sex and Violence are two of the most commonly presented, intertwined and controversial concepts presented in fiction. Yet while violence is seen as pretty much the bread and butter of video games the exploration of sex and sexual themes is not something that video games are largely associated with. Adult content in video games has always been a subject of much scrutiny and a great deal of criticism. Perhaps this is because as a medium video games are still struggling to break free from the perception that they are childrens toys, an idea still reinforced among the wider media.

However the truth is that sex has always been a part of mainstream video games. You only have to look back at the release of games such as Softporn Adventure, Leisure Suit Larry and Wet: The Sexy Empire in the 80s and 90s to know that.

sexy game

It is true that sex is nowhere near as prevalent in video games as violence, mostly because in the US while violence can usually scrape an M (Mature) rating explicit sexual content will usually mean an AO (Adult Only) rating. This can be a death sentence for a game’s commercial potential because it drastically affects publishers ability to market and distribute a game. Neither Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft will allow AO rated games to be published for their consoles and even Steam has only recently allowed an AO rated game, Hatred, to be sold on site. While Steam did offer games containing sexual content before, these were often censored.


The infamous ‘Hot Coffee’ mini game hidden in the code of GTA San Andreas. It was only accessible through modding or hacking but the controversy caused by it’s discovery caused the game to be re-rated as AO. The game was recalled and a new version was released without the mini game, allowing  GTA San Andreas to remain M rated.

Video game journalists and critics have never been particularly positive about depictions of sex in video games and perhaps with some good reason. Criticisms of dead, doll-like eyes, terribly written dialogue or ridiculous background music are not without some degree of merit.

Dead-eyed sex scene from Farenheit/Indigo Prophecy



far cry 3

                      Sex scene from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon which begins with                  the rather questionable line ““I wanna be blinded with your cyber love”

However the current crop of game journalists, critics and bloggers seem to be particularly sex negative when it comes to talking about sex in video games. Look up ‘sex in video games’ and the articles on mainstream gaming sites readily throw up descriptions such as as tasteless, unsexy, graphic, and meaningless.

Sex in games is almost exclusively used to give players, who are assumed to be male, something to ogle at between blood baths.

Ben Kuchera


There seems to be slightly immature or even puritan aspects to the ways in which video game critics deal with the idea of sexual imagery or themes being presented in video games, with some writers seeming slightly grossed out that sex is in video games in the first place. Video game writers lament that sex is presented in games as a cheap laugh, thrill or as a mindless titillation reward for the player. But is that really fair?


In the world of video game journalism Mario murders innocent Goombas before retiring to have tender, meaningful sex with Princess Peach…


…or not

So, let’s break down these criticisms in as direct and frank way as possible, the first being that sex in video games is often silly looking and unsexy. Well, I hate to break it to them, but sex does not look like it does in the movies, even the pornographic ones. Professional pornography performers require a very specific skill set and a great deal of knowledge and experience to make sex look sexy, as anyone who has ever watched amateur porn will tell you. Sex in video games looking unsexy or funny comes down to a fundamental distinction between realism and aesthetic. Video game designers are trying to make animated figures look like they’re really having sex and REAL sex?  With it’s movement, facial expressions and sound effects, most of the time doesn’t actually look very sexy.


ride to hellRidetohelloface

Ride To Hell : Retribution and the ‘She just bit my balls’ orgasm face

Which brings me to my next point, why shouldn’t sex in a video game be funny or used as a comedic element?  I’m British, often stereotyped as sexually repressed but a nationality that has a proud tradition of sex based comedy including Carry On films, saucy postcards and Monty Python sketches. Sex is often pretty funny to me and I don’t see why that shouldn’t be the case in video games. The idea that funny or silly video game sex somehow cheapens sex seems pretty old fashioned, uptight and prudish, like complaining that those having the sex are not married or that no-ones father was asked for permission beforehand. Nearly everyone in the world will have sex at some point in their life and everyone that has had sex will have had funny or awkward moments while doing so. Many people still find sex difficult to talk about, finding humour can make it easier and break down those kinds of taboos. Sex can be funny, and it’s ok to laugh at it.

7 sins

    Sex puzzle from the life simulator game 7 Sins

Another description thrown at depictions of sex in video games is the word ‘meaningless’. This adjective is a little more tricky to dissect because it measures how we as individuals perceive meaning in sex against how sex is used as a plot device in storytelling. While sex in a video game can be used as part of a puzzle or for amusement it can also be part of what drives the story of a video game forward. In recent years many video games have tried to  make storylines more complex in an attempt to seem more cinematic. In doing so they have taken their cue from movies in regard to the way that sex is incorporated into the plot. However while audiences view sex in movies from a fourth wall bystander perspective video games is an interactive medium and so it is possible for the audience to not just observe, but participate in the sexual exploits of those on the screen. In games and series such as the Mass Effect, Dragon Age and anything from David Cage’s body of work (Heavy Rain, Beyond : Two Souls etc) players can actively make decisions regarding the sexual behavior of characters. But when you make sex a part of the game does it remove meaning? Does making sexual elements a mechanic of the game damage player perceptions of the intimacy and connection between those engaged in the sexual act itself? Well I suppose that is down to personal tastes and ideas regarding sex as an individual. Perhaps a better question would be SHOULD it mean that meaning or intimacy is removed? And here’s the thing, I don’t think it should.

dragon age collage

Various scenes from Dragon Age : Origins and Dragon Age : Inquisition

      Sex is a natural act, something we as a species engage in as a matter of instinct. Sex can connect people in a incredibly deep and powerful way. However, let’s be realistic. There are many reasons why people have sex and not all of them are deep and meaningful, in fact some are quite base or even flippant. We can have sex because we wish to physically express an intimate connection or we can have sex simply because it’s fun and it feels good. So it is with video games. Not all of the sex depicted needs to express any kind of deeper meaning or evoke an emotional response, either from the characters or from the player, it can just be there because people like to fuck so let the characters have some sexy time. As for involving gamers, because of the varied way in which players experience video games the choice to make sex a part of the game mechanic can actually strengthen meaning. Gamers that favour gameplay over plot can experience meaning from mastering the complexities of sex and relationships as a physical mechanic. Meanwhile gamers that care more about story than gameplay gain meaning from seeing the way that their choices regarding sex and relationships affect the plot thread of their character. A lot of this particular problem comes down to the difference between legitimate criticisms of developer design choices and the personal preferences and moral/ideological standpoints of the critic. If you believe that sex scenes in certain video games are meaningless then you have to be aware that that is a personal distinction and that others may have the complete opposite view. Another aspect is that once again we have to consider the current limitations of the medium. You want video game sex to give a true and accurate portrayal of some of the physical intimacy and potential/realised emotional connection between those engaged in sexual acts? Yeah, remember the part where we’re talking animated puppets made to look like they’re having sex?

vgsex  Sex scene from a Pac-Man style game called X-Man 

 So I imagine that by now some of you are thinking “No-one ever said we wanted to end silly or funny sex scenes in video games, we just want more depictions that are serious and worthwhile” and you’d be right, no-one is saying outright that they want these kind of depictions to end. However what they are saying is that they are a problem, by definition that means they are seen as something to be fixed or remedied

a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.

 Sex in video games is just one part of a larger discussion in gaming at the moment, connecting with issues such as sexualisation, objectification and how games portray the sexuality of, particularly female, characters. This discussion often takes place in the context of perceived wider social ramifications of the use of particular depictions/tropes. Of course the critics that believe these representations are a problem and should be ended will not come out and say so directly, they would be dismissed as a fringe view or as advocating censorship. However it comes down to this, if these critics truly believe that depictions of sex, sexuality or sex based imagery in video games contribute to negative treatment of particular groups of people within our society then why wouldn’t they be trying to stop those kinds of depictions from occurring? It is a perfectly valid opinion to want to see more instances of sex used as part of evocative storytelling in video games, but you know, that doesn’t need to mean less funny, silly or superficial sexual shenanigans in video games either. When those that talk about video games choose to use their platform to tear down what they believe to be bad, rather than to raise up what they believe to be good, then is it any wonder the assumption is that they want to censor?

GTA sex scene

Sex scene from GTA V

 Sex has always been a part of video games and as the medium continues to grow, not just as a industry but as an art form, it is likely that we will continue to see depictions of sex and sexual themes in future releases. It is my sincerest hope that video game writers and critics will learn to be a bit less…well…frigid about it. By all means discuss whatever deep, meaningful or ideological perspective that you wish but remember video games, and sex, is supposed to about having a good time.

Seriously, there’s no need to take sex in video games quite so seriously.

Thanks for reading


Feel free to leave a comment and/or follow me on Twitter @angelheartnight

Also in case anyone missed it I was interviewed about #Gamergate by

Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Thoughts On #Gamergate and #SPJAirplay Part 2

Ok just a short update on my thought on SPJ Airplay.

So last night I was on a stream discussion with Michael Koretzky and many others to discuss SPJ Airplay. A huge thank you to Oliver Campbell and John Smith for setting it up, to Michael Koretzky for his time and to all the other people that were on the stream and made some excellent points. It’s a serious slog at over 6 hours but if you fancy a listen it can be found here.
A while ago I wrote this twitlonger on why I was skeptical about Airplay, last night’s stream seemed a good opportunity to address some of the concerns that I had with Michael Koretzky. So the first point I made in the twitlonger was that Koretzky did not seem to be supported by the rest of the SPJ when it comes to talking about Gamergate. As far as that is concerned it has become clear as time has gone on and speakers/panelists have been announced that this is not the case. The SPJ are supporting Koretzky in this endeavor and they do indeed seem to be taking the whole thing very seriously. It still strikes me as odd that they were so afraid to talk about it in the first place but there you go, it’s a non issue now.
However, and those of you who listened to the stream won’t be surprised to hear this, I’m still skeptical about Airplay. Now I don’t want to be the one that’s negative about everything, I don’t want to be the grumpy old git at the party pointing out everything not quite right about it. After I wrote the first twitlonger people were very quick to jump on me, saying that Airplay would fix things in game journalism and that I don’t care about Gamergate. That’s ok, people are welcome to disagree with me. When I made the point that the SPJ as an organisation exists to support journalists, that journalists pay money to be it’s members, and that the SPJ was never going to vindicate Gamergate or declare them to be heroes. Koretzky agreed with me on this
 The SPJ is not around to support gamers, it’s around to support journalism
One of the main reasons why people seemed to be upset and concerned by the latest Airplay update was that in it Koretzky said he didn’t care about some of the evidence being presented to him by supporters of Gamergate as far as harassment is concerned, a position that he defended on the stream saying that this evidence was irrelevant. However as the stream went on it became clear that there are still many aspects of Gamergate that Koretzky is unfamiliar with, such as the harassment patrol. Therefore I don’t see how Koretzky can be dismissing any evidence as irrelevant at this point. Like pieces in a puzzle the evidence may seem irrelevant now but may become so when Koretzky becomes more familiar with things, to dismiss things now seems premature to say the least.
If you all had condemned harassment, the journalism around GG would have been different.
As many pointed out on the stream, we’ve condemned harassment for the last ten months Koretzky. We’ve condemned it till we’re blue in the face. What difference did it make?  None whatsoever as to the way that Gamergate supporters have been portrayed by the media. The other point that I made is that Gamergate is a hashtag, not a group. The only behaviour supporters of Gamergate need to be responsible for is their own. I don’t need to condemn harasssment, unless anyone can find some instance of me harassing anyone it should be a given that I don’t support it. To use the analogy I used on stream, unless you see me out in the street kicking puppies you can take it as a given that I don’t support puppy kicking. Gamergate is still being treated as a group, with every member responsible for the actions of the whole. This while aGG is treated as individuals only responsible for their own words and deeds. This is unfair, all parties should be being treated the same and they’re not. I said as much on the stream and did not get a satisfactory answer.
As I said I don’t want to be the one ruining this for everyone else but Airplay needs someone to be critical, someone to ask questions. If that someone has to be me then so be it. I’m willing to take that role precisely because I DO care about Gamergate. I care that Gamergate gets their chance to discuss journalistic ethics, I care that Airplay is not merely Gamergate being put on trial and forced to defend itself as a guilty party. They say at the heart of every cynic lies a disappointed idealist, nothing would make me happier than for Airplay to be a huge success and fix things for everyone. But that will not happen, we will not be hailed as heroes, we may not even get the fair treatment we want. At best it will be an interesting exercise.
Oliver says that just because Koretzky is not a friend it does not make him an enemy. I say that journalists up until this point have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, and just because you cannot see the knife it doesn’t mean one isn’t there.
Thanks for reading

Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Why I Don’t Want To Talk About Street Harassment And Why I Need To

Urgh, give me strength.

So it seems to be that time. I had thought that at some point it might come to this, although to be honest I had hoped that it wouldn’t. It is time for me to talk about Street Harassment, an issue that up until this point I had managed to avoid (on purpose I might add)

So why have I been so keen not to talk about it? Well because it is an issue so contentious, so debatable and so provocative that I’m aware that even the presence of the phrase ‘Street Harassment’ in the title of this post may make even my most loyal readers roll their eyes and hit the corner X. An issue that fully splits people down the middle and that a great many people are very keen to have raging disputes about. That in itself is not the problem, I don’t shy away from a good argument. However street harassment is an issue that deals with human interaction, the way that we connect, communicate and influence through mutual or reciprocal action. Human interaction as a subject is complicated and dependent upon a myriad of variables. Any debate on elements of human interaction needs to be thoroughly researched, complex, rational, and deeply nuanced, ideas which are usually the first things to go out of the window in any online discussion. It has been my experience that any conversation on street harassment usually finds people so entrenched in their ideas on the subject that it rapidly becomes a collective of individuals talking and shouting AT each other rather than TO each other since the only opinion anyone seems to be interested in is their own.

So why is this? Well part of it is the use of the word ‘Harassment’ a word which has in itself become a subject of debate, particularly in online spaces. Harassment as a concept appears to mean many different things to many different people and so behaviour that is considered harassment by some is not considered so by others. Online the word is so often used to mean trivial things, such as replying to public tweets or disagreeing with someone even respectfully, that for some the word ‘harassment’ has become largely meaningless.

hiharassmentgrilled-sexual-harassment funnyharassment

harassment tweet1

So instead of getting into a protracted discussion on what may or may not be harassment I’m just going to provide some legal definitions of the word ‘harassment’ from the US (though of course there may be minor differences depending on the state) and UK and then explain what is defined as street harassment by street harassment organisations.

Now as far as the definition of street harassment goes, according to Stop Street Harassment, an organisation that campaigns against street harassment

There is no standardized definition for street harassment (yet). Our working definition (updated March 2015) is:

Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, and rape.

So while the legal definition of harassment seems to be continual or repeated unwanted attentions from an individual or group the definition of street harassment does not necessarily make that distinction, so a single incident of unwanted attention is enough to be defined as street harassment. This is where the waters start to get muddy.

Catcalling, while not the only aspect, is one of the most common forms of street harassment. However, it is an unfortunate fact of life that being shouted at or stopped in the street by strangers happens to everyone for one reason or another. Recently there seems to be this idea that every time this happens it is an instance of being harassed, because we’re all entitled to go about our day without being hassled by a stranger. However, when you think about it, this isn’t really true is it? If mankind truly felt that it was a fundamental human right to go about our lives without ever being hassled by strangers then such things as telephone cold calling or door to door sales would not exist, and the fact is they do, and a great many people make their living from such jobs. In the UK, where I live, we have people with coloured vests and clipboards that randomly stop you in the street and try to convince you to give them your bank details in order to make a regular donation to good causes. In my area they are not so affectionately known as Chuggers (Charity Muggers)

chugger1An unsuspecting victim is caught and mercilessly guilt tripped by a predatory Chugger


Let us not also forgot that many of the fundamentally instinctive patterns of our mating behaviour involve interacting with strangers in order to seek potential partners, whether it be at work, in a social area such as a bar, or through mutual acquaintances. Talking to strangers is pretty inevitable. So how then do we make the decision regarding what is acceptable street harassment and what is not? Because, from what I have seen, street harassment discussions and organisations rarely make any distinctions regarding severity, preferring to leave that to the one who feels that they were harassed. This leaves us with the frankly ridiculous premise that a stranger calling a woman “Sweetheart” or saying “Good Morning” uninvited is perceived by some with the same graveness as being groped, propositioned, or threatened with violence. On Twitter there have been various hashtags, such as #YesAllWomen and #FirstHarassed, that were designed to encourage women to share the stories of their experiences of street harassment. These tags have usually started out with good intentions and great earnestness before descending into mud slinging, accusations, and defensiveness as those that do not agree that street harassment is a huge problem put forth their perspectives. Certainly there are plenty of people that believe that street harassment is very much a non issue or a first world problem.

So why do I need to talk about street harassment? I suppose you’re expecting this to be the moment where I share my personal experiences of street harassment with you right? Well I’m not going to go into details, the purpose of this is not to shame anyone or to claim victimhood. The only detail that is relevant to this is that when it first started happening to me? I was still a child, and I am far from alone in that being the case. According to this survey from Hollaback! and Cornell University from 2014 the majority of women that they surveyed first experienced street harassment between the ages of 11 and 17, most commonly at 13-14.

One of the most common responses when someone says they were catcalled is “Take it as a compliment” however it’s hard to do that when you’re at an age where you aren’t sure what’s happening and may not know how to deal with it, you just know that it makes you deeply uncomfortable and perhaps a little afraid. Now, to be clear, this is not an attempt to demonise anyone, there are many reasons why people catcall and sometimes young people look older than they really are. If you’re reading this blog post and you just happen to be the kind of person that enjoys paying compliments to young people that you don’t know then you might want to be advised, they may not be as old as you think. When arguments about street harassment happen online there are invariably criticisms that those talking about their experiences are living in the past or allowing those experiences to rule them. I can’t speak for everyone but I can say that because it happened to me when I was young it was part of what shaped my perceptions of people at that time. I was sexually assaulted and I was just told that it happens to everyone, that there are bad people around and sometimes you’re unlucky enough to encounter one. I was young and I wasn’t even sure that it was assault until much later, I didn’t report it. I was taught that you only called the police if it was an emergency and the only context I had for what constituted an ’emergency’ was what I had seen on television. What happened to me didn’t look like it did in the soap operas, it seemed much less dramatic. From my perspective the conversation about adult to adult street harassment needs to be handled differently from the kind of street harassment that occurs adult to child. We can teach our children that sometimes people do things we don’t like, that sometimes people are mean or say things because they want to get a reaction from us, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say that that shouldn’t happen. We should be able to say that children should not have to deal with this.

Now I am fully aware that there are problems with the Hollaback! research, it’s overall sample sizes are small for something claiming to represent entire countries. It also doesn’t appear to have included any men in it’s research, ignoring and erasing any experiences that men may have had with street harassment. Part of the problem with the way that street harassment as whole is dealt with us that it is very much painted as a crime that only women endure as victims and only men commit as perpetrators. Is it then any wonder that when discussions about street harassment occur that some men can get defensive? No one cares that it may have happened to them, they are expected to ‘man up’ and get on with it while being judged as a harasser or potential harasser themselves. How is that fair? So much of the discussion on street harassment is focused on women. So much that it seems to be designed to make women terrified, of life, of men, of stepping out of their front doors. Now while there are places in the world where what is perceived as the wrong response to street harassment can place the recipient in real danger of physical harm. Does that mean that every single woman is in danger of rape every time a man says “Good Morning”? No. That is why I must talk about street harassment, however much I may not want to. Because women are NOT the only ones that are catcalled or assaulted while out in public, men and children are too. Yet they are completely ignored while women are told that they constantly have to be afraid, that men will abuse them if only given the chance. The balance of this discussion is all wrong, it only takes into account the perspectives that women are victims and men are aggressors or that there is no issue to deal with and people need to be a little more thick skinned about catcalling and report more severe behaviour to the authorities.

And so that’s where I sit, right in the space between those who say “Street harassment is not a problem” and those that say “Street harassment is a HUGE problem for women” Human beings are complicated, and the discussion of street harassment should be equally complicated. As for myself, as I have gotten older occurrences of catcalling have lessened and I have tended to take them less seriously. In fact, the last time I was catcalled I was thinking about writing this very blog post. So I’d just like to say, to the man on the bicycle with the gap in his teeth who said “Hello baby” as he rode towards me when I was on my way to work the other day? That’s why I laughed in your face, hope you weren’t too miffed.

Thank you for reading

Find me on Twitter @angelheartnight