Tag Archives: men

Babe

9 Jun

Last year, I was at Milwaukee’s annual Pridefest celebration with some friends of mine and we happened to spot a very large bunker of sorts, provided by the good people at the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company.  The bunker was large, metallic, and blue and had labels all over it that identified it as being “the Camel experience.”  There were two gentlemen outside that would ask you for your I.D before you went inside, so they could make sure that you were of age to buy cigarettes and then once inside you were immediately greeted by a bevy of scantily clad women and one smart dressed man.  I had seen several of these girls throughout Milwaukee in various places, so I knew this wasn’t their full time job.  This was just a temporary gig of sorts.  The women then proceeded to educate us on the various lines of Camel cigarettes that are out there and said that if we were willing to hear more and watch a brief interactive movie in the back that we would receive four free packs of cigarettes.

Needless to say the lesbians ate that shit up.

Whoever was behind the Camel experience knew their audience well.  They knew that if they strategically placed several scantily clad women in a tight, air conditioned space that people who are inclined to find these women attractive may just go along with whatever these women had to offer.  It didn’t matter if the lesbians knew they didn’t actually have a shot with these girls.  They were buying into the illusion.  They were taking the bait. And so streams of women were placing their I.D.s in this electronic reader, where they would answer several survey questions and would again verify their true age, and within minutes they were seated at a bar type area and choosing which packs of Camel cigarettes or tobacco they wanted to take home with them.

It all felt very wrong to me.  I wanted to walk up to them and shake them and say “Don’t you see what’s happening here?”  But I didn’t, mostly because I knew that they wouldn’t be able to see through this clever marketing tactic that was seemingly all around us and similar tactics that we see used everyday to get us to buy any number of products on the market.  The Camel Experience had went exactly as planned.

I was reminded of this story or this experience while reading an article over at the Border House Blog, in which the author talks about how it might be time for gaming conferences to give up the well known practice of hiring “booth babes” or scantily clad women to help them shill their products.  The author supports her case by including several comments or Tweets made by a female gaming industry veteran who admitted that she dreaded attending the recent E3 conference because she felt so intimidated or uncomfortable being around these types of women or this type of a marketing ploy.

Personally, I struggle with the idea of the “booth babe” for several reasons.

On the one hand, I think the practice of using sexuality or specifically women’s sexuality or their bodies to inspire men or women who enjoy other women to buy a product is really played out and almost too easy.  I think it’s almost insulting to those people that companies think  that’s all it will take for them to buy their product.  They know they don’t have to go out of their way to film a commercial in a really scenic location or that they won’t have to put too much thought into a billboard that you see on the street.  All a company has to do is throw a half dressed woman at them and call it a day.  I find it interesting when I see people who are so clearly taken in by this approach and they just can’t see it with their own eyes.  So just because this tactic works and just because it’s something that most people don’t catch on to doesn’t necessarily make it okay.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only route you need to take to get your point across.

On the other hand, it works.  It’s a proven fact that sex sells.  Where do we draw the line between corporate responsibility and personal responsibility?

Just as a multi-million dollar corporation has the right to throw attractive, oiled up bodies at you, you also have the right to say “No, thanks.”  You have the right to take your business elsewhere or to criticize them for how they do things.  But nobody is making you buy their product.  The pull of advertising can be strong and Lord knows I have fallen victim to that late night McDonald’s commercial that inspired me to swing through a drive through at two in the morning for a large order of fries and a Coke.  But McDonald’s didn’t *make* me do that.  Nobody crawled out of the television set, like the little girl from “The Ring” and forced me to go buy those items.  I did it myself.  I can shake my fist in the air and curse McDonald’s for making their fries look so tasty in that commercial or for airing that commercial just as I was about to go to bed.  But ultimately I did it.  It was my choice.

So you can’t blame a company for wanting to use a strategy that they know is going to work.  They know that nobody is going to recognize what’s really happening here.  They know it’s a sure fire way to get people’s attention and to bring in revenue.  If people continue to fall for, or to be engaged by what the companies put out there of course they are going to keep doing it.  It’s no different than considering leaving the job that you have been at for years, that you know you’re good at it, and that you know will earn you a decent living for a job in a field that you have little or no experience in and that *could* make you the same amount of money or more.  It’s a gamble and one that not everybody or every company is willing to take.  Again I ask, “Can you blame them?”

To steer things back to where Border House was coming from, there is also the issue of how the concept of the “booth babe” affects women.

It’s hard enough making yourself feel like you are truly welcome in the gaming world as a woman.  You have to deal with so many initial barriers right out of the gate.  If you do manage to overcome those things and convince yourself that you do belong, you then have to deal with seeing women who most likely do not represent you being thrust into your face as an ideal or as something that you need to aspire to be.  You see those same guys who crack jokes about women not playing video games or that women shouldn’t play video games fawning over these “booth babes” rather openly and unabashedly.  You seem them responding positively to this exaggerated image of what a woman should look like or how a woman should behave, all the while chastising other women for supposedly using their bodies or their wiles to get ahead in the same industry.  If you were to show up at a conference wearing the same outfit, ready to play your game of choice you would most likely be laughed or shamed out of the building.  But because they’re doing it it’s okay.  How does that work, exactly?

So the double standard bothers me.  Male gamers tend to want women to be good at the games they play.  They don’t want to see us flirting or being stereotypically feminine to get ahead.  They don’t want to see us lording our gender over them or having to constantly remind people that we are in fact women.  Isn’t that exactly what the “booth babes” do?  These are women who presumably have no interest in gaming and who I would bet have never even touched the products that they are trying to sell to you. They are using compliments, acting coy, and being overly flirtatious to get you in the mood to listen to what they have to say, so they can then launch into their product pitch and hopefully make a sale.  They are wearing clothing that they know will most certainly draw attention to their bodies or other feminine attributes so that they can not only get your attention, but keep it, too.  All of those things they shame their female peers for doing or for allegedly doing are suddenly okay when they are done by a “booth babe.”

Now here is where things get a little tangled for me.

I’m all about sexual expression and sexual freedom.  I think there is nothing wrong with a woman or a man being proud of their body and wanting to show it off.  I don’t have a problem with nudity or even pornography, for that matter.  Yet here I am, criticizing these women for what they are wearing and then using it against them.  How am I helping matters any?  If the shoe was on the other foot and the gaming companies who hired these women told them that they couldn’t wear anything remotely feminine and that they had to sort of stifle that I would probably be angry about that.  I would probably then be crusading for a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants to and that these companies should be ashamed of themselves for forcing women to hide their bodies or to cover them up.

I’m automatically assuming that these women don’t play the games they are advertising because of how they are dressed or how they are behaving.  But how *does* a female gamer look?  How is she *supposed* to behave?  Who is to say that you can’t be great at what you do and then party on the weekends?  Who says you can’t attend a Magic the Gathering event in a hoodie and jeans and then head to the club later in a short skirt and some stilettos?  Why does one necessarily have to lead to the other? Why do we assume that if a woman is flirtatious that she is doing it in a very empty fashion or that she is doing it solely to get something out of someone?  Maybe she just likes to flirt.  Maybe she truly enjoys wearing skimpy outfits.  Maybe that’s just *who she is.*

Who are we to tell her that it’s wrong, or that she has to dress or behave the way that *we* think she should?  There are a lot of assumptions that people tend to make when they see a “booth babe,” versus the assumptions that someone would make when they see your average female gamer on the street.  I’m not trying to say that the assumptions that one faces are necessarily worse than the other, but I would say that they are about equal.  They can be equally harmful.

I’m really glad that I stumbled upon that article at the Border House, because I really feel that it was well written and that it left the floor open for people to have a healthy discussion about this issue and the many angles that we could look at this from.  It really got me thinking and gave me that shot of inspiration that I have been lacking lately.  I’m fairly certain that not everybody is going to agree with the points and counterpoints that I have laid out here, but hopefully I have brought a new perspective to the table and maybe some great conversation can be had here about this topic.

Thanks for listening.

Why Women Are Seen Differently In Magic the Gathering Compared To World of Warcraft

5 Apr

Typically when I write a blog post it usually consists me of telling you how it is and then you comment to either expand on what I have just put out there or to say that you respectfully disagree and why.  In this case, I wanted to write a blog post because I don’t know why something is the way that it is and I am hoping to start some discussion to find out for myself.

About two months ago I started playing Magic the Gathering again.  I felt like I had the time and the interest in playing another game, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to play another computer game.  I really missed social interactions with people that didn’t involve sitting behind a computer screen and having to wear a headset.  I started to remember all the good times that I had playing the Magic the Gathering and I was curious to see if I could recreate that magic (no pun intended) all over again.

Back when I quit playing, which was around 1998, Magic was a very different game – especially for women.  I remember being the only girl at the card shop.  I remember reading Duelist magazine and seeing that all of the writers, all of the authorities on how to play the game were men.  I remember seeing special edition decks that would be released with the names of tournament winners and all of them were named after men, too.  There was nobody for me to look up to.  There was nobody around that I could relate to.  It was very frustrating for me, especially as I was starting to enter my early teenage years, I was extremely conflicted about my sexuality and my gender identity, and I already couldn’t relate to my peers for various reasons.

I was quite surprised with how much things had changed in the course of 14 years.  Women were reaching the top 10 rankings in various high end tournaments and sometimes even winning them outright.  The Friday Night Magic event that I attend regularly is comprised of about 50% women – some of whom may happen to show up with their boyfriends or other male companions, but who are still extremely skilled and knowledgeable in their own right.  Women were contributing articles to various blogs and magazines at the same rate and at the same skill set as their male counterparts.  It was incredible to see and it made me even more motivated to come back to the game and to see what I could accomplish for myself.

Unfortunately, the examples listed above are still very much exceptions to the rule.  Magic the Gathering is still very much a men’s game.  This is something that most people in the community will freely admit to.  For as much as people might say that World of Warcraft still has a long way to go, with regards to how women are seen or are how they are treated, it is still leaps and bounds ahead of where Magic the Gathering is today.

What I want to know is why.

Here are my thoughts on this.

Internet anonymity.

It is no secret that people tend to feel more uninhibited or more comfortable with themselves when they are sitting behind a computer screen and not actually having to converse with someone in a face to face manner.  Some people choose to channel this in really positive ways, as in they feel like they can truly be themselves, while others choose to go in the opposite direction with this (e.g. The Internet Dickward Theory).  Regardless, there is something to be said for not having a total stranger sitting in front of you who you do not know and who you are expected to engage in conversation with.

Throw in an extremely competitive tournament setting, where you know well ahead of time that you are going to be one of the only women present, where you are seated very closely to people on either side of you who you do not know, where casual observers might approach you with unsolicited advice in the middle of a round, and where time restrictions are strictly  enforced, and you have all the makings for a potentially stressful situation that would deter most women from even making the effort to participate in such things.

Compared to a Magic the Gathering tournament, participating in a World of Warcraft raid or battleground may seem like a much safer option.  You can sit in your own chair and group up with people that you know and who you are comfortable with.  You can wear more comfortable attire, like your pajamas or your sweats, and bring a snack (or even a drink).  You are most likely playing in your home, your bedroom, your office – your sanctuary, of sorts.  There is a lot of comfort to be had from those trappings that being out in the open in a Magic the Gathering tournament can’t provide you with.

Tangible rewards.

Some would say that the reason why Magic the Gathering seems so much more competitive than World of Warcraft is because the stakes are higher.  People who become very good at Magic can win trips, money, endorsements, trophies, and other sorts of prizes.  These people actually have something tangible that they can gain (or lose) by taking part in these tournaments.  In World of Warcraft, the best guilds typically end up with bragging rights, achievements, special mounts or gear, but the rewards aren’t tangible.  You can’t actually touch these things or show most people what you have won for completing such feats.  On the other hand, cash prizes and actual physical trophies or plaques are things that everyone can understand the significance behind.

With that said, the World of Warcraft trading card game (which bears a lot in common with Magic the Gathering) also offers some tangible rewards, as well.  Yet that game is still considered to be rather casual and inviting towards all different kinds of players in a way that Magic the Gathering still is not.  So maybe it is something else.

The community.

World of Warcraft has one of the most vocal communities out there.  There are hundreds of blogs devoted to the game, from people who raid casually, to those who don’t raid at all, and everything in between.  Sites like Blog Azeroth and WoWInsider act as hubs, or ways to bring the community closer together, and as ways to spotlight voices in the community that may be worth paying attention to.  Podcasts also pop up from people with different takes on all things World of Warcraft, again some from people more experienced with such things and some from others who may not be.  At the end of the day, there is something for everybody.  You really can find something that represents you and that speaks to you.  We have just about every niche filled and if we don’t, there is always room for someone to come along and fill that niche themselves.

From the brief time that I have spent delving into the Magic the Gathering community the opposite seems to be true.  The only people blogging or doing so with any sort of visibility appear to be those at the upper echelons of the game.  The same decks are covered over and over, along with deck ideas that exist solely to beat said deck in a competitive setting.  You don’t see anyone at a more approachable level talking about their experiences and what they may have learned.  The barrier to entry is quite high for these activities.

The game isn’t sold in these formats in such a way where it makes you feel like you too could take part in the action.  It does contribute to the feeling that you need this many DCI points, or this win under your belt, or this deck in your box to be worthy of having a blog or a podcast worth listening to.  And that’s not to say that the authors or podcasters themselves are solely responsible for this.  The audience determines what makes it and what doesn’t.  And if the audience decides that they only want to see people who are successfully taking part in these endeavors, then those are the blogs that you are going to see more prominently.

So what do you think?  Why do you feel like Magic the Gathering is still behind, when it comes to how women are seen, compared to a game like World of Warcraft?  Maybe you feel the opposite.  Let’s talk about it!

Pressure

19 Mar

I feel like if I were a boy I would be less worried about my performance in a game than if I were a girl.

Let me explain.

I feel like when a woman puts herself out there, wherever it may be in the gaming world, she is automatically expected to either be completely bad at what she does, or is viewed with hesitation or apprehension.  So when I do poorly at something, whether I didn’t show as high on the meters as I would have liked, or I didn’t win as many rounds in a tourney that I should have, I feel like I am living up to that expectation of me.  I feel that I am proving that person right.  I am just another terrible female gamer.

I feel like you not only have more wiggle room, in terms of your performance, but you are also given more leeway to try new things, or to be innovative.  If I were to show up to Friday Night Magic and tell someone that I was playing a self mill Vampire deck, people would immediately look at me and think I had lost my mind.  Nobody would give me the benefit of the doubt, or the chance to show them that maybe this deck idea might not be so bad, and maybe it would turn out to be something great.

But if I were a man and I showed up with that same deck idea, I think people would still be a little apprehensive of my idea, but they would at least let me see the idea through, and then poke fun at me if the whole thing crashed and burned.  And if the deck did end up being a glorious failure, I think the focus would be more on how terrible the deck was, versus how terrible I was.  More often than not, when a woman does perform poorly at something, more of an effort is made to establish that she is in fact a woman.  The focus isn’t placed on how badly the strategy was, or the idea behind it, but the fact that a woman implemented it.

At the same time, you can’t just be a woman and be good at what you do.  Someone let you win.  You cheated.  You got lucky.  A man can take a defeat from another man much more easily.  It involves swallowing so much more pride to say that you won, and that you did so without gaming the system, or using your feminine wiles, or anything of the sort.  Even if they don’t make any initial snide comments, they will still wrap things up by saying “I lost to a girl.”  You would never hear someone say “I lost to a guy.”  It would be “I lost to this comp,” or “I lost to this type of deck.”  Again, the focus is immediately placed on losing to someone who happened to be better than you, and who happened to be a woman.  It isn’t enough to say that you were a better player, or that you had more skill.  It has to be reiterated that you are a woman.  Everything else will come a distant second to that.

At the end of the day, it’s not my perfectionist nature that makes me stay up an hour after the raid is over with to pore over the logs, and to see how I did, or what I can do better.  It’s not the competitive side of me that gets angry when I lose badly in a Friday Night Magic tourney.  These things tap directly into the side of me that feels like I have to do my gender proud, like I have to represent for all women, and that if I don’t that I have let any number of women like me down.  It taps into the feeling that I have proven every short sighted, misogynistic asshole right by being bad at what I do.  They must think women are bad because I was bad.  I’m not helping.  That’s how my mind interprets it.

I’m not really sure what can be done about this, or even where I’m going with this.  These are things that I feel, and I can’t necessarily say that someone has directly made me feel this way.  This is how I choose to interpret things that are said or things that I have experienced in the time that I have spent gaming.  I feel like we have come a long way, but the pressure is still there.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, so maybe I felt like it would be a good idea to get this all off my chest, and to see if I’m not the only one who feels like I owe it to my gender to be good at what I do.

If you have felt this way, let me know how you cope with it, or how you deal with those feelings of inadequacy when you are feeling not good enough.  If you haven’t, feel free to leave a comment about that, too.

Thanks for reading.