E3: Now with more rape jokes!

In an absolutely brilliant move, someone on stage at the E3 conference made a joke about rape. A female player was onstage demonstrating a fighting game, and the terribly scripted dialogue was more than cringe-worthy.

“Just let it happen; it’ll be over soon.”

[EDIT: The video I embedded is broken, so check out the one on Kotaku]

I haven’t really posted about rape jokes before, but in a post-Dane-Cook-being-an-asshole world, they’ve become their own thing.

You can find years’ worth of reading on them all over the Web. These are some of the best, if you’re interested.

If you’re not, here’s a little wrap-up:

They’re often labelled as edgy and hilarious. But they’re really just tired, outdated and sad, much like the people who insist on making them.

Rape jokes aren’t okay. They’re not the equivalent of an edgy “your mom” joke. Rape, believe it or not, has victims.

Putting this drivel on stage at a huge tech conference is just another way to say that it’s for straight men only, kthxbye. It’s another way to say that we play by frat boy rules, or we don’t play at all.

I’m sick of it. I’m waiting for the day when humor is funny again, and not just the same old misogynistic refrain.

Update: Apparently the rape joke wasn’t scripted. I’m not sure that this makes it less offensive.


Carpal tunnel as a gamer

Hands are awesome. Until they get carpal tunnel and hurt all the time.

Hands are awesome. Until they get carpal tunnel and hurt.

About six months ago, I realized that my weekend-long Mass Effect binges were starting to hurt. And it wasn’t just from all the frozen pizza, either.

Carpal tunnel feels a bit like your wrists have just ran a marathon. The muscles feel fatigued, and more than a little tingly. The worse it gets, the more those tingles start to feel like stabs of pain. If you think you have it–go see your doctor. I’ve got a journalism degree, so don’t consider this your medical consultation.

Once I realized I had a problem, I started diving into research. I had a two-pronged problem. I needed my fingers and wrists to be fine for my job (editing) and I also needed them to be good for my gaming sessions. I realized that my hands almost never get a break. When I’m not typing, I’m using a controller. When I’m not doing that, I’m usually scrolling through Pinterest on our tablet.


But–I was able to find a few solutions that have seriously decreased the pain. I’d highly recommend all of these, even if you’re worried about getting carpal tunnel in the future.

We’ll start with the most important:

Gaming: Xtend Play 360

xtend play

This, my friends, is where it all started. Gaming controllers aren’t designed ergonomically. Luckily, smart people made it so that people like me can still enjoy our hobby. The Xtend Play fits snugly around the controller, but slides off easily enough. It’s foam, so it’s not like you have to struggle with an unwieldy heavy cover. The green is a bit…ick…but I’ll take it. When you hold the controller, you’ll be fitting your hands around it instead of under it. Your fourth and fifth fingers will follow your first two up to the trigger. I still have issues wasting away an entire day on certain games, but I was able to do a solid week of playing through RE6 thanks to this baby.

Don’t trust me? Read this.

Trust me? Buy it here.

Typing: Kinesis Advantage


This thing is all kinds of space-age crazy awesomeness. It takes a couple weeks to get used to, but once it sinks in that you can remap all the keys, things start falling into place mentally. My keyboard is almost unrecognizable from its original configuration, excluding the QWERTY-style letters, of course. But the backspace being on the backspace button? Forgeddaboutit. Sadly, that makes it hard for me to show off this beautiful contraption, as that makes it even more complicated. But for personal use–amazing. I’m almost always pain-free during the week.

Don’t trust me? Read this.

Trust me? Buy it here.

If you do suspect you might have carpal tunnel, go see your doctor. And wear wrist braces. I don’t know how many people I know with carpal tunnel who claim these are too uncomfortable to sleep in. Sorry, I know it sucks. But they make such a huge difference that I would consider them absolutely a necessity. Go forth and conquer carpal tunnel!

Halo revolutionizes gaming with sexism ban

Back in the day, Halo revolutionized gaming. It took a landscape dotted with adventure games, platformers and racing games, and added an entirely new genre: first person shooters. Now, FPS games are the among the most popular formats. However, that was 2001. No one really expected Halo 4 (to be released 11 years later) to revolutionize the gaming landscape again.

But–that’s just what it’s set to do. In an interview with Gamespot, two execs stated that Microsoft will be banning anyone who uses sexist language. Permanently. As in–for life. Currently, bannings haven’t really been taken that seriously. Being threatened with not being able to play Halo 4 should be enough to keep folks who shouldn’t be opening their mouths quiet.

Though adolescents aren’t known for being long-sighted, it’s a brilliant start. Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries (and thus, head of Halo), said that she’s seen sites like Fat, Ugly or Slutty, and that it’s “offensive and completely unacceptable.” She partially blames the issue on jerks (also known as bullies, misogynists and Napoleon-complex wannabes) an anonymous voice. Interestingly, she also puts a bit of blame on studios, saying that the gaming culture can reflect that of the developers behind them.

In an effort to do their part, Ross’ studio carefully examined the gender of each of the characters in the campaign. If they felt like they had made the choice based on stereotypes, they re-evaluated the choice. It seems small, but when so many developers are working with stereotypes instead of against them, it’s a small miracle.

So–let’s all take a moment to ponder just how awesome Bonnie Ross is. I’d love to see her on Kotaku’s list of the most influential people in the gaming industry (which currently only has one female member), and I’d love to see more interviews with her. In the meantime, I’ll be purchasing Halo 4 to support such an awesome project.

Why you won’t find my gamertag

I play a variety of games on Xbox almost every night, assuming carpal tunnel hasn’t claimed my fingers by the end of the 10 hour work day. I’ve played online a total of four times in my life, all from my husband’s account (and thus his manly-sounding gamertag). Three of those times were so that Commander Shepard could have a better chance at saving the galaxy, the fourth was a round of Call of Duty with Zach’s friends.

For a long time, I thought it was just me, that I was being silly, to put it nicely. After all, I am a quiet sort of person, though I wouldn’t describe myself as reclusive by any means. I enjoy people, and I’ve participated in online forums since I was a youngster on Neopets. But Xbox Live just isn’t for me.

Have you heard of the site Fat, Ugly or Slutty? It chronicles the types of things that men (and boys) say to the women (and girls) who play online. When women do well, they’re most likely rewarded with particularly crass insults about their sex lives and/or bodies. When they’re simply identified as female, they’re often asked to show fellow gamers their umm…assets. Communiques range from the sad “do u want to be my xbox live gf?” to the disturbing, to the downright creepy. Some of them even think they’re being nice¬†and complimenting a player (Here’s a hint: If she’s not your girlfriend or wife in real life, she doesn’t want to know your opinion of her chest).

Beyond the fact that these idiots are more likely to get struck by lighting while shaking hands with Mitt Romney twice than to receive a positive response to these sorts of propositions, these types of insults are ruining gamer culture. They’re completely unnecessary for the gaming experience, and they’re the worst sort of distraction from what games are trying to accomplish.

Men, of course, are the subject of Xbox Live ridicule, too. I’m not trying to downplay any bad experiences they’ve had. I’m guessing some individual men have had horrible, awful things happen to them while playing online. They may have even had to give up a game. But, overall, the pattern of threats, insults and sexual harassment seem to happen much more to female gamers.

And, honestly, my life is fine without any of that. I’ll just keep sneaking around using Zach’s ever-so-manly gamertag with the mic off when I need some extra points for a campaign mode. I’ll stand back and salute the women who choose to play online. They’re braver than I am. Maybe someday the culture will be able to police itself or control its members. Maybe games will even start implementing systems like the ones suggested in this Jezebel article. Send me a raven, though, because I’ll be offline.

A young gamer (doesn’t) grow up

Ahh, childhood

I wish I could tell you guys about the first time I picked up a controller and played a video game. I wish that it was inspiring, that I could tell you that I loved it instantly and people stood back, in awe of my 8-bit prowess.

But the truth is–I don’t remember a time in my life before I played video games. I’m not sure how early my parents stuck the controllers in our tiny hands, but my sister and I were so young that I’m pretty sure we chewed on them a little before we got down to business.

There’s a picture of my sister pointing a plastic gun at our tiny television while I sit nearby in a diaper, intently watching. For awhile, I think, we played Duck Hunt more often than Mario because the one-button controller was easier to handle.

When we started playing Super Mario Bros, though, shit must have gotten real. I don’t remember the first time, though, I just remember that as we aged a bit we played it more and more often.

Mario was a dance, and it wasn’t icky to do it with your sister (though you did have to take turns on the floor). We knew when to jump in the bee level and when to swim lower in the water levels. We instinctively picked up on the fact that warp level were cheating, but sat in awe of our father when he cleared the game by using them.

As for my sister and I–we never finished a single game. That’s what happens when there are no save files, kiddos. Thanksgiving would end, and we’d be packed from one house with a console to the next. We got pretty far at Christmas once, but the last level was just too much. Besides, we had more fun polishing our skills on the lower levels.

That was a simpler time, when we didn’t know that games were for boys or that we weren’t really supposed to be playing them. We didn’t know they were geeky and nerdy, we didn’t know that it made us less cool to spend so many afternoons with those square controllers. We just knew it was fun.

Fast forward to today, and not much has changed. Except now I always finish games, and I can’t play quite as long thanks to budding carpal tunnel. Games have always been, and always will be, a part of life for me. It’s something that my husband and I can do together, and it’s something we can do when we need some alone time.

Moral of the story? Give a writer a blog, and she shall ramble. Other than that, pick up your favorite old school game and enjoy a little nostalgia!