Girl in the Machine
Friday, November 30, 2007
Crafty Gamers

December is just around the corner, and the holidays aren't too far behind; it's this time of year when I get that nagging feeling in the back of my brain that I should probably get the gift-shopping done soon if I don't want to end up trapped in a crowded Wal-Mart in the middle of the night wondering what could have been. Because I'm a dirty hippie (and would like to avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible), I like to take the crafty route and make presents instead, so I decided to compile a list of some of the coolest video game crafts I found on the internet. Each featured craft comes complete with instructions so you can DIY like the cool kids.
  • Love knitting? Check out these fantastic fair isle Space Invader socks. These babies feature the classic battle scene of ship vs invaders duking it out on one sock with your high score on the other. These are a great gift for your friends who long for the arcade age of games and have a mutual love for intricate hand-knit socks.
  • If socks aren't your bag, give this cool Super Mario baddies scarf a try. This basic scarf pattern includes charts for seven different classic baddies. If you don't have time for a scarf, how about this: pick two baddies, knit each chart separately out of kitchen cotton, sew them wrong-sides together, and crochet around the edges for a retro hot pad.
  • If you're a Nintendo DS fan like me, you have a ton of DS games just kind of hanging out with no place to go. Round up the little guys with a super-useful DS game case. Only basic sewing machine skills are required, and you can personalize each case with different-colored fabric. Great for keeping your games clean and functional.
  • Not so hot with needles? These Video Game Notepads are adorable. They make great stocking stuffers!
  • The Orange Box's Portal has become a huge hit in the video game world. Can't get enough of that Companion Cube? Why don't you just make one?
And there are even more awesome gamer crafts to discover. Here are just a few websites that feature cool crafts by dedicated gamers:
If you know any other video game craft ideas, drop a link in the comments section and get crafty!

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 5:25 PM + Link to this post

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I Like a Woman with Big Feet

Hobbits in Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar

I’m always a few months behind on MMO games, but a friend of mine recently introduced me to Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar (April 2007). I’ve heard the game has taken a lot of slack for being too similar to World of Warcraft, but since I’m not particularly familiar with the latter, so it makes no difference to me.

What I’ve seen of Shadows has impressed me, though. I appreciate the different approach it takes to several of the classes. For example, minstrels are the healers, boosting morale with their songs. The hunters are the game’s “nukers,” dealing massive damage with their long-ranged bow attacks. The loremasters provide crowd control and debuffing instead of serving as the usual full-powered mages (after all, if anyone could be a wizard like Gandalf, Middle Earth would be far more frightening!).

Players have the option of creating either male or female characters (with the notable exclusion of the ever-so-rare female dwarves). Here’s what caught my attention:

The hobbit women are just as fat as the men!

That might sound like a silly thing for me to be excited about, but I think it’s awesome that the female characters aren’t put up on a pedestal. Their feet are just as big, and their bodies are equally portly. It would have been easy for them to take the stout Hobbit women and transform them into something “prettier,” or at least what some might call shapely. It’s nice to see a non-human race where both sexes possess the same physical traits.

Another point of note: you can’t put scars on the elven men. They’re deprived of such manly potential. The only appearance “features” they can get are headbands. I’d guess that it’s related to the perceived femininity of the elves.

If you’re into MMO’s and want to take a look at the game for yourself, the Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar website offer a free seven day trial of the game. Or, if you've already played it, tell us about your impressions of the game!

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 Posted by Calabar
 2:37 PM + Link to this post

Monday, November 26, 2007
Oh so pretty.

Recently I tripped upon an article called "Cool Tech and Accessories for Women," and I couldn't help but take a read. I wish that it was hope that spurred my curiosity, hope that maybe, just maybe, lazy journalism would not succeed this time and that I would find a thoughtful, well-written piece that didn't fall back on some of the most obvious feminine stereotypes there is.

Alas. The article started right off saying that women can "assert themselves" in a male-dominated environment by toting around a tech accessory (like a cell phone or handheld video game console) in a "quirky color" such as green, purple, and -- you guessed it -- even pink. And it only gets better:
"The female consumer, being as fashionable as she is, wanted a camera that not only captures great pictures, but that she is proud walking around with," says Greg Morrison, digital product marketing manager, Kodak Canada.
Blargh. Here we go again. First of all, the fashion industry does NOT equal just women, and especially not ALL women, for that matter. As well, the article states that gadgets that are specially designed for women are thinner with rounded edges that "accommodate small hands" and can "slip into a pocket or purse." I guess men are all running around with their enormous meatpaws grasping monochrome PDAs while suffering a marked lack of pockets, then. Is this article seriously insinuating that women the only people who prefer their gadgets lighter and more portable and in less "conservative" colors such as black or gray?

I disagree with the idea that most things must be designed specifically for one sex or the other. Just like I think a button-down shirt looks nice on a masculine or feminine form, I think whether your camera is red or has rounded edges or whatever is something that has universal appeal. Women aren't softer or more delicate than men. These are design choices rooted in aesthetics and not on any particular sex-based need.

There are many women that don't care what their keyboards look like just as there are many men who do. It doesn't matter what the majority on either side appears to be. Why not market towards all people who lean towards these aesthetics instead of boxing in all female consumers as having strictly "fashionable" needs? This could be an important step toward tearing down harmful gender roles, but, unfortunately, stereotypes sell. Just look at the "Boys" and "Girls" sections of any toy store.

I also chalk it up to pure laziness. It's never explained quite how women "assert" themselves by carrying around a green cell phone. Why would such a thing not allow men to do the same? And while it just happens to be one of my favorite colors, I know many female gamers that wouldn't be caught dead with a pink DS or a PSP. It's all a matter of preference, not some kind of hard-coded, binary-gendered genetic need. I wish I didn't have to state the obvious here, but articles like the above unfortunately remind me that I do.

We also see here that it's not just an issue of color but of design. A more "feminine" design -- thinner, curvier -- automatically equals female approval? I don't project myself onto a piece of technology before I want to buy it, thank you very much, and I find this description's proximity to that of the normative female form rather creepy.

Let's consider the original Nintendo DS design versus the newer DS Lite, as well as the original PSP and its Slim counterpart. Neither of the new designs were created for a specific female market, as this streamlined model is just plain nicer-looking and better for everyone. Both consoles also come in a nice rainbow of creatively-named colors (Felicia Blue, anyone?) that all sorts of different gamers enjoy. However, the pink models are consistently preyed upon for their ability to reign in the wimmins like moths to a Cosmopolitan-colored flame. It's as if we've never been aware of video games before and all we needed was some "fashionable" coaxing to take the dive.

Don't get me wrong, it's definitely awesome that technological goodies such as video games and PDAs are no longer being seen as just a "guy" thing. However, the approach is all wrong. Not only is it sexist to coat a digital camera in feminine stereotypes as a way to lure in the ladies, it's downright patronizing to pretend that, until now, women just never had a lick of interest in technology. It's inclusion on patriarchal terms, and it doesn't at all bother to tear down the stereotypes that caused the exclusion in the first place.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 3:36 PM + Link to this post

Sunday, November 18, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone is going to have a wonderful Thanksgiving this year! We here at Girl in the Machine are taking the week off to polish off some classes and visit with family. We'll be back on Monday the twenty-sixth, so fear not! We'll see you then.

 Posted by BomberGirl
 10:07 PM + Link to this post

Friday, November 16, 2007
We're Not Gonna Take It, Activision

The recent release of Guitar Hero III has unleashed a whirlwind of activity among the feminist gaming blogosphere--the center of the storm being one Ms. Judy Nails. The basic story is this:

Here's Judy as she looked in GH I and II. She's the "alternative" rock guitarist of the group, and she definitely looks the part. While she, Pandora, and Casey all seem to have the same body type (white, thin, large breasts), their styles are very distinct and different. Judy's outfit here is realistic and fun. And then we have GH III:

Judy seems to have been attacked by a bear--just look at her! Her shirt's all torn up and falling off, and you can see her bra, which is oddly pink and doesn't match her shirt at all. Maybe she just threw something on while she was trying to get away. Poor girl.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with looking sexy--it's when it's so obviously for men only that it shuts out players like me. In looks, we lose our hardass rocker and get eye candy for men instead. Combine the shredded-in-the-right-places clothing and the infuriating boob physics, Activision has basically slapped a "For Boys Only" sign on Judy.

But Judy's not letting this fashion catastrophe affect her--she can still play some badass rock. I'll continue to play Judy because she's awesome, but that doesn't mean I like what Activision did to her. I'm joining the other gaming bloggers who are calling Activision on their crap; hopefully this won't be a problem in the future.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 2:10 PM + Link to this post

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Cracking KOS-MOS's Casing

A Conflict between Form and Function

[Let’s keep this article spoiler-free!]

I’ve always been baffled by Kevin Winnicot’s decision to build a battle android like KOS-MOS. Sure, he wanted to fight off the gnosis. I get that, and I suppose it’s better to make a machine that’s decent to look at instead of a hulking monster, but geez! Talk about impractical!

Let's take a look at her shells across the course of the series:

We’ve got a good bit of skin, some garters, and what amounts to a thong. Oh, and don’t forget her high-heeled boots!

Discounting the fact that her blue glassy parts are where he skin should be, KOS-MOS was actually quite modest in her Xenosaga II incarnation—it must reflect the “wooden doll” look that the producers wanted. She still has her ridiculous high heels, though, and I think she’s smuggling grenades in her breasts.

Those Vector folks certainly have a thing for robots, it would seem. We’ve got a bit more skin here, but it could be worse. That black cloth around her shoulders and neck could be gone, as well as the blue on her thighs. Never mind that it’s skintight.

Xenosaga IV was in production at the same time as the third installment, and so we’ve got a render of how everyone’s favorite android would have turned out. In addition to everything I’ve already said, I’d just like to add that I’m perplexed by her cat ears.

Despite all this, she remains sufficiently badass. Hauling around massive gatling guns like toys (check about four minutes in) and fighting the way she does, you’d be a fool to doubt her combat prowess. I suppose it's even all the more impressive considering her high heeled boots.

Really, though, it's important to point out that KOS-MOS itself doesn't actually have a sex. She's an android, after all. This makes her sexualized casing even more ridiculous--a machine crafted for battle that has been endowed with such large breasts and a matching X-BUSTER.

At least she's better off than MOMO, poor girl.

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 Posted by Calabar
 5:49 AM + Link to this post

Monday, November 12, 2007
Grand adventures in Cyrodiil.

Let's get it right out there: I love Oblivion. As do many others.

Why should feminists in particular love Oblivion? It's simple: no sexist stereotypes.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a totally immersive RPG experience that lets you log several games' worth of play without even touching the main quest. You can skulk around in the thieves' guild, buy a haunted mansion in Anvil, or swing around a golden claymore that sets people on fire. Awesomely, the customization for your avatar is extremely diverse, letting you choose any race, any color, even species both human and no.

During my adventures throughout Cyrodiil, I have happily encountered none of the major sexist stereotypes that often plague fantasy settings. There is an abundance of female characters with wonderfully varying personalities. I've happily yet to encounter a sultry gypsy, whiny damsel, or mourning widow. Instead, women are knights, guild leaders, countesses, guards, bandits, mothers, vintners, alchemists, pirates, the list goes on and on. Just like in real life, women are (gasp!) just as diverse as men.

The excellent writing isn't the only good part. In other fantasy RPGs such as World of Warcraft, your typical iron cuirass is a sturdy breastplate that covers your manly warrior from clavicle to hip. However, when worn by his female counterpart, it magically transforms into a low-cut bikini top complete with C cup and underwire. In Oblivion, this mystical process never occurs. Bulky plate armor is rightfully just as bulky and formidable on a womanly form, and you can even raid villagers' closets and deck out your character in a foppish tunic 'n trousers combo, if you wish. (Note: I have not seen if you can put a dress on a dude yet, but a little modding does go a long, long way.)

And speaking of modding, nothing says creativity quite like user-created content. You can add in your own races or give Skingrad its very own gay bar. The possibilities are limitless, and Oblivion definitely gets an A+ in my book for not even needing the extra content to be entertaining. This is a game that doesn't get any "Yes, but" treatment from me: not only does it feel inclusive, it is inclusive, and in no way does it leave women out like so many of its competitors.

Readers, what have your adventures in Cyrodiil been like?

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 12:35 AM + Link to this post

Friday, November 9, 2007
A Word from PlasmaRit

Hello, folks! Looks like this week's been a rough one for all of us--unfortunately, I won't be posting an article today. However, I will be returning next Friday with a fresh article, so please browse through our archives in the meantime and have a great weekend.

Plasma out.

 Posted by PlasmaRit
 8:02 PM + Link to this post

Thursday, November 8, 2007
Through a feminist lens.

I haven't always identified as a feminist. Due to a strong religious upbringing, I grew up with various and sundry biases that colored my view of the world. I went through an enlightenment period of sorts just a few years ago, and when my religion fell away it felt as if a blindfold had similarly dropped from my eyes. My everyday experiences were suddenly completely different to me, and I could see things that I'd been never even remotely aware of before. Specifically, I acquired a feminist lens.

"Lens" is a perfect word for it, too. Like a pair of brand spanking new glasses, my feminist lens brought so many things into focus -- things that had always been with me. Growing up, sexism bothered me in ways I could never quite describe, a niggling little feeling that made me ashamed of myself. I was a buzzkill for getting squicked out by the tits-and-ass depiction of Lara Croft; I was being too sensitive about the flying boobs and rampant panty shots in Dead or Alive. Discovering feminism and realizing that (lo and behold) women are people too gave me the tools to put a name to these worries.

Unfortunately, feeling oddly bothered by the sexism around me wasn't the only consequence of my biases. Oftentimes, I despised other women. Raised with a severe disdain for sexuality, I engaged in a fair amount of slut-shaming, seeing myself as better than those who "flaunted" their bodies. In video games, I couldn't stand female villains in particular, who more often than not acted as sultry temptresses instead of their kick-ass male counterparts. The blindfold was firmly in place.

Discovering feminism made sense of my conflicted feelings about women. I learned not to hate the women who were depicted in a sexist manner, but to analyze why such a thing had occurred in the first place and how I could fight it. I was able to fight through my own sexism and discover just how knowledge cripples ignorance. It's an experience I hope that many others can share.

Readers -- how has feminism changed your outlook on the world?

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 6:52 PM + Link to this post

Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Apologetic Heroines

Stop saying you're sorry!

I’m currently replaying Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria right now, and the second play through feels so much tougher than the first. I mean, what is it, something like a fifty-percent stat boost to all the enemies? . . . And I didn't get to carry over any of my stuff from the first time! Man.

All that aside, it's a marvelous game. There are some things I don't like about it--it's a bit linear, it's tough to make new items, and certain normal monsters can be incredibly difficult to defeat--but it's a nearly perfect RPG for me. Sadly, the heroine does one little thing that immensely annoys me.

Alicia often says, “I am sorry,” or “Forgive me” after slaying an enemy with her Nibelung Valesti attack, and she ends battles sometimes by saying, “I’m sorry.”

Every time she does it (and BomberGirl and PlasmaRit can attest to this), I shout at the TV, “No! You’re not sorry! If you’re sorry, it’s ‘cause they’re weak!” If anything, she should be saying, “I’m sorry. . . that you suck.”

Fortunately, as the game progresses, Alicia lets these phrases slip and replaces them with more interesting ones, such as, “Now you shall sleep forever!” or “You shall not withstand the force of my power.”

I completely get the idea of her character progressing and growing with time. I like that she develops as the game moves on. It almost makes sense, too—as a rather sheltered young girl co-inhabiting her body alongside the Valkyrie Silmeria, I can understand why she’s sometimes hesitant to slay her foes at first. Silmeria usually handles that kind of stuff for her, but Silmeria begins hiding more and more as her sister Hrist closes in on her throughout the game. Eventually, she learns that she’s strong enough to stand on her own two feet, and she gains the confidence to fight for herself and the world.

Let’s look some other sides of character comments in battle. Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria has a wide cast of female characters, and in the end I’d argue that all of them are strong women.

Five of the “light warrior” women in the game sometimes say, “I am sorry, I am not ready for my journey to end,” after a battle has been completed. They’ve still got that element of apologizing that I’m not completely comfortable with, but hey. . . At least they explain themselves. It even comes off as a sarcastic comment sometimes because of the tone of their voices.

Still other women say, “If I could only move, I would fight the god of death himself,” after dying in battle. Now that is hardcore. Most other characters cry out guttural noises or make frightening exclamations about being unable to see or move. . . but these women aren’t done yet. Even though many of the other characters don’t use this phrase, I believe they still feel it. Very few characters in the game simply resign to dying—one of them is Rufus, Alicia’s love interest in the story.

Aside from the Valkyrie Profile series, I feel like I’ve seen other instances of apologetic heroines. We’ve even mentioned it before in our First Friday Drinking Games series on fighting games. Please feel free to bring up any of those awkward apologies in our comments section. I’m interested in hearing about more games where it happens!

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 Posted by Calabar
 5:56 AM + Link to this post

Monday, November 5, 2007
A note from Bombergirl.

Hello! This week's update is going to be a little late, unfortunately, as I wrangle with several deadlines that have decided to gang up on me all at once. But do not fret! You'll see me again before the week is through.

 Posted by BomberGirl
 9:02 AM + Link to this post

Friday, November 2, 2007
First Friday Drinking Game

Ah, November. There's a chill in the air, the leaves are really starting to turn, and the gourds are ripe for the pickin'. Of course, what better way to warm yourself up than with another round of First Friday Drinking Game!

This month we'll be focusing on the crop-growing, spouse-searching antics of the Harvest Moon series. Whether your rocking the classic SNES Harvest Moon or breaking the mold with More Friends of Mineral Town, you'll want to bust out the berry juice and get some friends together for a good time on the farm:

1 drink for every day it takes to clear your farmland
2 drinks if you take advantage of the endless night in SNES Harvest Moon to make up for it (sneaky!)
1 drink for every day you forget to hug your pet (they need love too)
1 drink for every tool you break
1 drink every time you lie to the harvest fairy (you should know better)
1 drink every time you miss watering a plot with the watering can
2 drinks whenever the harvest sprites take forever to give your tools back
1 drink if you don't think the pregger cows are cute
3 drinks for every storm that traps you in your house (hey, there's nothing better to do)
1 drink for every villager who gets lost in the woods/a cave/your farm
2 drinks for every piece of your soul you leave in the mine
2 drinks every time you accidentally throw a crop on the ground

And finally:
Finish your drink when you realize that winning a girl's heart in game involves nothing more than giving her stuff

Warning: Excessive drinking during game play may result in delusions of farming grandeur and tilling up the carpet around your television. Play with caution!

Think I forgot something? Suggest a rule in the comments section!

What drinking games do YOU want to play every month? If there is any genre or specific game you want featured in FFDG, drop me a line at PlasmaRit at gmail dot com.

Plasma out.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 12:27 PM + Link to this post

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