Girl in the Machine
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas everyone! We here at Girl in the Machine are going to take a little break for the holidays. As always, thanks for reading, and take the time to thank everyone who's helped make your holiday a great one. See you on January 2nd!

 Posted by BomberGirl
 9:16 AM + Link to this post

Friday, December 21, 2007
The Jade Debate

If you haven't heard the news, please read this first.

Out of all the things I'm feeling, I wish one of them was surprise. I wish it was surprising to hear about such disgusting behavior directed at someone, but sadly, it's not. Jade Raymond had the gall, the nerve to be an attractive woman working on a popular video game. Someone's got to put her in her place--good thing Dave Cheung was there to knock her down a peg. After all, Raymond put herself out there by actually having a job, right? She's public property now; she has no right to protest.

It's debacles like this that prove to me that we still have a long, long way to go. It just blows my mind how threatened so many men were by Raymond that they had to objectify her to make themselves feel better. This wasn't some stupid little scribble of a comic by some college boy--this was a carefully-drawn, thought out comic by a well known published artist in the comic industry. Who posts on his website that he's proud he "made Jade cry." Great guy, huh?

If this comic makes you angry, then get angry. It's a childish, immature, and hateful thing that does nothing but potentially harm Raymond's career and set the gaming industry back decades in equality. I'm tired of seeing shit like this, so it's time to get angry. This doesn't need to go unheard, so don't let it.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 4:53 PM + Link to this post

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Retro Rail Shootin’ with Resident Evil

Playing a girl isn’t just like playing easy mode!

My dad recently picked up a copy of Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles for himself, and I’ve been giving it a try during my stay at home this Christmas. It reminds me of all the days I would spend in the arcades during middle school playing games like House of the Dead (dating myself much?).

I must say, I’m pretty impressed with it so far. It’s got easy, normal, and hard difficulty levels, and since it’s on a console you’ve got the chance to upgrade weapons on your save file. The game itself is broken down into “chapters” for the original Resident Evil, Zero Two, and Three. There’s also a final chapter with new material never portrayed anywhere else in the series.

Because it revisits the old episodes, the game is great for people like my dad who have only played the newer Resident Evil 4. It gives a good review of each one without having to dig out the old consoles and relearn a new system or suffer through terrible dialogue.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the game is that you get to choose the character you play as in most chapters. Whether you choose your favorite Resident Evil guy or gal, you get the same gameplay experience! I replayed several chapters just to be sure that it really was the same.

I’d initially thought that the women had stronger “counterattacks.” For example, Rebecca Chambers tosses a grenade at the zombies, and Billy Coen gives ‘em a roundhouse kick to the face. When I first used Rebecca’s, I noticed that the zombies stayed down afterwards. I had thought that the zombies Billy kicked got back up again, but it turns out that they do, in fact, stay down.

If I could change one thing about the game, I’d include female zombies. The ones they’ve got are definitely horrifying; however, this game makes it look like Umbrella was a very sexist organization. This can’t be true because you see all kinds of female zombies in cut scenes panning across Raccoon City! I just can’t understand why they’re not included in the game.

My only supposition on the matter is that the producers may have thought it would be “too disturbing” to blast the head off of a female zombie. Personally, I think the whole game is a bit intense, but hey. Never mind the carnage.

So if you feel like revisiting those good ol’ arcade days in the comfort of your own home, check out Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. It’s definitely worthy a rent, and perfectionists like me will enjoy replaying each level searching for all the secrets.

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 Posted by Calabar
 1:15 PM + Link to this post

Monday, December 17, 2007
Kings and Queens

I've been a huge fan of fantasy ever since I was a little kid. From books to movies to comics to video games, fantasy is a wonderful form of escapist fiction that lets me take a break from the "real world" and experience things I normally couldn't. Playing video games is a prime example because of its interactivity: the player inserts herself into the game and navigates the story through her own actions as opposed to passively watching a film or reading words on a page. However, despite the limitless possibilities that the fantasy genre offers, many "real world" conventions are often incorporated into our otherworldly realms. My main beef is with the "realistic" depiction of oppressed and/or subordinated women in many western-style fantasy games.

We've all seen it a million times before. Final Fantasy XII's Archadian senate is composed entirely of men. In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the all-important Amulet of Kings can only be worn by sons of the Septim bloodline. Queens take an automatic backseat to their husbands, militarymen are always just that, men are the heads of the household, et cetera, et cetera. All reflect the patriarchal injustices of the western medieval world that, admittedly, a huge number of fantasy games are based off of.

My question is "Why?". Why, in an in-game universe that has flying ships and summonable monsters and the irritatingly-spelled "magicks" and "technicks" can't there be high-ranking women in government? Why can we navigate ghost-infested tombs and traverse flaming gates to hellish worlds but totally halt at the idea of a significant female descendant in a royal family? I'm already completely sick of the male-centric conventions in my world, so why am I so often faced with the exact same thing in fantasy for the sake of "realism"?

I don't have a problem with other conventions of fantasy -- the stone castles and the mystic forests and all that, as cliche as they are, just plain work most of the time. More importantly, they aren't to the detriment of a specific group of people. The fantasy genre remains an acceptable bastion for relegating women to servitude and it just doesn't have to be.

Take Chris Lightfellow of Suikoden III's Zexen Knights. She's tough, strong, and wholly competent in battle, and her fellow knights follow her without question. She's no gimmick, either: her motivation to lead stems from her own strength and not from a lovey-dovey devotion to a male character, her kick-ass armor is sensible and lacks the much-hated Boob Cuirass, and her subordinates don't "comedically" sexually harass her. My only gripe is that she has no female equals, but -- as irritating as it is to always say this -- it's better than nothing.

When it comes to fantasy, some archetypes are better than others. I love epic sword battles and brilliant thaumaturgic displays, but as far as the needless subjugation of women goes in the name of tradition, give it a rest already.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 3:53 PM + Link to this post

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Women Working in Games

We're smack dab in the middle of finals season and BomberGirl is one busy robot! In order to tide you over, allow me to point you in the direction of the MTV Multiplayer blog, where there's been an ongoing series of interviews with women who work in the gaming industry. Awesome!

Today's interview is with Elspeth Tory of Ubisoft.

You can also find the first interview in the series here.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 10:05 AM + Link to this post

Monday, December 10, 2007
2007 Spike TV Video Game Awards

Two Hours I’ll Never Get Back

As far as video game awards go, I’m not sure how much of a big deal the Spike TV awards show is, but I knew I was setting myself up for a frustrating night—I mean, it’s a “men’s network” named after a phallus. After watching the show, I don't have a very high impression of the awards. Fortunately, good games are still good games, and being featured on the Spike Network doesn't necessarily hurt their enjoyability.

On the runway before the show, I saw naked women painted all swirly and psychedelic with the Spike Video Games Awards logo screen printed on their bodies. I soon learned that these women would be presenting the awards. Samuel L. Jackson, the master of ceremonies for the evening, later commented, “And the winner is. . . all of us.” When he heard my surprise, a friend commented, “It’s Spike TV.” The problem is that it’s never okay no matter what the channel is.

Each award had a different woman painted up in a fashion corresponding to the winning game. The idea in and of itself is cool—maybe different costumed people giving out the awards. The Spike VGAs laid it all out on the table, though. They made no effort to hide the objectification.

The intro begins with a group of buff men infiltrating the hotel in Las Vegas, jumping over railings, doing flips over banisters, and handstands down escalators. How extreme. I mean, the gymnastics are cool and all, but I came here to see a show about video games.

As I mentioned earlier, was hosting—his jokes and stuff at the beginning of the show were hardly tolerable, but at least I knew who he was. I’m not exactly up to date on pop culture, so was a bit disinterested in the majority of the guests. I was pretty psyched to see Tila Tequila in the audience. It’s shameful how much I enjoy A Shot at Love. Even though she doesn’t look like a real human being (perhaps an anime character?) and probably doesn’t actually play video games, I still like her.

They did a special edition of her show, actually, where she had to make her final choice over the new consoles. Look at the Wii, she praised it for being active an fun for all ages. The PS3 was both a high roller and high maintenance—just like her. For Xbox 360, I’m not sure what it means but “the name says it all” and they have the same curves. It turns out she’s trigame-ual and ends up picking all three.

I was also a little disappointed that the Video Games Live Orchestra only played during the commercials and one short retro-medley featuring games like Pong, Donkey Kong, and Tetris. During Kid Rock’s musical performance, some women in leather bodices and short skirts paraded up and down the catwalk.

They also had a segment during the commercials called “Hot Girls with Cheat Codes” sponsored, of course, by Tag.

Last Night’s Awards:
Hottest Newcomer — Kristen Bell (from Assassin’s Creed)
Best Game Based on a Movie or TV Shows — The Simpsons
Best Team Sports Game — Madden NFL 08
Best Individual Sports Game — Skate
Best RPG — Mass Effect
Best Handheld Game — Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Best PS3 Game — Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Best Graphics — Crysis
Best Action Game — Super Mario Galaxy
Best Driving Game — Dirt
Best PC Game and Breakthrough Technology — The Orange Box
Studio of the Year — Harmonix
Most Addictive Video Game — Halo 3
Best Rhythm Game — Rock Band
Best Soundtrack — Rock Band
Best Shooter Game — Call of Duty 4
Best Military Game — Call of Duty 4
Best Xbox 360 Game — Bioshock
Best Original Score — Bioshock
Game of the Year — Bioshock

The quotation of the night preceded the Best Shooter award. Referring to the first Medal of Honor game, a man said, “What the fuck? A World War II game with no blood? That’s pretty gay!”

I got exactly what I expected from the Spike VGAs, and now I wish I could get those hours back. They’re gone forever.

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 Posted by Calabar
 10:26 AM + Link to this post

Friday, December 7, 2007
First Friday Drinking Game

It's that time again, folks! The snow's a-fallin', colored lights are springing up everywhere--and that can only mean one thing:

Time for another round of First Friday Drinking Game!

Today we'll be gathering 'round the fireplace (and computer) to talk some World of Warcraft. Yes, that lovely MMORPG can either be a wonderful present under the tree or a big ol' piece of coal in your stocking. Get all your friends together, ladle out the eggnog, and follow these simple rules for guaranteed fun for the holidays:

1 drink for every quest received that involves murlocs
1 drink for every quest that makes you run clear across the map (you'll need the fortitude)
2 drinks each time Stormwind is so busy it makes your computer slow to a crawl
1 drink for running to a town only to find there's no one there who teaches your profession
3 drinks for every quest that involves killing enemies for items they may or may not be carrying
1 drink for every group member who logs off unexpectedly
2 drinks for you leaving a group unexpectedly (for shame!)
1 drink for every person who tries to hit on you in game
2 drinks for every person who asks to cyber with you
3 drinks for every badass man chainmail that morphs into a skimpy bikini chainmail for women

And finally:
Finish your drink for every guild you find that has a "No Gurlz Allowed" clause because we're the ones who cause the drama

Warning: Excessive drinking during game play may result in an inflated sense of bravado and subsequent raidings of enemy capital cities the likes of which will only end in tears. 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.

Happy Holidays, everyone! Plasma out.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 1:11 PM + Link to this post

Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Another One of Those Days (Weeks? Months?)

Real life is keepin' me down, and I can't quite resist it. I don't have a substantial update for you this week, my dear readers.

Still, I'll leave you with this thought: Thinking back on my article last week, I remember commenting on the fact that you couldn't play a female dwarf. Oh, how wrong I was!

I'd forgotten that the Tolkien mythology states that male and female dwarves are close to indistinguishable--this means that the only way to tell boy and girl dwarves apart is through gendered names! This revelation officially makes the female dwarves the butchest of all female characters. Ever.

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 Posted by Calabar
 4:41 PM + Link to this post

Monday, December 3, 2007
The curious case of Sorceress Adel.

When I was but a bright-eyed thirteen-year-old, the eighth installment of the Final Fantasy series was released unto the masses. Still happily reeling from the convoluted yet satisfying experience that was Final Fantasy VII, I accepted VIII's bright colors, futuristic setting, and generous cast of characters with open arms.

However, there was a lot about VIII that was truly puzzling. Aside from the body-jumping antagonist, the time traveling nonsense, and the charming Every Baddie Levels Up With You So Don't Even Think About Having A Snowball's Chance Against The Omega Weapon system, there is the curious case of one Sorceress Adel. She's so minor that she only has three meager speaking lines and spends her sole boss battle as the puppet of the almighty Ultimecia (she of the "I will kast the world into khaos with katastrophic Time Kompression!"), and yet, Adel really stumped me.

You may notice from her picture that she is a man.

Well . . . she looks like a man, anyway. Or at the very least she has an extremely male physique. Or something.

The Final Fantasy series is not a stranger to gender-bending characters. VI's Kefka was certainly no Rambo, and it isn't much of an achievement to possess thirty times the raw masculinity of Squall, but Adel's appearance was so jarring to me as a budding teenager that it sticks in my mind even today. What could be the story behind this fascinating character design?

Certainly what's so neat about Adel's place in the storyline is that she's one of the baddest, most paralyzingly evil sorceresses that was ever cryogenically frozen and shot into space. Long before the plot of VIII even begins, Adel ruled Esthar as dictator, spreading enough fear and confusion to instill a deep prejudice against all sorceresses in her people (thus leading to Ultimecia's only discernible motive). In a game full of female characters that are willowy, flirty, and practically doll-like in their porcelainity, it's refreshing to see the rugged and almost ugly likes of Adel.

It makes me wonder if it's her beefy constitution that drives away the feminine stereotypes. Adel is ruthless and power-hungry just like any badass supervillain, and while Ultimecia is just as bloodthirsty and awesome, she . . . loves to play dress-up. Which isn't necessarily bad on its own -- I mean, who doesn't love the snazzy parade scene or Ulty's copious face paint? -- but, well, see for yourself. Her backwards hospital gown getup doesn't really strike new ground as far as objectified female villains go, and it's nice to see a woman of villainous ilk feared for her abilities rather than ogled for her goods.

Which is why Adel's stumpability is important. In a genre with a deathgrip on its cookie-cutter female characters, the ability to make players question what they know about the binary sex and gender system is a huge plus. Pretty, feminine men are basically the norm in the Final Fantasy universe, but tough, masculine women still have little exposure. Perhaps Adel was meant to be a man, and something got lost in translation; perhaps this was an intentional choice on the part of developers. Considering her broad shoulders and complete lack of breast development, it isn't a stretch to perhaps call her the first male sorceress. She could be referred to in the feminine form because sorceresses had always been female, just as female pharaohs often wore beards and were called "he." Who knows?

Either way, it's something different, and different is certainly good in my book.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 9:00 AM + Link to this post

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