Kierkegaard's forum posts

#1 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

@ubertron986: Damn it. I thought of that, that honestly but didn't change it. I guess: why do you play as a different gender? Or any gender? Thanks for adding your experience despite the false binary I set up there!

@spaceinsomniac: Well, hetero males have not faced entrenched societal sexism for thousands of years, so it is a bit different. But yeah, I'd say I'm critical of anyone whose primary purpose in creating a character in a non-sexbased role playing game is allure. Seems to ignore much more interesting threads in such a choice.

#2 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

@raven10: I made a mage black lady in Amalur. Because of my class she never wore a helmet so I saw her throughout the adventure. Despite gender never being a factor (which is unfortunate--it's a meaningful thing that should have impact), seeing her throughout that 50 hours was still different than playing a white male.

@mbdoeden said:

I'm probably echoing what has already been said at this point, but here we go:

I usually choose a female avatar (as a male) in games because I find it more interesting to roleplay/identify with a woman when given the choice. I also find the games I play as a female character (Mass Effect is the best example) to be more intriguing for some reason. Maybe because women in leading roles happens to be rare as fuck in the video game world and I'm projecting some kind of "equality I'd like to see"?

I don't know, at some point it comes down to being able to identify vs. objectify right? I was raised in an environment where identifying with women was never a thing I was chastised for, or told that's "not what little boys do". In fact, because I was raised by basically all women that's really the default role model for me, minus the few male celebrities I chose as a role model.

This is kinda weird to talk about because I tend to get defensive about this when people bring it up, mostly because it's hard for me to externalize why I do it, and I don't want to come off like a creeper.

Not weird at all! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and life experience. I remember loving Mulan and Robin Hood and Jasmine, to go disney with it, but definitely hung with my dad most often. I think my original nurturing media definitely tended toward stereotypical male, but all the fairness and care taught through sesame street and Harry Potter and such, augmented with really liberal parents, led me to choose a liberal arts degree. From there, through philosophy and English and deep considerations of political, social, and religious ideas, I began to develop my love of complex, responsible media. Always interesting where our stories lead us.

@kierkegaard said:
(Although, the "I don't play a game [where I make my avatar an abused sex puppet] very often" section is pretty creepy....).

What I was saying was, "I do make avatars, yet when I do I don't often run them off a cliff." Have I done that? Probably, I have done that purposely once or twice. But it is probably the least likely action I would take with any given avatar at any given time...but I cannot say "I have never ever done that ever."

I find it odd when people say they have never done 'a thing' that is part of a certain activity. It would be like playing football and saying you never kicked someone in the shin...well, of course you have, you were not trying to, but it happens. If we are honest with ourselves we can at a least admit we make avatars too look at, we control them so there is some level of domination and bending to our will.

On some level we can admit that its an interesting human activity (maybe even primate activity) to play a game, write a story, day dream where 'others' (real or imagery people) in that game/story/dream play out as we wish.

Ha, okay thanks for clarifying. It was just a vague section that I wanted to address. Have I made sims die in swimming pools? Yes. Have I used the fact of Skyrim's save system to see if I could make long jumps? Yes. Have I run Nathan Drake off a cliff to see what happens? Yes. You're right--part of play is experimentation, and having a safe place for abusive experimentation, like a test bed to see if you're a sociopath. If I found that some kid enjoyed that sort of destructive play all the time, that may be worrying.

I think it comes down to what we consider the core purpose and what we consider side activities. If the core purpose is something scary or creepy, that's something worth changing or at least examining. Same with the positive--it's all worth exploring.

#3 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

@random45: I thought the argument he made about deep mechanical understanding of games, and being able to communicate them to an audience, was strong. I disagree with the conclusion that subjectivity in reviews should be overtaken by pure mechanical objectivity, but I can see an important combination.

One example I can think of is when Arthur Gies said that Uncharted's shooting felt bad in comparison to Gears of War. On Rebel FM, he had a hard time articulating why. It's really hard! We can use words like "tight" and "loose" and "responsive" and "dynamic," but they are still stand-ins for a feeling.

There have been multiple quicklooks where Jeff especially will just fire off a gun and talk about how it feels. Enemy Front is the most recent one. If we think about describing why shooting feels good, it has to come down to all the factors involved that are purely mechanical:

  • how long it takes from pressing the trigger to the bullet firing,
  • whether the bullet's trajectory feels fast enough, accurate enough, obvious enough,
  • whether the gun kicks back in a way that feels like something impactful happened,
  • whether the bullets fire too fast and make reloads happen to often, or too show and make reloads feel too seldom,
  • how many bullets it takes to kill different enemies and whether that feels fair (for this, you definitely would need to test and count to convey the reality of your point),
  • how the character reacts to bullets fired at them, whether that reaction is obvious to the player so they can know location of enemy and be able to find safety,
  • whether that reaction makes it too hard to return fire, creating a feedback loop of pain,
  • how fast or slow the movement of your gun's targeting is, whether this is configurable, whether it feels too manic or too slow.

That's just a few mechanical considerations when it comes to designing and reviewing gun play. And all of them are still interpretive and subjective--Killzone's movement could be slow to some and deliberate and impactful for others.

Describing mechanics is really complicated. It may be a great thing to communicate to your reader the "feel" of the game in this way, but whether that feel is good or bad has to come from what you consider a strong mechanic. There are objective elements to games, but reviews will always be about judging those elements subjectively.

#4 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

@jadegl said:
@kierkegaard said:

@jadegl: Interesting how most male respondents on here are gung ho for playing as women while you're looking for more identification. Speaking personally, I'm probably spoiled with my gender as the norm, making my choosing to play as a woman feel revolutionary. When do you create women to play as, do you have them reflect your appearance, sexuality, and ethics, or do you play around with differences like many of these male players appear to?

In games where I can create my character, I always make my characters very similar to my own appearance, mostly just more attractive. There are specific weird quirks that I tend to follow. I keep breast size, if there is a slider for that, relatively small. I try not to make the characters unrealistically skinny, since I am not super skinny in real life. I try to keep the hair brown or, if I am feeling especially sassy, I’ll go with red. Eyes are always blue, since I have blue eyes. The only thing I will tend to increase is height, where I will make a character about 4-6 inches taller than I am in real life. That’s really the only thing I feel comfortable changing, but I have an issue with feeling short most of the time, so I like having a little bit of fantasy with that. The only two games I can think of where I went completely different in my character creation was Star Trek Online, where I play a female Andorian, and Skyrim, where I chose to play as a Bosmer (wood elf) character.

With sexuality it’s very similar. My characters always have heterosexual relationships. It’s not that I have an aversion to trying something different, it’s that I really always seem to gravitate towards the option that mirrors my real life. I also find that attraction works very much the same way. What I find nice in real guys I tend to go for in the romance options in games. So I end up going with the most goody goody lawful good type guys and the bad boys don’t get the time of day from my character. This means I go for guys like Kaidan Alenko, Alistair and Vilkas in Skyrim.

For moral or ethical choices, I always play a pretty straight paragon type. I will kill if I have to, but I try to talk my way around things as much as possible. I try to befriend as many NPCs as possible. If I need to choose a side, I try to pick the pure good side, not the evil side. I don’t tend to dabble in things that are against my way of thinking in real life. I even try to avoid killing civilians in Saint’s Row games, for crying out loud. I like being good and playing a renegade type is so outside my playstyle that I rarely try it. I did, however, play a renegade playthrough in Mass Effect, just to see the choices. I also made that character the stock male because I, as the player, needed it to be as unlike my paragon Shepard as possible. That meant even swapping the gender. I just couldn’t see my female Shepard, or one like her, being renegade, so I picked a male character to do that with. That doesn’t mean I think men are bad, it just means I needed to experience that story in that way to make it completely break off from my previous experience.

I am running a bit long, but hopefully I answered the questions you posed, or at least articulated where I come from when playing games, especially ones that allow for character creation.

Absolutely. You seem to have a deeply consistent approach to character creation and design. Thanks for answering the questions. It's interesting how some of us use games to explore very different avatars than ourselves while others use them to explore worlds as ourselves, more than likely putting ourselves into different situations and choices than we face in real life, but using our real life morals and beliefs to respond to them. That you associate choices that aren't so heavily with the appearance of the character making them is also a cool relationship. Having your bad-choices run-through require an avatar completely unlike yourself and your Mass Effect avatar means you're connecting the morality of your character to its consistent appearance.

I feel like I'm doing a bunch of psychoanalysis in this thread. Not trying to assume or judge; just drawing out the implications I'm seeing.

I 'believe' I play as female avatars because it allows me to make an attractive person. I'm not so sure I want to dominate or control that person/avatar, but I do want to look at them. I supposed if I made a character and just dropped her off a cliff over & over again to see her breasts shake or smash her into a wall to make her fall over that would be 'controlling and dominating' - making them my puppet. However, I do not play any game character that way very often, and I woudl say I have a some level of not doing unto other as I would not do unto myself.. Mostly, I just play out the story with an attractive avatar from my own perspective. Is that perhaps the 'male gaze' at work; i.e. me objectifying my avatars? Probably, because as I said I have made my avatar personally attractive to me and to what I believe is attractive in general.

However, I would say that one can be attracted to someone without objectifying them 100%. I play my avatars as I would imagine a person 'I like' would be, that is to say I make attractive avatars who are good people, fair people, caring people who make choices I myself would make. I find it difficult to play character doing bad things, so at some level I am not treating my avatar as an object but maybe on teh level of a pet. And, that sounds bad enough I suppose.

We can go around and around on what making an avatar means in termn of power or puppeting, or what it means if you play in a way that abuses an avatar, but I think there is probably a sliding scale of how much any player is dominating, controlling, objectifying and or puppeteering what they make.

If you want you could say I am at the lowest level of dominating and controlling, but I might be medium on objectification. Again, as I said above, this is what 'I believe' about myself, others can see my action differently; but they are viewing my action through their own lens making just as many assumptions.

The primary problem with societal issues like the male gaze is ignorance about it, I think. And, like you said, there is a different between finding someone attractive and objectifying them.

I guess the issues with games is that since you are the creator of this being, and you control it, it's different than encountering an attractive person in the world. A human you like is likable in part because they are not you or yours--they are a separate agent of human existence. And since any relationship where one person controls the other is abusive and wrong, character creation in games can come up against some heady concerns.

You're not making a sex toy, but a person you would like in life, it sounds like. (Although, the "I don't play a game [where I make my avatar an abused sex puppet] very often" section is pretty creepy....). You're constructing a companion. It's like this crazy balance of making who you want and pulling back from making him or her a sex puppet.

Personally, I avoid the issue by, when making a female character, the gender I am attracted to, making someone who could have an interesting back story, fits the world of the game, and is internally consistent. I think of her not as a person I'm controlling but as a persona I'm adopting. For Skyrim, my partner and I created her together, which was a fascinating and accidental lesson in what interests and attracts both of us.

For me, if I created a girl to lust at and who's choices and actions I controlled, that'd be fucked up. I can see your perspective and approach, though.

#5 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

@kierkegaard said:
@video_game_king said:


I see characters in video games along a spectrum of "clearly a separate person" (Stocke, Fox McCloud, etc.), "character meant to represent you" (silent protagonists, generic white guys, etc.), and "very clearly supposed to be you" (the examples I listed before).

Of course, the "you" there is you, not a universal "you." I agree, though, because any game where you generate the full facial features, attributes, and personalities of a character is clearly allowing you to create a new "you". It might be wildly different from who you are, but it is certainly a representation of who you are in the context of that game.

Maybe not even that. Combine the full fledged customization with the absolute blank slate of a "character", and on some level, this being is representative of you on some level if they are not you. (I added the blank slate part because of something like Resonance of Fate.) Your desires and self still leave your indelible mark, after all.

Right, if the game gives you enough agency to enact or reject your own desires and needs, you are part of the character regardless. It's interesting that a character we make to be wholly unlike us may explore just as much about us if not more as a character we create to reflect us.

#6 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

@humanity said:

At one point in the past I started to write a thread about defending Watch Dogs as a good game. After several paragraphs I decided that ultimately it was a waste in time. Half the people wouldn't read this much about a game the internet along with some media have crafted into some terrible monstrosity to befall gaming - the other half would just argue with me.

Now Patrick writes this article and I don't even know why it bothers me this much. Maybe it's because Watch Dogs tried to do a lot of cool and innovative things in the open crime world genre. Maybe it's because it actually played fairly well. I guess it's because people have decided that this is the game where they will make their stand, and it's completely unwarranted. Aiden Pearce isn't an asshole. If you killed thousands of pedestrians and acted completely recklessly throughout the game then guess what, it's you, you're the asshole. Because Aiden Pearce didn't run those people over, you did. But those are just semantics. At the end of the day the protagonist of this "revenge" tale is no different than any other we've seen along the years.

What about Max Payne? What about John Marston? What about any open world game character really. I feel that Watch Dogs especially gives the player so many opportunities to do good deeds as opposed to evil ones when compared to it's contemporaries. Is Aiden a saint? No. He is a man that is consumed by revenge and often makes mistakes along the way because of his single minded obsession with punishing those responsible; but he's definitely not some monster.

Here is how much of an asshole Aiden Pearce is: he stops black market munitions trade that supplied mercs with weapons responsible for the death of police officers. He tracks down a serial killer that goes about kidnapping and murdering women. He uncovers a human trafficking ring and exposes those involved so they end up getting arrested. These are all unique side activities that don't cover the multiple gang related behavior you can put an end to if you choose to do so. Hell he even takes down Yves Guillemont in the game for running illegal DNA experiments and kidnapping on behalf of some weird Abstergo corporation.

So I'm sorry that the player you were controlling all along ended up being a huge asshole Patrick, because in my game I was very much a decent human being.

I still have not shot at a single cop in Watch Dogs. I have, however, made a lot of their cars explode. I tried to stealth all the time, but you can't sleeper-hold everyone in every scenario. Aiden does kill, sometimes indiscriminately. His entire traffic pattern control power is built around mimicking the horrible attack on Lena. Countless motorists will have died regardless of how well you drive.

Yes, the sidequests are redeemable. Personally, I made every human trafficker kneel before shooting them in the head. The game still considered them civilians. That's, like, really dark for me as a player. But that human sex trade thing was so fucked I didn't see the law as justice.

But that does not change the fact that Aiden's entire revenge scheme is poorly thought out and ultimately only helps people besides him by accident. He kills OLD IRISH GUY (who is poorly characterized no matter his real name) because he wants to, not because he really cares about anyone besides himself. His original choice to continue to endanger himself and his family by trying to find Lena's killer is the wrong move. Hundreds of deaths and wanton destruction are his fault.

He tries to use corruption to fight corruption. Christ, Aiden, maybe before all of that become a super white-hat hacker for the city, work with the cops (who have corrupt elements but are not corrupt by nature in the game), and take out CTOS and Blume from a position of ethical power.

I dunno, little rant. Honestly love the mechanics of the game and its multiplayer is seriously engaging and brilliant, but the character is a dick like the Joker pretending to be a hero like Batman.

#7 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -


I see characters in video games along a spectrum of "clearly a separate person" (Stocke, Fox McCloud, etc.), "character meant to represent you" (silent protagonists, generic white guys, etc.), and "very clearly supposed to be you" (the examples I listed before).

Of course, the "you" there is you, not a universal "you." I agree, though, because any game where you generate the full facial features, attributes, and personalities of a character is clearly allowing you to create a new "you". It might be wildly different from who you are, but it is certainly a representation of who you are in the context of that game.

Also, I wish I could identify with Ratchet. Because I want a gun that turns monsters into exploding giant chickens. And a cute robot sidekick. And to freak the fuck out of my cat.

#8 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

@brodehouse: Nah, I'm interested in putting gay empathy into idiots. Immolate is just a cool word I hadn't used recently. And homophobes bug the shit out of me.

@sweep: That would be awesome! Games should definitely try to model this more specific response to appearances, be that positive or negative. Having social circles based on scarification or width of eyes rather than our traditional differences and signifiers could be a great way to examine or lampoon are own "traditional" values of attractiveness.

@extomar: There is value in considering every realm of thought about any topic. It's critical thinking. It's a good thing. You proved that with your reference to the otherness idea. This whole thread proves there is worth here.

@jadegl: Interesting how most male respondents on here are gung ho for playing as women while you're looking for more identification. Speaking personally, I'm probably spoiled with my gender as the norm, making my choosing to play as a woman feel revolutionary. When do you create women to play as, do you have them reflect your appearance, sexuality, and ethics, or do you play around with differences like many of these male players appear to?

@icemael: Oh it's certainly got some academic fluff in there, but this discussion has gone far more interesting places in terms of the diversity of reasonings and purposes than Voorhees did, so consider it a springboard. And having an English and Philosophy degree, I'm even more deeply aware of the dangers of academia. I think Voorhees is clearly than you're giving him credit for, though.

@bacongames: You're awesome. Let's be friends. Your categorization of responses appears accurate to me, especially from the sample I've read so far here. Thank you for the thoughtful critical response and your personal experience. Amazing how you aim for self but end up with slightly different other purely because games are still bad at delineating race. Cheers

@mithical: It seems like the point is if a rather large population of male players are enacting a queer experience, that means the heteronormativity of the gaming community may have a very clear weak point--our own predilections for experimentation and exploration of gender and sexuality.

@fattony12000: Yes, it could have been a poll. Oversight, honestly. But, I do like how people have to state their opinion and explain. Plus, I would not have created all the categories people have said.

@dark_lord_spam: Ha, I sidestepped that in Skyrim by working with my partner to choose our potential spouse. She actually went based off of race and gender, not even his appearance. Boedica is now married to a revolutionary Argonian from Windhelm.

@icemo: Huh, that protectiveness of female enemies combined with your desire to kill as a woman is certainly an odd combo. I'd think you'd want to protect all women from violence in general. Personally, as long as the women aren't innocents like Kratos likes to murder (or males--any innocents really), I don't have too many moral hang ups about killing any necessary adversary in games. If there's a non-lethal option, though, I'll usually take it. I did execute every "civilian" who was a part of the human trafficking in Watch Dogs....

@hunterob: Great real world example! So, in her case at least, the ability to experience a gender identity in Dragon Age 2 helped her transition into her own. Cool.

@zeik: Terms, right? Drag seems like an accepted social term from my understanding, but everything can have different connotations. You are right that transgender is off. This persona playing makes me think of drag queens and kings, but it is also simply a thing we all do. We're all different personae in different contexts, though playing with gender in our personae is still something against mainstream society, so noting it as something else may be worthwhile to fight the acculturation of a steady gender persona? There is no exact way to be MAN or WOMAN, and maybe how we play around with gender in games is part of proving that.

@bizzama: Thank you for the thoughtful reply! And there's quite a lot of great thought in here even if I didn't start off being pretty hands in in responses. Makes me proud of many of the people here--not for agreeing with me, but for putting critical thought into their ideas and opinions, demonstrating that doing so is virtuous.

@kierkegaard: I just think there are better words than queer, which A) didn't start as a proud statement of who you really are (which is shit, because it means about 20 different things) and B) has other meanings that kind of degrade the community that uses it. I don't think it's queer to act like a lady regardless of your gender.

Actually, no. I don't think there are better words. I think we should state what we are as individuals, and I think the mentality that gay or transgender people are a "we" leads to the mentality that they are a "them" and the truth is I'm just a me. And you're just a you.

I think it potentially masks an issue, and that it avoids honesty in a community that is struggling to live open and honest lives. And I believe that using a term that has been used to put us down is just plain silly. You don't need to throw things back in other people's faces. Just ignore it and declare yourself as what you are. If you need a "uniting" term, transgender isn't going to offend anyone (other than bigots or the insecure who have yet to accept themselves). But Queer is not a universally accepted word in the community, as much as the community at large would have people believe. We are a minority but there are plenty of people in the LGBT community that prefer not to use words like that to describe ourselves when there are plenty good words that aren't associated with nastiness. And queer is just sort of unprofessional. I don't think it contributes to our cause in any way. It just ends up getting misused, or causing certain people to view our demographic in a different light than we all want to be seen.

Might seem silly, but it's just something that has always bothered me about the word and how it's used considering it's history and other meanings and everything. I don't feel comfortable calling someone "strange" or "ill" or to use a word that means to basically mess things up through nefarious behavior.

Anyway, that's my rant on the not very on topic subject.

As for being grumpy, I just think it's damaging to our understanding of humanity to try and pin things like that onto something like gender choice in a game. At best it seems a waste of time that could be spent on more important things, at worst it seems like it could damage the understanding of certain demographics that need all the help they can get on that front.

Thank you for the clarification and lesson in your understanding of the word! Mostly, I appropriated it as it was used in the essay, but, as you can see, I changed the thread title in light of hearing your perspective. People are people. My understanding is that there is some fear, though, in refusing to identify as a part of a culture you can lose the positives of that culture. Maybe someone is Guatemalan, American, Latino, Gay, and a man, and removing any of those identifying groups would take away rather than help his identity.

It's hard, right? If you become a "we" you can become targeted, an other, as you said. But maybe you also have a common language, culture, and/or history that strengthens you, even if individuals are still quite unique?

#9 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

@zeik said:

"Accusation" sounds more negative than I intended, but that doesn't make it innacurate. I have no problem with transgender individuals, but I dislike other people claiming something about myself that is untrue based on innacurate assumptions.

I don't (always) ignore gender when I play a male or female character. Their gender can play a role in how I choose to make that character react in a situation if it is relevant, but it is relative to how I decide to percieve that character I'm playing. If I create a female character I've decided is going to be a no-nonsense badass then if some character in the game makes a remark about her gender then I will make her react accordingly. It has nothing to do with percieving myself as that character, it's simply shaping a fictional character in a fictional world.

This kind of thinking is not relegated to video games. Say I've been watching a TV show for a long time and I've gotten to know the characters and I have expectations of how they will and should act. If a character does something that seems out of character without proper justification that bothers me, because I have a fiction in my head of what that character is. A video game simply gives you more control over what that fiction is and (usually) allows you to ensure that character does not do something contradictory to that fiction.

Okay, thanks for clarifying. You can see how that kind of negative language could make me assume things about your respect for others.

See, when I do what you're describing in enacting a character, I think of that as a form of embodiment. I'm taking on being that character. I'm trying to think what they would do and why, and enacting that. Transgender is a definition, so it may not be the best word. Perhaps thinking of it as taking on a different persona, dressing in drag or something, may work better.

In either case, you and I seem to have different conclusions based on similar actions. And games are distinctly different from TV shows. You are defining actions. Some part of you, even if it's not the you you generally are, is in the character you play. Even if it's totally different from you, it's a reaction to you, so there is an aspect of anti-embodiment there. At least as I see it.

#10 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

Let me preface this thread by saying I do not hate The Last of Us, but am confused when people say it is the greatest game of the generation.

Is it definitively not the best game of the previous gen? I don't know. But I fail to see why it garnered the rave acclaim it did.

In my opinion, it was a very good game, but the mechanics felt like they were weaker than the Uncharted games--by this I mean they felt clunkier. I know Joel is not Nathan Drake, but I mean it had a feeling that, to me, was reminiscent of survival-horror tank controls. It didn't feel fluid, and was definitely one a barrier to me that separated me from the story.

Secondly, the story. Yeah, it's really competent. The ending is really good. In fact, the ending is great! But aside from a couple zombie-trope subversions, it's just okay. Definitely way above average for a video game, but still only alright.

I'd like to ask again for people not to be upset. I'm not shitting all over it, and I'm going to buy the remastered edition because it's a really good game. It just didn't strike me as being a slap-myself-in-the-face-this-is-so-good experience.

Also, I did do a lot of subconscious comparing of this game to Shadow of the Colossus, which to me is not only the greatest game of the PS2 era, but maybe one of the best ever.

I think The Last of Us managed to make its mechanics and story cohere brilliantly, and that's the point. The world feels freaking desperate. The clickers are scary. The humans feel intelligent and dangerous. Joel is both brutal and old, but still very, very competent at killing. Ellie is extremely competent, and, eventually, just as competent at killing if not more so (her knife, man...). The environmental storytelling that Bioshock made mainstream feels powerful here, without feeling as contrived.

The game plays just like it wants you to feel. The characters do what it makes sense for them to do based on the narrative. It's that combination that, for me at least, makes it defining, or, perhaps, culminating.

Like, if someone asks you what single-player games were about from 2006-2014, The Last of Us would hit all the aspects and exemplify them.

It is not perfect. It has some glaring issues in there, and some poorly designed bits, but it is defining, according to my definition.