This is so geeky but I had to share it. Blizzard entertainment made their own hour long version of the yule log but with all the Christmas carols sung by Murlocs. So funny.
I’ve touched upon the commoditization of female avatars in the worlds of Second Life and Warcraft quite a few times.
These are male worlds and they are concerned with male dominance themes. So female players and female characters are rather superfluous. We female players are treated as a group of annoying baby sisters who follow the big brothers around. And when that isn’t current script to marginalize us, there are many half-assed plans to turn us into potential dates. Its a strange dynamic.
Then we get into the sticky topic of avatar creation. From my travels around the internet game sites, most players stick to their original sex. Occasionally there are players who cross gender. The most discussed are male as female toons.
Female avatars in World of Warcraft and other games are objects. Its true that they have the same stats as male characters but there are little things that marginalize them and telegraph the message that they are just pin-ups. Armor styles for one. There is no good reason that one set of armor makes a male character look like a mac truck while on a female character it becomes a metal thong. There is no reason except to pander to the male gaze. Because the developers are working under the notion that most or all their players are men. And female characters are men who want a little eye candy.
When games do buck this trend they feel the need to add in characters that are overly sexualized. The following screenshots are from Warhammer Online. This game I genuinely like better than Warcraft for many reasons. For one, it does allow the creation of female characters that do look tough and resourceful. And they are not forced into playing sexy armor roulette.
However the above is allowed to exist because there is a balance of sexy. To have the above character, you need to throw out this one.
But I’m not just picking on Warhammer. I actually think Warhammer is a bit better on the equality scale than World of Warcraft. In WoW a female playing a female character is forced to play armor roulette and end up in a metal bra with better play stats than anything else. There were so many times that I was thankful that my character was wearing a shirt and tabard underneath her latest hoochie mama armor set.
So ultimately what does this all mean?
What it says to me, is that yes, female characters in games are powerful. Yes, they are just as powerful as the male characters.
But no, you cannot have all that and just be female. Your female character can only have all that as long as she is hot and sexy. Or there are enough hot and sexy female characters running around to off set her ugly.
WoW fanvid spoof of Adam Samberg’s parody “I’m on a Boat”.
In worlds that can be evergreen, always spring with youth eternal and no death…we insist on celebrating our seasonal holidays in them. Holidays that are ancient practices which were created to cushion the blow of our deaths.
Far from giving ourselves up to these fantasies, we seem to have an innate need to wake up from them. To remind ourselves of the real life chain, the one that will not release us even if a part of ourselves exists in worlds that seem immortal.
Around the fansites, some complain that celebrating Halloween and other holidays is unoriginal. These games should really celebrate other newly invented holidays. But no one ever comes out to say just what the citizens in these dream worlds would worship or celebrate. The idea of some newfangled holiday sounds wonderful, but none of us can imagine what that would entail.
Instead our minds fall back to the changing of the seasons. To trees losing their leaves, fields being put to rest and the last of the harvest being stored to sustain a long winter. We prepare for the death of our growing world to await spring, knowing that it will be a long time coming. With all this ingrained into our very being, how could we think of anything else? It just wouldn’t feel right.
So we celebrate the coming of winter…in our worlds of ever spring.
This was featured recently on WoW.com. A great fanvid about a broken hearted gamer who was ditched for WoW. And then did…the unthinkable.
Blogger Elaine Meinel Supkis at Culture of Life News has a metaphor for the insanity that strikes groups and individuals.
She calls it the Cave of Life and Death. Everything flows from this cave and flows back to it. It creates life and it also causes death. Our fairy tales carry warnings about it. Sometimes the cave is symbolized in fairy tales as seemingly benign or beneficial gifts, such as Geese who lay golden eggs, or spinning wheels that turn straw into gold, or happy fish that grant wishes. In the most potent form the cave appears as an actual cave, and it gives wealth but with the caveat that only the good hearted may enter. Almost always the ones who receive these gifts are rather everyday people, but with the power of the cave they give into irrationality in matters of wealth and sex. These poor people in the fairy tales, if they are lucky, end up where they started in the tale or they perish.
Supkis connects the cave to the destruction of our financial systems. In which bankers searched for the cave and found it through tricky financial formulas which were enabled by powerful computers and powerful mathematical geniuses. They were able to spin straw into gold and turn debt into wealth.
Her blog is indeed a fascinating take on human behavior and psychology.
But it was her comment on TV being the window into the cave that struck me. Immediately I thought about SL and other virtual worlds. As Supkis states, TV may be the window but the Virtual Worlds are the actual CAVE! As I once wrote, sometimes being in SL reminded me of being entombed with Khufu and his symbols of worldly wealth. An emperor who constructed the pyramid of Giza, his own bid to seize control of the cave.
Recent psychological studies have shown that virtual worlds are powerful and have powerful affects on their users psyche. They can give confidence that extends past the screen. They also can deal out abuse as some may try to control others or belittle them.
But the virtual worlds resemble the cave in that all who enter live as self made royalty. The cave gives us wealth, in that our avatars live richly. We are given everlasting youth and the ability to cheat death. We are given beauty unless a user defiantly chooses an ugly avatar. Ultimately we are given the opportunity to satisfy our hidden desires.
It is the hidden desire that finds its ultimate apogee in SL. Remember, we have created the cave but only the good hearted will survive. And even then that is no promise. Because in the cave amid the wealth, splendor and beauty lurks death.
I’ve noticed that people attracted to the extremes, when they try to fulfill those dreams in SL are enslaved by them. They seek out even more extremes. The cave has a nasty way of reflecting back our own illusions at us. It tricks us into thinking that these desires, now deformed into horrific extremes, are normal. That users have a right to these horrors in the flesh as well. You see, the cave flows inward and outward. We take our confidence from VR out into the world but we also take our less honorable lessons from it into the world as well.
This ties into the recent uproar about the Adult content and it’s segregation in SL. It has brought out all the cave aspects in the users. In that they claim the cave is theirs and it gives them the freedom to do whatever they want irregardless of real world law. In the cave, good people see wonders but bad people do as well. In the middle of this controversy, “ageplayers” advocate for their right to create virtual child pornography. And people who would not support that in life, are so crazed by the cave of desire, declare that the cave is not real and therefore anything done inside it is inconsequential. Therefore all players have a right to satisfy their whims…even “ageplay” or more truthfully pedophilia.
What happens when the everyday Joe and Jane get what they want from the cave or cave symbol? They go crazy and eventually they lose the cave. For the cave was never meant to be something that is owned. It is a magical place that opens for a time then pops out of existence, like a bubble. Already other virtual worlds, different faces of the cave, are moving away from the SL form. They are trying to restrict what the cave offers. Will that work? I’m not sure. But the VR caves are also facing another form of control, real world law enforcement.
I believe we will soon discover just how real the cave is, and that it has enormous real world consequences.
As in all things, moderation should be the rule when entering the cave. But it is so easy to get lost and stray from the path to Grandma’s house. Cerberus is out there, lurking and he lets none pass.
My various recent experiences in Virtual Land.
Another player, who helped me with a quest, told me that I reminded him of his wife….
Because we both shared the same name.
I didn’t quite know what to type at that little reveal. Perhaps I’m lucky that he didn’t resent his wife at the moment, or he wouldn’t have helped me.
While looking at prefab homes, I ran into another customer. Another customer dressed in BDSM regalia. He kind of looked like the Gimp from “Pulp Fiction”. I couldn’t figure out if he was shopping or just hanging around to be provocative. You never can tell about these things in SL. But it was strange to see him standing next to me. I was disturbed, because I could not see where he was looking. Strange that, since I really don’t know what any avatar is looking at but I’ve come to rely on seeing their eyes just the same. He stood next to me in his shiny rubber suit, eyes masked over and ball gag shoved into his virtual mouth. And I wondered what type of home he was in the market for…probably one of those big castles with an appropriate dungeon.
Honestly, I get into my online games sporadically. When I have big blocks of time, I play as often as I can and even then it depends on whether or not I’m interested in grinding the levels. I’ve gone through a fallow time with both Warcraft and Second Life. And I’ve played Eve Online even less than those games.
Which is why I never updated my views on the new Lich King content since it’s release. For a long time, I only played the Death Knight area then stopped. So during the holidays, I took my high level character to Northrend. Perhaps a bit prematurely since the toon was only 68.
I started in the Howling Fjord zone, not as a result of planning but because I was in Tirisfall and near the zeppelin for that zone.
In Howling Fjord, my character was thrown into an all out fight for the beach against the Alliance. The Lich King scourge was only a distant echo in these quests. However the Forsaken’s desire of creating their own scourge disease was a very big element in this area. After the beach quests, my character was sent further inland into the lands of new NPC enemies called the Vrykul. These characters are based on Viking culture and their land reflected it. There were many wooden buildings with dragon gargoyles. The area had a more photorealistic sheen to it than the old WoW areas and it looks gorgeous.
And I started this entry a few weeks ago and now have lost my train of thought. About what I really wanted to write about this expansion.
I’ve been playing it off and on for the last few weeks. There have been complaints that it is geared to easy and intended only for casual players. Truthfully, I haven’t noticed a large difference between Lich King and the other areas except in terms of graphics. Then again, I’m the casual player that the hardcore sect likes to complain about all the time. The quests are a mix of the old “kill x number of these enemies” and the new phased tech in the Death Knight areas. I like that the Lich King allows the player to feel immersed in the story and not just tagging along.
Should a new player buy it right away? No. I think this expansion can wait until a player is near the proper level. But there is enough to look forward to after 70 that makes the expansion worth it when the player is ready.
A Warcraft Machinima from my favorite, Gnomechewer.